I have had this discussion on other threads and I wanted to get your opinions on what most fellow Atheists consider an "Atheist".

I have always considered an "Atheist" as someone who does not believe in even the possibility of a God/Gods, an afterlife, reincarnation of any kind, energies "living on" or being "transferred to other forms" after death, ghosts/souls, and/or superstitious beliefs.

I have not considered Buddhists atheists as they still believe in "energies" and the sorts; and believe that people who say that they believe in the "possibility" of an afterlife as agnostics or the sorts - I have been an atheist for example since I was 15-16 and maybe an agnostic for a couple of years before then.

For example, I am sure that Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the likes all fit into the aforementioned definition of an "Atheist". So, what do you think?

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I'm an agnostic atheist by that definition too, the only quibble I would make is that agnosticism in philosophy tends to refer not just to the idea that we "don't have knowledge" (which, depending on your definition of "knowledge" actually applies to a lot of areas) but to the position -as defined by Thomas Huxley- that we can't have knowledge on that area.

Agnostics in this sense are people who don't just believe that we don't have enough evidence to come to a conclusion, but that we can't come to enough evidence because the question is fundamentally unanswerable.


In this sense I'm not an agnostic atheist, just an atheist.

As I said, a quibble.

I have always considered an atheist to be someone who does not believe in the existence of any deities or that their lives are being governed by some other supernatural force.

On that note however I think there can be a small grey area as far as beliefs in things like ghosts or other supposedly unexplained events go. So long as the person in question is not making the jump to claim that such events point to a higher power or forms spiritual or ritual beliefs around the possibility.

While I personally do not believe in ghosts or anything akin to ghosts and other similar phenomena due to the lack of any real evidence I can see how some people could consider themselves atheist and take the position of "I don't know" on such subjects.

Or at least that is my take on it.

I consider myself to be an Atheist because I do not believe in the supernatural. If someone believes in the possibility of a supernature* they are not Atheists.

Therefore I agree with your definition.

I have always considered an "Atheist" as someone who does not believe in even the possibility of a God/Gods

By this definition even Richard Dawkins is not an atheist. See his Spectrum of Theistic Probability where he leaves open the possibility that God/s may exist. And I agree with him:



I think the historical definition of atheism might be the same as yours, but these days atheist is a catch-all term for all who lack belief in a god.

atypical = not typical

asymmetrical = not symmetrical

atheist = not theist (i.e. does not believe in God)

This lack of belief definition is how most people understand the definition today.

Your definition goes further and says atheists must also have a positive belief in the non-existence of Gods. But most atheists do not make such bold statements, rather, they remain agnostic atheists. Me too.

You are just playing semantics. Richard Dawkins explanation is that he can't prove definitely something that is not falsifiable so he is an agnostic in the sense that he can't also disprove the Flying Spaghetti Monster or any postulate which is not falsifiable. 99.99999999999% certainty therefore there is no god according to the way he postulates his atheism. It is just as likely for boo goo moo goo monster to be controlling human affairs for example.

You can call it semantics, but it's actually just philosophical etiquette. It's pretty much impossible to prove a negative of this kind (the same way it's impossible to disprove the Flying Spaghetti Monster) so you allows have to allow for some possibility.

In your definition, an atheist is someone who says there is NO possibility, and so obviously that does not include Dawkins then.


Pointing this out is not semantics: it's just applying the definition you yourself set up.

Theist: someone who has a positive belief in a God.

Atheist: someone who does not have a positive belief in a God.


That's my definition (incidentally also the one used by most philosophers, and they use it because that's just the definition that makes most sense).

Defining atheism as someone who does not believe in the possibility of a God is also not the way philosophers do it: that position is called strong atheism. Regular atheists are just people who don't have a belief in God, for whatever reason.


So no, I don't think you can define atheism as to be an explicit rejection of the supernatural altogether. People who don't believe in ghosts and don't believe in God are atheists. People who do believe in ghosts but don't believe in God are atheists too. 

Any other opinions??

Atheism isn't really a belief in and of itself but a response to claims of belief, the response being that the proof of the existence of one or more gods has not been demonstrated by those who believe in them. Without theism there would be no atheism, there being nothing to be against. In an atheistic panacea, atheism would cease to exist because no one would believe make claims about belief that are not demonstrably true. Or, if you prefer, atheism would be the default position and would therefore not require an explicit definition. By way of example, there aren't, as far as I know, any dragonists (those who believe in dragons) and so therefore we don't have the word "adragonist". 


Atheism, however, is really a specific subset of skepticism - the atheist (hopefully) having applied skepticism to the subject of the existence of god(s). Personally, all atheists I know are also skeptics. However not all skeptics I know are atheists which, IMNSHO, is being a poor skeptic.


So I guess I would postulate that an atheist is a skeptic who has applied skepticism and found wanting the claims of those who believe in gods.

I define atheism as:

The lack of belief in a deity, which implies that nothing exists but natural phenomena (matter), that thought is a property or function of matter, and that death irreversibly and totally terminates individual organic units. This definition means that there are no forces, phenomena, or entities which exist outside of or apart from physical nature, or which transcend nature, or are “super” natural, nor can there be. Humankind is on its own. An atheist seeks to know himself and his fellow man rather than to know a god. An atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated. He wants man to understand and love man. He believes that we cannot rely on a god or channel action into prayer nor hope for an end of troubles in a hereafter.



"The lack of belief in a deity, which implies that nothing exists but natural phenomena (matter), that thought is a property or function of matter, and that death irreversibly and totally terminates individual organic units."


How on Earth does the lack of belief in a deity "imply" those things in any way shape or form?

There are tons of people who lack a belief in a diety who do believe in many supernatural phenomena. Your definition leaves all those people out of the atheism category, yet they're clearly not theists either.


It's equipping atheism with more bagage than it deserves.

You can only set the "theist"-"a-theist" labels up as a dichotomy of each other... I don't know why that's hard.

I don't consider people who believe in the supernatural as atheists either - since they still believe in irrationality.

While this may not be the dictionary definition - sometimes the practicalities of the matter differ from dictionary definition.




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