"Begin at the beginning,and go on till you come to the end: then stop." (Lewis Carroll, 1832-1896)

Alice came to a fork in the road. "Which road do I take?" she asked."Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire cat."I don't know," Alice answered."Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

"So long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation. "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

"All right," said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone. "Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin," thought Alice; "but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!"

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Location: Australia

I am diagonally parked in a parallel universe. Like Arthur Dent from "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy", if you do not have a Babel Fish in your ear this blog will be completely unintelligible to you and will read something like this: "boggle, google, snoggle, slurp, slurp, dingleberry to the power of 10". Fortunately, those who have had the Babel Fish inserted in their ear, will understood this blog perfectly. If you are familiar with this technology, you will know that the Babel Fish lives on brainwave radiation. It excretes energy in the form of exactly the correct brainwaves needed by its host to understand what was just said; or in this case, what was read. The Babel Fish, thanks to scientific research, reverses the problem defined by its namesake in the Tower of Babel, where a deity was supposedly inspired to confuse the human race by making them unable to understand each other.


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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Disbelief Is Not A Belief

I have heard this sort of argument quite often from theists/religious people. The argument goes something like this:~

"Your act of not believing in jesus/allah/muhammad/yahweh/the bible/the quran/ganesh/buddha is a belief, so nerner nernerner atheists have a belief in the non-existence of these things."

For some reason known only to themselves and their own lack of logic, they see a lack of belief or a disbelief in a concept/idea as a BELIEF.

I sometimes counter with a comment like this:~ "So, you have a belief in the non-existence of invisible, miniature, yellow teapots which rotate around mars?"
This question seems hardly fair, but some of them actually get the point if you ask a question as pointedly insane as this one is.

PS:~ Claiming atheism is a belief is like saying that abstinence is a form of sexual activity, that "nil by mouth" is a style of eating, and that paralysis is a form of movement. It is AN ABUSE OF LANGUAGE.



Blogger Lizzie said...

I like this cartoon and I think this is a very good point you're making. Helpful to me in the future, I'm sure...

1/6/06 10:20 am  
Blogger Dikkii said...

Great article, but I have to query you on one point.

Being an agnostic, deliberately and consciously, I'm not sure if I necessarily agree that you used good examples in your last paragraph.

For example, even though I tend to side with atheism over theism most of the time, I remember vaguely the point being made when I studied HPS at Uni that beliefs cover all areas that cannot be known for certain.

Atheism is most certainly a belief - it is a belief that there is no god or gods.

While it is grossly improbable that a god or gods exist, to eliminate it entirely as being impossible requires some pretty serious thinking.

It is a belief in the same way that zero is a number.

Now agnosticism on the other hand, if we use the same analogy, would be undefined in numerical terms. And (although, I feel certain that MarkCC would pull me up for this) this would not make it a "number", that is, a belief.

Agnosticism is the opposite of a belief which makes it a closer fit with your line of thinking than atheism.

I'd also propose that atheism is not a synonym for disbelief - agnosticism is a better fit.

2/6/06 12:56 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

The dictionary definition of an "atheist" is biased by belief.

I agree more with this definition:~ atheist: "One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods." (one who disbelieves OR denies...)

To disbelieve is not the same as to deny, that is why the definition is not inclusive, it is "One who disbelieves OR denies the existence of God or gods."

I have disbelief in the existence of gods. To deny the existence of something infers that the object or being is obvious, and one is just being stubborn or contrary by denying its obvious existence.

Like someone would deny the existence of oak trees or something.

"Whatever we conceive as existent, we can also conceive as non-existent. There is no being, therefore, whose non-existence implies a contradiction." David Hume

I would add to this by saying that conceiving of god as non existent is not a denial of the existence of god, as the existence of god is not obvious.

The dictionary definition implies that the existence of god is obvious. This is why it is a definition biased by belief.

2/6/06 4:29 pm  
Blogger Dikkii said...

