Author Topic: Is atheism the default position?  (Read 27830 times)

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Online jaimehlers

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #58 on: August 02, 2011, 11:32:57 AM »
Sure.  Just as a dog cannot affirm that it is a German Shepherd, we can describe it as one (or otherwise).
Which is not the same thing at all.  A dog's breed is a physical property that can be independently and objectively observed.  The comparison is invalid, because you cannot necessarily describe any given person as an atheist or theist just from looking at them, even though you can describe them by various physical attributes that you can see.

Are you, then, abandoning the position that animals (and infants, below) are incapable of holding such beliefs?
No, and this comes across as sophistry.  See below.

It's not a point that I much care about, given my own position, but Graybeard has argued the opposite to what you are implying now.  Are you willing to debate him on the subject?
I said nothing except that an animal cannot tell us what it thinks about the subject and that we thus cannot describe it as definitely not having one (which is required for something to be described as 'atheist').  If you are taking the inference that this means that animals are capable of holding such beliefs, then I do not know where you got it from.

And as to your question, you also cannot know whether or not I am an atheist (whatever the definition you're using).  You can be reasonably certain in light of evidence, but you cannot rule out the idea that you may be wrong.  The same goes for the lack of religious beliefs of animals and infants.  I agree with Graybeard that they are, for the most part, incapable of coherent belief on the subject.  They certainly seem to be.
Emphasis mine.  Something that is incapable of coherent belief on a subject cannot be described using a term that requires the capability of holding a coherent belief.  As atheism requires that capability, whether you refer to active disbelief or simple lack of belief, it cannot refer to an entity which does not hold a coherent belief to begin with.

This is a different point than the one you were making in the rest of your post.  Here you are using, as a standard, the ability to form belief in one's mind.  Earlier in the post, you were using, as a standard, the ability to communicate that belief to others (even if just to indicate its existence).  As you said:  "An animal cannot tell us whether it has a religious belief or not, so how can we describe it as definitely not having one..."

And to this point, I refer you to my post to Graybeard above.
An entity that cannot form a belief certainly cannot communicate that belief; an entity that cannot communicate a belief may or may not lack the ability to form a belief, but as far as we are concerned, it might as well not be able to.  So it may be technically different, but functionally it is the same, and that is the basis for my statement.

As to your latest reply to Graybeard, I cannot really tell what you are directing me to.  Please clarify what point or points you mean.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2011, 11:39:54 AM by jaimehlers »

Offline Emergence

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #59 on: August 02, 2011, 11:37:05 AM »
So you are taking people's experience "real" and still saying God is fake.
"People having REAL experience with FAKE God?"
I am a bit confused.

"reality of experience" != "reality of perceived content/cause of experience"
« Last Edit: August 02, 2011, 11:55:43 AM by Emergence »
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Offline Karl

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #60 on: August 02, 2011, 11:57:02 AM »
I do not see it that way. Practically spoken your statement applies for daily life but what if there are a third or infinitely more possibilities?

If there are infinite non-X possibilities, then they fall into the broad category of "not-X".

I can say 2*2 is 5 or 2*2 is 3, both are wrong.

All answers are covered by "4 or not-4".

As far as the discussion is concerned and taking the 2 conditions as the only existing, then you are right.

When one of them is only defined as the negation of the other (as atheism is defined with respect to theism), there are no alternatives.
Maybe I should have chosen a different approach. First of all, I do not believe in any god, never did.

I was more thinking of the number 4 being the result of the addition of 2+2. You are choosing one way in order to either decide true or untrue. Untrue excludes true and those are the only 2 possibilities. I was more thinking of 4 being the result of various possibilities. 8-4 is 4.

To explain myself, if you see a result then a correct operation that produces this result is not necessarily the only operation that does so. Transferring that thought to life we see the result, the present situation. We can safely say that evolution played its part in getting where we presently are. We can also claim that believing in god makes no sense at all and that the "good god" does not exist. Reality simply is different.

We also need to recognize that there are still gaps of knowledge to be filled. Theists immediately shout "miracle", "see, god did this" and so on. To me that is BS. Then again there are a lot of factors we don't know anything about, be it for lack of knowledge or simply caused by the fact that we can just understand what our make up (species) allows us to understand.

So what I am trying to say is that the result we see now can be the result of infinite possible processes we know nothing about. 4 = Square Root of 16, 4 = 36/9 and so on. Operations not (yet) understood can lead to the same result. So whilst we can explain vast segments of (human) evolution, we as atheists might also run into some surprises one day. Other important factors might show up, be investigated and proved to be plausible. Or they will not and we will never know.

So basically I was probably off topic or incorrectly answered to your post, sorry for that. If as per definition a condition is only defined as the negation of the other, then you are right with what you say.

