Talk:Atheism/Archive 20

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Atheism and Science

I am in the sciences, and it is rare to find anyone so dogmatic to proclaim faith in Atheism. Agnosticism is common, but so is theism. The Nature reference is a red herring--the survey asked scientists if they believed in "a God in intellectual and affective communication with humankind", which would imply that God frequently changes physical laws to answer the prayers of all of humankind. "Intellectual" implies dialogue, "affective" means direct cause-result, and "humankind" (rather than "sometimes") means frequently. A large number of Christians would express disbelief to this! Note that one's disbelief in God's "intellectual and affective communication with humankind" does not preclude even overt miracles. This poll was taken in typical "push-poll" fashion, asking if God often intervenes before asking if God grants personal immortality.

It looks like this article has been hijacked by the militant atheists, which is a shame. The atheists efforts to ride in on the coattails of science has led to all sorts of abominations. Take in point evolution--evolution IS NOT A FACT, nor is ANY scientific theory. Even Newton's Physics is NOT A FACT (in fact, it's wrong--but it's usually close enough). You can't directly prove anything about the real world. The atheists who promote evolution as fact are doing at least as much of a disservice to science as the creationists, except that (1) a student taught creationism as theory is still allowed to question his scientific beliefs (that is, to think critically) and (2) many creationism stress Divine Creation as what happened but accept evolution as a useful predictive theory--these creationists do not conflict with science, they conflict with Atheists. I view the creationists as a distraction to science (which is a negative role), but the militant Atheists are a downright hindrance to scientific progress.

I tried to make some quick edits to fix the bias, but they are imperfect.

   - James

Intro: history summary

The old discussion about the intro being inappropriate due to simply being a summary of the history of atheism has been archived, I see. I still think it would be better to remove the history summary. BM are you still opposed to that? --Yath 19:35, 31 Mar 2005 (UTC)

How can we improve the introduction? Adraeus 20:15, 31 Mar 2005 (UTC)
There should be a summary of the article in the introduction. It needs a couple more sentences summarizing the sections which are not presently summarized. The few sentences summarizing the history should not be removed. --BM 21:28, 31 Mar 2005 (UTC)

categorization in "philosophy of religion"

Adraeus just took this article out of Category:Philosophy of religion with the reasoning "religion isn't a component of theism or atheism." I disagree, at least to the effect that I think this article should be categorized as such; atheism is IMO quite closely linked to religion in subject matter; there are references to and discussions of religious matters scattered all throughout this article. In addition, philosophy of religion says that one of the two main questions that philosophy of religion is meant to address is "Do we have any good reason to think that God exists, or to think that God does not exist?". Finally, Category:Atheism is already a subcategory of Category:Religion, so the connection between the two is already established. Bryan 05:57, 1 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Has anyone ever told you that it is extremely rude to speak of someone in the third person when they're directly accessible? Since Category:Philosophy of religion is a subcategory of Category:Philosophy, which covers all the bases, I don't see why you object. On the other hand, atheism neither concerns "the rational study of the meaning and justification of fundamental religious claims" (philosophy of science) or "the critical study of the most fundamental questions that humankind has been able to ask" (philosophy). In the non-academic use of the term philosophy, strong atheism sometimes involves a way of living without gods, the supernatural, etc., but weak atheism and atheism in general do not.
To be without god-beliefs does not necessitate being without religion. Religion and theism are not mutually inclusive or exclusive. So, an atheist is not required to be without or against religion to be without or against theistic beliefs just as a theist is not required to be with or for religion to be with or for theistic beliefs.
Thus, religion is not a component of theism or atheism. (A component is a required part.) Adraeus 06:34, 1 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I wasn't addressing the comment solely to you, otherwise I would have put it on your user talk: page instead of here. Wikipedia:Categorization includes "A good general rule is that articles should be placed in the most specific categories they reasonably fit in", and so since I believe the atheism article fits well under "philosophy of religion" I don't think leaving it in the supercategory is appropriate. As for whether atheism really belongs there, I'm not saying that atheism is solely about religion, just that it intersects with that subject enough to be categorized there. Bryan 16:30, 1 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I'm afraid that I have no idea what all thia talk about components is about. Atheism is one of the central concerns of the philosophy of religion (moreover, the philosophy of religion is the only area of philosophy that discusses it); as a philosopher of religion myself, I'm astonished that anyone should argue otherwise. This isn't a matter of opinion, or something open to argument; it's a simple documented fact. I'll replace the category. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:13, 1 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I agree with Mel that the article should be in Category:Philosophy of religion, one of the main topics of which is the existence or non-existence of God or gods. Atheism is not a religion, but it is a position in the philosophy of religion, or a religious philosophy. --BM 13:15, 1 Apr 2005 (UTC)

