Talk:Atheism/Archive 17

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The article says that atheists were burned at the stake, but there is no hint of the history of atheism (neither here nor on strong atheism). I am doubtful whether there even were (strong) atheists in the middle ages, and it would be nice to have a section about early testimonies (Lucretius comes to mind). dab () 18:29, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I would also like to add that "burned at the stake in the middle ages" is a cliche, and that most witch-burnings took place after the end of the middle ages, during the "Age of Enlightenment". dab () 18:34, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)
That statement has been in the article for a long time. I remember when I rewrote the article in August 2003, there was a sentence to that effect in the predecessor version, which I simply transferred. This time around, I just cleaned up paragraph, which had gotten a little sloppy. Perhaps I should not have done so (either time), since the statement isn't sourced. I have no objection to it being removed entirely, unless someone can cite a specific example. --BM 18:49, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I did a first attempt of a historical section. here is a link I used: [1]. No doubt it will be changed/improved, and there could even be History of Atheism at some point. I suggest the "Middle Ages" reference be removed, since we can hardly claim atheists were burned if we do not have evidence there even were atheists at the time. Also, I would like to know a reference saying that Christians and "pagan Romans" called each other "atheists" (the word did not exist, and they must have called each other something other. Maybe "impious"? Is that equivalent? Generally, Christians would have called pagans "paganus", and not "atheist", so I suggest that statement be removed as well. dab () 19:42, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I think your points are quite valid. I've been criticized a few times for "removing information" from articles, and that may be why I wasn't sufficiently skeptical about these statements. But you are right. Lets remove them, at least for the time being. --BM 20:04, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I think the "persecution" section can be merged with "history" anyway (excepting cases of contemporary persecutions, of course).dab () 20:13, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I tried to repair these but referring to impiety and godlessness (rather than atheism), which I don't doubt were medieval charges. I don't have sources for this, though.

what people were typically persecuted for was heresy or idolatry. I think atheism was rather inconceivable to the average medieval mind. Aminor thing though, BM, 'to sit' in Parilament is idiomatic, as in 'to be in session', it is not the same as literally "taking a seat". dab () 21:44, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Oh, I interpret "taking a seat" in this context as "officially being seated"; that is, being "sworn in", recognized as a member who can participate. --BM 22:48, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I've taken up your suggestion of merging the Persecution and Marxism sections into the new section on History. I'm pretty happy with the way the article is evolving right now. How about others? --BM 22:46, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)

It's much better now. Still, the claim that people were burned for "impiety and godlessness" is wholly unsubstantiated. the Inquisition was expicitly charged to eradicate heresy, not godlessness. I am afraid this is an atheist myth. It is true that atheists were persecuted in the 18th century, because the started to represent a danger to the church at that time, but not during the Middle Ages. dab () 09:11, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Also, the statement about most natural scientists being atheists is unsubstantiated. I can believe that >50% of contemporary natural scientists would describe themselves as atheist, but I do not expect an overwhelming majority, and this is just my personal estimate. We need a reference. Also, I insist on contemporary. There certainly was natural science before the 20th century, and hardly any scientist was atheist before the 20th century, and certainly less than 50% in the early 20th century. dab () 09:14, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I have to admit, I think some more evidence of some the various assertions you make is in order. Certainly, you revision of the historical part of the Atheism essay to denote that "real" atheism did not exist outside of the Classical period or the post-Elightenment needs some backing up. --Axon 10:40, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

well, if by "real" you mean "strong atheism", I tried to find a medieval example, and I couldn't. My wording "hardly any testimony is known" is cautious already, because not a single testimony is known to me. I would be very grateful if you could dig up a medieval (pre-1500) atheist, but as long as we don't have one to show around, the burden of proof is clearly on the side of those who wish to claim otherwise. It is true that Lucretius was preserved during the Middle Ages, but probably it owes this to being an excellent latin poem rather than to any sympathy to atheist ideas. It should be added that Epicureanism was very controversial in antiquity, and an outright slur during the middle ages. I know of no medieval writer who calls himself an Epicurean. dab () 10:46, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
PS, we could include Mysticism. Mystics sometimes make statements that sound atheist, but I would draw a clear line between mysticism and atheism. Buddhism could be mentioned as doing without any gods, but it is closer to pantheism, ideologically, than to rationalism. Brother Eckehart said things like "I am God" in the 14th century, but he is clearly a mystic and no atheist. dab () 10:55, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Actually, some of the burden of proof lies very much with you: you make claims that there "were no atheists or Epicureans" and that persecution of impiety and atheism was an "atheist myth". These need backing up with some reputable sources, otherwise it is as much conjecture as the counter claim that there were atheists and atheistic persecution. Remember, we are not here to carry out original research and prove the lack of existence of pre-modern athiests but to summarise existing thinking. --Axon 12:25, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Axon, dab has made these conjectures on the Talk page. In the article, the statement is that hardly any expression of atheism is known. I think this statement requires some research, but it wouldn't surprise me if we do not find any expression of strong atheism in the Middle Ages. First, at best atheism would have been rare and limited to individuals (rather than organized groups), who would have been motivated to keep their opinions to themselves rather than publicly express them. Second, in the unlikely event that they did produce writings or made public pronouncements that were recorded, these very likely would not have come down to us, since the copying of manuscripts was largely in the hands of Church-related insttutions such as monasteries, and these institutions did not preserve manuscripts that they did not consider important or valuable, since manuscript-production was expensive. Most of our knowledge of heresies and heretics is from documents written by their opponents. So, if there was any "strong atheism" in the Middle Ages, one would have to find it through references in the works of non-atheists, perhaps attempts to refute it or histories, that were regarded as valuable by the Church. Felonious Monk, on this page, says that Thomas Aquinas discussed atheism (although obviously he would not have called it this), and I asked for the reference, but that request seems to have fallen through the cracks. The reference to Ockham suggests one line of research. Do the various attempts logically to prove the existence of God indicate that there was doubt of his existence? We have a sentence in the article implying this vis-a-vis Ockham, but I don't think this is necessarily correct. --BM 12:53, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Let me just clarify, I'm not making any claims of the existence of lack thereof of either "strong" or "weak" atheism - by "real" atheism I meant atheism as we understand it today, rather than more general accusations of atheism, such as being non-Christian.
I agree with all of the above (although I won't get into a detailed argument about how it is possible that atheism could exist during the period in question - I will only remark that the possiblity exists, especially given the precedents set by Epicuris et al): my point is that dab is making the assertion that atheism did not exist when there is no evidence either way to back up this claim. More importantly, he is making this claim because he cannot find any evidence. I believe he has also altered some of the Atheism article to bring them in-line with some of his assertions:
I think atheism was rather inconceivable to the average medieval mind.
From the article:
Epicureanism, the medieval term equivalent to atheism, was essentially a slur and had no active followers.
I think the above claim does need some evidence.
Medieval "impiety" and "godlessness" were closer to "weak atheism" than avowed "strong atheism", and hardly any expression of strong atheism is known from this period.
I'm not really sure why the above makes the modern distinction between strong and weak athiesm. "Weak" atheism is still atheism and the above seems to indicate that it wasn't really athiesm. --Axon 13:25, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I should say so. Anselm and Thomas came up with proofs of God, but this was related to the raging dispute between fideism and thomism, and not because anybody claimed there was no God. Axon, I am not an atheist because I have an issue with God. I am an atheist because I subscribe to rationalism. Therefore, I am inclined to apply rationalism even to atheism. If we have no evidence for medieval atheism, I have no problem with saying that we have no evidence for medieval atheism. I tried to find medieval atheists, and I'm telling you that I couldn't. Also, if there had been confessing medieval epicureans, they would have created such a stir that I very much suspect we both would have heard of them. This is the state of our research. Feel free to bring up new material. dab () 13:16, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
As a rationalist, you should then accept that lack of evidence is not evidence of non-existence. You cannot claim there were no atheists during this period. Please see my other points above. --Axon 13:52, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor might be an example of a Midieval athiest, or at least a religious sceptic from this period. Historians seem to not all agree on this, but there is at least some support for this point of view. He wasn't burned at the stake (he was excommunicated twice, but for different reasons), however he was amoung the most powerful rulers of his day so he was probably more free to speak his mind than most. -- Bdrasin 1/12/2005

Atheism and the Scientific Community

dab wrote:

Also, the statement about most natural scientists being atheists is unsubstantiated. I can believe that >50% of contemporary natural scientists would describe themselves as atheist, but I do not expect an overwhelming majority, and this is just my personal estimate. We need a reference.

According to a 1998 report in Nature, a recent survey finds that, "among the top natural scientists, disbelief is greater than ever; almost total".[2] Further articles that back up the claim that a majority of scientists are atheist can be found here: "This year, we closely imitated the second phase of Leuba's 1914 survey to gauge belief among "greater" scientists, and find the rate of belief lower than ever — a mere 7% of respondents." [3]. Surely >60% is an overwhelming majority. --Axon 12:52, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

cool. You mean >90%. overwhelming indeed. what was Leuba's 1914 survey, and what question were people answering? I still think we should say this applies to contemporary natural scientists. dab () 13:16, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

good grief. Your own link says that Leuba "found that 58% of 1,000 randomly selected US scientists expressed disbelief or doubt in the existence of God". Doubt is hardly an expression of atheism. I suggest we change the statement to this more precise wording. dab () 13:19, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

If you actually read the article, that figure is from 1914. he article cites more recent studies show more considerable disbelief. 72% were actively atheistic (personal disbelief) whichc clearly demonstrates that a majority of scientists are atheists. --Axon 13:27, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I have indeed rtfa, and have amended this article accordingly. in 1914, 52% expressed disbelief, and 6% doubt. In 1996, 72% expressed disbelief and 21% expressed doubt. I am prepared to call 72% somewhat overwhelming if you insist. I am not prepared to call 52% overwhelming. For this reason, I insist on contemporary natural scientists, if you are going to say something about their overwhelming majority. I know that even 52% qualifies as 'majority', but it would be more fair to call it "about half". In the 19th century, the number would have been nowhere near "about half". thank you. dab () 13:33, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Chuckle, if 72% isn't an overwhelming majority I don't know what is, and 52% is still a majority regardless of whether you consider it overwhelming or otherwise. I'm quite satisfied with contemporary natural scientists (this is the contemporary section of the article after all). However, I notice you don't refer to those with "personal disbelief" as atheists in your edits. Is there any reason for this? If not, I shall prefer to refer to these scientists as atheists for reasons of clarity.

