There are a few reasons why Christians are Christian. One of the main reasons is to do with Jesus and who he was and what he did. After all if he was who he said he was and performed those miracles, rose from the dead then it would be foolish to deny his claims about being the son of God and that the way to heaven is through him. What's a way to convince them that the gospels cannot be true?



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The point of my question was that the question "If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?" cannot be answered unless one first makes a rigorous definition of what sounds is.

Or even better, unless you qualify what kind of "sound" you're talking about, since the question has different answers based on the definition.

Definitions are important.

I'm aware of what your intentions were in asking the question. I didn't have to have it spelled out. Like wise, I'm sure you understood that I was being dismissive by posting a quote from the movie Oceans Twelve.

You see, our minds work quite well at perceiving the intentions of other people making it unnecessary to establish hyper precise definitions for simple words. Especially words that's common use are so widely accepted and understood.

Breaking things down to there most simple form can be done with anything if a persons intention is only to be contentious. I think you are a very bright person that has some wonderful perspective. But you do tend to troll a bit. That's fine, we all do that a little. Just don't get lost in the act of the argument and lose the big picture. The majority of people understand the basic definition of Atheist and Agnostic. To over complicate them is to waste energy that could be used debating more exciting things like, Bigfoot vs Chewbacca MMA style death match, who wins? 

I confess to not remembering that it was from Oceans Twelve but I picked up on the dismissiveness :P

You see, our minds work quite well at perceiving the intentions of other people making it unnecessary to establish hyper precise definitions for simple words. Especially words that's common use are so widely accepted and understood.

Well, the experience in this thread seems to disagree with you. Dan is under the impression that he is an agnostic because he admits uncertainty on the God question. And he's apparently under the impression that anyone who calls themselves an atheist, is claiming a ludicrous amount of certainty.

That seems a problem to me, and I don't know what else to do than explain to Dan how people here use the label atheist and why it doesn't include those connotations.

I dislike semantic discussions of this kind just as much as you do, but if the label is such that it invites misunderstandings, it seems to me like your only options are (a) clarify the label or (b) get a different one.

Because right now we are suffering because (i) not everyone who is actually an atheist, thinks that they are which hurts our political and social momentum and (ii) Christian apologists can attack this strawman "atheist" position and bolster their own beliefs without actually introducing their following to ours.

I think you are a very bright person that has some wonderful perspective. But you do tend to troll a bit.

I think it's important that actual atheists understand that they are not different from... atheists.

And I'm far too polite in talking to Dan to be called a troll at this point ;)

Okay, so I very thoroughly skimmed over the previous posts while suppressing my AADD driven apathy and I think I get it. 

(1) It's not just dan who thinks they are defined as this:

Agnostic , not enough info to chose either way.

Atheist, no deities.

Brian, (ludicrously certain Nihilist) no deities or creator of the universe and humans are just another bacteria that lived long enough to over sensationalize it's self awareness.

(42) So what I'm getting from this is that the Atheist community feels that the general public thinks of Atheism as Nihilism. For the most part that is what they think. So I can see how the Atheist community would like to spread the word, "It's just magic wizards we don't believe in!" That sounds much less threatening than someone like me who feels people are no more significant than the dirt stuck on Uranus. (ha! yeah petty and childish but it's not my fault they named it Uranus.)

(69) Also the Atheist community wants to keep the title "Atheist" but convince the general public that it now means Agnostic. 

(®) Do you think Chewbaccas more highly evolved brain would win out over Bigfoots more primal strength in the octagon? 

I'll take my answer off the air. 

Yes, perhaps "dig in" was a bit too caustic a phrase to use :P I apologise.

Your point about how labelling brings liabilities is well taken. I actually started a thread about Sam Harris' argument that we should perhaps ditch words like atheist altogether and simply talk about what is reasonable and what is rational, and criticize bad ideas where they arise. 

