A conversation with Spocko!

An amusing little conversation for your entertainment…

I’m a big fan of StumbleUpon and my “about me” paragraph at the top of my page attracts many funny emails:

Although some atheists (and they are in the minority) may claim to know that there is no god, most atheists claim no such thing. Atheism means “absence of theism”, a “lack of belief in gods” and nothing more! An atheist does not *believe* there is no god, the atheist has *no belief* there is a god.

The most recent, from Freq, was quite enjoyable, albeit frustrating…

***Freq writes…
Nice blog…you are claiming…………….. “An atheist does not *believe* there is no god, the atheist has *no belief* there is a god.”…………….. that you are completely neutral about the existance of supreme beings…that you have neither a belief nor disbelief…simply a mental state of void on that issue….how do you maintain that? I mean it’s like a vacuum state…it seems that you would have to fill that in with something?! I’m not judging…just astounded by that state of mind…it’s like never making up your mind one way or the other…just blank.

***Spocko responds…
Hi Freq,
Actually, I am not neutral; I simply have no belief because there’s no evidence for the existance of any gods. To say I believe there are no gods is just as bad as saying there are gods. Faith is a symptom of the lazy mind. I find the idea of god completely illogical. If a god is the “designer” then who designed him? If a goddess is the First Cause then what “caused” her? I feel there is a 99.999% chance that there are no gods of any kind but there is always a possibility that there is something strange “out there” that may be called a god (certainly not Jehovah or Allah or Zeus or any other I’ve ever heard of). So, to me, the only logical position to assume is that of the Atheist – the non-believer. When a god proves its existance to me (and many others) then I’ll be a believer. This is the essence of Atheism.

You might like to check out this website…



This remark was made, in these very words, by John Gribbin, physics editor of New Scientist magazine, in a BBC-TV debate with Malcolm Muggeridge, and it provoked incredulity o the part of most viewers. It seems to be a hangover of the medieval Catholic era that causes most people, even the educated, to think that everybody must “believe” something or other, that if one is not a theist, one must be a dogmatic atheist, and if one does not think Capitalism is perfect, one must believe fervently in Socialism, and if one does not have blind faith in X, one must alternatively have blind faith in not-X or the reverse of X.

My own opinion is that belief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence. The more certitude one assumes, the less there is left to think about, and a person sure of everything would never have any need to think about anything and might be considered clinically dead under current medical standards, where absence of brain activity is taken to mean that life has ended.


I’m not trying to change you, not trying to condemn…I’m only seriously trying to understand!  I have to admit that in the case of a belief vacuum I might have been semantically challenged.  Never-the-less, I must say that whether John Gribbin or Spocko it doesn’t matter to me…I’m not impressed by letters at the end of a name, so whether you say it or
Mr. Gribbin says it is all the same to me.  Most of the folks that run our country went to Yale and Harvard and have fantastic degrees and you see all that they don’t accomplish!  But Mr. G does provide an excellent reference to what you claim to be atheism.  My main question and interest is the concept of a belief void and vacuum.  You see, I don’t believe that a vacuum is possible in the human system…or in nature…so let’s have a go with this.

Mr. G says, “the more certitude one assumes, the less there is left to think about.”  That means to me that there would be no definitive statement regarding the existence or non-existence of anything.  That means that any possibilities exist, that any reality is possible.  This is upheld in the website that you referenced as well.  Mr. G went on to say, “As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence.”  So this is a definition of an atheist!  An atheist would say that there is nothing conclusive that proves or disproves the existence of a supreme being.  Since atheism is usually related to a supreme being I’ll continue to use that example.  If one were to say I think there may be a SB then they are no longer an atheist.  If one were to say, I think there is no SB then they are no longer an atheist.  Since an atheist can have no ‘certitude’, then anyone that does have any certainty is not an atheist.  This is in line with what you describe and what I refer to as the void or vacuum….and that makes sense to me!  I’m making progress!

Using Mr. G as the guideline, when asked if there is a SB, an atheist would have to say I don’t know!  To go either side of 50% would be a measurable amount of certainty, a certain amount of confidence and therefore reaching towards a conclusion.  So a true atheist would not have an opinion either way, they would have a completely uncommitted stance where they were willing to accept either side as a possibility equally. 
Got it!  I can completely understand that!  Now to apply it?  I don’t know that I can, and it appears that neither can you!

