Subject: Re: Atheism as Religion (was Re: Is anyone a true aethist?) Date: 11 Dec 90 15:37

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From: perry@apollo.HP.COM (Jim Perry) Newsgroups: alt.pagan,alt.atheism Subject: Re: Atheism as Religion (was Re: Is anyone a true aethist?) Message-ID: <4e88c035.20b6d@apollo.HP.COM> Date: 11 Dec 90 15:37:00 GMT References: <90334.184335SXS144@psuvm.psu.edu> <12140@milton.u.washington,edu> <1990Dec11.041635.19943@acc.stolaf.edu> Sender: root@apollo.HP.COM Reply-To: perry@apollo.HP.COM (Jim Perry) Distribution: alt Organization: Hewlett-Packard Company, Apollo Division; Chelmsford, MA Lines: 68 In article <1990Dec11.041635.19943@acc.stolaf.edu> adams@agnes.acc.stolaf.edu () writes: >How do readers define "atheism" as opposed to "agnosticism"? Oddly enough, this comes up often enough on alt.atheism that I've composed a stock answer, coining the phrase "alt.atheists" to avoid dictionary conflicts. --- What alt.atheists believe. (The term "alt.atheist" [or net.atheist, for historical reasons] is proposed as an alternative to existing terms to describe the beliefs of the non-believing population of alt.atheism). There are two words generally used to describe those who do not believe in the truth of supernatural religious claims: "atheism" and "agnosticism". There is no general agreement on exactly what these terms mean, as they have varied historical development, and their use has been colored by the fact that they apply to religion. Atheism is generally described in a dictionary as "disbelief in or denial of the existence of God [or gods]". Agnosticism is not as well defined, but generally is considered "denial of the knowability of God". As applied to oneself, the two terms are effectively interchangeable, but both are used with pejorative intent of others. I propose this posting as a statement of what we alt.atheists believe, to be available as a regular posting or as a stock reply to newcomers citing a competing definition. I have posted this with minor variations a few times with some positive and no negative response, so for the moment I believe it to be representative. Equivocation (the fallacy arising from ambiguous use of a word or phrase in an argument) is a major problem in discussing these issues, since there is such a diversity of possible things that can be described by the word "God". (For instance: "You say you don't believe in God. Einstein considered God to be the laws of the universe. Thus you don't believe in the universe, therefore you are a loser, QED.") It is claimed that "atheists" believe as an article of faith that there is no God. As it is epistemologically problematic to talk about knowing or proving the nonexistence of something, this is attacked as being a similar leap of faith to believing axiomatically in God. And so it would be, especially when "God" is used as a moving target, but alt.atheists don't have that belief. (We don't believe there is one, we do *not* believe there knowably isn't). Straw-man arguments against that definition of "atheist" are not applicable to the posters here who use that label for themselves. Of "agnostics" it is said that they are fence-sitters: as we can't know whether there is a God, it is as likely as not that there is. Again, equivocation rears its ugly head. Bertrand Russell, who did not believe in the God of Christianity (or other supernatural religious claims), and who had a negative opinion of religion in general, called himself an Agnostic, and in fact had the above cited negative opinion of the term atheist. Agnostics generally disbelieve in specific claims of specific gods, e.g. Yahweh, the God of the Bible, but hold that humans don't or can't know about abstract gods such as a prime mover, or designer/creator, who don't interact with humans directly. alt.atheists generally don't disagree with that concept, though most of us don't consider it particularly likely. To state it positively, alt.atheists, through reasoned study of the available evidence, have concluded that none of the gods proposed by major religions actually exist, to the best of our ability to determine. Beyond this disbelief in God[s], and thus in the supernatural authority of religious institutions, alt.atheists are as diverse as any other usenet population. - Jim Perry perry@apollo.hp.com HP/Apollo, Chelmsford MA This particularly rapid, unintelligible patter Isn't generally heard, and if it is it doesn't matter!

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