Offline John 3 16

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #61 on: August 02, 2011, 11:57:43 AM »
Confusion comes with lack of education.
"I think I can guess. I just think that it's honest to say I am guessing when I guess"
I can see someone was little confused ;)
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #62 on: August 02, 2011, 12:28:38 PM »
Which is not the same thing at all.  A dog's breed is a physical property that can be independently and objectively observed.  The comparison is invalid, because you cannot necessarily describe any given person as an atheist or theist just from looking at them, even though you can describe them by various physical attributes that you can see.

I addressed this in a part of my post that you quoted further down, but ignored:

Quote from: Azdgari
And as to your question, you also cannot know whether or not I am an atheist (whatever the definition you're using).  You can be reasonably certain in light of evidence, but you cannot rule out the idea that you may be wrong.  The same goes for the lack of religious beliefs of animals and infants.

You cannot see into the mind of a dog.  By the same token, you cannot see into the mind of another human being.  In both cases, you must judge their mental state based on their behaviour - be that through their bodily movements, their language, or otherwise.

No, and this comes across as sophistry.  See below.

I 'saw below', but I still cannot see where it is that you supported this accusation.  Could you be more specific?

I said nothing except that an animal cannot tell us what it thinks about the subject and that we thus cannot describe it as definitely not having one ...

Indeed, we cannot rule out the idea that the animal has the capacity for belief.  This is where - as I see it - you contradicted Graybeard, whose position - as I understand it - is that such creatures are incapable of belief and can be described as such.  Though at the same time, his preferred definition of "atheist" is such that this doesn't qualify them as atheists.

You took a different tack, suggesting that we can't know that animals aren't atheists because they may really have theistic beliefs and we can't know they don't.  How does that jive with the idea that (a)theism is off-topic with respect to animals, etc.?

(which is required for something to be described as 'atheist').

Only if you accept that more restrictive, bigotry-enabling definition of the term.  Your choice.  It's neither true nor false, but the choice does reflect on one's possible motives.

If you are taking the inference that this means that animals are capable of holding such beliefs, then I do not know where you got it from.

See above.  I hope I explained my reasoning clearly enough.  Without the suggestion that animals may be capable of holding those beliefs, your point makes no sense.

Emphasis mine.  Something that is incapable of coherent belief on a subject cannot be described using a term that requires the capability of holding a coherent belief.

I agree.  Fortunately, not all senses of the word "atheist" require it.  Some are far more robust.

As atheism requires that capability, whether you refer to active disbelief or simple lack of belief, it cannot refer to an entity which does not hold a coherent belief to begin with.

As I said above, that is your choice.  As a believer, you don't really have much to lose from it.

An entity that cannot form a belief certainly cannot communicate that belief; an entity that cannot communicate a belief may or may not lack the ability to form a belief, but as far as we are concerned, it might as well not be able to.  So it may be technically different, but functionally it is the same, and that is the basis for my statement.

They are not functionally the same.  Linguistic communication is hardly the only way in which beliefs inform our actions.

As to your latest reply to Graybeard, I cannot really tell what you are directing me to.  Please clarify what point or points you mean.

Honestly, I don't know what was going through my mind when I said that.  I really don't.  I don't even know what point I was trying to refer to, whether it's actually there or not.  I think I'd addressed everything I wanted to at the time.  Meh, forget it.
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Offline Karl

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #63 on: August 02, 2011, 12:30:02 PM »
From Dictionary.com: atheist
Noun: a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.
That puts me in problems. I always considered myself an atheist. But I do not deny or disbelieve the existence of a supreme being or supreme beings. I have just not met them, nobody could prove their existence and I see nothing at all that can be attributed to their existence.

But that does not mean they do not exist. There are a lot of things I have never seen, yet they exist. I disbelieve all religious teachings. I disbelieve all about religion that they told me as a kid at school. I disagree on religiously motivated harmful actions. I could go on for hours but I guess I made myself clear.

I just do not consider the human race to be the highest possible state of evolution. So there might be higher beings that I am not aware of. How can I disbelieve something I cannot even grasp. Religion up to now brings a lot of lies, fairytales and other "unbelievable" stuff. So I disbelieve all present religions. But I have no clue about what else there might be.

Confusion comes with lack of education.
True, but sometimes it comes with a lot of education (confused professor as an example).

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #64 on: August 02, 2011, 12:36:17 PM »
To explain myself, if you see a result then a correct operation that produces this result is not necessarily the only operation that does so. Transferring that thought to life we see the result, the present situation. We can safely say that evolution played its part in getting where we presently are. We can also claim that believing in god makes no sense at all and that the "good god" does not exist. Reality simply is different.