We're talking about "components" purely because of a comment Adraeus made while making the change, which is is mild danger of being conflated with the logic of the change per se. (If A. will forgive my extreme rudeness in making a 3rd person reference.) I agree with the above two editors: it's related to philosophy of religion, it goes directly to one of the main concerns of PoR, of all the branches of philosophy, that's the one it's most closely related to. Alai

I agree that atheism is related to the philosophy of religion, but atheism is not a philosophy of religion except where strong atheism may concern. The supercategory is more appropriate, I think. Adraeus 21:14, 1 Apr 2005 (UTC)

The category 'philosophy of religion isn't for 'philosophies of religion' (whatever that means), but for topics in the philosophy of religion. That's the standard Wikipedia usage of categories like this, and is certainly the intention of this one, because I created it. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 21:24, 1 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Ah, thanks for the clarification. By the way, you don't have to "revert" everything I do. It is possible to simply "make changes". Adraeus 21:27, 1 Apr 2005 (UTC)

a concept not a condition

atheism is a concept, not a condition, by saying condition you make it seem like its something bad and horrible, like a concusion, atheism is a concept, a concept is a type of belief

I can see why you might think that this is the case, but please accept from a native speaker (and an atheist) that that isn't the implication of the wording, and that your version doesn't make grammatical sense. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 20:24, 2 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Changing the core definition of atheism is intolerable. Through extensive discussion, the dominant and active editors of atheism have developed an extremely accurate introduction to atheism using extremely precise wording. Condition is defined as "a mode of being or form of existence of a person or thing", such as the human condition or "the condition of being human". A condition is merely a state of being, which may be dependent on various factors. A condition of being, however, is a thing's natural state of existence. Developmental psychology and cognitive sciences have scientifically suggested that humans are born without awareness of deities, and therefore, without belief in deities (atheism). Consequently, the condition of being an atheist (i.e., a person without theistic beliefs) is inherent to the condition of being an Earth-born human. For theists who posit that humans are born aware of deities, which is unlikely, the term condition allows application of its alternative definition "an assumption on which rests the validity or effect of something else" thus neutralizing any claim of POV regarding the core definition of atheism. Moreover, any claim of ill-meaning regarding the term condition is also neutralized considering that the term condition is not attributed with any disease-related definition, which also means that such claims are founded on an ignorance of terminology and the common usage of terms. Adraeus 11:22, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

you know, I actually agree Adraeus' version is slightly superior. But I still wish the haggling could be conducted with slightly less hysteria. And, of course, the sweat and tears could go into actually expanding miserable stub articles. ah, and I don't think an arcticle of such a scope should be protected over a squabble over "concept" vs. "condition". dab () 11:33, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