Also, unless I misunderstanding the "comtemporary" section it is referring to the existing (as in now) status of atheism, so mentioning the 1914 is probably not approriate and this figure more properly belongs in the history section. Certainly, the rest of this section seems to be written as though describing the "now" atheistic situation, or am I reading this incorrectly? If so, then we can some that most contemporary, Western scientists are atheists. --Axon

the 1914 figures are useful to demonstrate how the present state has evolved, but yes, you can safely say that the majority of western natural scientists are atheists (although the study was restricted to US scientists, I expect the "western" number to be similar). I also prefer to give the original words of the study, although I suppose "disbelief" amounts to "atheism", I do think the 'stronger' ring of atheism would have swayed another couple of % to the 'doubt' bin. Whatever. I am a western natural scientist, and if I was asked anything "as a scientist", I would think it my duty to "express doubt" rather than making any assertions.
Axon, I never considered removing or censoring the 'majority' bit. I just prefer to give a hint as to how these findings came about. You criticize "unfounded statements" I make on this Talk page. If only everybody would treat Talk pages so judiciously! You do not seem to realize that I have removed some completely unfounded statements from the article ("The Inquisition burned Atheists on the Stake in the Middle Ages!" -- did this come from a movie or what?) "Christians called Roman pagans Atheists!". And I expressed myself with great circumspection in my actual edits. I don't get this "weak atheism" thing that seems to hold this article hostage. "Some weak atheists may simply hold no opinion on the existence or non-existence of God or gods." makes it equivalent to agnosticism in my book, but I think this is a red herring, and I specifically put "weak atheism is universal" at the beginning of the History section to accommodate people who insist that this counts as atheism. dab () 14:00, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
The "Types of atheism" section is fallacious due to its being poorly written. During my time being blocked, I started rewriting the article in a Word document and doing more research than I had previously done, which was much. The new section will be superior and is, in fact, superior even in its incomplete form. Adraeus 14:20, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I never accused you of making unfounded statements, I've merely requested some evidence for some of your claims which you have used to back-up your edits. Again, please see my response to BM for a more detailed list of my concerns with your edits. Most notably:

Epicureanism, the medieval term equivalent to atheism, was essentially a slur and had no active followers.

Also, see the discussion on this page for a far more detailed analysis of weak atheism vs strong atheism vs agnosticism. --Axon 14:09, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

dab, I do rather agree with you that "weak atheistm" has held this article "hostage" and it probably has a good bit more prominence than if it were just you and me (for example) editing the article. However, even then, I think we would be obliged to mention it, if only because "weak atheism" seems quite notable in on-line sources. If accuracy didn't draw us to include it, practical considerations would. If anyone tried to remove "weak atheism" entirely, he would have to be prepated to do constant battle with all the people who have learned about atheism on-line happening by and editing it in. It would be interesting to extend the History section and deal with just when and why this distinction became notable. There has been a good deal of argument on this Talk page that the "weak/broad" definition is the original one and has been the primary definition all along, but I must admit to being extremely skeptical about that. What do you think of Andraeus changes to the etymology section, by the way? --BM 14:16, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
of course. it is also the reason I haven't shown up here before. I wasn't going to meddle with the "weak atheism" bits, I'm just not interested in them, and I started the History section basically saying yeah, I know, every tree is a weak atheist before getting to the actual history of atheism. The etymology has lost a little value, and has gained considerably. I guess it's okay. dab () 14:23, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
ah, as for the "original definition", I think we have to re-insert the deism/theism switch back into the etymology section after all. It seems that atheism was coined as the opposite of deism, which at the time meant "theism" (deism, so to speak :) -- the 1678 date is also misleading, since theist was used before theism. If it was used in the 'weak' sense I don't know, we would have to dig up the 17th century texts. But I very much suspect it was intended as "rejecting theism". I love the 'Against Atheists, Epicures, Paynims, Iewes, Mahumetists reference. First, because it pushes french "atheisme" back to the 16th century, and secondly, because it demonstrates that it started its existence as a slur, used by Christians, just like Epicureans, Pagans, Jews and Muslims :) dab () 14:30, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I do not disagree; however, according to the OED and Harper, deism was used opposed to atheism, "in a sense where we would now use theism" in 1682 from Dryden's Religio Laici. The OED provides the definition of deism as "The distinctive doctrine or belief of a deist; usually, belief in the existence of a Supreme Being as the source of finite existence, with rejection of revelation and the supernatural doctrines of Christianity; ‘natural religion’." Its definition apparently serves as a reminder that theism is not used generally in a Christian sense today and is, in fact, used especially (that is, in a special manner.) Adraeus 14:46, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I'm not quite following this discussion. dab is putting forward the following sequence: first there was 'deism', although it had the meaning of the current 'theism'; at that time, 'theism' meant what is now called 'deism', then French 'atheisme' was coined as the opposite of 'deism'; and under the influence of 'atheism', 'deism' and 'theism' swapped meanings resulting in the theism/atheism opposition that we have now. Do I understand this correctly, and is Adraeus agreeing? What is the earliest attested usage of theism? Are you sure theism didn't come in after atheism as the opposite of atheism, as a synonym of deism, and then deism took on its current meaning? I can see atheism coming in as the opposite of deism (not wanting to mix Latin and Greek), but it is a bit hard to believe that atheism would come in as the opposite of deism, if theism was already in use meaning something other than deism. --BM 15:05, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
  • the following sequence: first there was 'deism', although it had the meaning of the current 'theism'; at that time, 'theism' meant what is now called 'deism', then French 'atheisme' was coined as the opposite of 'deism'; and under the influence of 'atheism', 'deism' and 'theism' swapped meanings resulting in the theism/atheism opposition that we have now.
"Theist" is recorded from 1662 and "theism" as "belief in a deity" from 1678. "Deist" is recorded from 1621 while "deism" from 1682. Until circa 1700, opposed to "atheism", "deism" was used in a sense where we would now use "theism." Later in the 18th century, "theist" was contrasted with "deist" as allowing the possibility of revelation. "Theism" as "belief in one god", as opposed to "polytheism", is recorded from 1771.
c.1587: "atheism" as opposite of "deism"
1621: "deist"
1662: "theist"
1678: "theism" as "belief in a deity" (any deity)
1682: "deism"
previous to c.1700: "deism" used opposite of "atheism"
previous to c.1700: "deism" meant what "theism" means today.
later in c.1700: "theist" contrasted with "deist" (definitional evolution)
1771: "theism" as "belief in one god" opposed to "polytheism"
Keep in mind that in those times, the spelling of words was not standardized. Note that "atheism" existed in Classical Greek as "atheos" far previous to the earliest date aforementioned. By the way, here's an interesting document analyzing atheism as depicted in the Bible by Christians which further demonstrates that the concept of "weak atheism" did exist previous to your claim that such a concept derived from some modern movement: | That document refers to "strong atheism" as "dogmatic atheism", which I wholly agree it is, and "weak atheism" as "practical atheism" just as the OED referencecs. Adraeus 23:32, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Thanks for the clarification. It does rather look like that 'theist' and 'theism' may have emerged in contrast to 'atheism', which would be ironic, if true. It would not surprise me to learn that French atheisme (atheism) and athee (atheist) were in French well before these dates, and that atheism was in English well before the earliest attested usage. Francis Bacon wrote his "On Atheism" essay in 1601, and does not state a definition, apparently assuming the term was familiar to his readers. That is quite soon after 1587. An argument from silence, true, but it is interesting. You already cited the French treatise against Atheisme from the 1580's. As for "practical atheism", I'm not sure that is properly viewed as the counterpart of weak atheism. It is more active than that. For example, the Encyclopedie of Diderot and d'Alembert article on Athee (Atheist) from the 18th century, describes practical atheism essentially as denial of gods through behaviour. It is not merely absence of belief, as weak atheism is defined, but rather is more active: the denial of God through behaviour that is heedless, or disprespectful, of God. Actually, if you look at the attested sources for atheos in Greek, which is translated as "godlessness or ungodly" you find the same dichotomy: for example, in the classical tragedies the word is used to mean what we is translated as ungodliness or godlessness, meaning behaviour that is disrespectful or heedless of the gods. Sophocles has Oedipus call his own behaviour "atheos". Oedipus is not accusing himself of lack of belief. But in philosophical writings, such as Plato's Apology, it means denial of the gods. In the Apology, Plato has Socrates defend himself from the charge of atheos by saying he cannot be "completely atheos" as he does in fact believe in gods, just not the gods of Athens. I don't think someone looking to find the AOB (absence of belief) definition in early sources can get much mileage out of the "practical atheism/godlessness" usage. I'm becoming more and more convinced that the AOB definition really started only in the late 1970's or so, although there are hints of it in Charles Bradlaugh, the nineteenth century free thinker. For example, Anthony Flew wrote an essay in the early 1980's in which he advocates the AOB definition, but clearly describes it as the "new" definition. --BM 00:54, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)


The last clause in the mention of kafir is "and is incorrectly applied to non-Islamic theists". Either this isn't very clear; I'm not understanding it; or it isn't very interesting. The meaning given in the Wikipedia article on [[kafir] is the equivalent to infidel, meaning non-believer or denier, but points out that as "people of the book", Christians and Jews are not considered to be infidels, even though they may be incorrectly called so. In other words, kafir is correctly applied to anyone other than a Christian, Jew, or Muslim -- for example, a Hindu, or a pagan. However, that does not seem to be equivalent to "atheist", and I'm not sure why it is relevant in the article. --BM 19:03, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)

no, have a look at shirk (idolatry). The term for a Hindu would be shirk. Kafir is (a) equivalent to "atheism" and also (b) equivalent to "excommunication" and (c) "apostasy". It is relevant for the article because it sheds light how the concepts discussed here are dealt with in another religious system: I think it is helpful to understand the problems discussed in the disputes about the definition of atheism. It also drives home the point that atheism is a negative concept, i.e. you cannot define atheism without defining theism first. dab () 19:38, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)
the fact that the same word is used for atheism as well as for apostasy and excommunication is interesting; but your text in the article doesn't make that clear at all. --BM 20:00, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I hope I have improved it now. dab () 20:01, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)
you might want to run your eye over the kafir article and make sure we are in sync. Nice job. --BM 20:05, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Good article

I am really impressed with the quality of the article lately, especially the way the "God is not a god" issue has been handled. The new section describing a non-theistic definition of God really clarifies the issue. After Sam explained the difference in detail, it was good to see it get integrated. It would be nice if certain people could be less hostile about it, but oh well we've muddled through.

Please note that anons continue to make unhelpful edits. I think being hardasses toward non-consensus changes is a valid response, simply because of the frequency with which such edits are made to this article.

Specifically, the relegation of atheism-as-disbelief-of-MY-god to a paragraph in "Types of atheism" is appropriate, well-done, and most importantly, likely to be a target for vandalism. The consensus is pretty clear right now, and the way it has been reflected in the article is gratifying.--Yath 06:10, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Yup it is now a good article, it will however need a goodly few stout hearts to keep it on their watchlist and be prepared to spend an inordinate amount of time and effort to prevent agenda driven POV pushers such as Sam Spade who clearly has a personal agenda against atheism, degrading the quality of the article as I have no doubt, based upon his history here, that he will attempt to do. Probably after a suitable period of calm hoping that he can sneak his poisoned agenda in after it has scrolled off folks radar. There surely should be a better way that would allow good folk to spread their efforts more constructively for the betterment of Wikipedia rather than the archives of this article and its talk pages show. --Nick-in-South-Africa 07:52, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)


Before The word is composed of the Greek prefix a-, meaning either "not" or "without", and theismos, from theos god and -ismos, denoting a property. The word theismos was coined in the 17th century, and is not attested in classical Greek writings. Originally it had a meaning closer to the current deism. Around 1700, deist (first attested 1621) and theist (first attested 1662) exchanged their meanings under the influence of atheist, which, originally coined as the opposite of deist, attracted theist as the more natural word to denote its exact opposite.

The Etymology section I replaced was fallacious, ambiguous and obviously unresearched.