Ahh, that makes sense.  I get it now, and I agree.

So basically I was probably off topic or incorrectly answered to your post, sorry for that. If as per definition a condition is only defined as the negation of the other, then you are right with what you say.

It's not entirely off-topic.  There have been other long, heated discussions of this thread's topic on this forum in the past, and your point would be more applicable to those.  This one's focused on a different point.

In the latest of those other threads, it was grudgingly accepted that infants lacked theism, and that they could be described as atheists on that basis.  However, they should be called "incapable atheists" or "ignorant atheists" for clarity (depending on their level of development).  There was a discussion of how atheism could result from many different paths, and that one's atheism for reason X may have nothing to do with another's atheism for reason Y.

In this thread, though, folks are rejecting that atheism can even be defined as a lack of theism.  It has to be an actual choice.  An adult with no concept of gods is someone I would define as an atheist.  Not so with some of the folks around here, apparently.
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Offline Karl

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #65 on: August 02, 2011, 12:42:38 PM »
An adult with no concept of gods is someone I would define as an atheist.
Helps me with my last post.  That is exactly how I would describe myself. I have no concept of gods.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #66 on: August 02, 2011, 12:48:38 PM »
Well, you sort of do, in that you know of concepts of gods.  I was referring to an adult who had never been exposed to the concept in any way, shape or form.
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Offline Ambassador Pony

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #67 on: August 02, 2011, 01:15:38 PM »
Confusion comes with lack of education.
"I think I can guess. I just think that it's honest to say I am guessing when I guess"
I can see someone was little confused ;)

There's nothing confusing about that quote beyond your lack of understanding of the language.

You're embarassing yourself, again.
You believe evolution and there is no evidence for that. Where is the fossil record of a half man half ape. I've only ever heard about it in reading.

Offline fishjie

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #68 on: August 02, 2011, 01:18:25 PM »
Depends whether or not you believe in the whole concept of "tabula rasa".    Humans don't start with a completely blank slate, since they know how to do things such as cry for attention.

however, no baby understands the concept of "God", let alone believe in such a concept, let alone believe in any particular religion, so the default would be a lack of belief in "God", hence atheism.     

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #69 on: August 02, 2011, 01:20:33 PM »
Sounds pretty simple and reasonable, fishjie.  But it's premised on defining "atheism" as a lack of belief in gods.  I define it that way, but not everyone here does.
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Offline relativetruth

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #70 on: August 02, 2011, 02:14:44 PM »
I don't wish to get into a semantic war on the word 'atheist' and if animals could be called that.

However I would be interested in peoples views on when they think a human child posseses enough knowledge to have the concept of gods.

An entity would need to have a concept of 'self' before you even think about superior beings. I think that a human child gets to that stage at about two years old. I am not aware of any test which conclusively prove any animals to be 'self-aware' certainly not at an equivalent stage of development.

At the time a human child becomes self-aware it would already be able to distinguish many members of its immediate family and maybe the mother or father has already taken on the 'god' role of a superior being.
This 'god' provides for their every need and provides rules and gives rewards and punishments.

I submit that the concept of gods is just an extension of parental worship when you start to realise just how flawed they are and you can easily fool them.
If you use this model then maybe the default position is theist when you replace your 'demi-god' parents with imaginary ones.
God(s) exist and are imaginary

Online jaimehlers

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #71 on: August 02, 2011, 02:22:13 PM »
fishjie:  Being able to believe in a concept requires being able to understand it (i.e, have an understanding of it, even if not a perfect one).  If you don't have the latter, then the former is meaningless.  Both lack of belief and disbelief in something require at least some understanding of the something in question to be meaningful statements, otherwise it's more properly described as ignorance of belief.

I addressed this in a part of my post that you quoted further down, but ignored:
I certainly did not ignore it.  Your statement there was similar to mine, so I saw no point in addressing it.

You cannot see into the mind of a dog.  By the same token, you cannot see into the mind of another human being.  In both cases, you must judge their mental state based on their behaviour - be that through their bodily movements, their language, or otherwise.
It is true that I can't see into another's mind.  The difference is that a human can communicate complicated concepts in their mind to me using language.  An animal, or a newborn human, cannot, except for extremely simplistic concepts that do not require any common language at all.

I 'saw below', but I still cannot see where it is that you supported this accusation.  Could you be more specific?
Note that I said that it came across as sophistry, not that you were deliberately engaging in sophistry.  To wit, your statement that I was abandoning the position that animals are incapable of holding such beliefs because I said, "An animal cannot tell us whether it has a religious belief or not".  Whether it was sophistry or not depends on whether your misunderstanding of that sentence was deliberate or accidental - I decided it was probably accidental and thus said that it came across as sophistry, rather than that it was sophistry.

