What's an Atheist? Catch-All

CheezePavilion wrote:

Did he say that belief was "not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from"? That's why I said you were using that word in a unique way, as it seems you're not including that part of the definition, the 'authoritative'ness that those dictionary entries are focusing on.

He does say

Thomas Jefferson[/url]]I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the universe, in all its parts, general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition.
...
it is impossible I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is in all this design, cause and effect up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion, their preserver and regulator while permitted to exist in their present forms, and their regeneration into new and other forms.

so yes, his statements that there is a god are rather authoritative.

I don't need to claim they represent the whole to answer your question. You may be forgetting you asked me: "Point me out some theists that don't have a system, mythology, or dogma." Individual members of those organizations qualify as theists, and that's what you asked. This isn't a "no true member of the Church of Scotland" situation which I would guess is what you're thinking of. I'm not arguing those individuals are the true members, just that those organizations are likely to contain individuals like that.

I'm not aware of the "no true member of the Church of Scotland" situation (unless you're making a play on the "no true Scotsman" thing?). What I'm trying to say that a theist member of those organization can still retain the system/mythology/dogma of an earlier religion. Simply being a member of those organizations does not mean they have to abandon the system/mythology/dogma of the religion they practice. I am unaware of any theist that doesn't believe in at least one myth.

It's interesting you say someone who believes in a "higher power" is not a theist--I would call anyone that believes a deity exists to be a theist. Maybe we're misunderstanding each other?

A higher power need not be a deity or a god.

Stengah wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

Did he say that belief was "not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from"? That's why I said you were using that word in a unique way, as it seems you're not including that part of the definition, the 'authoritative'ness that those dictionary entries are focusing on.

He does say

Thomas Jefferson[/url]]I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the universe, in all its parts, general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition.
...
it is impossible I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is in all this design, cause and effect up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion, their preserver and regulator while permitted to exist in their present forms, and their regeneration into new and other forms.

so yes, his statements that there is a god are rather authoritative.

I disagree. That's not "without reason or evidence" or "without adequate grounds": that's just the teleological argument. That's not a command not to dispute, doubt, or diverge from, that's a feeling that there's a "universal sentiment" among people.

This is why I keep going back to you misunderstanding that word 'dogma': it's not just about how much someone is convinced, it's about why someone is convinced. The 'authoritative' part isn't about confidence, it's about, well, authority. Dogma is that which the 'authority' in a church commands people to believe just because they say so.

I don't need to claim they represent the whole to answer your question. You may be forgetting you asked me: "Point me out some theists that don't have a system, mythology, or dogma." Individual members of those organizations qualify as theists, and that's what you asked. This isn't a "no true member of the Church of Scotland" situation which I would guess is what you're thinking of. I'm not arguing those individuals are the true members, just that those organizations are likely to contain individuals like that.

I'm not aware of the "no true member of the Church of Scotland" situation (unless you're making a play on the "no true Scotsman" thing?).

I am.

What I'm trying to say that a theist member of those organization can still retain the system/mythology/dogma of an earlier religion. Simply being a member of those organizations does not mean they have to abandon the system/mythology/dogma of the religion they practice.

I agree, but like I said: we don't know many people in common. Those are good places to look.

I am unaware of any theist that doesn't believe in at least one myth.

I've met such people. I'm sure a lot of people on here have too, if they aren't like that themselves.

It's interesting you say someone who believes in a "higher power" is not a theist--I would call anyone that believes a deity exists to be a theist. Maybe we're misunderstanding each other?

A higher power need not be a deity or a god.

STOP TRYING TO LABEL US THEISTS AS ALL BELIEVING IN DEITIES AND GODS! STOP PUTTING US IN BOXES WITH LABELS!

Seriously though, are you saying there's a non-excluded middle here between atheists and theists?

sigh...

CheezePavilion wrote:

Seriously though, are you saying there's a non-excluded middle here between atheists and theists?

...
Let me break down the basic assumptions here:

Theists are called Theists because they believe in a god or gods. It's the definition of the word.
Atheists are called Atheists because they aren't Theists. It comes with a bunch of baggage, but that's the plain and simple version.
Are all religions composed of Theists? No.
Is everyone either a Theist or an Atheist? Probably, but the borders get a bit fuzzy simply because people have different definitions and understandings of what a 'god' is. This is ground we've covered. In the end, the only way to be sure is to define God empirically and ask specific individuals if enough parts of that world-view mesh with theirs to warrant the label of Theist.