To which stub articles are you referring? I've been working on fixing formatting inconsistencies in hundreds of articles and re-categorizing controversial topics (Category:Controversial topics) in an attempt to move away from the primitive list of controversial issues. If you want to comment on article protection, post at Wikipedia:Requests_for_page_protection. Ultimately, the administrators make their decision to protect independent of whatever reasons the requestees cite. Adraeus 11:38, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Trying to get the page protected over a couple of minor edits is hysterical, I agree.
I had thought that there wasn't much to choose between the two versions, but Adraeus' explanation has pushed me towards the word 'state'. He seems to be claiming that we should state as a fact that atheism is the natural human condition; I believe that it is, but there's certainly no 'scientific proof', as he puts it. Moreover, his argument applies at best only to weak atheism, and leaves out of account all those who came to the state of atheism after the atate of religious belief.
The anon who sparked this off is obviously a non-native speaker, and misunderstood the term 'condition', but that's surely no reason to refuse to think about the issue that he raised. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 12:05, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)
"weak atheism" is a joke. I think we only keep it to humour people, so that the real article can be edited in peace. Incidentially, I do not think atheism is the natural human condition at all, but rather a cultural achievment, which may be lost again spontaneously, any time, as demonstrated by many "western" nations' demographics, these days. dab () 12:18, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)
"Weak atheism" is not a "joke" since it has been well-documented by various philosophers throughout history. "Strong atheists" may view "weak atheism" as a "joke", which we mention in the article, however, editing the article to suit only strong atheism is POV. "Condition of being" applies to both weak atheists and strong atheists. Strong atheists simply add the assertion that deities do not exist. Adraeus 22:24, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Well, one could use 'weak atheism' to describe the situation of someone who has simply never thought about or conceived of anything like a god, and 'strong atheism' to erefer to those who have thought about it, and rejected it. In that sense, at least, I'd say that we're all born (weak) atheists. Some thinkers have denied this, though (Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza, for example), and science is unable to settle the matter. I'd argue against the existence of innate ideas, but this article surely isn't the place for such a discussion. perhaps a brief mention of it should be included (if it isn't already; I can't remember off-hand). Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 12:53, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

'State' works for me, though I have to say I'd have to get out of bed on a very bad side to get too grumpy about "condition" or "concept", either. (Via the headboard, perhaps?) I'm also unimpressed by the request for page protection, not to say the tone of certain recent comments. Alai 16:19, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

'State' works, if only to appease the ignorant. Mel Etitis' edit was tedious though and introduced the fallacy of either/or. Adraeus 22:24, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I think Mel's new first sentence is an improvement -- not mainly because of the substitution of 'state' for 'condition', but because of the improved parallellism in the syntax. I don't like either 'state' or 'condition', although if I had to pick, I have a slight preference for 'state'. But this is my strong atheism talking -- which views the 'weak atheist' definition of "atheism" as a state or condition as confused. --BM 19:05, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

This is a somewhat tangential comment, but just to put in a word for weak atheists: Positivists would generally be classified thus, but have a plenty sophisticated justification for their position, certainly not necessarily less so that the "strongs". Alai 20:10, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)
That may be true, but positivists would not define themselves as "weak atheists" -- that is, as being in the "state" of being without a belief in God. They take a position, which is that religious language is meaningless. Defining the "absence" of a position on a topic as one of the possible positions seems to me to be nonsensical, but there you are. --BM 21:00, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)
They might well not so define themselves, but this article defines them that way. It doesn't say weak atheists are people who take no position at all on the existence of deities, but that they're absent belief in the existence of deities. Alai 21:15, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Adraeus has, without explanation (except for a nomic and opaque reference to the 'fallacy of either/or'), changed the summary so as to remove the syntactical symmetry that I'd added (and which BM had remarked upon approvingly), and to change the grammatical 'any deity' to the ungrammatical 'any deities'. I've reverted to my version; perhaps he'll explain his thinking here before changing it again. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 23:31, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I'm requesting arbitration. I've had enough of your bigoted reverting every edit I make. Adraeus 23:34, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Well, first, I haven't reverted every edit you've made, nor anything like it. Secondly, your accusation of bigotry is vague and groundless. Thirdly, it's generally considered polite (if not actually required by the rules) to let someone know of a move like this on their Talk page, even if it is as frivolous as this one. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:26, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)

