What's an Atheist? Catch-All

Jeff-66 wrote:

Righteous outrage

Because, for better or worse, those have all been minority positions in recent memory, whereas theists have only just begun to lose ground in a major way to non theists. Language is lagging behind society.

So, I just wanted to note, I put my FSM badge on my tailgate last night.

1Dgaf wrote:

Sane.

Or just go the Gilligan's Island them-song route: "and the rest."

Jeff-66 wrote:
Malor wrote:

The reason people get uptight about the definition of atheism is that the word presupposes that something exists in which not to believe. If there are no gods, and there never were, someone who doesn't believe in gods doesn't need a special name. It's just "a person".

The special name should be attached to the people who believe in the existence of a supernatural being.

This response is so perfect, IMO, that it could just as well have ended the discussion.

But since the discussion continues ... what's the word for people who don't believe Santa Claus exists? what's the word for people who don't believe that the Loch Ness Monster exists? what's the word for people who don't believe there's a tiny teapot orbiting the sun?

To put it a slightly different way:

person A purports something supernatural, unknown and unknowable exists.

person B sees no evidence or reason to believe that this purported being exists. Thus holds no belief that the being exists.

Person B needs a special name why exactly?

When was the issue Person B needing a special name?

CheezePavilion wrote:

When was the issue Person B needing a special name?

CheezePavilion wrote:

So what's the word for someone who believes god does not exist?

You asked for a name for person B.

And yes, it is special pleading. As I've mentioned several times, we don't have special names for people who don't believe in Santa Clause or gremlins, or the Loch Ness Monster.

We only have the word 'atheist' because there are a lot of theists and they insist on labeling our lack of belief in their imagined entity.

Jeff-66 wrote:

We only have the word 'atheist' because there are a lot of theists and they insist on labeling our lack of belief in their imagined entity.

It's not surprising though, as Tanglebones points out, theism has been overwhelmingly dominant for a very long time. It makes perfect sense they'd need a word to use when referring to people who not only don't believe in their god, but don't believe in any god.

(I think there's something wrong in my head because this seems hilarious... I needed it out of my head so I can get some work done. I'm sorry.)
...There are also a lot of Ssholes and they insist on labeling my lack of tact about their belief in their imagined entity. Well who died and made them Dam? Did you know that Dam didn't really care about naming stuff? That's why they call him Adam. There's definitely a pattern here.

Jeff-66 wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

When was the issue Person B needing a special name?

CheezePavilion wrote:

So what's the word for someone who believes god does not exist?

You asked for a name for person B.

And I also said to you:

It's not special pleading, it's mere simplicity. We can of course go around saying "people who believe god does not exist" but that doesn't change the fact that when a lot of people say "atheist" they do NOT mean just "people who don't believe in god."

So like I said: the issue here is not the need for a special name. It's the convenience of a simple name.

And yes, it is special pleading. As I've mentioned several times, we don't have special names for people who don't believe in Santa Clause or gremlins, or the Loch Ness Monster.

We also don't have special names for people who don't believe in Krishna or Tiamat or Zeus or Loki.

I realize the word 'god' is a lot like the word 'band-aid' or 'kleenex' in that a brand name has become the word also used for the generic class--I'm sure wordsmythe knows the exact term for when that happens in language. So no--it's not. It's shorthand the way people against homophobia aren't just against fear of homosexuals, they're against all things anti-homosexual whether fear based or not.

We only have the word 'atheist' because there are a lot of theists and they insist on labeling our lack of belief in their imagined entity.

Great--you guys caucus and get back to us when you've come up with a sufficiently PC term. If you don't like the word atheist, I'm perfectly willing to copy-and-paste the entire "person who sees no evidence or reason to believe that this purported being exists. Thus holds no belief that the being exists" wording if it will get you guys to stop attacking this strawman.

I guess since it's so necessary to label people who have one thing in common we should also find terms for people who like to put whipped cream on pie, and people who prefer one brand of hair gel over another.

ruhk wrote:

I guess since it's so necessary to label people who have one thing in common we should also find terms for people who like to put whipped cream on pie, and people who prefer one brand of hair gel over another. :P

Douchebags

ruhk wrote:

I guess since it's so necessary to label people who have one thing in common we should also find terms for people who like to put whipped cream on pie, and people who prefer one brand of hair gel over another. :P

Creamypieaholics and monogelists.

Next question!

Again, Cheeze, the fact that you need a label for someone who doesn't believe in a deity reveals that you believe that the deity must exist, and that you have to define us in terms of your reality. We're trying to point out to you that the existence of the word reinforces your belief system.