Beep!Beep! wrote,

The dictionary definition of an "atheist" is biased by belief.

Hmm. Personally I would generally use the Oxford's definition over everyone elses. I wasn't aware that Oxford had a POV problem.

You also wrote:

I agree more with this definition:~ atheist: "One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods." (one who disbelieves OR denies...)

To disbelieve is not the same as to deny, that is why the definition is not inclusive, it is "One who disbelieves OR denies the existence of God or gods."

That definition to me is too inclusive - I personally would use the word "agnosticism" where we're talking about mere disbelief as opposed to denial - and robs the word (atheism) of quite a lot of its meaning.

Having said that, while I don't agree with your choice of words, I totally get where you're coming from.

2/6/06 5:53 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

If the definition was meant to be inclusive, it would be stated thus>>> atheist: "One who disbelieves (AND) denies the existence of God or gods."

It is not stated in that fashion. It is stated thus: ~~ atheist: "One who disbelieves (OR) denies the existence of God or gods."
Language is specific.

"Disbelief" is NOT synonymous with "denial" and that is why it is not defined as such in the dictionary definition.

2/6/06 8:54 pm  
Blogger Chimera said...

Beep: I think your last point made things crystal clear. For me, anyway. Like you, I use language as a precision tool.

"I don't believe that god esists," is similar to, but not the same as, "I believe that god does not exisit." The first statement is disbelief, the second is denial.

But I also know that most people today are language lazy; and a vocabulary of a mere 2000 words gets most people through life just fine (and how unfortunate that is!). And for this reason, either statement -- disbelief or denial -- is acceptable to me as a statement of atheism. I almost never try to instruct anyone in the use of language anymore. Those blank looks of oblivion-by-choice are just too much to take.

But the point of the post, atheism-as-religion, reminds me of the situation in the United States whereby the Veterans Administration is denying a Wiccan widow the right to place her husband's religious symbol -- the pentacle -- on his grave marker. Wicca is a recognized religion in the US, and soldiers in the military have it on their dog tags. The VA, however, refuses to recognise it.

They do, however, allow a symbol for atheists.

3/6/06 1:30 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

It should be a simple case. If wicca is recognised as a religion I would expect that the VA would be compelled to honor that decision. What is their problem? Have they been watching too many episodes of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" or something?

I also read somewhere once (in the dim mists of time and recollection) that "atheism" was recognised in one of the states as a religion. Personally, I find that extremely weird if that is the case, as I can't imagine how having "disbelief can be a belief".

Let's say just for the moment, that atheists have a belief in the non-existence of gods. (Something I think is a ridiculous notion.)How does that translate itself into a religion?

Religion: "Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe."

It seems to me that to qualify as a religion one needs to BELIEVE in supernatural powers as creators of the universe. Something an atheist is unlikely to do.

3/6/06 10:24 am  
Blogger Dikkii said...

Hi Beep,

You wrote:

"If the definition was meant to be inclusive, it would be stated thus>>> atheist: "One who disbelieves (AND) denies the existence of God or gods."

Not correct. Insertion of the "AND" makes it even more exclusive.

That is, you would now have to satisfy both conditions, now, in order to be an atheist.

By including the bit on disbelief with an OR connector you are inferring that any agnostic is by definition, also an atheist, because they do not have to satisfy the denial bit.

Even Blind Freddy will tell you that this is not the case. Simply, I've never heard the word atheism used in that context.

Incidentally, I'm a little surprised that you've used a definition sourced from the American Heritage Dictionary after implying that the Oxford's one suffers from POV.

As I said before, this definition renders "atheism" meaningless.

3/6/06 1:07 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

I do not agree with the dictionary definition of "atheist." Many atheists have similar issues concerning this.

I do claim that some dictionary definitions are biased by belief.

Atheists do not make a positive claim. They merely claim to disagree with theists.

A theist believes in the existence of gods or god or goddesses. As an atheist, I disbelieve in the existence of gods, or gods or goddesses.

Theism/atheism is about belief and disbelief.

