The Atheist Foundation of Australia defines Atheism as:


"the acceptance that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods or the supernatural"


Sam Harris is known to "experiment" with personal meditation experiences. Here is what wikipedia has to say about Sam Harris and "spirituality":


"Harris wishes to incorporate spirituality in the domain of human reason. He draws inspiration from the practices of Eastern religion, in particular that of meditation, as described principally by Hindu and Buddhist practitioners. By paying close attention to moment-to-moment conscious experience, Harris suggests, it is possible to make our sense of "self" vanish and thereby uncover a new state of personal well-being."


He talks of mind states, of "not-self" and other terms which the AFA call on their forums "woo-woo".


The reason that the AFA would reject Sam Harris as an atheist is the last 3 words in their definition: "or the supernatural". They see atheism as rejecting not only god/gods (theo) but also the "supernatural", thereby turning atheism into atheiwoowoosm! They staunchly defend their definition beyond and rational logic. Only recently I have understood why that term is in there in the first place. The AFA are in fact, not an atheist organisation but a skeptics organisation. From their website:


" The Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc began in South Australia in 1970 when the members of the Rationalist Association of SA decided that a name change would proclaim their basic philosophy"


So it appears that all they did was change their name but not their "clothes". This deceptive behaviour has caused some confusion on their forums but they still staunchly maintain their stance.


And the great irony in this whole issue? Sam Harris' books are on their recommended reading list!!!

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That is the worst definition of atheism I have ever heard. Ever.


Words are but the means to meaning. The AFA can use whatever definition of the word atheism they want, however ill defined and impractical it may be. I'll stick with the definitions that are practical and that actually are descriptive of the content. 


It seems to me that the AFA wants to capture their personal meaning and/or rationality behind their atheism into the term "atheism" itself. Guess that they should have stayed with the "rationalist" description which seems more fitting of the content to me. 

Of course everyone is free to use whichever words they want to in whatever context they want to by whatever definition.


For instance, by my personal set of definitions and personal words, I am currently smurfing on my piggly-wiggly and will be heading to my ranna soon, also amma teemo wappa varanes jqmefijqif.


That doesn't make it any less retarded though. You can't expect to be taken seriously if you're going to start using words completely differently from the way they are commonly used; at that point you're actively starting to misinform people.

The only sensible definition for the word atheism is that it is the opposite of the word theim; and thus it necessarily is tied to belief and to a God.


You're correct though: what the AFA has tried to do is they have realised that the word atheist does not have much content and isn't much of a goal in and of itself, so they've solved that by merging similar goals (skeptic, naturalist, atheist) into the word atheist. That's not being serious.

Of course everyone is free to use whichever words they want to in whatever context they want to by whatever definition. ...   That doesn't make it any less retarded though


Yep. I'll continue to use the words that are properly defined and coherent. I can only see the AFA definition to cause confusion in stead of clarity which is why I will not adopt it.

"at that point you're actively starting to misinform people"

That is exactly how I feel. I believe that the AFA have hijacked the atheist agenda in Australia and have taken it into dangerous territory. I believe that the definition is open to attack by religious groups for the reason that you raised in your second point in your previous post.

I believe that the AFA have hijacked the atheist agenda in Australia


I don't know about that, it seems to me that they are trying to change the definition of the the word atheism. Maybe they wanted to include or appeal to certain people that do not feel that the current definition accurately defines their stances and goals. 


They could of course change their name, but instead they've chosen to provide a definition that perhaps provide a better explanation towards explaining in and out group differences. I don't know if they would present their definition as a credible alternative for any other uses then this, I don't want to presume too much. 


and have taken it into dangerous territory.


Well, it is needlessly confusing to me, I would not agree to that definition in personal life and or debate but don't see any dangerous consequences. In the end actions define people and organisations, words can be used and defined in many different ways, however annoying this may be to some. The common definition is broadly accepted, I don't know if AFA is out to change the dictionary definition of atheism though. 


I guess one of the problems with herding us atheists is that it is a negative description, in positive descriptions we seem to differ quite a bit. There are atheists that are humanists, agnostics, liberals, conservatives, fascists, libertarians, socialists, communists, anarchists, naturalists, skeptics etc. or any combination there of. 


A person believing in "Zoltar, destroyer of worlds" could potentially derail many a meeting of an atheist organisation without necessarily compromising the necessary qualifications to be "atheist". That's why I prefer descriptive, positive terms that describe goals, or ideals for organisations that try to achieve goals. Atheist as a negative description can lead to many a captain aboard a single ship, great for discussion, yet less suitable for accomplishing goals.

"It seems to me that the AFA wants to capture their personal meaning and/or rationality behind their atheism into the term "atheism" itself."

Yes, exactly Rob. I have come to that conclusion also. By combining these two, the definition and the rationalisation for it, they leave themselves open for all sorts of attack.

In the definition of atheism, it is enough to state that there is no god. All other rationalisations can be had in separate debates. I one-line definition is not sufficient for such debates and indeed does atheism a disservice.
"First of all, atheism is simply set up as the dichotomy of theism with regards to a God"

Exactly. You are either a theist (god-believer) or not a theist - atheist (non-believer in god or god-denier). Thanks for pointing that out Matt. And you make great points in your second and third points that I hadn't thought about too.

"Nevertheless, even by this definition Sam Harris is quite clearly an atheist, since he has never invoked either a God or supernatural intervention when he talks about the brain."

The reason why I say that he doesn't fall into this definition is that he makes statements about the mind that cannot be verified by science so there is "no credible scientific evidence" for his claims. One such claim for example can be found in his 2006 Huffington Post article - A Contemplative Science:

"when thoughts are seen to be mere phenomena arising and passing away in consciousness (along with sights, sounds, sensations, etc.), the feeling that there is a "self" who is the thinker of these thoughts can disappear"

I'm not saying that this can't happen, I'm saying that science can't independently verify that this happens.
Sounds to me like they've got atheism confused with skepticism.  Even if Harris believes in some "wooish" ideas, that doesn't preclude him from being an atheist.  After all fucking Raelians are atheists.
"After all fucking Raelians are atheists."

Funny but sadly true. The AFA are trying to be exlusionist by redefining a commonly accepted english word. The reality is that you will get all sorts of weirdos claiming to be all sorts of things. Even religions have the same problem with all sorts of cults claiming to be something that they're really not. That's life in the real world. It doesn't mean that we should redefine the whole english language to exclude them!

How is idolising a supernatural extra-terrestrial being atheist???????????? 

What is god but a supernatural extra-terrestrial being?


It really annoys me when evidently non-atheists anoint themselves atheists... sheesh

All gods are supernatural but not all supernatural beings/events are god(s).


The worship of god(s) is theism. Nobody worships supernatural beings/events. Whether those supernatural events exist is irrelevant to atheism. The existence of god(s) is what atheism is concerned with.


Atheism literally means no-god (from the Greek: a - no, theos - god). It's very clear. If a philosophy professor was to read this thread he would be pissing in his pants that we can't even get such a simple philosophical term right.

I disagree with that splitting of hairs. Raelian gods are just a little different. You take a very limited stance on the god definition. You limit 'god' to a some white dude with a beard, gods are any being, supernatural or not (sun god anyone?), which begeths worship and accrues divinity or divinity-like devotion. God definitions are vague concepts, and IMO they should remain as wide and vague and all encompassing as possible.




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