It's not that we especially care about being called atheists, it's the fact that the word exists at all that's the problem.

From another angle: the phrase 'climate change denier' has the exact same baggage. If someone is denying climate change, they're obviously stupid, because climate change exists. The phrase carries the idea inherently. If there actually isn't any human-induced climate change, then someone who doesn't believe in climate change is just a person, and all of us credulous lunkheads are the ones that should need a special label.

Use the word if you like, we're just trying to point out the mental mapping that causes you to use it. It carries a framework and maps us into it. It validates itself. But that does not mean it's correct.

ruhk wrote:

I guess since it's so necessary to label people who have one thing in common we should also find terms for people who like to put whipped cream on pie, and people who prefer one brand of hair gel over another. :P

Clearly you are missing the point of having a 'simple' word for 'others.'
"There are no people so unafraid of the finality of death that they refuse to latch onto a fantasy about an afterlife that can be made into everlasting paradise despite the horrors they are committing in this life simply by pledging themselves to an invisible all-powerful father figure in foxholes."

Either the font is too tiny to read or you'd have to print it on multiple stickers.

CheezePavilion wrote:

We also don't have special names for people who don't believe in Krishna or Tiamat or Zeus or Loki.

Yes we do, depending on the beliefs of those people. Krishna, Tiamat, Zeus, and Loki are all religious figures, thus people who believe in them fall under the umbrella term of theists, and more specifically the term we use for followers of their respective religions. People who don't believe in them specifically, but do believe in other religions are still theists, and called the term for followers of their respective religions. People who not only don't believe in them, but also don't believe in any other religion either are called atheists.
Logically the term "atheist" should not exist, as not believing something exists is different than believing something doesn't exist. Historically though, it's been such an uncommon (and unpopular) position that it makes sense there would be a word for it.

Cheeze - don't misunderstand me. I'm not trying to undermine your desire for a name for people who don't believe a god exists. I don't care what you call us. "Atheist" is perfectly fine with me.

I was only further stressing the point that Robear, Malor and others have made, that it just seems silly in the grand scheme of things that people who don't believe in someone's particular imagined being need a label (when there are countless imagined beings for which our unbelief remains unlabeled).

I even stated that the need exists because there are a large number of theists, and those theists seem to want to call us out and separate us with a label.

For me it's not about political correctness, or the 'correct' term. I really don't care. This is something for theists to work out for themselves. Which incidentally, is where the word 'atheist' was born -- as a derogatory term for non-believers, concocted by believers. Basically it was a slur.

If I misread your question ("what do we call those who don't believe?"), then I wonder why the question was even asked, since the term atheist is already in common use.

From yet another angle: you see the world as probably separating itself into three classes: atheists, agnostics, and believers of various stripes.

Without the baggage of religion, you have regular people, and you have believers. Depending on whether you're feeling disparaging or not, we could call them the god-botherers.

However, a contrary viewpoint: the human mind is deeply, deeply wired to invent motives for why things happen, and then entities to carry those motives. That's why every human culture in all of recorded history has had supernatural entities. Things had to happen because something WANTED them to, so some creature or thing exists that we can't see. That's why Og got sick, or why Fern was struck by lightning.

So by that standard, when virtually all people believe in invisible things that carry motives, the small segment of the population with sufficiently trained minds to understand their own mental circuitry and NOT believe in the supernatural would, indeed, rate a special word.

But the word that's been chosen, atheist, carries the framework that the invisible goblins that surround us are real. Rather, that one specific, very powerful goblin exists.

"Atheist" is perfectly fine with me.

Yeah, again, for the record, call me an atheist if you like. But realize that the word carries the idea that that person doesn't believe in something that exists. Labeling someone with the word atheist reinforces your own belief in the supernatural entity, since there's no point in actively disbelieving something that doesn't exist.

Stengah wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

We also don't have special names for people who don't believe in Krishna or Tiamat or Zeus or Loki.

Yes we do, depending on the beliefs of those people. Krishna, Tiamat, Zeus, and Loki are all religious figures

Then you don't agree with Jeff-66 either--Santa Claus is a religious figure too--in which case I don't need to make this counter-argument. In other words, if what you're arguing is right, you not only undermine my counter-argument, you undermine Jeff-66's original argument, making my need for this counter-argument unnecessary.

Malor wrote:
"Atheist" is perfectly fine with me.

Yeah, again, for the record, call me an atheist if you like.

I like Dan, personally.

So, the point of the South Park Episode was lost on some of you? All you remember are the Otters? What about Monty Python's The Life of Brian?