[ Mel Etitis ] You've reverted every significant edit I've made since your appearance as an editor here. You've reduced me to being only valuable as a wiki-janitor of atheism. You've also given no consideration to that fact that I am among those who have greatly contributed to the progress and content of this article, like BM. Your antagonistic behavior towards my contributions demonstrably and definitionally justifies the accusation of bigotry — you are intolerant of my opinions which differ from yours, and you are dogmatic in thinking that you are incapable of error. Adraeus 13:59, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Adraeus, in all probability your request will just be turned down. Not because "Mel Etitis is popular while you are not", but because you didn't even go through RfC stage. The arbcom has more urgent tasks than to caucus over the injustice of replacing 'condition' with 'state'. Have a look at Wikipedia:The universe does not revolve around you (and m:MPOV). dab () 10:05, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Seeking arbitration is a process. That means going through the appropriate phases of the process, which includes RfC. I'm preparing for RfC. By the way, you completely misunderstand the reasons for my intent to seek arbitration. Mel Etitis has been strongly against me and all significant edits I've made since his/her appearance as an editor in this article, and each comment made by him/her regarding my contributions and I is a blatant violation of Wikipedia policy against ad hominem comments. For instance, Mel Etitis described a recent revert of mine as "hysteria". If you were actually concerned with analyzing assertions of frivolousness, you'd be delighted by more examples of Mel Etitis's antagonistic behavior simply by looking up. The case is not me. This isn't about me. It's more like "Wikipedia:The universe does not revolve around Mel Etitis". Adraeus 13:59, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
but then I remember you also considered it a personal attack when I misspelled your nick on one occasion. meden agan. btw, WP:RfC is not considered "arbitration", only the last resort, WP:RFAr is. dab () 14:28, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Whether the misspelling of my alias was ad hominem is dependent on how you spelled it (e.g., "Andrea" and "Andreas" are feminine names). WP:RfC is one of the first stages of the formal arbitration process ("the hearing and determination of a dispute by an impartial referee agreed to by both parties", a.k.a. dispute resolution), not WP:RfAr. I know what WP:RfAr involves. I've experienced it and I've been affected by it too. Adraeus 17:13, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)


To the anon IP re: your sentence: "Atheism is a concept/state of being without theistic beliefs ..." Edits have to be gramatically correct: "is a concept of being without" isn't. SlimVirgin (talk) 23:44, Apr 3, 2005 (UTC)

To, I'm reverting your edits because they make no sense. "Atheism is a belief of not having faith in theistic beliefs ..." "A belief of not having faith in" is meaningless, as is a belief in beliefs. Please leave the first sentence as it is, or try to gain consensus on the talk page for a change. Many thanks, SlimVirgin (talk) 23:58, Apr 3, 2005 (UTC)

I've given the anon advance warning on the 3-revert rule over on his user talk page, suggesting he come here to discuss the matter further. Bryan 00:56, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Greetings and salutations

I have been requested to take part here. I will begin to do so. This is your sole and final warning. (Sam Spade | talk | contributions) 23:46, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