But you have reached two fairly strong conclusions! You say that you feel there is a 99.999% chance that there is no SB…that’s the first break with atheism.  Then you say, “certainly not Jehovah or Allah or Zeus or any other I’ve ever heard of”.  That would be the second break with atheism. I think two stated beliefs are well on the road to having a doctrine with a high degree of certainty. 

You may think you are an atheist as defined by Mr. G but you have failed in your attempt to conform.  This actually confirms my belief that it is not possible to stand in the middle of an issue.  You have to lean in a particular direction, I don’t think its possible for a human to take absolutely no position.  That’s a vacuum, a void and that’s just not natural.  You’ve proven my point by making statements with fairly
strong conviction.

So, it’s not atheism that you are practicing, its something else, and since it involves specific beliefs regarding a supreme being, I would call that a religion!  But certainly not atheism.  So Mr. S, what are you?  Using Mr. Gribbin’s definition, you have proven yourself not to be an atheist and have proven to me that there can be no void.  I think to truly be an atheist you should more closely read Mr. Gribbin’s

Regardless of your direction or beliefs, thank you for an excellent example of the improbability of a belief void! 

All the best!


I did not intend to make an “argument from authority” as you seem to assume. The “letters” at the end of Gribbin’s name are irrelevant. I was simply suggesting another source for the “I don’t believe anything”
point of view.

I don’t agree with the notion of a “belief vacuum”. Belief is excess baggage – it is more like a wart protruding from the body than a necessary part of it. We are all born atheists, it is only thru indocrination and incessant programming that we become believers. We should all shed this dead weight as soon as we’ve grown.

There is no doctrine of atheism. It is simply the absence of belief. The word quite literally means “without belief” (let’s stick to talking about gods here). To say that atheism means “belief there is no god” is oxymoronic.

I do not know there is a god and I do not believe there is a god. I’ve seen no evidence for such a thing. I do not believe in that for which there is not a scrap of evidence.

I completely disagree that one must remain on the fence 50/50 to be an atheist. Mr. G’s opinion on certitude notwithstanding, it is an easy thing to look around, experience the world, and accept the reality of it. There is nothing evident to lead one to believe in gods. Take the Bible for instance; not one original thought in the whole thing, not a scrap of knowledge that shows evidence for a supreme mind, nada! When I first read the Bible cover to cover is when I became (once again) an atheist. Prior to that I had believed what the Priests told me.

You can not group atheists together, they have only one common trait; non-belief. Period. I do not believe in gods and am, therefore, atheist but this does not mean I can not have strong opinions about these fakers that have been paraded thru history. I believe Jehovah is not a god for the same reason I believe Apollo is not a god. I believe the sun will rise tomorrow because it has done so every day of my life. These statements are not part of some doctrine; there is no “Book of Atheism”, there are no rules, there are no priests. My convictions are based on my experience and knowledge of the evolution of gods and religion/shamanism. I will listen to hearsay no longer, and that’s all that religion is – hearsay. There are thousands of religions to choose from, each claiming that they are the one “true” religion and all others are false. If
you’re born in the US you’re most likely a Christian, if you’re born in Syria you’re most likely an Moslem, if you’re born in India you’re probably Hindu. Most people just swallow the “blue pill” and never advance beyond that.

I do not “think I’m an atheist by Mr. G’s definition” and I’m very much anti-conformist (geez it’s the religious that conform!). There are indeed atheists that believe there are no gods. I prefer the simpler, literal definition, and only claim “no belief”.

Atheism “requires” no specific beliefs of any sort and there is certainly nothing to “practice”. Having “strong convictions” that one fairy tale or another is most likely not true is NOT being religous. It’s called rationality. When I opened my eyes and decided to reject the indoctrination of my youth and return to the atheism I was born with, I did not replace that belief with another. It is not a contradiction to have no belief in gods and believe specific “gods” are false. It is also not
religion to believe strongly that Thor is just fantasy.

So, if you must insist there is a slot in our brains dedicated to belief in gods then mine is indeed empty. If you are speaking more generally of belief in any subject then that’s another story. I have a great many beliefs – what is important to me is whether those beliefs are based in “reality” or whether they are just acquiesence to the word of others. I resist the latter.



Well, to make my point as brief as possible, when you say “an atheist does not believe there is no god” but then you say, “there is no god”, that’s a straight out contradiction!  Mr. G says that “nothing can be certain” and so an open mind is the more likely trait of an atheist.  You both claim that there is no doctrine and that there is no belief yet on http://www.atheist.org a great deal of time and space is spent proving that without a doubt, there is no god.  That is a belief!  It’s not the absence of belief!  It’s a belief that there is no god!  Everything I’m seeing is a complete contradiction!