Jeff-66 wrote:

Cheeze - don't misunderstand me. I'm not trying to undermine your desire for a name for people who don't believe a god exists. I don't care what you call us. "Atheist" is perfectly fine with me.

I was only further stressing the point that Robear, Malor and others have made, that it just seems silly in the grand scheme of things that people who don't believe in someone's particular imagined being need a label (when there are countless imagined beings for which our unbelief remains unlabeled).

I even stated that the need exists because there are a large number of theists, and those theists seem to want to call us out and separate us with a label.

For me it's not about political correctness, or the 'correct' term. I really don't care. This is something for theists to work out for themselves. Which incidentally, is where the word 'atheist' was born -- as a derogatory term for non-believers, concocted by believers. Basically it was a slur.

If I misread your question ("what do we call those who don't believe?"), then I wonder why the question was even asked, since the term atheist is already in common use.

The question was asked because I've noticed that the definition of atheism seems to change with the argument according to self-identified atheists. Atheists just believe in one less god, or it's like a bald man's hair color, or it's about people who lack belief, or it's about people with disbelief, etc.

I'll go into this more when I respond to Malor, but it seems like the goal is not to give an accurate picture of atheism, but to make sure no argument that does not make it easier for atheists to criticize theists will stick.

CheezePavilion wrote:
Stengah wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

We also don't have special names for people who don't believe in Krishna or Tiamat or Zeus or Loki.

Yes we do, depending on the beliefs of those people. Krishna, Tiamat, Zeus, and Loki are all religious figures

Then you don't agree with Jeff-66 either--Santa Claus is a religious figure too--in which case I don't need to make this counter-argument. In other words, if what you're arguing is right, you not only undermine my counter-argument, you undermine Jeff-66's original argument, making my need for this counter-argument unnecessary.

Undermine all the arguments!
IMAGE(http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/gallery/x-all-the-things/x-all-the-things-template.jpg)

I agree with Jeff & Malor that there shouldn't need to be a special word for someone who doesn't believe in a religion, since it presumes that humans are supposed to believe in a religion. I understand why there is one though. I think that if things were reversed and atheism was as dominant as theism has been for the past ten thousand years we wouldn't have a special term for people who aren't religious.

CheezePavilion wrote:

The question was asked because I've noticed that the definition of atheism seems to change with the argument according to self-identified atheists. Atheists just believe in one less god, or it's like a bald man's hair color, or it's about people who lack belief, or it's about people with disbelief, etc.

I'll go into this more when I respond to Malor, but it seems like the goal is not to give an accurate picture of atheism, but to make sure no argument that does not make it easier for atheists to criticize theists will stick.

The reason for this is that atheism is not a religion or otherwise organized thing. A person who does not believe in god is an atheist as much as a person who believes that there is no god is an atheist. Re-read this very thread and it'll all be explained to you (again).

CheezePavilion wrote:

The question was asked because I've noticed that the definition of atheism seems to change with the argument according to self-identified atheists. Atheists just believe in one less god, or it's like a bald man's hair color, or it's about people who lack belief, or it's about people with disbelief, etc.

I'll go into this more when I respond to Malor, but it seems like the goal is not to give an accurate picture of atheism, but to make sure no argument that does not make it easier for atheists to criticize theists will stick.

I would say that those examples are just slight variations of the same idea, rather than the disparate cloak of obfuscation you seem to think it is, but that's just me.

It should be noted that each atheist has come to their position for different reasons, and therefore will have different reasoning and motivations for their beliefs. Or lack of them, rather.

Malor wrote:

From yet another angle: you see the world as probably separating itself into three classes: atheists, agnostics, and believers of various stripes.

I don't, and this is what I was getting into when the thread died and I was doing a bad job of explaining myself.

I see sid classes, I think:

--atheists who believe god does not exist for reasons that do not have to do with evidence; (not many of these, of course)
--atheists who believe god does not exist for reasons that have to do with evidence;
--agnostics who have considered the question and deem the evidence inconclusive;
--people who do not believe god exists because they have never considered the question;
--theists who believe god does exist for reasons that do not have to do with evidence;
--theists who believe god does exist for reasons that have to do with evidence.

(I know the terms 'atheists' 'theist' 'agnostic' and 'evidence' have issues, but I think we're all on the same page and I'm in a bit of a rush right now so I'll leave it at that and I'll leave your other argument about framing creating prejudice for later: I do understand what you're talking about, though)

what theists and atheists have in common is they have considered a particular question: does god exist? They differ in their answers.
what atheists and people who have never considered the question have in common is they are not walking around with a belief god exist. They differ in that an atheist has considered the evidence and rejected it while the other person has never rejected the evidence as insufficient: instead the evidence has been insufficient for them to even consider the question.

