[D.A. logo] Definitions of "atheism" and "atheist"
Clarifying a natural classification
[Chinese word for: atheism -- Wu Shen Lun)] [Greek word for: atheism -- atheos]
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Define atheism :: Logical consistency

Logic Logic is a natural and useful intellectual tool for testing the consistency of our understanding of concepts and ideas, claims and assertions, hypotheses and theories, mathematics and philosophy, and many other subjects that require the use of logic that even includes casual day-to-day decision-making.

Symbolic keymap
¬ = is not
B = belief/believing
D = deity/deities (a deity is a god or a goddess)
K = knowledge/knowing

Hereunder, the symbolic keymap (above) is used in logically clarifying the meanings of select vocabulary that is used in public discourse, philosophical debates, epistemological studies, etc.  These particular words of interest are: atheism, anti-theism, and theism, all of which pertain to the subject of belief.  Also included, for a more complete perspective that is intended to resolve points of confusion that sometimes arise, are agnosticism and gnosticism, both of which pertain to the subject of knowledge.

¬BD atheism: "not believing in deities" is more commonly known as the "absence of belief in deities" and can be accurately characterized by the statement "I don't believe in deities."  The ¬ symbol indicates "not" or "absence" (consistent with the "a-" prefix meaning "without") while the B and D symbols inform us that "belief in one or more deities" (theism) is the subject at hand.
B¬D anti-theism: "belief that there are no deities" is a position that is diametrically opposed to belief in deities (theism; see next entry).  The B symbol indicates "belief" while the ¬ and D symbols inform us that "no deities" is the subject at hand.
BD theism: "belief in one or more deities" is a position that is diametrically opposed to belief that there are no deities (anti-theism; see previous entry).  The B symbol indicates "belief" while the D symbol informs us that "deities" is the subject at hand (note that monotheism is "belief in a single deity" and polytheism is "belief in multiple deities").
¬KD agnosticism: "not having knowledge of deities" is also known to mean the "absence of knowledge about the mystical" and is more commonly characterized by the statement "I don't know if deities are real" hence the most commonly-used context tends to be focused on "deities" which, by definition, are mystical.  The ¬ symbol indicates "not" or "absence" (consistent with the "a-" prefix meaning "without") while the K and D symbols inform us that "knowledge about one or more deities" (gnosticism) is the subject at hand.
K¬D anti-gnosticism: "knowledge that there are no deities" is a knowledge-position often rooted in skepticism that is more accurately characterized by the statement "it's not [presently] possible to prove whether deities exist."  The K symbol indicates "knowing" while the ¬ and D symbols inform us that "no deities" is the subject at hand.
KD gnosticism: "knowledge of one or more deities" is a knowledge-position more correctly defined as "knowledge of the mystical" although the most commonly-used context tends to be focused on "deities" which, by definition, are mystical.  The K symbol indicates "knowledge" while the D symbol informs us that "deities" is the subject at hand.

 

Excluded Middle, the principle of

The Principle of the Excluded Middle is a well-known logical law that asserts that a logical statement can only be "true" or "false."  While this law is useful, the law itself it is not exempt from causing false dichotomies when applied where more than two options are logically valid possibilities, and so in the spirit of striving for objectivity it is important that practitioners of logic be aware of the risk of bifurcated thought that can arise from unnecessarily or illogically excluding additional options and/or positions.

As a straight-forward example, a false dichotomy arising from the incorrect application of the "excluded middle" can be demonstrated with a basic system of signal lights on a motor-vehicle.  While these signal lights are best known for communicating the driver's intention to perform a left-hand or right-hand turn or lane change, limiting the options to "left" and "right" signalling is a false dichotomy because it unnecessarily excludes the default of "not signalling."  (Also, this is not the only possibility since a well-known fourth "hazard lights" option utilizes both sets of signal lights simultaneously to indicate a temporary full stop due to a mechanical breakdown, etc.)

Along this line of thought is that "not believing that deities exists" (atheism) is distinctly different from "believeing that deities do not exist" (anti-theism) and its opposite of "believing that one or more deities do exist" (theism).  While the former does not carry a burden of proof since it is not an assertion, a belief, or a claim, the remaining two are belief-positions that do carry burdens of proof insofar as they qualify as claims or assertions, and/or are extended to become expectations that others should take up the same belief-positions.

In summary, applying the Principle of the Excluded Middle to choices that aren't naturally limited to "true" and "false" is illogical, even though some debaters have been known to utilize this principle in an attempt to force a burden of proof onto adversaries who hold to a valid alternative or to no position at all.  Therefore, the attitude that an individual only has the option of "believing in deities" (theism) or "believing that deities don't exist" (anti-theism) is illogical and qualifies as a bifurcation fallacy because it excludes the valid and default option of "not believing in any deities" (atheism).

 

Further reading

atheism community on Google+

Atheism professional group on LinkedIn

atheist Blog Roll (@BR)

Atheist Frontier - Questioning what's Real

 
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