When I look at the atheist.org website, Moslems have a crescent, Christians a cross and Atheists a symbol that appears to be a partial atomic
symbol!  The site does nothing but further the BELIEF that there is NO god!  Based on the dictionary, those are doctrines and dogmas!

So, the statement that an atheist has no belief about god is not true! The truth is an atheist does have a belief about god or gods and that
is that they don’t exist!  You have professed that belief many times. Since they evangelize that position, accept donations, offer
scholarships to members that profess the atheist’s belief in no god, have a membership, have regular meetings and all this is concerning a belief about gods then I would classify that as a religion.

But hey, that’s just me.

Thank you for the lively debate, I very much enjoyed it!  All the best to you….and I really don’t mind whatever you believe or not! 



Freq, you are trying to put words in my mouth. Nowhere in our conversation did I say “there is no god”. I do find it extremely unlikey but I
allow for the possibility. I am completely open minded on the subject. When a god appears to me (and others) and proves its existence then I
shall believe.

From what I can see, http://www.atheist.org does not attempt to prove there is no god – such a thing is not possible and not required of atheists.
Indeed, it is a silly notion; e.g. I don’t believe in unicorns, what would folks think if I ran about trying to prove they don’t exist?! It is for the person making the claim – “there are unicorns” – to prove it.

I just read about the symbol being used by the group you mention – American Atheists. It sounds innocent/secular enough to me. Surely, you don’t think a symbol is all it takes to create a religion? Hell, there’s a pony on the front of my 2005 Mustang (wink) does that mean I’m a member of the Church of Ford? Uh, ok, maybe it does! ;o)

I do not agree with your definition of religion, either. My dictionary says; 1) an institution to express belief in a divine power 2) a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny.

The AA says…
Atheism is NOT a “belief.” Atheism is derived from the Greek, atheos, and means simply “away from the belief in a god or gods.” Atheists do
not “believe,” and it is incorrect to assume that the belief in a supernatural entity or entities is, somehow, equivalent to the “non-belief” in those same beings. It isn’t.

I would agree with them but please remember, there are a million different types of atheists (at least). Sure there are some who like to get
together for fellowship, those that form clubs, those that are left, those that are right, black, white, friendly or not, this or that. There
are, indeed, atheists who ALSO BELIEVE there are no gods (you may want to look-up strong-atheism and weak-atheism). Again; there are no rules
to non-belief. To me, belief is not a dirty word. Belief can be based on evidence, experimentation and experience OR it can be based on faith. You can guess which I prefer. I also consider belief an analog device rather than a digital one. I believe in various things in varying degrees based on my current knowledge of the facts at hand.

There is only one requirement to be an atheist; answer “no” to the following question…

“Do you believe in gods?”

I, of course, do not.

Cheers back at ya.


You said this: “I do not know there is a god and I do not believe there is a god. I’ve seen no evidence for such a thing. I do not believe in
that for which there is not a scrap of evidence.” When I read, “I do not believe there is a god”, it sound to me that that is a belief…not a absense of a belief. When you answer, ““Do you believe in gods?” I, of course, do not.”  Phrasing that back says I do not believe in gods.  Those are your words.  That’s not “no belief”, that is a belief that there is none. When you state that belief, and when there is an atheist institution, then the dictionary 1) is close…an institution to express a belief in a divine power. 

That’s just how I see it….but what do I know…I’m just riding around in circles on a rock!

Here’s to ya commander….live long and prosper!


I think you need to read what you just wrote.
You are saying that “I do not believe…” is the same as “I


When I say “I do not believe there’s a god” I am saying “I have no belief there is a god”. This is absolutely not the same thing as saying “I
believe there is no god”. The former is lack of belief, the latter is belief.

Peace and long life!


Blah…When someone says “I do not believe”  It is the statement of a belief!  That’s been my whole point…Like this…I can make a statement of my stance on an issue:
I disagree; I agree; I have no opinion.
These are all possible acceptable statements regarding an issue…or at least what they boil down to.

So, are there gods?
Yes, No, and I don’t have an opinion; are the 3 answers.

You have consistantly said NO there are no gods but just as consistantly you have said, I don’t have an opinion….that’s been the missing logic to me all this time.  That’s been my main point.