Don't really need a label for that. All I wanted to make sure that you understood that by and large, those who proclaim themselves atheists, agnostics, rationalists, brights, free-thinkers, nontheists,... you usually won't notice a big difference between them. We believe (and don't believe) pretty much the same, it's just that we gather around different labels to identify ourselves.

And I'm always happy to meet new friends, but I don't kiss on the first date!

Kind regards,


Technically (yes I know I'm being pedantic) but the word agnostic comes from the root word gnosis which is Greek for knowledge. Therefore agnostic means 'lack of knowledge'. Theist means 'belief in a deity' therefore atheist is the opposite, lack of belief in a deity. These words are not mutually exclusive. It's possible to be an agnostic atheist. This is where you don't have knowledge of a supernatural being so don't belive in one either. Most people who call themselves atheist are in this position. A few atheists are gnostic atheists, in which case they know about a deity (or lack of) and don't believe. An example of someone in this position would be someone who knows as a fact that god doesn't exist and so lacks belief in one. An agnostic theist would be someone who doesn't have knowledge of a god but believes there must be something out there. A gnostic theist would be someone who knows there's a god and therfore believes. Most, if not all, religious types would be gnostic theists.


The confusion arises because most religious people don't realize that most people who call themselves atheist are agnostic atheists who don't claim to know that god does not exist. Instead the religious assume that all atheists are gnostic atheists who know for a fact that god does not exist. 

I have a great idea. Instead of using the contemporary theologian usage or the Greek origin usage, or the blah ba blah ba blah...

Lets just use this handy dandy little tool called…wait for it…
a dictionary!
Ah, yeah, you guys didn't think of that did ya? Well don't beat yourselves up about it, it's not like there's one sitting on a book shelf in every home on the planet earth or anything. I mean heck, we could have sat here for days arguing the semantics of two words if I hadn't stumbled across this "thing" on my browser tool bar labeled, "Dictionary". Who'd a thunk it right?

: one who believes that there is no deity :

a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god

Okay…now shut up about it. For christ's sake it's like I'm play cards with my sisters kids…

Funny you should say that, I have a dictionairy too (Thesaurus):

Main Entry:
atheist  [ey-thee-ist]  Show IPA
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: nonbeliever

agnosticfree thinker, heatheninfidel,

irreligionist, pagan, skeptic


an agnostic  is one who believes that it is

impossible to know whether there is a God; 

an atheist  is one who disbelieves or denies 

the existence of God or gods

By Odin! Dictionairies disagree! It looks like, rather than record actual meanings in their respective domains, they record common usage, which may or may differ from the most accepted or most useful meanings in their domains.

Dammit, now we actually have to use our brain to figure out what set of definitions most accurately reflects reality.


Matt, my brain is only partially usable on a good day. The definitions look pretty much the same in both examples? 

: one who believes that there is no deity




 (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable


impossible to know whether there is a God

I don't know Matt, your squishy gray matter might be needing some coffee this morning because that looks pretty close to a non argument to me?

There's a significant difference, actually.

Namely the difference between "having a belief that there is no God" (first phrase) versus "not having a belief that there is a God" (non-believer).

If this seems like a semantical difference to you, consider it has real consequences, as any Christian apologist will gladly tell you: the second group does not have a burden of proof, but the first group does.

Also, if Odin was a real king how do you think he actually lost that eye? Because the whole, "I traded the eye for knowledge" sounds like some bullshit my grandfather would have said to me when I was a kid. I bet he lost it in a bar fight and learned to not run his mouth when he's drunk. There's some hard earned knowledge.

I think about these things when I'm supposed to be working... 

You may claim that the miracles of jesus are not true because they are not considered as historical acts. That is not the case with Jesus. If the fact that he ever existed has to be disproved, you have to discover facts to support your claim, or, you have to prove that the documents and /or other proofs that are believed to proove his existance are false. Whatever proof you give will have to be acceptable historians,  Christians may or may not accept it.



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