After The term atheism is the result of an adoption of the French athŽ“sme1 which is from the Greek "atheos" meaning "without God, denying God." The Greek prefix a- is interpreted as either "not" (no-god-ism) or "without" (without theism). Theism2 is the modern form of the Greek theos (god + ism) from 1678 generally meaning "belief in a deity, or deities, as opposed to atheism" and also "belief in one god, as opposed to polytheism or pantheism" (monotheism), "belief in the existence of God, with denial of revelation" (deism), and especially as "belief in one God as creator and supreme ruler of the universe, without denial of revelation: in this use distinguished from deism."

I provided notes in subscript which support the date claims. In addition, the version I used is supported by the Oxford English Dictionary and the Online Etymology Dictionary by Douglas Harper. I also performed some online research of the complete names of those and things mentioned in the notes. Adraeus 14:13, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

It seems unlikely to me that dab's version is "unresearched", and it seems rather abrasive to say so. Once again, I ask you to refrain from ad hominem remarks. Are you saying that the details in dab's version of the etymology just came out of his head? Clearly there is a difference between two sources, and I don't doubt that dab will chime in soon with his sources. Please keep the discussion civil. --BM 14:24, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

BM: I urge you to actually learn what constitutes an ad hominem comment. Criticizing data is not a personal attack unless your ego is overinflated. Your consistent harassment of me in this form proves detrimental to your "cause" which you vehemently distort. As a member of the Institute of General Semantics, I'm obliged to point you to a good resource regarding logical fallacies, which seem to be plentiful in your feeble arguments. ESGS Logical Fallacies. Check the "Changing the Subject" section for the fallacy of which you often claim others. Adraeus 14:30, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Adraeus, stick to the arguments. Calling someone's contribution "unresearched" is an ad hominem remark. You can call a statement "fallacious" without being ad hominem, although that is typically reserved for logical rather than factual problems. You can call a contribution "false" or "wrong". But calling a contribution "unresearched" is ad hominem and is an attack on the methods, thoroughness, etc of the contributor. It is uncalled for, even if you have reason to think your statement is correct. If you suspect that a contribution is not properly sourced, ask for the sources. By the way, calling arguments "feeble", if not precisely ad hominem, is also not particularly civil. Tone it down, dude -- please. --BM 14:44, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
BM Adraeus' remarks could arguably be called a tad abrasive. His remarks are most certainly are not ad hominem, finding fault with someoneÕs argument, reasoning or method is not ad hominem, critiquing the individual is. As it happens Adraeus has been no more abrasive than you have been, so your moral grandstanding here as seems to be your wont itself rather grates --Nick-in-South-Africa 06:18, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I like this etymology much more than the older. But, you should add that in classical Greek there was a word for 'atheism': athe—tes (stem atheotet-, genitive athe—tetos). iIt can help in some way, I think. --Neigel von Teighen 17:20, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
The Classical Greek word for "atheism", Neigel, is "atheos." At least, it looks like "atheos". Greek atheos.gif Adraeus 07:34, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)

chill, people, I don't feel ad-hominemed because somebody says my etymology section was unresearched. Although it's not true. But note that the section you replaced was itself replacing a section that was much worse about half an hour earlier, and I would still have improved it had you not beaten me to it. That said, I wonder which part of my version was actually incorrect. I also think that the tone prevalent on this talk page is rather more hostile than average WP, and I am not married to this article. I am, after all, here to enjoy myself, and I usually enjoy being corrected by somebody who knows better, unless he knows better in a very snide way. I would prefer to talk about the issue itself rather than the relation of fallacious to ad hominem. It is true that atheos is attested in ancient Greek. It is also true, and relevant, that atheismos isn't. It is, furthermore, imortant to note, that the 16th century (French) / 17th century (English) therm atheism was not derived from atheos directly, but rather coined as an opposite to deisme/deism. Look, I do not see in what way my version was fallacious, but I do agree that Adraeus has added value to it. dab () 09:00, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Adraeus, the word atheos is not 'the Classical Greek word for "atheism"'. It is a bahuvrihi meaning 'having no God', if you like synonymous to 'godless' or 'impious', but crucially lacking the -ism, -ist part. It would have been the term applied to ancient atheists, but also to people abandoned by the gods. For the purposes of the etymology of the modern term, the important bit is that it is not directly derived from the greek use. dab () 09:06, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)
dab: Your conclusion that atheos is not Greek for atheism is incorrect. Moreover, your source confirms with its entry atheos.
From the Oxford English Dictionary for atheism...
[a. F. athŽisme (16th c. in LittrŽ), f. Gr. Greek atheos.gif: see atheal and -ism. Cf. It. atheismo and the earlier atheonism.]
Abbreviations Key
* a. — adoption of, adopted from
* F. — French
* c. — century
* f. — formed on, form of
* Gr. — Greek
* Cf. — confer, 'compare'
* It. — Italian
For atheist...
[a. F. athŽiste (16th c. in LittrŽ), or It. atheista: see prec. and -ist.]
* prec. — preceding
Adraeus 12:22, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)
a, wait. Nigel is very right (Adreus, you are very aloof pointing out that atheos looks like atheos when somebody actually raises a valid point). ἀθεότητα is attested 105 times in TLG,


atheots , tos, h, godlessness, Pl.Plt.308e: in pl., Id.Lg.967c.
           II. atheism, Ph.1.360,368, etc., Plu.2.165c. 
                 2. neglect of the gods of the state, D.C.67.14.

It drives home my point that there was atheism in antiquity, and again in 'modern' times, but that the term atheism is a learned modern Greek formation, but not directly derived from an ancient Greek term. dab () 09:31, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Your point is irrelevant for it was previously made in the etymology section.
  • ...the result of an adoption of the French athŽ“sme which is from the Greek "atheos"...
  • Theism is the modern form of the Greek theos (god + ism)...
Thus, we've already stated that atheos is the Greek form of atheism of which theism is a modern form of theos suffixed with -ism. Adraeus 12:22, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)
"f.formed on" my point entirely. I.e. formed on atheos by learned 16th century writers.
irrelevant, fallacious, unresearched, incorrect, your pick. Oh, except that I beg to differ.You made the point that "Theism is the modern form of the Greek theos (god + ism)". You claimed "athŽ“sme which is from the Greek atheos". I don't know who agreed with that, but I certainly didn't. You seem to see yourself as so superior, intellectually, that you think it unnecessary to apologize for you arrogance towards Nigel when he came up with atheots, which had not been noted before. This etymology thing should in principle purely academic. Nobody's belief hinges on it. And you do have valuable information to contribute. What you say is not wrong. But I must say that your attitude makes you better suited to write your own article on a blog somewhere, where don't have to collaborate with people. dab () 13:00, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)
What is your malfunction? Everything I wrote is supported by the Oxford English Dictionary and other linguistic research. Adraeus 23:57, 18 Dec 2004 (UTC)

to the point, atheos means "godless" and/or "godforsaken". atheote:s means "godlessness". atheisme means "vtter godlessness", i.e. "godlessness by principle", i.e. "`strong' atheism". dab () 13:16, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Link suggestions

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Avoid weasel terms

Here's something to keep in mind when editing the article: Avoid weasel terms. Weasel terms create ambiguity. Adraeus 12:26, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)

"The distinction between strong and weak atheism is for some people controversial"
— weasly indeed. But sometimes weasling is the only way to end edit wars, and since this seems to be the best that could be agreed upon after 16 pages of discussion, I will not be the one to change it :o\ dab () 21:22, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)

[BM] etymological deletion

At 17:23 on 17 Dec 2004, BM deleted a large portion of the etymology section for the following reason: "Shortening etymology until dab, Adraeus, I, or someone can incorporate interesting info on the Talk page." There is neither grounds for this action nor consensus to support it. Additionally, what replaced the informational etymology section was a dry, diffuse and poorly written single sentence. Please discuss first, achieve consensus and then edit, BM. Deletion is not a prerequisite for addition of data. Adraeus 12:38, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Adraeus, I deleted sentences that seemed to be either incorrect, misleading or at least in dispute, pending replacement with the conclusions of the discussion already in progress. So far we agreed that 'atheism' comes from the adoption into English of the French 'atheisme' in the late 16th century. It also seems agreed that atheisme/athee are from the classical Greek atheos, meaning "without God, denying the gods, godless, ungodly", although actually we have no source for that. That is why I reduced the section to state only what is sourced (or agreed) so far. What I removed was the analysis of 'atheos' as "without theism" or "no-god-ism". That is speculative, and I think it is probably wrong. It introduces -ism/belief into the picture and that is not really part of 'atheos'. I removed the discussion of the English word 'theism', which it would appear was introduced after atheisme/atheism, and therefore not relevant. It is interesting that 'theism' (and perhaps also 'deism') came in after atheism, and I think it would be enlightening to include that elsewhere in the article, not in the etymology of atheism. For example, the First Edition of the Dictionnaire de l'Academie francaise from 1694 defines 'athee' and 'atheisme', but does not define 'theisme' or 'deisme'. Jean Nicot's Thresor de la langue francaise from 1606 does NOT contain 'atheisme', 'athee', 'theisme', or 'deisme'. Both French 'atheisme' and English 'atheism' have turned up before 1606, so Nicot's omission may indicate that they weren't widely used by then. 'Deisme' does not appear until the 4th (1762) edition of the Dictionnaire de l'Academie francaise, and 'theisme' doesn't debut until the 5th (1798) edition. We know from the OED that 'theism' and 'deism' had already put in an appearance in English before these dates. If the late dates for 'deisme' and 'theisme' in French are correct, then 'atheisme' can't be derived from either. It seems likely that 'atheisme' and 'athee' came directly into French from 'atheos' or some other Greek word (such as atheots, per Neigel) and not by way of 'theisme' or 'deisme'. Does anyone have access to a good French etymological dictionary where we could get the etymology of athee/atheisme, confirming the relationship with Greek atheos, and the date? --BM 13:26, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)

  • the morphology of atheism is of course undisputed, a- + theos + -ism
    • -ism does not mean 'belief'. in this case, it does refer to principle, but the suffic itself is more general (e.g. xiphismos "sword-dance", not "belief in swords").
    • the question is, is it (a-theos)+ism, or is it a-(theos+ism).
  • I find your 1694 finding very intriguing. the presence of atheisme without deisme/theisme seems to belie the OED, and indeed to suggest that atheism is from (atheos)+ism, and not from a+(de/theism). But 1694 is very late for this question, and they should have theisme in any case by then (it is, most probably, due to the atheist-friendly bias of the academie francaise(?)). We do, at this point, indeed need an excellent french etymological dictionary.

dab () 14:34, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Isn't it rather telling that athŽe is 'atheist' (n) or 'atheistic' (a)? It would seem to come from atheos, and 'atheisme' is 'athŽe + -ism'. If, atheisme is from a- + (theos + -ism), where is the counterpart of athŽe? --BM 15:19, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I admit it seems this is the case. In this scenario, we would have a sequence
1. athŽe, directly from atheos
2. athŽisme, coined as the corresponding abstract noun
3a. (only) thŽisme, coined in opposition to athŽisme
3b. atheiste backformed from athŽisme and synonymous to athŽe
4. thŽiste, backformed from thŽisme
and at this point, or during this process, successive loaning into English. Involved... I would be interested if this sequence of events is anywhere near the truth (yes this is unresearched speculation. This is why I'm putting it on the Talk page). dab () 15:34, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)
'theism', 'deism', 'theist', and 'deist' also might well have come into French from English, after being coined on the model of 'atheism', originally French. All we really know are (1) that 'atheisme/atheism' are attested earlier than theism/deism/theist/deist in English (and maybe the equivalents in French); (2) that French has 'athee' and 'atheisme' pretty early; (3) that according to OED 'atheism' came from French 'atheisme' (that is, not an independent coinage, and not the other way round) Is it the case that the OED states that 'atheisme' is the opposite of 'deisme'? If so, what part is played supposedly by Greek 'atheos', according to the OED, and how do you account for athŽe? --BM 16:50, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)

If anyone wanted more chaos in this here it is:

  • Gr. athe•a = atheism.
  • Gr. the—te:s (theote:t-), which would be the expected counterpart for athe—te:s (atheism)= divinity.
  • Also, the greek religion expert Walter Burkert, in his book Greek Religion says that

in the fifth century the word atheos is coined anew. in order to express more clearly than could be done by asebes the total lack of relations with the gods.

