I think it is time to redefine “belief”, or at least to limit its use a little. While it is true that the dictionary defines belief as “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists”, in many cases people seem to add “as a matter of faith” or “in spite of a lack of evidence”.

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Comment by Daniel young on December 13, 2011 at 4:46pm


Thank you for finding the words that I was searching for.

Comment by Sandi on December 13, 2011 at 11:08am

The English language, as we all know is convoluted at it's best and to when we want to explain ourselves, others can twist it to their own interpretation.

I find myself entangled in the "I believe' statement often and the fact that we associate the word 'belief' with religion makes it a little difficult to use it in general terms for other things. I have resorted to Atheism is my 'stance', though really this has the same meaning, it separates it from religious belief.

The fact that I, personally, am 100 percent sure that god does not exist according to my reasoning, does this mean that I cannot or should not say that I believe god does not exist?. I also believe that evolution is true because I know it to be - according to my reasoning.

It is my opinion and therefore my belief. Correct wording or not. I, for one, cannot dissect the English language and simply use words that are generic (so to speak) and common to describe my feelings, emotions or thoughts.

Comment by Leland Jory on December 13, 2011 at 7:23am

@John Camilli: I think you misunderstand my point. I'm not laying claim to knowledge that others, particularly those in the scientific field, don't have. That would be a decidedly theist-y position. Quite to the contrary, I don't "know" scientific theories are fact, I accept as fact those theories for which there is a body of empirical data. For those theories where the data is not as fully developed experimentally, I still recognize the efforts of those who formulate them to make these theories consistent.


I would also argue that I am not a believer in the absence of deities. I do not believe in the existence of deities (there is a significant difference). I think, based on the lack of evidence to the contrary, that there is no need to invoke that hypothesis. It is a purely rational exercise. On Dawkins' scale, I'd be between 6 and 7.

@Jonathan Christie: Exactly. I do not want to expunge "belief" from the dictionary. I just want to point out that in discussions with theists its use dilutes our point.

 Keep in mind, many theists see the atheist position as a religious view (if only as a rhetorical device). If I say I believe in the reality of evolution, it sounds like a position of faith. If I say I accept that evolution by natural selection is the best description of the biological world as we know it, it may be wordier but it can no longer be mistaken for a faith position.

Comment by Jonathan Christie on December 13, 2011 at 5:21am

no one person will be able to have this absolute understanding on every facet of existence and reality, but we do all have varying degrees of this understanding.  for instance we dont need an absolute reckoning of reality to accept the fact that if we drop a bouncing ball on a concrete surface on earth that it will bounce, this is irrefutable as anybody anywhere on the planet can do this experiment and arrive at the same conclusion. 

I think some of us though would do the experiment to see for ourselves and some would accept the fact and others would believe through word of mouth and so on.

... John, have you maybe seen a show called 'what the bleep'?

Comment by Daniel young on December 13, 2011 at 4:18am

I tend, or at least am trying to use the word "think" more than "accept" or "belief".

When a religious oriented person uses the words "belief or faith", they have a different understanding of the word than I. Therefor, for the sake of clarity, and to do my best in conveying my thoughts or beliefs, I say " I think".

I also think the term tends to indicate that I have given the subject more thought, as opposed to just accepting my cultural religious environment.

As far as facts are concerned, I call them such because of the level of confidence I have in the belief. But that being said, not all beliefs are equal.

When I look around the room at the moment of this writing, I see a ceiling being held up by walls. I believe that the ceiling is not going to come crashing down at any moment.

My confidence is so high, that I will say that this is a fact that the ceiling will hold where it is. Not just because it is still there and I am not bludgeoned by rubble, but also the physics that has determined the strength of the supporting members, the tests that have already been performed to assure me that my house is stable. The scientific method has given me my humble abode and this is just one small reason why I believe in science, that I believe that science can lead to truths, which is the highest level of belief.

The belief in religion is a different kind of belief, a belief based on hope and the unknown. And this form of belief is not synonymous with the scientific beliefs, facts, knowledge, truths, whatever the level of confidence.

Naturally the religious believer has their reasons to believe what they believe, but I think it is of the utmost importance to try and found ones beliefs in reality, the reality to which we perceive it. When one ( for whatever reason ) chooses to base their belief structures in the supernatural, outside of reality as we perceive it, then ANYTHING GOES, and this can only promote chaos. 

I have absolutely to confidence in the belief of any religion, I think that the scientific method is the best possible method to discover.

Comment by John Camilli on December 13, 2011 at 4:09am

"I also see the dilemma of asserting our beliefs to them, though our beliefs are more reality based."


How can you say that without knowing what absolute reality is?

Comment by Jonathan Christie on December 13, 2011 at 2:47am

well, reading through these posts and such I came across something interesting, what someone told a Jehovah's witness after being told "so you believe in evolution." his reply "I dont 'believe' in evolution, I simply accept the fact of."

On the other hand belief cant just be swept aside, I hold beliefs such as the beliefs in my family and friends that they can be great people.

I also see the dilemma of asserting our beliefs to them, though our beliefs are more reality based.  If I win the lottery one day for instance I wont go around saying i have been blessed, Ill accept the fact that through a large chaotic system the numbers I used over and over again finally come up, or at least the organizers of the event thought a pawn deserved a cut.

Comment by John Camilli on December 13, 2011 at 1:44am

Well, offer an alternative expressions for what atheist's have, if not belief. I get the impression that you want to say we have "knowledge," but that would be a pretty easy claim to dispute. As it stands, ALL assertions except for cogito ergo sum (which one can only assert to their self, not to others) can be doubted. If a thing can be doubted, it is not absolute, and should not properly be called "truth" or "knowledge."


Many atheists want to at least be able to assert that their beliefs are superior, or less ridiculous, or less likely to be wrong then the beliefs of theists. But compared to what? Unless you have some absolute truth to compare atheist and theist beliefs, it's impossible to say that one ideology is closer to being correct.


What's really needed is for people to stop wanting to be right. Stop wanting to feel superior. Stop trying to tell other people they are wrong. After all, isn't that the problem most of us have with theists? They're so arrogant about the validity of their claims, and willfully ignorant of other claims, that it angers us. But if we turn around and insist on feeling certain of our own beliefs, are we any better? If that's the way we think, then atheism is all set to become a new religion, just one without deities.


Face it, you and I are BELIEVERS in the absence of dieties. We can't prove our position any more than theists can. Call it what you want, but our ideology has no claim to superiority. If you think science is any better than faith, I'd be happy to point out the underlying flaws of the philosophy of science. I'm a scientist myself, but I'm aware that what I have is a belief in science. I am in position of nothing I can rightly call a "fact" or "knowledge." If you are...well then you're the ony one I've ever heard of.



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