Rezzy wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

Seriously though, are you saying there's a non-excluded middle here between atheists and theists?

...
Let me break down the basic assumptions here:

Theists are called Theists because they believe in a god or gods. It's the definition of the word.

Yeah but some words have their definition expand. People like to say they are not homophobic just because they don't fear--phobia--homosexuals, but the word has come to mean any kind of prejudice, fear-based or not.

Atheists are called Atheists because they aren't Theists. It comes with a bunch of baggage, but that's the plain and simple version.
Are all religions composed of Theists? No.
Is everyone either a Theist or an Atheist? Probably, but the borders get a bit fuzzy simply because people have different definitions and understandings of what a 'god' is. This is ground we've covered. In the end, the only way to be sure is to define God empirically and ask specific individuals if enough parts of that world-view mesh with theirs to warrant the label of Theist.

It is ground we covered, and I thought we came to the conclusion that theist is a word that also come with a lot of baggage, but it's the plain and simple way to talk about people who believe in any sort of higher/lower/middle power. That's why I asked Stengah if we were misunderstanding each other.

Rezzy wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

It is ground we covered, and I thought we came to the conclusion that theist is a word that also come with a lot of baggage, but it's the plain and simple way to talk about people who believe in any sort of higher/lower/middle power. That's why I asked Stengah if we were misunderstanding each other.

... "Any sort?" I think you're projecting misunderstanding where there isn't any. The main lack of clarity seems to be in what sort of higher/lower/middle powers can be considered as deriving from a god concept and thus fall under the Theist definition. But that's not on the Atheist camp to decide... Maybe the Theists and 'pending' should caucus, come up with a clear set of guidelines of what a 'god' is and come back to us with a PC guideline of what does and doesn't fall under the term.

Worst joke ever, Rezzy.

CheezePavilion wrote:

It is ground we covered, and I thought we came to the conclusion that theist is a word that also come with a lot of baggage, but it's the plain and simple way to talk about people who believe in any sort of higher/lower/middle power. That's why I asked Stengah if we were misunderstanding each other.

... "Any sort?" I think you're projecting misunderstanding where there isn't any. The main lack of clarity seems to be in what sort of higher/lower/middle powers can be considered as deriving from a god concept and thus fall under the Theist definition. But that's not on the Atheist camp to decide... Maybe the Theists and 'pending' should caucus, come up with a clear set of guidelines of what a 'god' is and come back to us with a PC checklist of what does and doesn't fall under the term.
Edited for word duplication.

There's also an underlying assumption that atheists are "normal" somehow, and theists are not, in the arguments above. Malor made reference to people who were "well trained" enough to overcome their innate desire to believe in gods, and others have disparaged belief (including me, at times) but in actuality, the difference is simply in the levels of brain chemicals in certain areas of the brain. Skeptics are not more intelligent, or entirely created through learning; they lean towards skepticism because the part of their brain that detects patterns has a tighter pattern recognition filter than those who tend towards belief in the paranormal.

And so further inquiry reveals that there's another element to this story - belief is cognitively *easier* than disbelief. So while it's true that people are chemically predisposed towards belief or disbelief due to their pattern detection filter networks, skepticism is actually harder to do. In that regard I was wrong - skepticism is actually a more sophisticated capability than belief; it requires more effort and it is not rewarded by groups oriented around beliefs.

However, it also means that skepticism is literally counter-intuitive, and thus it's easier to reject than belief.

CheezePavilion wrote:

Worst joke ever, Rezzy.

Joke?
You are asking where the Theist line is. And your reasoning is that the line is shifting along with the definition.
So why don't you tell us. Make it clear. Where do you draw the line, and is everyone on the other side of it automatically an Atheist?

I've posted where my line rests above and shown my simple reasoning for why it is there. I haven't seen the reasoning disputed except for some indirect hand-waving about how people with an almost pathological dislike for humans of a specific sexual orientation deny that this strong aversion stems from a deep-seated fear. I am not a psychologist, but apparently that is a good enough reason to consider the Theist line blurry. I'm accepting this because, again, I am not a psychologist. So I'm asking you. Clearly. Patiently. And without any animosity. Where is your line? What is necessary to be a Theist or to fall outside of that definition?