Pick any issue..Fords are the best.
If I say Yes there are but then say that I don’t have an opinion about them you would wonder what the heck I was talking about.

So, you say no gods and then say you have no opinion and, you guessed it, I’m wondering.

So the pattern is: question: affirmative; negative; undecided….pick one.

You hae been picking two and so has Mr G and so does the Atheist web site….

And it’s pretty much as clear as mud to me….just seems like, well, confusing!  If y’alll would pick ONE i could get on with my life;)



The problem is we’re talking about belief here. There are only 2 answers, not 3. “Yes” I believe or “No” I don’t. If the question is “Do you believe in gods?” then my answer is “No”. Period. I don’t believe.

If the question is “Are there gods?” then my answer is “I don’t know” (but I doubt it for the same reason I doubt there are Leprechauns).

I (and the majority of atheists) do NOT say “I believe there are no gods” because I (we) do not know for a fact that there are no gods. I have no evidence there are no gods. I only *believe* in things for which there is solid proof. When additional or contrary evidence is discovered then I adjust my belief accordingly.

For example; If I’ve never seen any evidence for Mustangs and I live in view of a major highway *I* would say “I don’t believe in Mustangs” but someone might have one hidden away in a garage somewhere. If I said “I believe there are no Mustangs” I would be wrong. When one says “I don’t believe” it can be because they simply don’t know.

It is OK to NOT believe if you don’t know and don’t see any evidence.
It is NOT OK to believe something without a scrap of proof. IMO!

My logic professor would have loved this conversation!

Flawlessly logical!


we have arrived at the crux of the problem.
you say that belief is binary.
I say that it can ternary.

If i were to say as objectively as possible that there was no god but then i found empirical evidence for spirits in the haunting of a house…i might then consider that a spiritual realm exists.  but it would be inconclusive yet it would strongly suggest that other forms of existence are possible.  I may or may no draw a connection to that knowledge and the possibility that other more elaborate spiratual existences are possible as well.  without solid evidence i would have to say that I’m not really sure at all if there are gods…perhaps my definition or expectations are flawed…as they were before i encountered a house inhabited by some sort of entities. 

So now I still have doubt that gods exist or not and without more information I have to say I don’t know…i can’t say yes or no because i have no proof to confirm or deny….So I’ve arrived at a third conclusion.

Of course saying there can only be two answers completely ignores Agnostics don’t it?

closed minded logic.

Sorry Freq but I think you are confusing belief with knowledge. You say the third option is that you “don’t know”. This is not an answer to the question “Do you believe?” this is only a cop-out. When you say that you don’t know if you believe or not, you are only refusing to evaluate/state your belief.

An agnostic is one who says they don’t know or can’t know if there is a god; guess what, that means they are not believers. Philosophical fence sitting is not belief therefore agnostics are atheists.

I am both agnostic and atheist – I do not know there is a god and I do not believe there is a god. It’s a bit of an apple and oranges thing.

I am completely open to evaluate evidence for god. Do you have any?

PS. I don’t believe in spirits. ;o)

To me there is no confusion.  There can be doubt in either direction. Doubt works for belief since most people that say they believe doubt. I’m sure there are a few ‘non believers’ that doubt.  Ultimately they come down on either believers or non believers.  And your statement: “An atheist does not *believe* there is no god, the atheist has *no belief* there is a god.”  says there are two ways and the other is to believe there is a god that would be three.

three possibilities…you introduce two of them:
1 – people that believe
2 – people that don’t believe (believe there is no god….which you say
you don’t do)
3 – people that have no belief (the no opinion folks,  the folks that
say there is nothing conclusive enough to judge the void and vacuum)

You state the last two as distinct and separate states of belief.

I started from the beginning saying that the third option can not exist, and still say that it can not exist.  You have to pick from the first two….been saying that all along.  The third option is only an abstract but your statement says it exists and it is what atheists believe. My issue has been that portion of your statement…you claim to be a 3 but talk like a 2.  the websites all support the concept of a 3 but then all just talk like a 2.

i’m not trying to convince you of anything.  it doesn’t really matter to me what you believe.  it was never my intention to convert you to anything, convince you of any gods and i have no other agenda.  This is not leading to anything else and is not an attack against your belief state.  The spirit scenario was only to make a point of a possibility which I thought you would agree with since it was as close as I could come to a 3 but I just keep missing an analogy to that one statement that is so ambiguous to me….“An atheist does not *believe* there is no god, the atheist has *no belief* there is a god.”… which says, “an atheist does not accept statement #2, rather an atheist says #3.”  If you have no belief there is a god then that would be a void or vacuum which I have said from the beginning is not possible…and you have constantly confirmed that every time you have said, there are no gods.  Something is logically wrong with that statement…I’m trying to clarify it, to make it so that only two states of belief exist.  You started saying
that there were three but now you say that there can’t be three.  All along, that is all I’ve been try to clarify…you’re inability to do clarify your statement and then your denial of the premise that you present makes this an impossible discussion to resolve. 

