Atheism and Morality, by ChadE Sept 22nd, 2004.
>ChadE has been elected, so I hope that only Chad and I are in
>First, let's define what atheism is.
>Chad, can you give me a working definition of what atheism is?
>If you say it is the lack of belief in God, I will respond
>that my cat and wall paint also lack belief in God and qualify
>under that definition as atheists. Therefore, to simply state
>that atheism is the lack of belief in God is insufficient.
While I think that "lack of belief in any gods" is more accurate than "belief that no gods exist," it is a somewhat pedantic point--namely, that atheism is (for most) based on a perceived lack of reason TO believe in gods rather than specific evidence against the existence of gods. As you point out, animals also (presumably) lack belief in any gods. We can also imagine a person who was raised in a controlled environment such that he or she reached adulthood without ever being exposed to the concept of God. That person would lack belief but would certainly be different from what we conventionally mean when we say someone is an atheist.
So, basically, I would say that a good working definition of an atheist is as follows:
An atheist is someone who has considered the question "Does God or do any gods exist?" and concluded that the evidence, if any, in support of the existence of gods is not sufficient to answer "Yes" and thus holds, as a working assumption that no gods exist.
>The atheists here behave as if they believe there is no God
>and they defend atheism as if it were a position.
Atheism is a position--it is just not the position that no Gods exist. It's a subtle difference, but the true atheist position is, "I have yet to see any evidence for the existence of any god or God that I find sufficiently convincing, and thus do not believe that any gods exist." Or, more forcefully, it might be, "I have not seen or been shown sufficient objective evidence to support the extraordinary claim that supernatural beings such as God exist."
Put simply, it is a position about the evidence rather than about the conclusion, per se.
>Whether or not you or the other atheists care to admit it, I
>see the atheists position as just that, a position.
As a side note, I believe it is this sort of language that causes many people to find your posts insulting or patronizing. To say that you consider me to hold a position is one thing. To say, "whether you . . . care to admit it" implies that I am being dishonest on some level--that I know you're right but am avoiding admitting the truth.
It would, IMO, be more constructive if you said, "Whether or not you or the other atheists agree, I see the atheist's position as just that, a position."
>Therefore, I propose that we define what atheism is and
>discuss its tenets.
It's past 1am for me, but I think that the definition I've given above is pretty solid.