In conclusion, there are several words in greek from which the french athŽisme can come!! About atheos replacing asebes, we should know that the later means 'criminal'! I have an idea concerning '-ism-' but I must research about that better.--Neigel von Teighen 18:02, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I suggest we expand the etymology section to
  1. words related to atheism in antiquity
  2. the 16th/17th century developments that led to English atheism (we still need a french etymological dicitonary for that)
both cases are strikingly similar: the word started as an abuse/accusation, and semantic shifts took place to accomodate for the fact that there were now people who actually held such views! Neigel, please include Burkert's asebes reference (I love the man, he is extremely competent. plus, I heard him lecture two weeks ago;). dab () 18:40, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)
There's a great trouble we must face before we do can we link the current etymology section (which is very good and, also, nobody can change it because a great discussion would begin here again) with W. Burkert's assertion and the antiquity terms for the topic? I've tried make the inclussion you said, but I couldn't write a good text...--Neigel von Teighen 18:49, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)
It is quite striking that we have the word 'atheisme'/'atheism' emerging in French and English in the 16th century, growing for two hundred years in the 17th and 18th centuries as an anxiously-denied accusation. But where are the atheists? We have many accused of it, but we don't find anyone openly denying God until nearly the end of the 18th century, with the Baron d'Holbach. It would be nice to get some flavor of this into the article. --BM 19:02, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I added our findings about classical Greek. I don't think this is controversial, since I didn't change the modern part. It seems that athe•a is later (Byzantine/Christian Greek), and originally closer to athesia "faithlessness, fickleness", so I left it out for the moment. dab () 19:44, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)


um, BM, I know this is not the Epicureanism article, but since the Epicureans were the atheists of antiquity, I thought it was warranted to mention roughly how they fit in with mainstream philosophy, and when the movement waned. You seem to object, [5], but didn't give your reasons... dab () 20:55, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Oh, my apologies. I think we just collided. Not quite sure how it even happened. Don't take it as my "ruling" on your text. --BM 21:33, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)

It is a popular misconception that in antiquity, atheism was represented by Epicureanism.
This seems awkward and to not belong in the introduction. I suggest either removing it or changing it to
Atheism existed in ancient times, but with the advent of Christianity it disappeared from the West.
Or something similar, anyway. If Epicureanism was not atheistic at all, then it needs to be removed. If they are, then maybe they should be included. Really, I'm not sure if we need this "brief history" bit in there at all; it doesn't really seem to be terribly important to it.

who the hell wrote that. Epicureans were atheists, in antiquity. Who removed the reference to them from the history section? Who inserted this 'misconception' stuff without expaining why it is supposed to be a misconception? Really. This article is edited by some very strange people with very private sets of terminologies. Put it back, please. We want to make an encylopedia of 'received knowledge'. We do not want to be better than any other written source on the planet by virtue of the genius and superiority of our contributors. dab () 08:50, 14 Jan 2005 (UTC)

It seems that this problem relates to arguments about the definition of atheism which lead to the page being frozen. The Epicureans appear to have been close to the agnostic position, but this did not mean that they positively disbelieved. I still dont quite understand what the difference between 'weak atheism' and agnosticism is. Epicureanism was primarily about minimising the influence of the gods, not denying their existence. If they can be defined as 'weak atheists', this highlights problems with the definition of atheism as much as the issue of whether Epicureans held atheistic beliefs. Sextus 01:12, 16 Jan 2005 (UTC)


I did a websearch, and it seems the only person Calvin has burned was Michael Servetus (a Unitarian Christian), and that was for heresy. I don't want to paint Calvin in more mellow tones than he deserves, and he was a hardcore fundamentalist, but I think statements like "he favoured burning for impiety" (a) suggests that he actually ordered such burnings, which does not seem to be the case, and (b) if he only expressed his favour of such burnings at some point, some sort of reference would be in order. I am afraid I am sceptical because of the other 'burning' related exaggerations I found in this article earlier. dab () 21:02, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Another thing I've just been propagating from earlier versions of the article. I won't vouch for its truth. --BM 21:35, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Learn or Burn

Look, get this straight.

Atheism is generally defined as the denial or disbelief in deities and alternatively as the condition of being without theistic beliefs.

This statement is optimal and factually accurate. To use an either/or statemennt is to provide only two options for the reader which is POV. An either/or fallacy is exhibited when the communicator presents a limited range of choices. For example, either you accept this or you're an idiot. Either/or fallacies attempt to convince an audience of a conclusion based on two options when three or more exist.

The either/or version of the introductory sentence also results in a factually false claim: either atheists deny/disbelieve deities or atheists are without theistic beliefs. This is not true. An atheist can deny/disbelieve deities while being without theistic beliefs.

Since all prominent sources include the denial/disbelief definition before the "without theism" definition, it would be POV to reverse this order.

Also, just as "lack" is inherently negative, "absence" is too and inaccurate. "Lack" as "the fact that a person or thing is not present; absence" is obsolete. "Absence" as "without" is not valid. If you're going to argue with me, you better have a copy of the Oxford English dictionary; otherwise, your argument means diddly-squat.

  • 1a. The state of being absent or away (from any place); also the time of duration of such state.
  • 1b. poet. An absent form or face. Cf. presence.
  • 2. Of things: Want, failure, withdrawal.
  • 3. Absence (of mind): inattention to what is going on; failure to receive impressions of what is present, through preoccupation with other matters; involuntary abstraction.
  • 4. At Eton College, calling of the roll to ascertain if all the boys are present, or who are absent

I'm extremely tired of arguing this. If you still don't get it, either you're ignorantly arrogant or you're mentally incapable of comprehension. Get my point yet? Adraeus 12:08, 18 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I am not the person who keeps changing it. However, other people keep rewriting the first sentence, and when I notice it, I restore it to a wording that I consider more or less reasonable. I try various formulations, hoping to find one that will be stable. If the edit to which I am responding seems to be somewhat reasonable, I try to incorporate features of it, as in this last go-around, where I kept the "broadly" and "narrowly" adverbs that had been introduced. As for your preferred "condition of being without theistic beliefs", I don't think atheism is a "condition", like a disease, and I don't find that a very felicitous phrase. For one thing it lacks parallellism with the "denial of the existence of deities" alternative. "Absence of belief", "lack of belief", and "without belief" are the phrases commonly used by the weak atheists for their definition. I don't see why these phrases have negative connotations, but in any case those are the ones typically employed. Regarding, "or", and "and alternatively", that nicely captures that the two definitions are viewed by some as alternatives. You are the one who insisted on "and alternatively", which I and others changed to "or" a few times until we gave up. "Or" can be either inclusive or exclusive, which I found a convenient ambiguity. You are the one who was insisting on "and alternatively", which for me has much more the exclusive-or connotation. So now I am confused by your position. As for your point that you basically own the first sentence of the article, and everybody else has to "get" this, or else be labelled by you as "ignorantly arrogant", etc, -- good luck. --BM 13:12, 18 Dec 2004 (UTC)
1. Specifying the narrowness or broadness of a definition is irrelevant and extraneous, and is more likely an attempt to circumvent consensus that the introduction should not discuss implicit and explicit atheism.
2. In the non-medical context of this article, a condition a mode of being, state, position or nature. A condition is what is. The fact this article does not concern medicine is more than enough reason to conclude that interpretations of condition in atheism's context as health-related is sufficiently POV.
3. The either/or fallacy is also known as bifurcation, the black-and-white fallacy and the false dilemma. I suggest you read up on it. It results in POV.
4. "Or" is exclusive. "And" is inclusive. "Today is either a hot day or a cold day." There's only two options, no more and no less. "Today is a hot day and a cold day." Whether today is a hot day or a cold day or both is dependent on perspective.
You're simply wrong about this, and this claim explains some of your odd edits. "My wife will give me a TV Tuner Card and a DVD for Christmas. AND implies BOTH: she has to give me both items for this statement to be true. "My wife will give me a TV Tuner Card or a DVD for Christmas". Inclusive OR, true if she gives me one, the other, or both. "Behind the door is the lady or the tiger." Exclusive OR, true if one or the other, but not both. Without context, OR is often ambiguous, which is often a useful feature. --BM 00:17, 19 Dec 2004 (UTC)
No, you're simply wrong about this.
"Your wife will give you a TV Tuner Card or a DVD for Christmas."
Your wife will either give you a TVT Card or a DVD, but not both. The inclusivity of OR is inferenced but not factual.
"Atheism is the 1 or the 2."
Atheism is either 1 or 2, but not both.
"Atheism is the 1 and alternatively the 2."
Atheism is either 1, 2, or both. Realize that "and/or" would also work to the same extent. Adraeus 00:24, 19 Dec 2004 (UTC)
5. I never claimed I own the first sentence. Your behavior, however, suggests you think you own this article entirely. Adraeus 23:53, 18 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Are you a native speaker of English? If so, where are you getting this stuff. Have you ever taken a course on Logic? I did, by the way, from W.V.O. Quine, one of the foremost logicians of the 20th Century. I also got to take his graduate seminar as an undergraduate, because I was good at it. You are just wrong, Adraeus. --BM 00:30, 19 Dec 2004 (UTC)
...and so his ego rears its ugly head. Do try to be more civil, BM. Tone it down, dude—please. Adraeus 01:05, 19 Dec 2004 (UTC)
boy are we splitting hairs here. English 'or' is not boolean OR, nor XOR, but almost always relies on some contribution of some common sense from the reader's part to get its exact status. The argument seems beside the point, since this article is lacking a lead. Meaning, there should be some 5 or 6 sentences summarizing what it is about. We do not usually have dictionary definitions followed by a long ToC before getting to section one. We do usually have a reader-friendly introduction. dab () 19:57, 18 Dec 2004 (UTC)
An intro is needed, but given how much trouble we are having with just the one sentence intro it seems like it might require a lot of negotiation to arrive at one. It seems so much easier to work on the article itself. --BM 21:00, 18 Dec 2004 (UTC)


I am no expert on 16th century french orthography, so forgive my asking: why the in athŽ“sme. It's not like French has a musical accent... And we risk that any French speaker passing by will instinctively change it to i. dab () 20:11, 18 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Oops. That was someone's typo. Mine or yours? Anyway, fixed. --BM 21:26, 18 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I only brought it up because I had fixed it before, and was reverted. dab () 11:09, 19 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Links opposing atheism