It was interesting….thank you.

Ok, your first paragraph doesn’t make sense; I am talking about atheism when I say “An atheist does not *believe* there is no god, the atheist has *no belief* there is a god”. You say there’s a third option; to believe in god – this is NOT an option for atheism! There are only 2 options for atheism; people that have no belief there is a god and people who believe there is not a god. The majority of atheists claim “no belief” – this is called “weak atheism”, a minority of atheists take the extra step and say they “believe there’s no god” – this is called “strong atheism”. (man I hate labels!)

Then you list 3 possibilities (in regards to belief about god – not atheism)…
1 – people that believe – yeah I’ll agree here
2 – people that don’t believe is NOT the same as belief there is no god
3 – people that have no belief IS the same as people who don’t believe

Most atheists fall into category 3.
You are trying to make a distinction between “don’t believe” and “have no belief” – these are the same thing.

Your list *should* look like this…
1 – people who believe there is
2 – people who believe there is not
3 – people who don’t believe there is (have no belief there is)

(note: if you have no opinion or “don’t know” this does not mean you are a believer therefore you are an non-believer)

You put words in my mouth again in your last paragraph when you say that I said “there are no gods”. I did not say that anywhere. I said I don’t have belief in gods. This is not the same thing.

Again and again you say “this or that is what atheists believe”, “I’m not trying to change your belief”, “you can believe what you want I’m not trying to convert you”.

You just can’t wrap you brain around the idea that an atheist is one who has NO BELIEF!! You can call this a vacumm or void if you wish but you are wrong when you say it can’t be. This is exactly what atheism is about. Absence of belief.

Good bye.

touchy! babble on dude.


My question: Do you think non-belief in gods is impossible?

20 thoughts on “A conversation with Spocko!

  1. Why “I don’t know” is not a valid response [agreeing with spocko].

    “I don’t know”


    “I do know”

    See one is No and the other is Yes. There is no inbetween.

    “I believe there is a god” -Religious
    “I do not believe there is a god” -Atheist spocko
    “I believe there is no god” -An Atheist but not Spocko 😀
    “I don’t know if there is a god” -Atheist Spocko
    “I know there is a god” -Religious

    Correct me if I am wrong 😀

  2. I don’t believe I know if there is no God that I believe does not exist but I know I do not believe in one that I know I don’t know of…

    Sorry, my head asploded halfway through that exchange and I’m not sure if I’m a believer now or not but think it’s likely I’m still not one.

    Maybe after some sleep I’ll come back and try to reason through it again.

  3. I am making internet mistake #1, in that I have not read the whole article before responding, but I just got up, and that’s waaaaaaaaay too long for me right now.  smile  So, if there’s something in there that totally invalidates what I’m about to say, I very much apologize.


    An Atheist, by definition, is one who:

    “disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.” – Dictionary.com

    An atheist believes there is no god.  They are not someone who just doesn’t believe there is a god because of lack of evidence.  They actively disbelieve, for whatever reason.

    An AGNOSTIC is one who doesn’t know.  Your “weak atheism” is actually agnosticism.

    “1a. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.
    1b. One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.
    2. One who is doubtful or noncommittal about something.” – Dictionary.com

    I would be an agnostic and, if you are one who doesn’t believe there is, but doesn’t actively disbelieve either, you would be too.

  4. Are you a dictionary fundamentalist?

    You may want to look up atheism and agnosticism at Wikipedia, to name one example.

    Here’s for a terse definition of atheist: Whatever theism is, it’s not part of an atheist’s worldview.

  5. Brock, I hate it when my head asplodes.

    Sam, what Elwed said. The dictionary definitions for atheism are commonly written by Christians and thusly have a certain bias behind them. For example, by most dictionary definitions, I’m a pagan as well as an atheist:



      1. One who is not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew, especially a worshiper of a polytheistic religion.
      2. One who has no religion.
      3. A non-Christian.
      4. A hedonist.
      5. A Neo-Pagan.