"Neow-body expects the Spanish Inquisi-shunn!" (sorry :o) dab ()
¡Ay caramba, es señor Samuel Pala! JRM 10:28, 2005 Apr 4 (UTC)
Please bare in mind that any attempts at anti-atheistic christian vandalism will be very quickly removed by the large number of honest people who are ready for your well known POV attacks Sam.Aaarrrggh 13:13, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Please review Wikipedia:Civility "Aaarrrggh". Your attempt at slander has been taken note of. (Sam Spade | talk | contributions) 15:32, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I was being perfectly civil. If your edits do not amount to the same kind of POV vandalism that you have been known for in the past, there will not be a problem. I don't see how this amounts to slander - it is a perfectly established fact. Aaarrrggh 19:40, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I think Sam meant libel here, not slander. Either way, Aaarrrggh is right. The archives of Talk:Atheism are a testament to Sam's 11 months of POV obstructionism here. Considering the disruption he caused and the number of new editors here now, Aaarrrggh's comment was necessary in that there is a well founded public interest in this specific information being widely known to save us from falling into the same deadlock caused by one tractable POV. And Aaarrrggh is also right in pointing out that truth is an affirmative defense against charges of slander. So since Sam's history in the archives of Talk:Atheism proves that his statement was based on fact, Sam's claim of defamation is groundless. That they are indeed facts also establishes that Aaarrrggh was only right to caution Sam.
Many of the long time contributors here will be watching again for the insertion into the article of the misbegotten POV that weak atheists aren't really atheists or that atheism isn't a natural state, these are historically the two points of Sam's that needlessly resulted in months of the article being locked to editing. We learned painfully the last time how to deal with biased or obstructionist editors, this time we're better prepared. --FeloniousMonk 20:39, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I think Sam Spade deserves a chance to participate (and cooperate) in the development of this article regardless of his worldview. (His previous defensive behavior, I think, certainly wasn't as negative as Mel Etitis' current antagonism...) With this article being recently and strictly managed by atheists, we've run into a more difficult problem that concerns the irrational and abusively biased declaration by explicit atheists that implicit atheism doesn't exist, is a "joke" (thank the local admin, dab, for that ad hominem insult to us implicit atheists), or that implicit atheism isn't a form of atheism at all (credits: BM). Quite simply, this discussion requires a third-party non-atheist viewpoint no matter how twisted, shallow, incompetent, ignorant, and/or incorrect some editors may perceive it. Third-party input is useful for allowing reasonable editors to see an issue from another angle not considered. (Sorry, Sam, if any of that was offensive. Offense not intended.) Adraeus 21:43, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Nobody's trying to deny Sam a chance to participate here because of his "world views" -- it's his behavior that's been the problem. Anyone who doubts that he's behaved trollishly need only review his vandalism of my talk page today and his failed attempt at gaming the system with a misguided SLAPP action speciously claiming a copyright violation. It's his actions that cast doubt on his ability to contribute honestly and meaningfully, not his POV.--FeloniousMonk 01:16, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
None taken Adraeus, thank you for your thoughtful concern. (Sam Spade | talk | contributions) 22:06, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
For the record, I have neither said nor implied that implicit atheism isn't atheism; indeed, I've said the opposite. But the rest of your comments will be useful if you really do intend to bring an RfC... Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 22:12, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I apologize for crediting you with the opposite of what you've said. I'm thinking about you way too much! ;) I removed the credit. Adraeus 23:40, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
A few of us have been quite open all along about being strong atheists, and even with one more strong atheist in the editing crew (namely, Mel), I reckon we are still in the minority here. Whatever we might opine about weak atheism on this Talk page, nobody is arguing that it is not currently a common definition of atheism and doesn't belong in the article. And I don't think Mel substitituting "state" for "condition" and cleaning up the syntax of the first sentence a little can really be construed as the strong atheists suddenly on a rampage, Adraeus, old bean. --BM 22:33, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Explicit atheists are the majority — the dominant, active, powerful, and vocal majority — here. Implicit atheists are the minority, I think. I'm a scientific objectivist, Sartrean existentialist, Russellian rationalist, and an agnostic atheist so those classifications organize me into a definite minority [of possibly a single member]. Adraeus 23:40, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I do not have a problem with people coming from the article from different worldviews, what I have a problem with is a known troll such as samspade comining back to an article that he has very clearly tried to hinder and to vandalise in the past. He even stated explicitly that (and I quote), " And third, the bias against me from those lacking rigour is so extreme that there is no way in hell they are going to be convinced by anything I say. I could predict next weekÍs stock prices, and they'd still do nothing other than vomit forth the bile that has earned godlessness its infamy.[1]" In the same archive, you also make your own intentions regarding this article very clear: "I am in the habit of being bold, and I don't intend to change that. If you like some of my edits, reinsert them. I'll do just as I said, and come back someday when my improvements might not be reverted out of hand, and opposed by consensus." Translation: I am going to wait in the wings until I think I stand a chance of getting my POV edits into the article unedited.
As I have already said, I do not have a problem with you coming here and helping the article along. The second you start your famous POV trolling again however, I'm gonna be one amongst many others who will stop you before you even get started. Aaarrrggh 13:56, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

ok, but why rant about it? I don't think Sam sees himself as a troll. Just take his edits as they come, history or no history. dab () 14:18, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