+++++

What I was trying to express with bringing up the Ancient Greeks and mammoth bones was that there are people who believe in god because they are doing bad science, and there are people who believe in god *despite* the science. For the time, the Ancient Greeks really weren't doing terrible science, which is different from theism today, both in how bad the science has become and how many theists believe *in spite* of evidence. And I'll have to leave it at that for now.

CheezePavilion wrote:

The question was asked because I've noticed that the definition of atheism seems to change with the argument according to self-identified atheists. Atheists just believe in one less god, or it's like a bald man's hair color, or it's about people who lack belief, or it's about people with disbelief, etc.

Wait ... you're getting different definitions of atheism from atheists?

You realize "we" don't have a unified code, or text, or list of rules, or even an agreed upon 'definition', right? We don't even have a "we". I'd venture that the majority of unbelievers would actually fall into the 'apatheist' category. People that just don't give a damn one way or the other, and never think about it.

I'll go into this more when I respond to Malor, but it seems like the goal is not to give an accurate picture of atheism, but to make sure no argument that does not make it easier for atheists to criticize theists will stick.

You really want to cram unbelievers into a box, don't you? What, so you can win an argument? Man, welcome to our world of the ever-changing definition of what it means to be religion x, y or z.

Stengah wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

The question was asked because I've noticed that the definition of atheism seems to change with the argument according to self-identified atheists. Atheists just believe in one less god, or it's like a bald man's hair color, or it's about people who lack belief, or it's about people with disbelief, etc.

I'll go into this more when I respond to Malor, but it seems like the goal is not to give an accurate picture of atheism, but to make sure no argument that does not make it easier for atheists to criticize theists will stick.

The reason for this is that atheism is not a religion or otherwise organized thing. A person who does not believe in god is an atheist as much as a person who believes that there is no god is an atheist. Re-read this very thread and it'll all be explained to you (again).

I disagree with that--check my response to Malor.

ruhk wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

The question was asked because I've noticed that the definition of atheism seems to change with the argument according to self-identified atheists. Atheists just believe in one less god, or it's like a bald man's hair color, or it's about people who lack belief, or it's about people with disbelief, etc.

I'll go into this more when I respond to Malor, but it seems like the goal is not to give an accurate picture of atheism, but to make sure no argument that does not make it easier for atheists to criticize theists will stick.

I would say that those examples are just slight variations of the same idea, rather than the disparate cloak of obfuscation you seem to think it is, but that's just me.

It should be noted that each atheist has come to their position for different reasons, and therefore will have different reasoning and motivations for their beliefs. Or lack of them, rather.

Right, but the same is true of theists--same deal, check my response to Malor.

Jeff-66 wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

The question was asked because I've noticed that the definition of atheism seems to change with the argument according to self-identified atheists. Atheists just believe in one less god, or it's like a bald man's hair color, or it's about people who lack belief, or it's about people with disbelief, etc.

Wait ... you're getting different definitions of atheism from atheists?

You realize "we" don't have a unified code, or text, or list of rules, or even an agreed upon 'definition', right? We don't even have a "we". I'd venture that the majority of unbelievers would actually fall into the 'apatheist' category. People that just don't give a damn one way or the other, and never think about it.

I'll go into this more when I respond to Malor, but it seems like the goal is not to give an accurate picture of atheism, but to make sure no argument that does not make it easier for atheists to criticize theists will stick.

You really want to cram unbelievers into a box, don't you? What, so you can win an argument? Man, welcome to our world of the ever-changing definition of what it means to be religion x, y or z.

Really have to run, but at best, I want to cram atheists who like to argue on the internet about atheism into a box. ; D

CheezePavilion wrote:

Right, but the same is true of theists--same deal, check my response to Malor.

...except that atheists don't have any sort of formalized system, mythology or dogma to bind them together as a group.The only thing most of us have in common is that we just don't believe in a god or gods. That's why some of us here are so bewildered by the insistence to label us, it's no different than insisting that we need a label for people who like the color blue.

What is a Theist?
A person that believes a Story is true.
What is an Atheist?
A person.

The problem isn't the term atheist, in my opinion, it is the view that atheists have anything in common other than lack of theism. If 'atheist' was treated in the same way that registering your political party as 'non-affiliated' was, it wouldn't be an issue.

Rezzy and Ruhk are at the right spot.