      1. Not Christian, Muslim, or Jewish.
      2. Professing no religion; heathen.
      3. Neo-Pagan.

    While calling me a Pagan may be accurate from a dictionary definition point of view, it is not an accurate statement on what my religious views actually are and, as much as I like Pagans in general, I’m definitely not a Pagan myself and they’d most certainly agree with that.

    So, we can go with what the Dictionary claims my views are or we can go with what I say my views are.

  6. Les, I too dislike being informed of the precise nature of my beliefs by a dictionary, or by a dictionary fundamentalist.  To quote a personal hero:  ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’

    I believe a lot of the confusion in atheist/agnostic definitions is the idea of knowledge: can knowledge ever be “certain”?  Imho, knowledge can only be “certain” by definition within circumscribed logical systems, for instance the certainty that 2+2=4 within orthogonal arithmetic.  Here, you can be sure that you see all the cogs and wheels, and your knowledge can reasonably be called “certain”.

    This is a somewhat different kind of certainty than the certainty that the sun will rise tomorrow, where a counterexample might be improbable in the extreme, but would not be illogical.  We might call this a “belief”.  “I know that 2+2=4, I believe the sun will rise tomorrow”.

    Now, some people, and dictionaries, make further distinctions between postive beliefs, e.g. “the sun will rise tomorrow”, negative beliefs, e.g. “there are no unicorns”, and null beliefs, e.g. “I do not believe in, but am open to being convinced of, the existence of God”. 

    But in the messy real world, I think it’s misleading to draw hard and fast lines here.  Belief is usually a matter of degree.  For instance, I’m fairly sure there’s nobody named “Mr. Zilch” living in St. Petersburg, almost positive that chimps and gorillas are our closest living relatives, and damn near certain that the moon is not made (even partially) of green cheese.  Does that make me an “a-greencheese-ist”, or an “agno-greencheese-ist”?  What would constitute “certainty” about the nonexistence of green cheese on the moon, or the nonexistence of unicorns or gods?

    This cannot be satisfactorilly answered purely logically- at some point we simply have to realize that our experience of the real world is, Darwin be thanked, too complex to be neatly pigeonholed into our cute little categories.  We need the pigeonholes, of course, and I personally prefer the tough gritty sound of “atheist” to the wishywashy slippyslidy “agnostic”.  If anyone asks, I’ll say I believe God’s existence to be precisely as likely as the existence of a lunar cheese-munching unicorn, and let them pick their own label.

  7. I think you can see Dictionary.com’s bias better when you look up other a-words there:

    1: Not admitting of moral distinctions or judgments; neither moral nor immoral.
    2: Lacking moral sensibility; not caring about right and wrong.

    Not conforming to type; unusual or irregular.

    Having no balance or symmetry.

    In all these cases a- means to lack something or not be something yet atheist means to have something; in this case a disbelief.

    atheist: One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.

    Still, I can understand how people are tempted to define atheism as a doctrine; a set of beliefs. It’s a difficult term to free from it’s negative connotations.

    Encarta may have the fairest definition of seven or so online dictionaries I checked:

    atheist: Unbeliever in God or deities: Somebody who does not believe in God or deities.

    It all seems to hing on disbelief (a position concerning belief) as opposed to unbelief (lack of a position).

    Am I close?

  8. Welcome back Zilch. Haven’t seen you in a while, dude.

    2+2=4 but so does 1+1+1+1 or 3+1 or 6-2…

    There are other different and equally valid answers for the question: What equals four?

    This all just causes me to realize there are no exclusively correct answers for anything and even questions become meaningless.

    Sorry. My asploded brain again…

  9. To quote a personal hero:  ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’

    No offense, but this is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.  Tell you what, I’ll consider all this while I drink a nice can of my own urine.

    Of course by “my own urine” I choose that to mean “crisp, cold coke”.

    Words have meanings, and you can’t escape them simply because you don’t like the meaning.

    Les, honestly, the whole “The dictionary definitions for atheism are commonly written by Christians” thing kinda sounds like a conspiracy theory! wink  Though I can’t truthfully confirm nor deny such a claim, you have to at least agree that a good portion of our society has, in the very least, been influenced by Christians.

    So that automatically invalidates the definition of a word?  I hardly think so.

