Unlike Wintery, I’m pretty relaxed about definitions. You want to define atheism as the lack of belief in God? That’s cool. In fact, you can define it as the belief in green cheese. However, I won’t use that definition. Why? Because I already have a word for people who lack belief in God – ‘non-theists’. Under non-theists I define those who don’t know whether or not God exists (agnostics) and those who say God does not exist (atheists). I use these definitions because they make it plain what the beliefs of those I refer to are. Labeling everyone who doesn’t believe in God ‘atheist’ is thus (for me) redundant and confusing because then I have no idea whether they believe God does not exist, or whether they just don’t know if he exists.

So, define away.


First, let’s see check with the Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy.


‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.

Stanford University is one of the top 5 universities in the United States, so that’s a solid definition. To be an atheist is to be a person who makes the claim that, as a matter of FACT, there is no intelligent agent who created the universe. Atheists think that there is no God, and theists think that there is a God. Both claims are objective claims about the way the world is out there, and so both sides must furnish forth arguments and evidence as to how they are able to know what they are each claiming.

Philosopher William Lane Craig has some thoughts on atheism, atheists and lacking belief in God in this reply to a questioner.


In my discussions with atheists…

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I’m Tracy

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  1. I posted on Wintery’s site, but he deletes or alters everything I’ve ever posted.

    Agnosticism is the specific belief that it is impossible to know whether or not God exists. One can be an agnostic, and think there almost certainly is a God, or can be like me, and think that there almost certainly is not a God. I consider myself an atheist, and an agnostic, and using the roots of both words, find that I fit perfectly into both definitions.

    I do, however, think your use of “non-theist” is a more useful definition, as it’s far more clear where the person stands.


    1. That’s interesting. I know that Agnostics are typically divided into hard agnostics and soft agnostics. Hard agnostic say they don’t know if God exists, and that no one can ever know. Soft agnostics say they do not know if God exists, period. Atheists on the other hand say they know that God does not exist. Those are the definitions I use.

      Now, none of those groups claim that they know for certain, but they do claim to know within a certain range of probability. It seems to me that you can say I don’t know for sure if God exists, but he probably doesn’t. That’ll make you an atheist. In the same way, I can say that I don’t know without a measure of doubt that God does not exist – for all I know, all the evidence I’m familiar with can be refuted – but I am a theist because I believe that God probably does exist. So, my point is that if you believe God probably does not exist, then you’re an atheist. If you really don’t have a position on the issue, you’re agnostic (hard or soft) and if you think he probably does exist, you’re a theist. You can disagree, of course and I won’t be bothered. Like I said, I hardly care about definitions.

      P.S. While most bloggers simply moderate irrelevant or offensive dialogue, Wintery moderates unreasonable dialogue. Of course, what counts as reasonable is his prerogative. But I do like the neatness and civility on his blog so I tend to think that hes doing a pretty good job of moderating.

  2. Definitions are as they come. Mormons define themselves as Christians. Are they? According to some Chirstians they are not, but what are they, if not Christians? According to some Christians the largest Christian sect the Roman Catholics are not Christians. Are they not? According to Greek Orthodox Christians all the other Christians are fake Christians. Are they? If someone relates to being a christian, then that person is a Christian to me. If people feel they are atheists, then most propably they should be regarded as atheists. This even though, I am pretty convinced, that most of the born again Christians who claim to have been atheist at some point of their previous life, have and did not have any idea what the word actually means and use it only to refer to the fact that they were disinterrested in the supernatural.

    1. I use pretty much the same method. So long as you agree to clearly define a word and use that definition consistently, I’m accept your definition while I converse with you. If you define a Christian in such a way that a christian has to be a monotheist, but claim to be a Christian when you’re a polytheist, we’ll have a completely frustrating conversation (if we have one at all). On the other hand, if you define Christianity in such a way that it encompasses some form of polytheism, I’ll disagree with you, but I don’t care enough to argue with you about it.

  3. Yes, I agree that a word has some specific meaning. The meaning of a word may be defined in a dictionary, but as we know the meaning of words is in constant shift. Languages evolve and words come to have different meanings. For example the word “consumption” was mainly used to refer to an illness just about hundred years ago. Today we understand something completely different by that word. Do we not?

    Religious concepts seem to be rather complicated. We may agree that Christians are by definition monotheists and that is how they percieve themselves, but never the less, saints, angels and demons are obviously some form of divinities as they are not mortals and hold superhuman powers to influence the world and allmost all people who percieve themselves as Christians do acknowledge at least some of those entities. The Devil is often presented even in the Bible, like in the story of Job, as a divine force and in some respect stronger than the Creator god. God of Moses fights and has meetings with other gods in the Bible. Those entities are not referred as demons, nor anything else then as gods in the book. But the idea of monotheism is to redefine the word god to something beyond what people conventionally meant when they spoke of gods. Or how a very great part of humans even today understand the meaning of the word.

    So, even though Christians acknowlege other gods than the one and only, they should be allowed to percieve themselves as monotheists, since it is a part of their identity to think there is no contradiction, or that the contradiction is somehow excusable. Correct?

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