Gnosticism/agnosticism is about knowledge or the lack of knowledge.

I think we are all agnostics as none of us can know about god. We either believe in gods or we do not. If we believe in gods, we are theists. If we don't believe we are atheist. (This is distinct once again from denying the existence of god. This definition has the "belief bias" as I can't deny the existence of something which has never been evident.)

Some claim to know about god. I consider these people to be gnostics (and probably liars). Those who don't claim to know about god are agnostics.

prefix a-, meaning 'without, not,' and the noun Gnostic. Gnostic is related to the Greek word gnsis, 'knowledge,' So an agnostic is someone "without the knowledge of god."

"Theist" >> one who has belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in a personal God as creator and ruler of the world.

And being an atheist is the opposite of that.

"A" meaning "without"... and hence>> without god belief.

I am also agnostic as I am without knowledge of god.

3/6/06 4:14 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

Agnostics and atheists argue about these terms a lot. It doesn't make a huge lot of difference to me except when a theist wants to tell me what "I BELIEVE IN" because I am an atheist!! lol

And theists DO want to believe that being an atheist is a belief system. It is not. Being amoral is NOT a type of morality and being agnostic is NOT a type of gnosticism. Being an atheist is not a type of theism. BUT BEING A THEIST IS A TYPE OF GOD BELIEF.

I have a belief system and it is NOT atheism as atheism is NOT a belief system. Being an atheist is NOT a worldview. It has no dogma and no tenets of belief.

My belief system is secular humanism. Secular humanism could be considered a belief system and a worldview. And I am happy enough for people to consider it that.

3/6/06 4:28 pm  
Blogger Dikkii said...

You're right about the literal interpretation when you put the a- prefix in front of theist, but that's not how the word gets used.

A similar example is the word antisemitism which should be anti- and semitism, but only gets used for anti-jewish contexts.

I don't think you necessarily require dogma, a worldview, belief tenets or anything like that to have a belief.

Indeed, I believe I'll have another drink!

4/6/06 5:04 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

I agree that useage is slightly different. For me it works like this:~
If being a theist is believing in the existence of a god or gods, then being an atheist is not believing in the existence of god or gods.

Just because theists make the initial claim of a belief in the existence of gods, I am not making a claim of the non-existence of god or gods, I merely don't BELIEVE the theistic claim that they exist.

A theist who says they KNOW that god exists, puts themselves in a tricky situation, because technically being a theist is about BELIEF in the existence of god, not stating that they have KNOWLEDGE about the definite existence of god.

(Yes, I know I am a pedantic, obsessive pain in the crack. :) )

6/6/06 9:41 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

As for anti-semitism, I know that the common useage is "a person/group against jews but I consider it technically incorrect also.

Semitic refers to: 1. Of or relating to the Semites or their languages or cultures.
2. Of, relating to, or constituting a subgroup of the Afro-Asiatic language group that includes Arabic, Hebrew, Amharic, and Aramaic.

So, to me at least, antisemiticism is the state of being against the group of people who share a semitic culture/language. This group could include those who share Arabic, Hebrew, Amharic, and Aramaic roots.

I think a better word for being against jews would logically be anti-jew, and if someone was against judaism, anti-judaism.

Against muslims? anti-muslim.
Against christians? anti-christian.
Against atheists? anti-antheist.

(Just a reminder for those reading this, I am not advocating hatred towards any group of people, I am discussing words and their possible meanings.)

6/6/06 9:58 am  
Blogger fizzlesticks said...

The TINY YELLOW TEAPOT of Wisdom will SMITE you for your logic.

Interesting article.

7/6/06 12:29 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

Yes, the tiny yellow teapot who loves everyone, will torture me for eternity.

Weird how believers don't see how illogical that

11/6/06 1:13 am  
Blogger Delta said...

That's an awesome cartoon beepbeep. I hadn't seen that one before.

15/6/06 2:24 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE Delta: yw

16/6/06 12:08 pm  

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