    Now, I’m one of the first to admit that words generally have slightly different meanings than their dictionary definitions, as words are commonly used for more than their original intent.  But all this “weak” and “strong” atheism… isn’t it just agnosticism and atheism as they are generally defined?

    Call me anything you like, even “dictionary fundamentalist” if you like (even though it sounds like a kick in the shin because you don’t like what I said), but that doesn’t really change the fact that, by a lot of people’s definitions, someone who disbelieves is an atheist, and someone who’s sitting the fence is an agnostic.

  10. Spocko:
    Faith is a symptom of the lazy mind.

    Why? And why should your answer be accepted as anything greater than your own opinion?

    If a god is the “designer

  11. I think the real arguement here isn’t the definition of atheist, it’s the definition of the word “belief.”

    As I see it, there are three distinctly different definitions of belief.

    1) I Know

    ex: I believe that water is wet.

    2) I have faith

    ex: a belief in God or perhaps that your favorite baseball team is going to win.

    3) I think

    ex: I believe I’ll have another beer.

    If we could agree on what we mean when we say belief, perhaps this discussion would sort itself out.

  12. Thanks for the welcome, Brock.  It’s good to be back, asploding head and all.

    No offense, but this is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.  Tell you what, I’ll consider all this while I drink a nice can of my own urine.

    Of course by “my own urine

  13. Les,  I always thought of you as an athiest.  Do you believe there is no god/gods?  If so, you’d be an athiest “by definition”.  If you “don’t know” or if you believe that knowing is impossible, then you’d be an agnostic “by definition” (at least as I understand it).  I wouldn’t think it difficult to determine which you are by that.  If none of that describes you, well then I had a different idea of your beliefs, so you’d have to be the one enlightening me wink

    Zilch, Yeah, well my fridge has been extra cold lately, so honestly my coke HAS been crisp the past little while 😀

    And yeah, I know that languages evolve.  I had this same discussion with my father who is totally disturbed whenever he hears someone say “my bad”.

    The point is, though, that as far as I can tell people have made up this “weak” atheism when, really, it’s the same as agnosticism.  It just sounds pretentious to me, you know?  If your beliefs fit into the category of agnostic, then why try to make a new category in a different pidgeonhole?  If you already fit into one category, why make up another?

    Granted, there will always be people who don’t fit a particular category, and it’s times like these when new categories, or even sub categories, will emerge, either by their own creation or by someone trying to label them somehow, and not only am I fine with that, but you have to expect this sort of thing.  All I’m saying, though, is that it sounds to me like this “weak” atheism is pretty much the same as agnosticism, so why do we even have it as a category?

    And Les, I would like to note that “seeing as you seem to know best” seems a little more sarcastic than necessary here.  I’m not trying to say that I know better than anyone here.  I just pointed out the dictionary meaning, and suggested a similarity between “weak” atheism and agnosticism.  I never suggested I knew best.  In fact, my expectation was that you’d come back and explain to me why “weak” atheism isn’t just another term for agnosticism, and therefor “set the record straight”.

  14. Les, I always thought of you as an athiest.  Do you believe there is no god/gods?  If so, you’d be an athiest “by definition

  15. People’s ‘beliefs’ are simply a framework for the interpretation of their experience.

    Religious people interpret their emotionally mystical and ‘spiritually connected’ moments as communion with God—it is the practice of a form reasoning in which their physical experiences are viewed through a religious lense. The religious interpret what they feel, see, hear, smell, and taste as evidence for God’s presence, which in turn reinforces their religious belief. (It has been argued that faith is quite ‘evidence-based,’)

    I’d call myself an atheist (for lack of a better term), but on the rare occasions when I do attend church (weddings, funerals etc), I am still emotionally moved by the music, the incense, the peace, and the ambiance. . . only now I interpret this experience as neurological signals running along a well-known paths that stimulate emotional response. It is evidence of my past belief but not evidence for the existence of God.

    I have an acquaintance with epilepsy whose seizures present as spiritual moments. God doesn’t really touch her. It is simply her brain misfiring.

    The word ‘atheist’ is simply a means of categorizing those of us who do not interpret our experiences or the world around us in terms of God. It serves the needs of theists very well (who get to define us in terms of our relationship to God), but doesn’t really explain the wide range of beliefs among those of us who do not interpret our world within a religious framework.