I recently posted three links to former notable atheists who became theists. These were promply reverted by BM. I've since done some looking at the practice on other pages of various isms, idealogies, and the persons associated with them. I find that links to opposition are quite fashionable on Wikipedia, but tend to be applied rather unequally. Pages dealing with Christianity seem to have the most links to opposition, and this seems to be in proportion to how conservative and how contemporary. Someone should do a statistical study of the verious pro and con links on Wikipedia to see if a neutral point of view really does prevail, or if there is a pronounced bias. My cursory survey points to the latter at this point. At any rate there seems to be anti-links on many of the philosophy and religion pages, and I see no reason why this should be different here. These three persons were all respected leaders who were atheistic in outlook as adults who were converted to theism, and said that they were converted by the evidence. I did not elaborate this on the page; I simply gave links to the people involved. The question comes to mind: BM, what are you afraid of? I am going to replace the links and see what happens. Pollinator 22:06, Dec 18, 2004 (UTC)

The problem with this kind of link is that it rapidly turns a controversial article into a race between POV's to create the longest list of converters from and to the position, in order to put the position in a good or bad light (depending on the POV). It is not impossible that the lists come to dominate the rest of the article. Just because other controversial articles have these type of lists does not make it a good thing. I don't think this article, or any article, benefits from such lists. If the fact that some notable person converted, and the details of the conversion, from or to the philosophy/view are important for an understanding of the view or its history, that is different, and it should be dealt with in the article. But just lists of celebrities who converted or de-converted, doesn't seem to me to be useful, and it can be misleading since it doesn't seem NPOV unless an effort is made to keep the lists reflecting the general situation. NPOV shouldn't depend on how energetic each POV is in adding links to the lists of proponents, opponents in the article. If the point is, "more famous atheists have converted to theism than the other way round", and this is an important fact about atheism in your view, then state it in the article, but be prepared to prove it. If you feel Wikipedia benefits from having such a list of atheists, create a "List of Atheists who Converted" article. However, be prepared to defend it on VfD because the administrators who hang out there are pretty fed up with dumb "List" articles. If you think the lists of such links on the Christianity article (etc) are biased, then go fight that battle. Don't start sliming other articles in order to make a point. I plan to remove attempts to create such a list of links in this article.. --BM 22:21, 18 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I'm going to give just my opinion on this. (I'm not an editor of this article, nor of any really, but I do read this talk page among others quite a bit, so just take this as this as it is: a personal opinion). I agree with BM that the links don't really seem helpful. They come off like celebrity testimony on a television advertisement. And nothing is being advertised here, at least, there shouldn't be. This is a page to learn what atheism is, not to learn wether to "purchase" atheism instead of theism. If there are links like that on pages for other philosophical or theological positions I would say the same thing of them. All positions are equal before/beyond rigorous discussion and authority/celebrity testimony is certainly not rigorous. However, I'm not bold on what content is worthy. If the majority opinion is that such a links are good, then I would not advocate their removal. If you can get that majority, I endorse your position for keeping them on; even that would not make me think that it is rigorous or most intellectually honest, however. -- 05:58, 25 Dec 2004 (UTC) (Wasn't logged in, re-signing here.) --Whoabot 06:01, 25 Dec 2004 (UTC)

While I agree that a Wikipedia page on atheism should not be a page refuting atheism, I cannot see any problem in pointing people to a few high-quality links to opponents of atheism. Whoabot, I think the intellectual honesty works the other way. The links I proposed were not to celebrities, but well known intellectuals who made a rational decision after a period of atheism in adult life, based on the evidence as they saw it, in favor of theism. Why such links should rile anyone is beyond me. Most articles on Wikipedia that deal with systems of belief have some opposing links. A few unpopular systems have articles that are primarily attacks against the system, or the proponants of that system, which I think is unencyclopedic. I have, on a few occasions placed links on a page which express a viewpoint in opposition to my own personal POV, simply because I thought they were high quality links. What harm does it do (unless one is insecure) to provide people with more resources to do their own thinking? Pollinator 07:14, Dec 25, 2004 (UTC)

I didn't mean to say they were celebrities, I meant, I thought I was clear, that they are merely like celebrity testimony. As an appeal to authority fallacy is what I'm really saying, forget the celebrity analogy. I'll agree with you that it doesn't cause any immeadiately forseeable harm, unless you consider it harmful what I already said: that these particular refutations are not most intellectually honest, in that they are a bit of appeal to authority. I say these particular ones because I fully agree with you that arguments against a system, or position, or lack of a position are, I believe, fully acceptable in the article on that system/position. As BM said: a list of who converted to what may be of biographical use for those people's articles or some article "atheist conversions" but not here. Arguments against atheism are more than welcome I believe. You could make an entire section in this article with arguments against atheism, and as long as it followed regular guidelines for Wikipedia I would certainly be against its removal. This includes a section of links to such arguments outlined in that section: that would be equally valuable. Actually, why such a section is not in this article, seems a bit strange to me, but I'll admit I'm not very familiar with the article's history at all. That would be a very useful section indeed, I feel. If you want merely to add arguments against atheism in the article, and excuse me if I've misunderstood you(I certainly don't want to tell you what your position is), then you'll see that I'm on your side. All I'm saying is that I don't really think those examples count as refutations in a totally infallacious sense. Perhaps someone or you could find examples where the actual reasons for abandoning atheistic positions of the people in your examples are outlined as arguments against atheism. They most certainly exist, and then you would have arguments agaist atheism not wrapped up in a slightly intellectually dishonest, "I convereted, and I was reasonable, and knowledgable and experienced and smart, so what do you think now?" kind of thing. Arguments against atheism would be very valuable to this article: they exist and are definitely not "harmful." --Whoabot 18:16, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Speeding ticket paragraph

Rather than removing it, BM, can you help me make it not as POV? It's a valid point of view that needs to be in this article. It should be mentioned as the counterpoint to the accusation that atheists are not as moral as theists. For those reading this that aren't BM, here's the paragraph in question:

It is the view of some atheists that they have a higher breed of morality, i.e. atheists are in some ways more moral than theists. Those who espouse this view argue that being motivated to practice ethical behavior for its own sake, without requiring the implicit threat of retribution present in many religious systems to keep them moral, is a more noble and honest form of morality. The argument is often accompanied by an analogy: when asked why it is bad to speed when driving an automobile, some answer that it is dangerous, while others answer that they are afraid of getting a speeding ticket. Those who support the view that atheists have a higher morality see atheists as analogous to the first answer, with theists analogous to the second answer. Andre (talk) 23:42, Dec 18, 2004 (UTC)

Sure, I like the basic point. To make it less POV, it would be good if we actually provided a source for this view, and put it into the mouth of the person who made this argument, if possible, rather than attribute it to "atheists". I don't know how many atheists would stake claim to a "higher breed of morality". Maybe a quote. Do you have that? Even better would be to state some of the responses. --BM 23:48, 18 Dec 2004 (UTC)


let me say that, in spite of the sad state of civility on the Talk page, I find the article itself is quite good, and improving. I am very glad we have added some historical depth, and I also like BM's intro, although it is by no means final, of course, and while Communism certainly deserves to be mentioned, it may be better to point out that there is no inherent connection between atheism and communism (there were even theist attempts at communism (Jesuits in Brazil?) and atheist attempts at imperialism (post-French revolution). dab () 11:30, 19 Dec 2004 (UTC)

btw, we need some extra-European references. Mainly Buddhism I suppose (Confucianism?). dab () 11:35, 19 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I agree the article has improved a lot, although the process of getting there would seem less like work if all the Talk page interactions were as friendly and constructive as some of them are. I agree its a bit Euro-centric at present. Also, I'd like to have more on 19th century atheism, and carry the history into the 20th century. If we can ever nail down when the "absence of belief" definition and the weak/strong dichtomy became prominent, I think it would be very interesting to include that, since it is now so prevalent on the Internet. (But let's leave that for last because it will probably result in a huge edit war, given past history on this Talk page.) Finally, I think the philosophical issues are still getting less than their due, especially "strong" atheism. Still, my aim is to help make one of the most contentious articles in the Wikipedia into one of "feature" article quality, and I do think we are getting there. --BM 12:55, 19 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Hey, I don't think the article is good, but excelent! Really, I don't know what are some arguing about the introduction and why there is a 'sad state of civility on the Talk page' as dab said (I haven't been here for two days). I really think we are doing agreat job here. --Neigel von Teighen 22:28, 19 Dec 2004 (UTC)

A world full of infidels

Various estimates of the numbers religious nonbelievers alive today fall into a ballpark of 800 million to 1 billion. Those figures are comparable to the entire human population alive 200 years ago, so by the demographic standards of the early 19th Century, the world is full of infidels. The implosion of religious belief even in countries where people can learn about and practice any religion they choose should cast considerable doubt on recent claims that humans have a "god gene" that predisposes us towards religiosity. Advancedatheist

Religion & Strong Atheism

While "weak atheism" is present universally, "strong atheism" is necessarily in opposition to religious notions.

The above statement is located in the History section and is false. Religion is irrelevant to "strong atheism". How can I explain this better? Hrm, "strong atheism" does not describe opposition to religion or religious notions. Atheism—implicit and explicit—concerns only belief in deities. Remember that belief in deities is not a necessary component of religion. Adraeus 08:31, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)

that there is religion without deities does not affect the truth of the statement. for the statement to be logically false, there would have to be deities without religion. dab () 20:22, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Incorrect. Logic is also irrelevant. The statement is factually false. A religion is: "a set of beliefs concerned with explaining the origins and purposes of the universe, usu. involving belief in a supernatural creator and offering guidance in ethics and morals". [6] Note "usually". "Belief in a supernatural creator" is not an obligitory component of a religion.
A-theism is "without god-beliefs". A-theism is not against religion or without religion. Adraeus 22:02, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)
But I've got that Religion is the 'belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe' in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, not a set of beliefs (that's an ideology, isn't it?) --Neigel von Teighen 22:09, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)
The American Heritage Dictionary also defines "atheism" as "immorality."
ideology: A systematic scheme of ideas, usu. relating to politics or society, or to the conduct of a class or group, and regarded as justifying actions, esp. one that is held implicitly or adopted as a whole and maintained regardless of the course of events. (OED) Adraeus 22:51, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Let's discuss about ideology in my Talk page! (because the discussion can be long and not too much related to this page). About the AHD, you should know that it's giving an etymological-derived definition that, I agree, doesn't make sense in English, but in Greek. That's not a proof that the AHD is a bad dictionary. --Neigel von Teighen 23:01, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)

See sample chapter from For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery. Section "Godly and Godless Religions". Adraeus 00:23, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Your statement above was:

The statement "strong atheism is necessarily in opposition to religious notions." is false because Atheism — implicit and explicit — concerns only belief in deities, and some religions have no deities.
I said that this statement is logically false, because from the fact that some religions have no deities, it does not follow that some deities are unrelated to religion, which would be required for the statement that atheism is in opposition to religious notions to be false.
you called my observation false, saying that logic is irrelevant.
I am now calling this statement false, unless you want to make "logic is irrelevant" a new WP policy. dab () 09:18, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Say whatever you want. I don't care. Adraeus 09:49, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I suppose that translates to "yeah, sorry, you're right" in adult-speech :) dab () 10:20, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Let's see. Strong atheism is 'the position that no deities exist' according to our article. Religion is, according to Adraeus (I don't like this definition because it's not complete), 'a set of beliefs concerned with explaining the origins and purposes of the universe, usu. involving belief in a supernatural creator and offering guidance in ethics and morals'. Adraeus says we should note the usu. (=usually).
I'll discuss this religion definition. The definition says that a religion explains, by some beliefs, why we exist and, usually, we put the concept of god to these beliefs. I only rewrote the definition given by Adraeus, a very good one, you mnight say. I'll note 'usually', folowing Adraeus' advice. If you says 'usually', this means that it isn't necessary to believe in god for having a religion, because you said 'usually', i.e 'almost every time, in every case'. Then, it's not necessary to have god in religion and, according to the first part, we've got a set of beliefs explaining how all began. Have you ever studyed the Scientific Method? As you surely know, a theory needs some scientific basis, but inferences don't (only an observation). 'A set of beliefs' can be 'A set of inferences', then.
Then, having that not necessarily religion needs god and that religion explains (believing) how the universe began, we have a definition that can be written as 'Religion is an inference about how the universe began and, usually, the concept of god is included for this purpose for explaining why we exist'.
Adraeus, sincerely, does this last definition agree with Christianity or Islam? Is Christianity a set of inferences merely explaining how the universe began? No, it isn't and i've only deducted my definition from yours. If it isn't, your religion definition is false, and, then, your assumption about strong atheism is also, because you're based on your religion definition. --Neigel von Teighen 17:47, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but why are we discussing definitions of "religion"? My statement was really quite innocent. I said "strong atheism is necessarily in opposition to religious notions". I could as well have said "strong atheism is necessarily in opposition to theistic beliefs" (i.e. you cannot be a strong atheist before somebody even comes up with a notion of 'god'). The implicit assumption is that belief in gods is part of a religious system, not that every religious system does have gods. I would prefer to leave the exact definition of religion to the Religion article... dab () 18:16, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I discussed the definition of religion in which Adraeus is basing his thesis (it's called a 'basal attack' in competitive debate) and prove that that thesis is wrong by rational deduction, as Adraeus likes. Actually, I wanted to this not here, but in my talk. Well, anyway, the definitions in the Religion also support us. --Neigel von Teighen 18:23, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Adraeus has a somewhat idiosyncratic definition of "religion" according to which atheism is not invariably at odds with religion, since by his theory, there are religions that can be non-theistic. The "atheism is not irreligion" point is made somewhere in the article itself, as I recall. Adraeus could probably point to a couple of atheistic religions, and we could all have a good old time debating whether they are indeed religions, and insulting each other's dictionaries, a favorite past-time on this Talk page. Adraeus objects to the word "necessarily". If it is really necessary to accomodate Adraeus, or we just want to be consistent with the "not irreligion" point in the article, then the sentence only has to be tweaked. Replace "necessarily" with "usually", "generally", "regularly", etc, or replace "religion" with "theism" and the sentence is still true, and won't rule out religions that Adraeus wants to rule in. Sheesh. --BM 18:53, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I am prepared to actually call Buddhism an atheist religion, and maybe this aspect should be treated here. Atheism will still be in opposition to religions notions, just like Buddhism was in opposition to (vedic) religious notions. dab () 19:12, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)


I suggest to delete that sentence about Socrates. The accussation of atheism against him was made because of political reasons and, I think it should be placed in the Socrates article rather than here. He was accused to be atheist, according to Meletos, because he researched the celestial and terrenal objects (the research of nature, what's called in German: Naturwissenschaft). --Neigel von Teighen 17:33, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I agree that it is not absolutely necessary. It is also not completely offtopic: It serves to illustrate the notion of "atheos" in ancient Athens. dab () 20:23, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Yes, in fact one of the occurrences of atheos in classical writings is precisely in Plato's Apology, where Socrates defends himself from the charge of atheism, and indeed this is one of the instances in classical writings where atheos is now usually translated as "atheism". I think the sentence is clear that Socrates was not in fact an atheist, and his trial is indeed a very good example of one of the main ways in which "atheism" has been conceived down through history -- as an accusation against people who did not actually deny all deities but who were perceived as denying the gods of the established religion. --BM 20:29, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Well, then we shall leave it and, maybe add something about the relationship with 'atheos'. I won't do any edit in that article's section for fear to an edit-war (I'm an Harmonious editing club member), which can begin with a very little edit as surely you know :) --Neigel von Teighen 21:46, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I think that particular paragraph is probably safe. Edit-warring seems confined to the first sentence, at present. --BM 22:04, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Do you like the rearrangement I did? Feel free to post any comment on it. --Neigel von Teighen 22:17, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)
The Socrates example may illustrate a shift in meaning of "atheism". What was then considered atheism would in the 19th C have been called "infidelity". I'm not sure

there is a word for this now - that is, a disbelief or skepticism about the "state" or "official" gods, since in most countries religious toleration is present and one can choose to follow a minority religion without serious penalties. It also shows the close relationship between religion and politics - religious persecutions often have a political dimension.

Exile 20:20, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Burkert & Etymology

I e-mailed Walter Burkert and the following is his response to the current etymology section:

The entry 'atheism' is basically correct, but I do not see what my name has to do there, 
in relation to quite simple statements (for 5th century, see, e.g., Sophocles King Oedipus 
1360 on the one side, and Diagoras 'ho atheos' on the other); instead of 'coined anew' I 
would prefer 'got a new  function' or 'got a new, pointed signification'...

The French word is not 'perhaps', but clearly derived from the ancient tradition.

Cicero had transscribed atheos into Latin, and Greek philosophical texts were generally 
translated and studied since the Renaissance; the discussion about 'atheoi' had been especially 
prominent between early Christians and pagans.

Happy holydays;

Likewise, Walter. Adraeus 22:40, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Good idea to ask his opinion, and amazingly nice of so eminent a person to respond. I'm glad we got the etymology pretty much right, and its nice to have his confirmation. --BM 23:36, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Awesome, guys. I'm glad you've got this etymology section ironed out. Andre (talk) 23:40, Dec 21, 2004 (UTC)

Hurra! W. Burkert's helped us! --Neigel von Teighen 23:50, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)

great job, Adraeus! I suppose we put WB's name there because there seemed to be some dispute, and we wanted to give a reference. But since what we say is apparently correct and undisputed, I suppose it now sounds like name-dropping, and it's okay to remove it. dab () 09:11, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Communist vs. communist

BM: "Communist" is used in two senses which mean different things. One is capitalized and the other is not. [7]

  • Communist : a member of the communist party (or Communist Party depending on context)
  • communist : a socialist who advocates communism

Same idea with Atheist and atheist.

  • Atheist : a member of the American Atheists organization
  • atheist : a person who denies, disbelieves, or is without belief in deities

Adraeus 22:49, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I don't think the second one is true, but the first is. Andre (talk) 22:52, Dec 22, 2004 (UTC)
Which is why I changed it to lower-case 'c'. Capital when referring to the party or a member of the party, lower case the rest of the time. --BM 23:22, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)


Most Wikipedia articles have short introductions summarizing the article, and not just a one sentence dic def. I made the intro a summary of the "Types of Atheism" section (the first sentence), and the "History" section (the other three sentences). These represent the bulk of the article. I don't like the first sentence as a summary of the "Types" section; it is just a dictionary defition. But Adraeus seems to own that sentence and changing it or expanding it to be a better summary of "Types of Atheism" invites an edit war. But if you don't like the introduction, please add to, or edit, the one we have rather than moving it. And Keep in mind that the intro should be relatively short. --BM 11:23, 24 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I think the intro is quite ok at the moment. A. obviously doesn't own any part of it, but I think most of his edits are arguable (I still think the "and alternatively" is crap, no matter how much semantics OR rhetorics he throws at it, but I don't care enough to touch it). Just to let you know we are in consensus. dab () 11:37, 24 Dec 2004 (UTC)

All of a sudden, this is about me. Let it be known that the user who replaced BM's introduction was Nick-in-South-Africa, not I. Adraeus 12:54, 24 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I apologize. You have seemed to express possessive feelings towards the first sentence before, but I did not follow the intricacies of the dispute. I did not want to attack you personally, and I rephrase my statement to "obviously, nobody 'owns' the first sentence". dab () 13:29, 24 Dec 2004 (UTC)
There's no need for apologies here. I do not own any part of the article nor have I expressed any so-called "possessive feelings" about the first sentence. Seriously, if I wanted to claim ownership of some part of the article, do you really think I'd stop at the first sentence!?!? Moreover, you don't own any part of the article either so I interpreted your statement as a statement of fact rather than as one of the many simple-minded ad hominem attacks you've launched at me in the past. Good day. Thank you and goodbye. Adraeus 14:27, 24 Dec 2004 (UTC)
and a merry Christmas to you too, Adraeus. I agree there was no need to apologize. dab () 07:46, 25 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Mentioning List of atheists, yay or nay

People have had enough opportunity to revert each other without talking. Now please stop doing that and talk. Should the article have a link to List of atheists or not? According to Adraeus who removed it, it should not; according to Andrevan, who put it back in, it should. Adraeus has defended the removal with the following edit summaries:

lists are totally and completely irrelevant and useless


a list of atheists is as relevant as darwin and lincoln being born on the same day and year, removed.

The first seems to express an opinion on lists in general that seems to have no bearing to whether this particular list should be linked to; the second is a analogy to an edit war that has gone on over Charles Darwin. I also notice that you did not remove the link to List of religions, which does not seem consistent.

Adraeus, I'd like to point out that Christianity has List of Christians, Protestantism has an in-line list of notable protestants, and Buddhism has a List of Buddhists — the first three belief systems I tried at random.

I suggest you start a general discussion over whether lists or links to them are appropriate, rather than using this article as a testbed for whether your opinion is supported by consensus, which I would argue it is not. JRM 01:05, 2004 Dec 27 (UTC)

Regardless of the relevance of lists in general, we do have an article that contains a list of atheists. As such, it's relevant to include it in the see also section. If that article is deleted, obviously I won't care about putting it in the see also. Andre (talk) 01:46, Dec 27, 2004 (UTC)
I concur. The list is not just clearly related, there are precedents for it in most articles on major spiritual movements, and these have not been contested. JRM 02:09, 2004 Dec 27 (UTC)

Nay. Should we follow the bad examples set by the editors of the Christianity and Buddhism articles just because we can? I don't think so. By the way, JRM, list of religions and list of atheists concern two different subjects: one is NPOV and the other is POV. A list of religions is useful since it is not only possible to complete but also composed from an objective point of reference; however, a list of atheists concerns only celebrity figures and is forever incomplete. How deceitful it is to define what a person is when tomorrow they may choose to be something else. Indeed, Wikipedia provides guidance against definitionalistic articles. Lists that concern the definition of a person are inherently POV and encouragement of such things should be avoided. Adraeus 03:59, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Nay. Should we follow the bad examples set by the editors of the Christianity and Buddhism articles just because we can? I don't think so.
No, we should follow their bad examples because they concluded (by precedent themselves or by consensus) that the lists were related material. Which I have not heard you challenge.
Your criticisms of the list itself are well-taken. They're also on the wrong page. You want Talk:List of atheists for that. Not linking to it here because you don't like either its current contents or even its basic premise is ignoring the purpose of the "See also" section to express your personal opinion.
Summarized: if you have a problem with List of atheists, put up an {{npov}} tag, and discuss matters on the talk page, or put it up for deletion. While the list exists, its topic matter is clearly related to this article, and the link should be here.
This article is not "yours" and List of atheists is not "someone else's". Problems with articles must be taken up with the articles themselves, not used to justify not linking to them from other articles. "Shunning" is not an acceptable way of dealing with articles perceived as problematic. JRM 08:41, 2004 Dec 27 (UTC)
Don't lecture me, professor, and don't put words in my mouth. Adraeus 09:23, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I was not implying you said any of this. I was using metaphor to paraphrase my personal interpretation of your words. Sorry about the lecturing, that was going too far. JRM 09:58, 2004 Dec 27 (UTC)

So long as the article list of atheists exists then IMO there should most certainly be a link to it from here, even if only in the "see also" section; the two subjects are so closely related this seems obvious to me. If someone thinks that list of atheists shouldn't be an article in Wikipedia at all, then I'd suggest taking that up on VfD. Bryan 08:53, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)

List of atheists is oviously related to atheism, and if we have such a list on WP (I am no great friend of these lists myself), very clearly it should be linked under 'see also' here. If somebody has issues with the 'list' article, let him address these on Talk:list of atheists or on WP:VfD. dab () 08:57, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)

See Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not: What Wikipedia articles are not, "10. Lists or repositories of loosely associated topics such as quotations, aphorisms or persons. But of course there is nothing wrong with having lists if their entries are famous because they are associated with or significantly contributed to the list topic." (Some emphasis added. Note "because".)