Having that laid out should make the rest of this conversation much easier because we won't need to circle back and try to second guess Jefferson's beliefs.

Also, btw, "non-belief" is not the *cognitive* default. Belief is. We literally find it easier to believe than disbelieve, no matter what the topic. This is true of people who are pre-disposed to belief and people who lean skeptic.

Interesting, no?

Rezzy wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

Worst joke ever, Rezzy.

Joke?

Yes Rezzy--no one was saying it's not on the Atheist camp to decide or that there's some insistence on labeling Theists.

You are asking where the Theist line is. And your reasoning is that the line is shifting along with the definition.
So why don't you tell us. Make it clear. Where do you draw the line, and is everyone on the other side of it automatically an Atheist?
I've posted where my line rests above and shown my simple reasoning for why it is there. I haven't seen the reasoning disputed except for some indirect hand-waving about how people with an almost pathological dislike for humans of a specific sexual orientation deny that this strong aversion stems from a deep-seated fear. I am not a psychologist, but apparently that is a good enough reason to consider the Theist line blurry. I'm accepting this because, again, I am not a psychologist. So I'm asking you. Clearly. Patiently. And without any animosity. Where is your line? What is necessary to be a Theist or to fall outside of that definition?

Belief in something that has a power that is not just sufficiently advanced technology. I understand talk of a "higher power" to be that kind of power--otherwise we should just call them aliens or something.

I think I see what you're trying to say, and I've though about that too: what would make something 'divine' and not just 'magical'. I don't have a problem with lumping those who believe in magical creatures in with people who believe in gods and divine spirits and such under the label 'theist'. To me, the dividing line between belief in gods and belief in goblins is not as significant as the line between atheism and either of those two kinds of belief.

Having that laid out should make the rest of this conversation much easier because we won't need to circle back and try to second guess Jefferson's beliefs.

No, the issue was not Jefferson's beliefs. The issue was what a person who believes in a "higher power" is. I think that's going to be a theist not only given where I draw the line, but where a lot of other people draw the line as well.

If a "higher power" isn't a deity, then what makes it 'higher'?

CheezePavilion wrote:

I think I see what you're trying to say, and I've though about that too: what would make something 'divine' and not just 'magical'. I don't have a problem with lumping those who believe in magical creatures in with people who believe in gods and divine spirits and such under the label 'theist'. To me, the dividing line between belief in gods and belief in goblins is not as significant as the line between atheism and either of those two kinds of belief.
...
If a "higher power" isn't a deity, then what makes it 'higher'?

You're using synonyms for rationalizations of the same mental phenomenons.
Miracle. Magic. Angels. Demons. Goblins.
But most of those are irrelevant to the very specific terms Theist/Atheist unless you expand the definitions to include any metaphysical explanations about reality. But we already have specific terms for those beliefs as well. Theism concerns itself with Gods. Period. That other stuff has its own categories and terms. Personally I like rational and irrational and we both know that there are many Theists that could be considered rational and many Atheists that are clearly irrational. So we're stuck with remaining specific

EDIT 2: I think I figured out how to say what I was trying to say.
EDIT 3: Forgot to fix the ending. Sorry... working from home this morning and the phone keeps ringing. It's like they expect me to EARN my money.

Rezzy wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

I think I see what you're trying to say, and I've though about that too: what would make something 'divine' and not just 'magical'. I don't have a problem with lumping those who believe in magical creatures in with people who believe in gods and divine spirits and such under the label 'theist'. To me, the dividing line between belief in gods and belief in goblins is not as significant as the line between atheism and either of those two kinds of belief.
...
If a "higher power" isn't a deity, then what makes it 'higher'?

You're using synonyms for rationalizations of the same mental phenomenons.
Miracle. Magic. Angels. Demons. Goblins.
But most of those are irrelevant to the very specific terms Theist/Atheist unless you expand the definitions to mean the same as irrational/rational. But we already have those terms. Theism concerns itself with Gods. Period. That other stuff falls under under headings and other terms.
We both know that there are many Theists that could be considered rational and many Atheists that are clearly irrational... so why conflate the terms?

Well one, I'd say because being irrational/rational isn't something a person necessarily is: people can be rational about some things and irrational about others.

