RE: What is the evidence that atheism is *true*?

From: John E. Rylander (
Date: Wed Jan 12 2000 - 18:26:35 EST

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    Chris wrote:
    > CC
    > Atheism, as such, is mere non-belief in a God (under typical definitions),
    > so the question, as Craig states it, is *mis-*stated (this is, I believe a
    > typical tactic of Craig's, though it has been some time since I bothered
    > with him, so I may have him confused with someone else).

    This isn't quite right.

    "Atheism" is traditionally defined as the view that there is no God, and
    "atheist" one who denies that there is a God. -Some do- use "atheism" to
    mean simply the lack of belief (i.e., the person is either denies the
    existence of God or doesn't have a belief one way or the other), but this
    is, in my philosophical experience, -very- unusual, and hence confusing,

    People who neither assert nor deny the existence of God are usually
    classified as agnostics (there is "no knowing" one way or the other about
    the existence of God, often implying something stronger than merely "I'm not
    sure one way or the other", that the matter is deeply unresolvable),
    (classical) skeptics (suspending judgment on the issue -- strong forms equal
    agnosticism), "ignostics" (non-agnostic skepticism), or something like that,
    depending on the precise quality of their suspension of judgment. The union
    of the set of people who are atheists (in my dictionary's sense, and in
    ordinary usage in my experience) or classical skeptics would be

    In Chris' defense, my Merriam Webster dictionary is indeed somewhat
    confusing, listing multiple meanings for "atheism", BOTH Chris' take and
    mine being represented (as well as "ungodliness, wickedness"), but only one
    for "atheist" -- one who denies the existence of God -- that tracks what I
    take to be Craig's (and my, and nearly all others' I know) usage of
    "atheism". I also checked my dictionary of philosophy, and it said
    "atheism" was "The doctrine of disbelief in a supreme being", and my
    experience and my MW dictionary both use "disbelief" (versus "nonbelief") to
    mean rejection as untrue (though some won't use it so cautiously)

    Now admittedly, the English language is not perfectly precise (though
    philosophers seek to approach such when feasible), but certainly in my
    (strong but still limited) personal and professional experience "atheism"
    and "atheist" involve denying the existence of a deity, whether the terms
    are used by atheists, agnostics, theists, etc. There are other terms
    available for broader concepts.

    So Chris, use the word your way if you wish (so long as you clarify it for
    the audience) -- some dictionaries permit it -- but please don't don't
    attack Craig for using it in the more mainstream way. That'd pettily false

    I think I'll leave the rest of your message for others -- there's far more
    to say than I have time for right now, and I don't know if any are even
    interested in hearing.


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