  16. As far as the agnostic vs. atheist debate or whatever yall are having, this article may be useful in clarifying things for one side or both sides or no sides.  I haven’t really been paying attention or caring to much about the debate.

  17. Les,

    It’s an interesting position you hold, when you put it that way, and I can see the separation.  The link that THEOCRAT posted actually makes a lot of sense, too.  I guess you would be both an atheist and an agnostic.

    But, two things:

    First, as for your screw analogy, yeah, that’s right, there are sub categories.  What I was getting at is that the situation we have here is, as I saw it, like having a screw and a nail, and for some reason some people were trying to recategorize the nail as a subcategory of screw.

    Subcategories are great and all, but I don’t see a reason to take something that has a category, and “rebrand” it, so to speak as a subcategory for something else.  (of course, given the link provided, it’s clear to me now that agnosticism and atheism aren’t mutually exclusive necessarily)

    Second, I appreciate the fact that you deal with people who think they know better than you rather often, and many times they do exactly as you say, however I don’t believe I am one of those people, and I don’t believe that I presented myself as such.  As far as I was concerned I was trying to find out from you why you didn’t fit into one or the other.  I even asked “aren’t they the same thing?” but rather than answer, at the time, you chose to reply with sarcasm.

    I’d like to say that you should probably be less eager to bring out the sarcasm in a situation like this, because you might scare off some people who didn’t deserve a reaction like that….

    …. but given the amount of idiots you deal with it’s REALLY hard for that to sound plausible 😀

  18. Hi folks – great responses!

    Sepharo gets an “A” for accuracy and concision.

    Brock cracks me up, as usual, and gets an “A” for some very enlightening dictionary detective work!
    When I look at the word “atheism” I see “a-theism” or “without theism”. The meaning of the word is very clear to even an amateur “wordologist”.

    Sam, I see four “poles” of thought here; agnostic/atheist (me), gnostic/atheist, agnostic/theist, gnostic/theist. There’s a distinction between knowledge and belief. I don’t know AND I don’t believe. All this talk of labels is silly in a way; I simply don’t believe. If I were alone on the planet I certainly wouldn’t bother coming up with names for things I did not believe. I *would* name Science! As I said to Freq, above; “when one ONLY claims to be agnostic they are avoiding the question of whether they believe or not” – it’s a cop-out!

    I like elwed’s def too…
    “Here’s for a terse definition of atheist: Whatever theism is, it’s not part of an atheist’s worldview.”

    Les, as always, has piercing insight into the problem. Do I listen to a dog’s description of a cat or should I listen to the cat describe itself?

    I’m 99% sure that zilch makes sense!

    Though my opinion is only *important* to me, it may serve as entertainment for others. I like to share. ;o)

    I feel that “faith is a symptom of the lazy mind” because of what I’ve experienced in life and the observation of myself (when I had some) and those that still do claim to have faith. Those that have faith cease to question further the nature of reality. They have “found” the answer and have retired from the quest – nitpicking the details of the fantasy is not further inquiry. Laziness is not the only cause of this cessation of the intellectual, but, to me, it appears to be the number one reason. After all, half the populace is of below average intelligence, are they not?

    I have no problem visualizing great spans of time or even infinity. This is one of the supporting columns of my atheism; I can easily see how we’ve evolved over time. Note: Being a software engineer reinforces this vision too since I can see complex algorithms created from nothing but “ones and zeroes”. Heck, DNA is just a quadrary bio-machine language.

    When I look back thru infinity I see what I see. As far as I know, the universe has been here forever (no matter how “big” it was). I “apply the notion of infinity” to that which plainly exists. When I look thru my telescope I don’t see any gods and I don’t see any stretching back into infinity either.

    How do I “know” that “god-belief” is excess baggage and must be shorn? It is an opinion formed from the facts I’ve gleaned from history about the evolution of gods and mythology. Opinions may be formed from evidence or they may be assimilated from others. I tend to form my own opinions from my current collection of “facts”. Ideally, facts are black and white, but often they must be treated as “analog” concepts. There has never been one single event in my life that would advance belief in gods. To me, the concept of gods is no different than the concept of bridge-trolls. The evidence for both is the same, so, in my world of analog thought, they rate the same on the reality scale – a level so low it is not even worth quantifying! It seems quite apparent to me that this belief in god non-sense is some type of drug, an escape from reality. It may feel good but it is still escape from reality. If only there was a 12-step program for one to shed this addiction!

    As for my “willful “indoctrination

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