Two, because people who believe in the Loch Ness Monster and people who believe in Santa Claus are both irrational, but you don't have to believe the Loch Ness monster is anything but a 'living fossil' to believe it exists. You *could* believe in a secular St. Nick I guess, but most people who believe in Santa Claus don't just think he's a dude with a warp-drive-time-machine sleigh.

If we restrict "theism" to just those people who believe in gods, we'll simply have to come up with another label for non-atheists. We can if you want, I just didn't see the need.

CheezePavilion wrote:

If we restrict "theism" to just those people who believe in gods, we'll simply have to come up with another label for non-atheists. We can if you want, I just didn't see the need.

So you're saying that because some Atheists associate Atheism with a purely rational, evidence based worldview we have to find terms for Atheists that have incorporated irrational components, unrelated to Theism, into their worldview and are therefore not True Atheists(tm)?
The discussion above centered on the features of an ideal rational Atheist worldview and not the features mandatory for membership. It has been repeated back and forth that the definition of an Atheist(tm) is as simple as not being a Theist. A Theist is defined as a person with a belief in a god or gods. The only way we would require a change of terminology for Atheists is if you'd like to change the meaning of the term for Theists. So we're back to square one.

Do you believe in a god or gods? (Yes-Theist/No-Atheist/Maybe-Most likely a form of Theist)

We literally find it easier to believe than disbelieve, no matter what the topic. This is true of people who are pre-disposed to belief and people who lean skeptic.

I've noticed that in myself, actually. That's why I was saying it takes a lot of training and mental discipline to override the brain's basic desire to believe. I appear to be strongly wired for belief, and I constantly have to kick myself when I start detecting motives where none exist. It may not be true for everyone, but I find overriding magical thinking very difficult. It's constant work, even after all these years.

Another potential source of confusion is that we now have terms like 'antitheist', it seems typically meant to denote that one actively opposes organized religion. AFAIK we do not yet have an inverse term of that, bearing in mind there is no reason you could not be a theistic antitheist, believing in god whilst opposing organized religion.

KrazyTacoFO wrote:

Theist- If you believe there is a god (no matter what it is)
Atheist- Not believe there is a god

I still hold that this is how simple it is.

KrazyTacoFO wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:

Theist- If you believe there is a god (no matter what it is)
Atheist- Not believe there is a god

I still hold that this is how simple it is.

Well, you're wrong and should stop posting on the Internet immediately!

Malor wrote:
We literally find it easier to believe than disbelieve, no matter what the topic. This is true of people who are pre-disposed to belief and people who lean skeptic.

I've noticed that in myself, actually. That's why I was saying it takes a lot of training and mental discipline to override the brain's basic desire to believe. I appear to be strongly wired for belief, and I constantly have to kick myself when I start detecting motives where none exist. It may not be true for everyone, but I find overriding magical thinking very difficult. It's constant work, even after all these years.

I think that's actually normal. This is from someone who is, probably by nature, more incredulous. Even as a child, I was pragmatic beyond reason. I find it difficult to understand metaphors, and even similes. I never believed in Santa Claus (because there was never any substantive proof of his existence, and other explanations were much more likely).

Rezzy wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

If we restrict "theism" to just those people who believe in gods, we'll simply have to come up with another label for non-atheists. We can if you want, I just didn't see the need.

So you're saying that because some Atheists associate Atheism with a purely rational, evidence based worldview we have to find terms for Atheists that have incorporated irrational components, unrelated to Theism, into their worldview and are therefore not True Atheists(tm)?
The discussion above centered on the features of an ideal rational Atheist worldview and not the features mandatory for membership. It has been repeated back and forth that the definition of an Atheist(tm) is as simple as not being a Theist. A Theist is defined as a person with a belief in a god or gods. The only way we would require a change of terminology for Atheists is if you'd like to change the meaning of the term for Theists. So we're back to square one.

Do you believe in a god or gods? (Yes-Theist/No-Atheist/Maybe-Most likely a form of Theist)

I agree, I think we are back at square one, I'd just say that I'm not the only one calling for the change in terminology, the call for the change in terminology can be found from people across the board, and I think the 'change' already happened. Wikipedia has some stuff on the etymology of the word, and if it's right, "not being a Theist" as a definition for 'atheist' is itself a change in terminology.