Indeed, we cannot rule out the idea that the animal has the capacity for belief.  This is where - as I see it - you contradicted Graybeard, whose position - as I understand it - is that such creatures are incapable of belief and can be described as such.  Though at the same time, his preferred definition of "atheist" is such that this doesn't qualify them as atheists.
And this was where the misunderstanding was.  You assumed that I was contradicting him because I stated that we couldn't communicate with them to find out for sure.  There is no contradiction there - we assume that animals are incapable of belief because we can't communicate effectively with them to know for sure, and what we observe of their behavior does not suggest religious beliefs.

You took a different tack, suggesting that we can't know that animals aren't atheists because they may really have theistic beliefs and we can't know they don't.  How does that jive with the idea that (a)theism is off-topic with respect to animals, etc.?
This is another assumption; I suggested no such thing.  The only thing my statement meant was that we can't ask them, so we can't conclude that they are definitely atheists (the same way we can by asking someone and having them say, "I don't believe in God").

(which is required for something to be described as 'atheist').
Only if you accept that more restrictive, bigotry-enabling definition of the term.  Your choice.  It's neither true nor false, but the choice does reflect on one's possible motives.
I said, "...definitely not having one[1] (which is required for something to be described as 'atheist')".  It's hardly bigoted to describe a lack of belief as "definitely not having a belief".

See above.  I hope I explained my reasoning clearly enough.  Without the suggestion that animals may be capable of holding those beliefs, your point makes no sense.
You explained your reasoning well enough for me to understand what you were talking about.  However, I have to point out yet again that it seems like you were (and are) proceeding from an unstated assumption.  My suggestion is that you set aside that assumption and take my comment at face value, without assuming that I must be saying that animals are capable of holding such beliefs, and see if it makes more sense.

I agree.  Fortunately, not all senses of the word "atheist" require it.  Some are far more robust.
Like how a scientific theory is much more robust than a layman's theory.  Except that doesn't stop people from misunderstanding which is which; if anything, it makes it easier for certain groups to confuse the issue.  If you're going to describe something that's "far more robust" than the common definition, then it would make sense to come up with a more precise term so as to avoid conflating the two definitions.

As I said above, that is your choice.  As a believer, you don't really have much to lose from it.
Except for clarity.  If we're going to discuss an issue like this, then it behooves us both to be clear about what we mean.  That includes not using a more general word to mean something that is "far more robust".  I got in an argument with my brother once because I used the word 'ossified' (as in, someone's brains were ossified), because he thought I should have used the more common word 'petrified'.  But that would have confused the issue.

They are not functionally the same.  Linguistic communication is hardly the only way in which beliefs inform our actions.
Nor did I suggest it was.  I was talking about communication in general, not just spoken words.  So yes, something that cannot communicate a belief might as well not be able to form a belief - they are functionally the same thing.
 1. a belief

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #72 on: August 02, 2011, 03:02:29 PM »
I am not sure that a word-definition and a scientific theory can be compared for "robustness", since one is a subjectively-selected tool to convey thoughts, and the other attempts to describe the objective universe.  I meant that the broader usage of the word is less dependent on knowing peoples' (and others') thoughts, and so is more useful as a label.  It means less.  That's not a bad thing.

The reason that definitions of atheism that mean more are better enablers of bigotry, is that they make atheism more important.[1]  Atheism isn't important, or at least, it shouldn't be.  Atheism does not define my identity except in relation to theism.  I would prefer it if atheism never came up at all in life.  It should not be an issue.  But it is, and those of us who are atheistic can become primarily identified as such to other people (mainly theists).

Jaimehlers, you're a heretic with respect to a lot of peoples' beliefs.  What if your primary identity in the eyes of the majority of the population was "Heretic"?  You might not mind all that much...or you might.  I don't know you, so I won't speculate there.  But being identified in that way is a dangerous potential precursor to discrimination based on that label.  A difference that's seen as significant is more likely to earn discrimination by "normal" people without that difference.

By the way, "definitely not having a belief" is not how Graybeard has been defining "atheism".  And definite to whom?  Is the state of being an atheist a subjective one?

Quote
fishjie:  Being able to believe in a concept requires being able to understand it (i.e, have an understanding of it, even if not a perfect one).  If you don't have the latter, then the former is meaningless.

I'm not quite sure what you are referring to here with "the former".  Do you mean the idea of "lack of belief"?  Because that's not meaningless - it's trivial.  I for one am okay with it having a trivial meaning in those cases.  Atheism should be trivial.

Regarding our 'misunderstanding' - if, as you say (and I agree), you can judge based on their behaviour that animals lack theistic religious beliefs, how is it then unreasonable in your eyes to conclude - albeit weakly - that they lack theistic religious beliefs?

