Marc "Agnosticism: the view that there is no conclusive evidence to decide whether God exists or not."
Agnostic is best defined as "noncommittal." To claim that there is no evidence to be able to know if gods exist or not sounds more like another conviction to me.
The oxford dictionary of Philosophy defines Agnosticism: The view that some proposition is not known, and perhaps cannot be known to be true or false.
The Penguin Reference Dictionary of Philosophy gives a very long definition which I will not include in total but: A theory according to which things within a specified realm are unknowable. Especially: (1) the view that we cannot know whether or not God exists; (2) the view, to be found in positivist theories like those of du Bois-Reymond and Spenser, that ultimate reality is unknowable. Agnosticism could be used in support of religious belief - it was often said that electricity would forever defy scientific explanation.
In the later half of the twentieth century a more radical kind of agnosticism emerged: it was not the view that we do not know the answers but that we do not even know what questions to ask when it comes to certain matters, especially the nature of consciousness and free will.
Again, those dictionaries and encyclopedias who define "atheist" as any sort of belief or denial are usually edited by Christians.
Here's a perfect example:
I'm not going to start also considering the ad hominem tendencies of those Christians who contribute to the definings of these words. I'm only interested in what philosophers and the educated public at large understand the word(s) to mean.
And then, Marc comes outta nowhere and says something completely different from before and actually makes sense:
Hang on there, this is looking a little like blatent selectivism? Let's keep it rational
Marc "You agree with freethinka that an atheist would be someone who lacks belief in a god. You say that you, on the other hand, also believe that there is no god. What freethinka is saying is that while your view that you lack a belief in god is covered by the term atheism you would still have to find another term to cover your other belief that also there is no god. What freethinka is a saying could then also be interpreted further to mean that if you hold any belief stronger than a mere lack in belief in any gods then you need to find another term for you beliefs that are otherwise too complex to be covered by the term atheism."
Nicely summarized, Marc - I thought it was clear already but if it wasn't that should clear it up.
Thank you. But you really should spell out what you mean in such circumstances - especially when as contentious as this issue became. If you do not then you can be perceived as being arrogant. Or that you don't really understand the whole issue and if you were to be eventually shown correct it might be mere chance. I try to be frank but not also arrogant but I do try to paraphrase my arguments if the first versions appear to have not been refuted but merely misunderstood.
I think we all agree that an "atheist" is one who has an absence of belief of god(s). "Atheist" is really a very simple word with a very basic meaning. We use words and language to communicate more clearly and if you want to express yourself you need to use the best words to describe your thoughts etc. If one wants to adhere to the strong/positive position that's fine, go for it but, "atheist" is clearly not the best word for that position. We create new words often and I think the time has come for the strong/positive folks to find a new one. "Atheist" is not any sort of umbrella term.
Well, firstly, I have no evidence that defining atheism as a conviction draws irrefutable attacks. Secondly, in this day and age I think that with increased powers of logical reasoning the evidence against the existence of Gods provides certainty levels well in excess of 99.9999% and on a scale where nothing can be known for certain 99.9999% is pretty damn certain.
Marc "I maintain that it is impossible to lack any belief in any gods without first believing that there are no gods."
Here I disagree - a child who has never been taught any religious doctrine or dogma or any concepts about god obviously doesn't ever need to "believe" gods don't exist. Neither does any other species.
Well, yes, by definition this is true, in the context you assume. But the difference is that I assume another context. One where the concept of God has been introduced.
I also don't feel the need to first believe in the spaghetti monster, unicorns, the celestial teapot, Santa Claus, fairies, gremlins etc in order NOT to believe in them. The idea that "it is impossible to lack any belief in any gods without first believing" seems ludicrous to me.
Well, here you are misrepresenting my argument - an innocent mistake I imagine.
"What is an atheist? An atheist is a person who does not believe in the existence of a god, i.e., in the existence of a supernatural being. Why doesn't the atheist believe in a god? Quite simply, because belief in a god is unreasonable. Can the atheist prove that a god does not exist? The atheist need not 'prove' the nonexistence of a god, just as one who does not believe in magic elves, fairies, and gremlins does not have to prove their nonexistence. A person who asserts the existence of something assumes the burden of proof. The theist, or god-believer, asserts the existence of a god and must prove the claim. If the theist fails in this task, reasonable people will reject the belief as groundless. Atheists do not believe in a god because there is no reason they should. But haven't philosophers proved the existence of a god? No. All such attempts have failed. Most philosophers and theologians now concede that belief in a god must rest on faith, not on reason. Then why not accept the existence of a god on faith? Because to believe on faith is to defy and abandon the judgment of one's mind. Faith conflicts with reason. It cannot give you knowledge; it can only delude you into believing that you know more than you really do. Faith is intellectually dishonest, and it should be rejected by every person of integrity."
--"Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies" by George H. Smith, 62-3.
If one chooses to adhere to the strong/positive position then they too must accept the responsibility of 'burden of proof' to substantiate their claims that no gods exist.
Oh, I love Ayn Rand - I read Capitalism just after I left school. Wonderfull book. Objectivisism. There are some great videos of her speaking about this stuff on youtube...