Reaper81 wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:

Theist- If you believe there is a god (no matter what it is)
Atheist- Not believe there is a god

I still hold that this is how simple it is.

Well, you're wrong and should stop posting on the Internet immediately!

I got 8 days to my retirement and I will not make a stupid mistake!

KrazyTacoFO wrote:
Reaper81 wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:

Theist- If you believe there is a god (no matter what it is)
Atheist- Not believe there is a god

I still hold that this is how simple it is.

Well, you're wrong and should stop posting on the Internet immediately!

I got 8 days to my retirement and I will not make a stupid mistake!

You're getting to old for this shi...

Really? I know this is a small sample of the board, but who here is unhappy with the definition of Atheist?

I personally have reservations about its usage, but the official definitions seem spot-on to me.

Edit: terminology vs definition. Gotcha, yeah... It is a bit limiting, but that's because we are too polite to call crazy people crazy to their faces.

KrazyTacoFO wrote:
Reaper81 wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:

Theist- If you believe there is a god (no matter what it is)
Atheist- Not believe there is a god

I still hold that this is how simple it is.

Well, you're wrong and should stop posting on the Internet immediately!

I got 8 days to my retirement and I will not make a stupid mistake!

Are you getting too old for this sh*t?

Rezzy wrote:

Really? I know this is a small sample of the board, but who here is unhappy with the definition of Atheist?

I personally have reservations about its usage, but the official definitions seem spot-on to me.

Edit: terminology vs definition. Gotcha, yeah... It is a bit limiting, but that's because we are too polite to call crazy people crazy to their faces.

Actually, I think this thread was created in the first place by me because the SafeSpace Atheist/Agnostic thread got derailed into a "are Buddhists considered atheists?" conversation.

OG_slinger wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:
Reaper81 wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:
KrazyTacoFO wrote:

Theist- If you believe there is a god (no matter what it is)
Atheist- Not believe there is a god

I still hold that this is how simple it is.

Well, you're wrong and should stop posting on the Internet immediately!

I got 8 days to my retirement and I will not make a stupid mistake!

Are you getting too old for this sh*t? ;-)

Man, that just begs for a Danny Glover flowchart : )

CheezePavilion wrote:

Actually, I think this thread was created in the first place by me because the SafeSpace Atheist/Agnostic thread got derailed into a "are Buddhists considered atheists?" conversation.

True, and that question couldn't be answered definitively because it depends on the beliefs of the individual and observer in question. Which is a point we are going to keep coming back to... individual beliefs.

Edit: Re definition of 'god or gods.'

It seemed fairly definitively answered to me: it seemed as if if the Buddhist in question did not worship Buddha, then he was not a theist, right?

Belief and worship are not the same thing. Living in a non scientific frame of view does not, IMO, define theistic practice.

LarryC wrote:

It seemed fairly definitively answered to me: it seemed as if if the Buddhist in question did not worship Buddha, then he was not a theist, right?

Belief and worship are not the same thing. Living in a non scientific frame of view does not, IMO, define theistic practice.

Buddhism is very interesting philosophically. I find it very compatible with my worldview and have seen a significant improvement in my emotional well-being through simple meditation and trying as much as possible to follow the various ideas of Buddhism.

Here's a serious question, though. What would everyone consider someone who takes ideas from Buddhism or even say Christianity or Judaism and completely discards the metaphysical aspect? You could, in theory, look at Jesus as an interesting guy in the vein of Aristotle and follow his teachings without worshipping him or believing God exists.

LarryC wrote:

It seemed fairly definitively answered to me: it seemed as if if the Buddhist in question did not worship Buddha, then he was not a theist, right?

Belief and worship are not the same thing. Living in a non scientific frame of view does not, IMO, define theistic practice.

The question isn't one of simple worship. Worship does not define a theist. Belief in a god or gods does. So the question is: Does the Buddhist believe that Buddha is a god or, depending on perspective, do the powers and abilities ascribed to Buddha by this Buddhist qualify that characterization as a god, thus Theistic. Also possible is that this Buddhist chooses to revere Buddha, a simple man, while believing in, but not revering, the gods of other religions, Theistic by belief but not in practice.

Questions that can't be answered definitively without interrogating the individual. That's my point. We can assume about the group in general, but we cannot know without asking.