If we can come to that conclusion for humans and call them atheistic, then it seems a strange double-standard to refrain from doing so for animals.  It is only the deliberate-communication thing?  Why is that so important?

Quote
Quote
... nothing to lose ...
Except for clarity.  If we're going to discuss an issue like this, then it behooves us both to be clear about what we mean.  That includes not using a more general word to mean something that is "far more robust".  I got in an argument with my brother once because I used the word 'ossified' (as in, someone's brains were ossified), because he thought I should have used the more common word 'petrified'.  But that would have confused the issue.
 1. Note that I wasn't calling you a bigot.  That also wasn't the content of my speculation re: your motives.  The speculation was that since you are not an atheist (by any of the mentioned definitions), you may be less sensitized or caring about the ramifications, to atheists, of your preferred definition.

I am all for using precise language.  There are modifiers that one can use to identify precisely what kind of atheist one is talking about.  Nowhere in this thread (or others, as far as I know) have I advocated the use of vague language.
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #73 on: August 02, 2011, 03:07:32 PM »
I don't wish to get into a semantic war on the word 'atheist' and if animals could be called that.

However I would be interested in peoples views on when they think a human child posseses enough knowledge to have the concept of gods.

An entity would need to have a concept of 'self' before you even think about superior beings. I think that a human child gets to that stage at about two years old. I am not aware of any test which conclusively prove any animals to be 'self-aware' certainly not at an equivalent stage of development.

At the time a human child becomes self-aware it would already be able to distinguish many members of its immediate family and maybe the mother or father has already taken on the 'god' role of a superior being.
This 'god' provides for their every need and provides rules and gives rewards and punishments.

I submit that the concept of gods is just an extension of parental worship when you start to realise just how flawed they are and you can easily fool them.
If you use this model then maybe the default position is theist when you replace your 'demi-god' parents with imaginary ones.

Interesting point, RT.  What do we really mean when we say "god-belief"?  And does it have to do with the actual contents of the belief, or with the attitude that one holds toward the "god"?  If we go with the former, then kids start out as atheists.  But you make a good case for them being theists if we consider "god" to be an attitude rather than a concrete set of beliefs.

Thanks for the thought-food.  +1 to you.
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Offline fishjie

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #74 on: August 02, 2011, 03:23:35 PM »
fishjie:  Being able to believe in a concept requires being able to understand it (i.e, have an understanding of it, even if not a perfect one).  If you don't have the latter, then the former is meaningless.  Both lack of belief and disbelief in something require at least some understanding of the something in question to be meaningful statements, otherwise it's more properly described as ignorance of belief.

its a semantics thing.   if you are a theist, you think that atheism as a belief in the nonexistence of god(s).     but the definition i go by is a lack of belief in a god.   it is not a belief in and of itself.    so, if a baby doesn't understand the concept of a god, of course the baby can't believe in it.   so it lacks belief in a god, thus is is atheist.

a baby does not believe 2+2 = 4 either, because it doesn't understand math.     

at the heart of the issue is the following conflict:   a christian wants to claim that atheism is an active belief in nonexistence of god, so they can claim atheism is a religion in and of itself (because it is impossible to prove a negative thus atheism requires faith), whereas an atheist do not feel they belong to a religion (because they feel religion is stupid), so they define atheism as a passive lack of belief.   

Offline John 3 16

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #75 on: August 02, 2011, 03:24:46 PM »
Confusion comes with lack of education.
"I think I can guess. I just think that it's honest to say I am guessing when I guess"
I can see someone was little confused ;)

There's nothing confusing about that quote beyond your lack of understanding of the language.

You're embarrassing yourself, again.
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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #76 on: August 02, 2011, 03:35:47 PM »
jaimehlers


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fishjie:  Being able to believe in a concept requires being able to understand it (i.e, have an understanding of it, even if not a perfect one).  If you don't have the latter, then the former is meaningless.  Both lack of belief and disbelief in something require at least some understanding of the something in question to be meaningful statements, otherwise it's more properly described as ignorance of belief.

No no no !! Come on man, get thinking straight jaimeh !

Newborns are atheists. Period.

The second that Newborns come into this world they possess an utter lack of information with regards to the supernatural and gods. They have zero information of the concept of gods and therefore are without not only the information of the concept, but also the belief that could go along with it. A-Theist: Without-belief in gods. Newborns then are by default in the atheist position because of the total lack of information and beliefs about gods. All of them. Each and every newborn.