If list of atheists is to stay, then I would suggest we also include list of companies for all organizations are inherently atheistic. If list of atheists is to stay, then list of Christians, etc., should also be added considering that theism in general has contributed greatly to atheism and all theists are associated with atheism as the cognitive counterparts. In addition, I suggest we create list of Wikipedian atheists where those of us who are atheists can simply post our signatures. After all, I'm an atheist; therefore, I'm associated with the article and should be mentioned too. Yes, that's it. Let's promote irrelevant information for the sake of conformity and following by example regardless of informational quality, factuality and NPOV policy. Personally, I think it is better to lead by example... Adraeus 09:23, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)

We already have m:List of Wikipedians by religion. You can add yourself there. Secondly (and apologies beforehand if this sounds like lecturing, but this is just my opinion) you have still not offered any argument that should not go on the talk page to the list itself, and you have still not challenged the basic facts that List of atheists is a strongly related article, that the "See also" section is for listing related articles, ergo. You can "lead by example" in the removal of the list, but I would disagree on doing it by excluding a link to it from this article. JRM 09:58, 2004 Dec 27 (UTC)
My opinion is that these lists are not encyclopedic even at their best; and they are very seldom at their best. In the case of atheists, there is also an "Atheist thinkers" category, which has the same type of problem. Awhile ago, I checked out this category, and discovered that in many/most of the target articles, there was no mention of whether the individual was an atheist, or even anything about his thoughts on atheism. That he was an atheist wasn't deemed worthy of mention in the article itself. In those cases, I removed the category. But this illustrates the point about the lists: the information is rarely verified or even supported by any information in the target article. I think these lists shouldn't even exist in the Wikipedia; it is just trivia that one of the co-stars on Seinfeld, or whatever, is an atheist, and I don't think the tendency for Wikipedia to become a collection of Trival Pursuit answers should be encouraged. I am loathe to link to the list for that reason. Second, this is an article about atheism, not atheists. If someone about whom a Wikipedia article has been written has contributed to atheist thought or is otherwise notable in the context of atheism, then this article should aim to mention him/her, or link to him/her directly, preferably with at least a mention of why he or she is significant in the context of atheism. The stray fact that Joe Famous Scientist or Jenna Porn Star was an atheist (even if verified) is not relevant to this article. --BM 14:19, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I agree that most of these lists are crap. But since we have this list, it is proper to link to it from 'see also'. It's not like this would disfigure our article here, and still nobody is forced to click on the link. That said, I would not oppose deletion of this particular list, and will say so on its Talk page. dab () 14:24, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
So put list of atheists on VfD already and see whether it survives. And if you think that since this article's about atheism and shouldn't link to anything that's not atheism, even if it's still closely related, there's not going to be an awful lot of links at all in here. Bryan 16:09, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
You know that it will basically be impossible to get that list deleted through VfD. If Wikipedia editors voting on VfD persist in allowing junk articles, then increasingly one will find editors of articles that aim not be junk being unwilling to link to other Wikipedia articles. Crap lists being a prime example. Unfortunately, there seems to be the assumption that if someone writes an article, no matter that it is junk, then every other article that is at all related is obliged to link to it, even though they wouldn't link to it, if it *WEREN'T* on Wikipedia. So, Bryan, as we are in a race to the bottom, if Celebrity atheists hadn't been redirected, would you want to link to that as well? --BM 16:57, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
sigh, you have a point. the article will not be deleted because it could be made useful. We usually link to relevant articles, regardless of whether they are brilliant or just stubs. It could conceivably be useful to have a list of atheists, if it was somehow sorted by period and/or occupation, with comments. Not sure it will be worth the effort, but I still maintain that it doesn't hurt this article to link to it. If you're not interested in a 'list of atheists', just don't click on the link. dab () 17:06, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
The only way List of atheists could be made useful would be to restrict it to people who were noted for their atheism, especially those who were significant atheist thinkers, activists, literary figures for whom atheism was a theme, etc. When clicking on those links one would expect to find in the target article some discussion of the person's atheism, as that would have been a notable aspect of their lives. Otherwise, even if sorted by occupation, period, etc, it is just a list of people who happened to be atheists at some point in their lives. The fact that Christopher Reeve, Howard Stern, or Dave Barry are, or were, atheists is trivia, of no greater interest to the Wikipedia reader than that my wife is an atheist, except for the trivia-obsessed. About 4% of Americans are atheists -- so, 4% of Americans whose biographies are in Wikipedia should be on that list, more or less. For that matter, we know from our own article that the vast majority of natural scientists are atheists, and therefore the vast majority of scientiests covered by Wikipedia should be on the list. It is moronic. If there were an article List of American Scientists who aren't atheists (a shorter list by the way), would we be compelled to have a link to it here, too? How about, Cities and countries where atheists live? Gods in which atheists don't believe? --BM 18:18, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
So go and fight your fight over on Talk:List of atheists and VfD, already. I don't care all that much about that list myself, but if you think it's either irreparably bad or it can be made into something better go ahead and fix the situation. And if you can make a good cities and countries where atheists live, more power to you - I'll push to have it linked to in the see-also section here too (Gods in which atheists don't believe would be inherently redundant, on the other hand, since it would simply be a copy of list of deities :). Bryan 00:56, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Reading all the above, I'm drawing the tentative conclusion that it may not meet with all-round disapproval if I reinstate the link, which I've hereby done. :-) This does not constitute approval of List of atheists in its current form. For the record, I agree that most of the lists we have could do with a good overhaul, sourcing, NPOVing and what have you. JRM 16:31, 2004 Dec 27 (UTC)

Well how do you arrive at that conclusion. You, Bryan, and dab say yes, with dab being lukewarm. Adraeus and I say no, and are not at all lukewarm. 3-2 is a consensus, is it? --BM 17:03, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Whoa there. Edits do not have to be made by consensus, unless you're talking an actual NPOV or accuracy dispute, which nobody has even suggested to be the case. I didn't even use the word "consensus", with good reason. If you want, we can drum up more people here and get a broader discussion on whether we should or should not have links to articles considered inappropriate, or we can wait for Adraeus to make more comments on his original action. There's no hurry here. And pending that, you are of course free to revert my change if you think I'm out of line, since we are discussing it on the talk page; that's what being bold is about.
I really think the discussion hinges on the invalid premise that value judgements on content should affect whether links to demonstrably relevant topics should be used. I'm willing to keep discussing about it till the cows come home, sure. And I don't insist on the link being there while we do. I might have jumped to the conclusion that the nay-sayers, too, were by now convinced this is really about List of atheists and not about this article. If so, my apologies. This was not an attempt at feigning consensus. JRM 17:52, 2004 Dec 27 (UTC)
I am not lukewarm, I am capable of compromise. And I am also unhappy when so much 'ink' is spilled over such a trifle. We could be improving articles, in the meantime. dab () 17:53, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
JRM, for the record, it was you who started this "lets talk instead of just reverting" thing. Now you seem to be saying: OK, now that the vote is slightly on my side, consensus doesn't matter, revert away!" That is probably what will happen, past history on this Talk page being any indication. There isn't agreement that this is "really" about List of atheists. The nay-sayers are saying "List of atheists" is junk, and we don't want to link to junk, whether it is on Wikipedia or not. --BM 17:57, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Yes, I am a hypocrite. :-)
I said "talk" because people were violating the 1RR: if you find yourself reverting someone else's revert, you probably should be talking instead, because there's no reason to assume they're not going to revert you right back. After you've had a discussion, the situation is hardly the same (though of course if you're reverting when everybody still disagrees with you, that's hardly good faith behaviour either, but I hope I wasn't that bad).
If you want to hear me apologize again for reinstating the link: I apologize for reinstating the link. Obviously I interpreted the discussion wrongly. Obviously I should have been more patient. Mea culpa.
Now that you've stated your opinion clearly ("don't link to junk no matter where") let me state mine equally clearly: link to Wikipedia articles whether they're junk or not, for time and tide beget them all, and we believe articles will improve. Basic faith. The alternative is preferably not to link to anything until it's established (how?) that the article is "worthy of linking to". What, are we going to remove all links, keep track of them, and reinstate them when it's all good again? Are we going to remove links before putting them on VfD, skewing the importance of the article? IMO, unworkable, and not according to established working procedures. Not that those are sacrosanct, but they have been known to work. JRM 18:57, 2004 Dec 27 (UTC)
When, and if, this article is improved by linking to the list, I won't object to linking to the list. Meanwhile, we shouldn't make changes that aren't improvements. The way to limit the effect of brain-damage on the Wikipedia is to refuse to link to it. --BM 19:05, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
It seems almost self-evident to me that an article on atheism would be improved by a link to a list of atheists, since people who come here to read about atheism are quite likely to also be interested in knowing who some of the adherents of that philosophy are. If the quality of the currently-existing list is poor, the answer is not to remove the to link to it; the answer is to fix it. If the article Antonov An-124 was to be vandalized, would it make sense to remove the link to it from wide-body aircraft until it got repaired? Bryan 02:49, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Here's what you do. VfD the article, make a valid argument for deleting it, see if it gets deleted. If it doesn't, then you must accept that Wikipedian consensus is to keep it, and as such link it in the see also because it's obviously related. Andre (talk) 18:12, Dec 27, 2004 (UTC)

Obviously related? How so? See Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not: What Wikipedia articles are not, "10. Lists or repositories of loosely associated topics such as quotations, aphorisms or persons. But of course there is nothing wrong with having lists if their entries are famous because they are associated with or significantly contributed to the list topic." (Some emphasis added. Note "because".) Are all of those listed persons famous because they are associated with or significantly contributed to atheism? If not, list of atheists is not only incomplete and POV but also rubbish and irrelevant. Adraeus 22:54, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I agree with you. But that isn't the point. The point is that, however POV the article is, it's related to atheism. Andre (talk) 23:59, Dec 27, 2004 (UTC)