A newborn cannot form a mental image of an abstract idea as complex as a god, so please knock it off with the idea that a newborn's lack of belief would therefore require it to have an understanding of the abstract idea of a supernatural entity. Nonsense. Being able to believe in a concept and to understand it, is preceded by having the cognitive power to do so. Newborns have not yet developed that power at birth and must through the gathering of information and perceptions wait until that power is there to form opinions and make choices.

A newborn doesn't suffer from ignorance of belief, it merely lacks the information required, and has yet to develop the cognitive power, to form opinions and beliefs on abstract ideas or otherwise. Newborns cannot form opinions or make conscious choices on the abstract idea of gods as they have no information on them. It is through this lack that all newborns are atheists  ;)

Thankfully, nature gives all humans a preselected position at birth with regards to the idea of gods. Atheist.

Cheers

"I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond atheism"....Penn Jillette.

Offline Graybeard

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #77 on: August 02, 2011, 03:39:49 PM »
@Azdgari,
Your argument that I am responsible for choosing a definition when your definition comes from some nameless person that you once read or heard, is bit rich. The definition at Dictionary.com is backed by Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition.

Now, if you think you know better than a lexicographer, fine for you, but don’t expect others to agree or think your idea is better. If you can find a dictionary that has your definition, please go ahead.

Your claim that dictionaries are subjective (and here you have to show that this dictionary is subjective and that the particular definition is subjective too) is less than helpful as it is apparent that you, like Humpty-Dumpty think a word can mean what ever you want it to mean. I suppose you have some feeling that your definition is not subjective &)

I suggest you define atheist as a, “A neonate” that will solve all your logical problems.

It is clear that you are not reading what I write but what you think I am writing. Naturally, you have the advantage, expressed in your last post, that you know my mind.

I was not using that definition, or appealing to it.  I was citing it as an example of the diversity of definitions applied to the term "atheism".
O Really?? Well it was pretty diverse (although I didn't see any other definitions), lacking, as it did, any provenance.

Tell me, do you think there is any point at all in dictionaries?

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And to be fair, he's not alone.  Then again, he wouldn't be alone if he defined "atheism" as "worship of Satan", either.
This ad hominem  and strawman is not progressing anything; not only that, it is quite illogical.

This isn't an ad hominem or a strawman.  An ad hominem is when a personal characteristic of one's opponent as a premise to an argument where that personal characteristic is irrelevant.  I have not done this.
You associate me with a ridiculous idea and it is not ad hominem?
You set up an argument about “not being surprised if I defined atheism as "worship of Satan"” and that is not strawman?

You explanations are as chaff before the wind. :)

You need that dictionary.

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Neonates are neither atheist or theist as a concept of gods is required for both positions. It is irrefutable that they are non-believers, but then again there is quite a lot in which they do not believe...

That is your decision.
Well of course it is! Who else’s would it be? I have taken the view that what you write is your decision – am I right?
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Apart from an affinity for the definitions offered by Dictionary.com, what arguments do you have in favor of using that definition?
“Apart from that Mr Lincoln, how did you enjoy the concert…” Is that a serious question?

Look, I’m not here to defend Collins Dictionary; it is simply a good dictionary.  Nor am I going to chose 10 other dictionaries only to have you say, “all dictionaries are subjective” (a generalisation that is not helpful.)

You don’t like it,? You can explain why Collins Dictionary is wrong, and can you give the authority for your statement, I've seen some atheists define the word as (to paraphrase) "a reasoned rejection of all supernatural claims". and why you think that the word “reasoned” is applicable to a neonate?

Whist you’re at it, give me your definition of atheist – remember you can’t use dictionaries. I will check them against several reputable dictionaries and ask you to explain why your definition differs.

In the meantime, can we progress with the Dictionary.com definition?
Nobody says “There are many things that we thought were natural processes, but now know that a god did them.”

Offline Graybeard

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #78 on: August 02, 2011, 03:51:39 PM »
From Dictionary.com: atheist
Noun: a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.
That puts me in problems. I always considered myself an atheist. But I do not deny or disbelieve the existence of a supreme being or supreme beings. I have just not met them, nobody could prove their existence and I see nothing at all that can be attributed to their existence.
Ah! then look at the definition for belief, and you will see that it concurs with your position.
Nobody says “There are many things that we thought were natural processes, but now know that a god did them.”

Offline dloubet

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #79 on: August 02, 2011, 04:17:41 PM »
If we don't change the definition of atheist to something we can agree on, the theists will happily continue to define it for us.

Rather than allow our enemies - or even lexicographers - to define what we are, I say atheism is the lack of belief in any gods. Who's with me?

It's not like dictionaries are written on stone tablets. Definitions do change. Unless no one is interested in changing them. I say we frickin' define it.
Denis Loubet

Offline pianodwarf

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #80 on: August 02, 2011, 04:28:20 PM »
If we don't change the definition of atheist to something we can agree on, the theists will happily continue to define it for us.

That's right, and we absolutely have to not let them do that.
http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2009/09/atheism-and-selfdefinition.html

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Rather than allow our enemies - or even lexicographers - to define what we are, I say atheism is the lack of belief in any gods. Who's with me?

I am.  Mainly because you're right.
[On how kangaroos could have gotten back to Australia after the flood]:  Don't kangaroos skip along the surface of the water? --Kenn

Offline dloubet

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #81 on: August 02, 2011, 04:33:09 PM »
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That puts me in problems. I always considered myself an atheist. But I do not deny or disbelieve the existence of a supreme being or supreme beings. I have just not met them, nobody could prove their existence and I see nothing at all that can be attributed to their existence.

It boils down to the question Do You Believe In A Supreme Being? If you can't answer with a yes, then you are an atheist because you are without theism.

Screw Greybeards definition. I think he's putting the cart before the horse granting lexicographers the power to be prescriptive rather than descriptive.
Denis Loubet

Online jaimehlers

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #82 on: August 02, 2011, 05:08:09 PM »
If we don't change the definition of atheist to something we can agree on, the theists will happily continue to define it for us.
That's a good point.  I also read over the blog post that pianodwarf linked, and it makes some cogent points on the subject.  I, personally, have no objections to atheists defining what the term atheism means for themselves, even if one atheist defines it one way and another atheist defines it a different way.  And nobody who is not an atheist has the right to tell an atheist that they don't know what the term means.

However, I don't accept that atheists have the right to declare that newborn humans are naturally atheistic anymore than I accept that theists have the right to declare that newborn humans are naturally theistic (in whatever variety of theism they happen to believe in, of course).  Especially when that declaration of atheism happens to rest on semantics and word-definitions (i.e., "they're atheists because atheism means lack of belief").

The simplest way I can put it is that someone has to be able to make a real choice about theism/atheism in order for either of those terms to have meaning.  Newborns cannot.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #83 on: August 02, 2011, 05:28:59 PM »
Your argument that I am responsible for choosing a definition when your definition comes from some nameless person that you once read or heard, is bit rich. The definition at Dictionary.com is backed by Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition.

Where did I say that I was not responsible for choosing the definition I use?

And why are lexographers authoritative on this subject?

I urge you not to give a flippant, dismissive answer to that second question.

Now, if you think you know better than a lexicographer, fine for you, but don’t expect others to agree or think your idea is better. If you can find a dictionary that has your definition, please go ahead.

See above.  Definitions are subjective.  There is no authority in their usage other than what humans grant.  So, which humans do you want to control what defines you?

Your claim that dictionaries are subjective (and here you have to show that this dictionary is subjective and that the particular definition is subjective too) is less than helpful as it is apparent that you, like Humpty-Dumpty think a word can mean what ever you want it to mean. I suppose you have some feeling that your definition is not subjective &)

If the definition is not shared, then I agree, communication can't yet take place using it.  And why would you suppose something as mind-crogglingly stupid as what I just underlined in the above quote?  Of course my definition is subjective.  Are you trolling, sir?

I suggest you define atheist as a, “A neonate” that will solve all your logical problems.

Okay.  Yeah, you're trolling.

It is clear that you are not reading what I write but what you think I am writing. Naturally, you have the advantage, expressed in your last post, that you know my mind.

I am looking for where I expressed this.  So far, I have been going on what you've written.  Looking over my last two posts, I cannot find any suggestion to the contrary.  It is possible I have misread you, of course, but I have been trying to ensure that when I talk about your position on something, it's clear that I am talking about my interpretation of your position.

Usually that sort of thing goes without saying, but you've turned it into some sort of tactical device for argumentation.  Blegh.

Tell me, do you think there is any point at all in dictionaries?

Of course.  They report on usage.  They are useful for telling us how other people are using words, for reporting on usage.  You are employing them in the opposite direction, for some reason:  Usage based on the unshakeable authority of the dictionary.

You associate me with a ridiculous idea and it is not ad hominem?
You set up an argument about “not being surprised if I defined atheism as "worship of Satan"” and that is not strawman?

Now you are bald-faced lying about what I said.  That is effectively trolling.

You explanations are as chaff before the wind. :)

You need that dictionary.

I am coming to agree with the bolded text.  I have come to doubt that any explanation I offer for anything would be treated fairly by you, no matter how it was worded or what its point was.

Well of course it is! Who else’s would it be? I have taken the view that what you write is your decision – am I right?

Uhh, yeah.  This needed to be stated...?