As an experiment, I picked Dave Barry from the List of atheists, did a Google search, and added a sentence to the Dave Barry article reporting his atheism. It will be interesting to see what happens to it. My hypothesis is that the sentence will be removed. We can have the unsourced fact that Barry is an atheist in the list article, but I'm betting that it will be regarded as irrelevant and POV in the actual article on Barry. While I'm at it, I think I'll add a back link to the Barry article to this article, and List of atheists. This is perhaps a bit on the trolling side, which I regret, but hopefully it will make a useful point about this stupid list. --BM 18:59, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)

that's not the point. I agree the list should be restricted to people who are actually relevant to atheism. the point is that such a statement would belong on that article's talk page, not on this. dab () 19:16, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Concur. Let me stress that I believe the link should be there whether the linked-to article sucks or not. That's what I'm discussing, not on what is all wrong with List of atheists, which is frankly a completely different matter. I would be the first to agree that a blanket list of people is near worthless, POV and wrong. But even articles that are near worthless, POV and wrong should be linked to if their topic is relevant. If only to know to alert people that they're there.
Yes, I am wasting my breath on nothing but a single link, how crazy is that? :-) JRM 20:04, 2004 Dec 27 (UTC)
I guess If I were capable of your touching faith that List of atheists was deletable through VfD, or that it could be fixed in the near term with anything like a reasonable amount of effort and a modicum of aggravation, I guess I wouldn't be an atheist. Instead, I have more the Internet attitude of "routing around the damage". You can prove me wrong, though, by getting it deleted or fixing it. --BM 20:19, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I'll gladly put my money where my mouth is. But give me time. I can't work miracles. And I'm just one person. Obviously VfD is not the way to go, even if you wanted to. So that leaves fixing the content. See way below. JRM 23:40, 2004 Dec 27 (UTC)
call me lukewarm, but I appreciate both sides. "route around damage" if you see it as unsalvageable crap, or link to it in the hope that someone will take pity and make it worthwile, sometime. I do think the latter approach is more WP-like though, because WP is riddled with bad articles at this point, and if we just "routed around" them, they would never improve. dab () 21:09, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
My attitude is to route around the articles that seem not worth the effort to fix and which are not important to fix, and to pitch in and fix articles that are damaged and important. List of atheists just seems difficult to fix not because it is inherently hard to fix but just because of stupidity. It is easy to route around because it doesn't contain anything very important. As for deleting it, right now VfD is finding it impossible to delete Gay Nigger Association of America, on the fourth attempt. The cards are stacked against deleting articles: first, because it requires a two-thirds vote; second, on top of this, there is strong retentionist current that you have to swim against for all but the absolutely clear-cut cases; and third, there is the precedent of a huge weight of crud that provides ample justificaiton for retaining any particular cruddy article. That is, people who will vote "keep" on principle unless an article is absolute vanity and/or nonsense (and sometimes even then) -- people who will always argue, why pick on this article when we have all these other cruddy articles? Given this, to then have JRM announce that he feels an obligation to link to anything that it is vaguely related, is quite disconcerting. Thank heaven the trolls didn't decide to call themselves Gay Atheists Association of America, else we might be fighting off the links in this article. --BM 21:18, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Nah-ah-ah. Stay at the top of that slippery slope, please. I didn't ever use the word "vaguely", and I wouldn't. List of alleged atheists? List of Christians? List of people who have not explicitly acknowledged any theistic faith? Not relevant — or not relevant enough, rather. The "See also" section is not a game of free association. But let's face it — if List of atheists is not related to atheism, then that's a fault of the list, not its topic. JRM 23:40, 2004 Dec 27 (UTC)
That sort of list is beyond the ability of the current wiki process to salvage. How did it get as it is now? About two thirds of it would have to be deleted for a start, and that would immediately be labelled "vandalism", "deletionist", or (by nice people) "loss of information". If you want to prove me wrong, I'd be delighted. --BM 00:49, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Hey, I can always try. And if people want to try a round of pin-the-label, they're welcome to it. Be civil, assume good faith, stay cool, be bold. Such is my mantra, and I'm willing to approach any ungrateful task with it. Said the naive fool before getting slaughtered. :-) JRM 01:21, 2004 Dec 28 (UTC)

Right, with regards to putting my money where my mouth is — everyone is cordially invited to some ruthless editing over at List of atheists, which has been put up for attention. Let's see if we can't salvage something from this discussion. JRM 23:40, 2004 Dec 27 (UTC)

(I'm here again!) I would put a little list concerning some relevant atheists such as Stephen Hawking or anyone. That's not against the WP policies and, if it's irrelevant, please say why (this is the same as in Charles Darwin: no one says why the factoid is irrelevant). Wikipedia has got lists for lots of peoples associated to topics, why can't atheism have one? --Neigel von Teighen 17:12, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Mentioning list of companies and list of rocks, yea or nay

Yea. I argue that a list of companies and a list of rocks are highly relevant—using Andrevan's definition of "relevance"—to atheism considering that nonliving things are incapable of thought. These objects—being without theistic beliefs—are inherently atheistic. Adraeus 00:17, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

No Lets not make it even worse just to make a point. --BM 00:46, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Fnord. Adraeus is funny man, he is. Makes Andrevan look really stupid, yes he does. JRM 01:16, 2004 Dec 28 (UTC)

Yeah, yeah. Wikipedia: Don't disrupt Wikipedia to prove a point. Andre (talk) 02:01, Dec 28, 2004 (UTC)

Good advice. Irrelevant construct. Adraeus 06:19, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Are we joking? I'll consult my rock-friend about this... :) --Neigel von Teighen 17:15, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Well, of course Adraeus clearly didn't know what he was talking about. Everyone knows rocks are God. See pantheism. And rocks are obviously capable of consciousness (panpsychism) so there's no reason to assume they couldn't hold theistic belief in themselves. Errr.... :-) JRM 18:27, 2004 Dec 28 (UTC)

I'm pretty happy with the "Atheism is the condition of being without theistic beliefs"; great article in general, too. That is really all that's necessary for one to be classified an "atheist" (without getting into long debates on the consciousness). I think it's time for someone to condense this and archive it... as Wiki suggests.

Other than the rather long bit in the intro that really belongs in the History section, I agree. This entire passage is not central to the intro and should be moved to History before the article is archived:
"In antiquity, atheism was represented by Epicureanism... ...and the dominant position amongst naturalists and rationalists."
--FeloniousMonk 21:59, 3 Jan 2005 (UTC)
I'm not familiar with the Wiki policy of "condensing and archiving". Can someone explain what that involves or provide me with a pointer to the relevant policy article? --BM 22:05, 3 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Article and discussion pages may not exceed 32 KB. See Wikipedia:Browser page size limits. When a page exceeds or nears 32 KB, a notice will appear at the top of the page upon accessing the edit function alerting editors to the issue. Adraeus 00:45, 4 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Consensus reality

In my wanderings on Wikipedia I stumbled across the "consensus reality" article, and it seems a perfect example of what early atheists were struggling against, a consensus reality of a religious universe. Given that this is such a controversial topic and that I've read in pervious comments here that consensus is the means to edit this article (Wikipedia:Be bold in editing pages notwithstanding), is this an acceptable addition to "Strong atheism"?

Strong atheism, also known as explicit atheism or positive atheism, is the position... also be based on a psychological understanding of the nature of faith and belief in a religious or spiritual context. Strong atheists reject the "consensus reality" of a religious or supernatural universe.

Or is this too POV? --kudz75 04:32, 13 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I doubt many people understand what a consensus reality is. However, it would be incorrect; there are a number of religions which allow for one to be a strong atheist. Remember, atheist does not equate to irreligious. Titanium Dragon 21:15, 13 Jan 2005 (UTC)


Does anyone have a source for this sentence: " Socrates was accused (for political reasons) to be an 'atheos' because of studying the celestial and terrenal objects (the study of natural science), although he claimed to be inspired by a daimon. This proves the existence of atheism in the ancient Greece." (By "terrenal," did the editor mean "terrestial"?) Socrates was accused of corrupting the youth of the city because of his philosophical teachings, not because he was a student of natural science. I'm not sure I see what it was that proved the existence of atheism in Ancient Greece. Socrates was accused of not believing in the gods the city believed in. SlimVirgin 15:01, Jan 13, 2005 (UTC)

I concur. The mention that was labelled "atheos" may be relevant, but claiming "proof" of atheism in ancient Greece is a non sequitur, especially since it explicitly mentions that Socrates was accused of being "atheos" for political reasons. In fact, if Socrates really claimed inspiration from a daemon, he could arguably not have been an atheist in the modern sense. If we want to establish the existence of atheism in ancient Greece, this doesn't seem the way to do it.
To me, "terrenal" indeed appears to be a peculiar alternative to "terrestrial"; the derivation sort-of makes sense but simply doesn't exist in English. I reworded the section. I have never heard of the "daemon" claim, but I'm assuming good faith and leaving it in. Someone with more knowledge of Socrates fix it if it's false or source it if it's true. JRM 01:52, 2005 Jan 24 (UTC)

Weak Atheism = Agnosticism?

Could somebody explain to me the difference between weak atheism and agnosticism? Much of the argument on this page appears to be between the issue of 'positively' negative belief (strong atheism), and a suspension of judgement (weak atheism). As far as I see it, a suspension of judgement about the existence of god or other deities is agnosticism; how can a Buddhist maintain that Buddha is an inherently desirable state which must be acknowledged and remain an atheist? If somebody told me the difference between weak atheism and agnosticism, I might finally be able to sleep at night. ;) Sextus 01:52, 16 Jan 2005 (UTC)

weak atheism, strong atheism, agnostic atheism, agnosticism, atheism Adraeus 04:52, 16 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Atheism is a statement about belief, agnosticism is a statement about knowledge (and the possibility thereof). The two are related but not synonymous; it's possible to believe something without knowing it to be true, for example. Bryan 05:44, 16 Jan 2005 (UTC)
It might also be noted that someone can be agnostic and atheistic; there are many terms in the English language which overlap, and many groups which overlap. Also, as for "how can a Buddhist maintain that Buddha is an inherently desirable state which must be acknowledged and remain an atheist," atheism is not irreligion. Titanium Dragon 11:12, 16 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Thanks for the help! I see that different people's conceptions of the term atheism should be noted in the article. Personally, however, I think that I'll stick to my definitions (that atheism is the denial of religious belief and agnosticism a suspention of judgement about belief rather than about knowledge, which for me is covered by philosophical scepticism). Those (like me) who insist on their personal definition of the subject should edit something else! Sextus 17:53, 16 Jan 2005 (UTC)
The varying interpretations of atheism are noted in the article. For several months, we traveled through hell to reach this point of serenity.
Gnosis regards knowledge and not belief; however, using Kant we can argue philosophically—eternally—that all knowledge is belief. Thomas Huxley coined "agnostic" from Gk. agnostos (unknown, unknowable) in 1870 to mean "one who professes that the existence of a First Cause and the essential nature of things are not and cannot be known."
"I ... invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of 'agnostic,' ... antithetic to the 'Gnostic' of Church history who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant." [T.H. Huxley, "Science and Christian Tradition," 1889]
Contrast gnosis with diagnosis and prognosis. Diagnosis means "to discern (or distinguish)" while prognosis means "to know beforehand."
Adraeus 19:26, 16 Jan 2005 (UTC)