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Apart from an affinity for the definitions offered by Dictionary.com, what arguments do you have in favor of using that definition?
“Apart from that Mr Lincoln, how did you enjoy the concert…” Is that a serious question?

Well, mine was.  Totally, dead-pan serious.

Look, I’m not here to defend Collins Dictionary; it is simply a good dictionary.  Nor am I going to chose 10 other dictionaries only to have you say, “all dictionaries are subjective” (a generalisation that is not helpful.)

It would be off-topic to which term is better, anyway.  Just as your citation of Collins is not relevant to that topic.

You don’t like it,? You can explain why Collins Dictionary is wrong,

Where have I indicated that they are wrong?  Wrong about what, the definition?  Calling a definition "right" or "wrong" is a category error.

and can you give the authority for your statement, I've seen some atheists define the word as (to paraphrase) "a reasoned rejection of all supernatural claims".

It's in one of Xphobe's old posts, from another thread on this topic.  Do you want me to dig it up?  He gave reasoning for it, too.

and why you think that the word “reasoned” is applicable to a neonate?

I never indicated that I thought this.  I made it clear that it wasn't my definition.  And you say I need to read your posts better?

Whist you’re at it, give me your definition of atheist – remember you can’t use dictionaries. I will check them against several reputable dictionaries and ask you to explain why your definition differs.

I've already given it.  I would do so here, if I felt I was dealing with an honest interlocutor.  But given all the trolling and inflamatory crap in your post so far, I'm not inclined to do your work for you.

As for why it differs from yours, I gave that reasoning in my last post to jaimehlers, who seems to be keeping a cooler head than I am, and a far cooler head than you are, based on all our posts.

In the meantime, can we progress with the Dictionary.com definition?

I see no reason to, given its flaws.
I have not encountered any mechanical malfunctioning in my spirit.  It works every single time I need it to.

Offline gonegolfing

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #84 on: August 02, 2011, 05:52:01 PM »
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However, I don't accept that atheists have the right to declare that newborn humans are naturally atheistic anymore than I accept that theists have the right to declare that newborn humans are naturally theistic (in whatever variety of theism they happen to believe in, of course).  Especially when that declaration of atheism happens to rest on semantics and word-definitions (i.e., "they're atheists because atheism means lack of belief").

The simplest way I can put it is that someone has to be able to make a real choice about theism/atheism in order for either of those terms to have meaning.  Newborns cannot.
That's fine, you have the right to be wrong about your lack of acceptance.

No one here said that newborns are atheists simply because of lack of belief. If you would have read my post properly, you would have seen that it is indeed about choice, cognitive choice to be exact, and that a newborn cannot make that choice and so the default atheistic position is automatic. Some day the position, whether it be atheist or theist, will actually be a cogniitve choice, but until the power to do that is there, it's default ateist due to the lack of information and experience of the concept of gods.

Get over it.
"I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond atheism"....Penn Jillette.

Online jaimehlers

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #85 on: August 02, 2011, 06:42:13 PM »
No one here said that newborns are atheists simply because of lack of belief. If you would have read my post properly, you would have seen that it is indeed about choice, cognitive choice to be exact, and that a newborn cannot make that choice and so the default atheistic position is automatic. Some day the position, whether it be atheist or theist, will actually be a cogniitve choice, but until the power to do that is there, it's default ateist due to the lack of information and experience of the concept of gods.
No, it's a default blank slate, just like a newborn's language is a default blank slate.  Someone with no information on a subject cannot properly fall into either category, atheist or theist, until they have enough information for one of those categories to apply.

And I beg to differ, despite your statement about it not being about lack of belief, others in this thread have made that very argument, that newborns lack belief and thus are default atheists.  Just to pick one: 
but the definition i go by is a lack of belief in a god.   it is not a belief in and of itself.    so, if a baby doesn't understand the concept of a god, of course the baby can't believe in it.   so it lacks belief in a god, thus is is atheist.

Offline jetson

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Re: Is atheism the default position?
« Reply #86 on: August 02, 2011, 06:51:05 PM »
I don't like giving the benefit of doubt to the theistic assertion of gods.  That actually pisses me off.  There are no grounds for theistic claims at all, anywhere, ever.  Every single theistic claim since the dawn of time has been superstitious, ignorant, delusional, mythological and unsubstantiated.  Just because humans invented gods, does not mean that it has merit.

Atheism only exists because theism was asserted, and it has never had any evidence to back it up. In fact, it has been trounced by knowledge and science completely over the millennia.  All gods die when knowledge is gained.

Humans become theists by force, guilt, shame, fear, or just plain old social coercion.  The ones who claim to arrive at their "beliefs" by choice, are actually deluded. 

And before I get slammed for such bold claims, just remember, all gods are imaginary.