As I've said, if he comes here and edits productively I don't have a problem, but this particular user has such a history of (attempted) POV bullying that anyone familiar with his previous efforts on this article will naturally be somewhat alarmed that he is back here again - especially after he basically told us some time ago he was going to come back and carry on as per usual when he believed he stood a greater chance of having his edits accepted. I'm just going to sit back and watch now. Aaarrrggh 14:35, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Aaarrrggh (and Felonious, too, for that matter): Sam Spade is a Wikipedian in good standing. You may think he should not be, and probably there are others who agree with you. Your recourse is not to make Sam the target of your ire on the Talk page of every article where you happen to end up with him as a co-editor. That simply lowers the tone of the discussion on the Talk pages. You only put yourself in the wrong by being uncivil and by engaging in personal attacks. If you feel compelled to do something about Sam, go to the Arbitration Committee and make the case that he should be banned. However, before doing so, consider that your own lack of civility and personal attacks will distract attention from whatever points you are trying to make and the Arb Comm is apt to simply wash its hands of the matter -- or to discipline everybody involved. Speaking personally, while I find Sam's editing behaviour a bit exasperating at times, I have not found him hard to work with. He generally returns politeness with the same, which I find is often true of people. --BM 14:52, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

that's more or less what I wanted to convey in fewer words :) dab () 15:21, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)


ok, since we're talking about dictionary definitions: [1]

Most generally received or current; most widely adopted or practiced; also, generally or extensively existing; widespread; prevailing; as, a prevalent observance; prevalent disease.

prevalent is a stronger term than widespread, which is again stronger than common. Atheism is certainly not "prevalent" in all cultures, it is not even common in all cultures, it is arguably in existence in all cultures, but even that is a strong claim, it took me a long time to find anything like an atheist from the European Middle Ages (c.f. the Löffler case in the history section). Anybody who claims that "atheism was prevalent in the Middle Ages" (which would be a corollary of "in all cultures"), is simply bullshitting you. dab () 10:25, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Yes, of course; I've changed the wording — is that OK now? (Oh, and I removed the inverted commas from 'Tao', as we're presumably concerned with the concept rather than the word.) Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 10:36, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Intro -- question

The introduction makes a claim that I find very strong and very surprising: "By the 20th century, atheism had become the most common position among scientists, rationalists, and humanists". Is there a source for this statistic? I didn't see one elsewhere in the article. I apologize if this has been discussed before (there are a lot of archives up there...). --SamuelScarano 06:23, 2005 Apr 5 (UTC)

I asked a similar question previously too. I'd like to see more sources cited since lack of citation is Wikipedia's biggest failing as an academically credible reference. Adraeus 07:59, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I suppose the statement is worthless, since "rationalist and humanists" are pretty much (not quite) defined by their atheism. I say, remove or attribute. dab () 08:08, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

With regard to scientists, reference is given to at least one study in the article, and I gave another reference (Talk:Atheism/Archive 19#Scientists). 'Rationalist' and 'humanist' aren't defined by atheism (and many religious philosophers (as opposed to philosophers of religion) and Christian Humanists would be surprised to be told that they were). Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:30, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

yes, but we cannot lump them together like that.
  • the study shows a narrow majority of atheists among early 20th c. natural scientists.
  • Humanism is indeed not defined by atheism, atheism may rather be considered a logical continuation of humanism (since humanism focuses on humans instead of on God. As soon as humans are more important than God, it is only a small step towards atheism. Arguably, Christianity is humanist theism, since it really boils down to God becoming human, which psychologists have long identified as a rationalization of the inverse desire of humans to become God). I have no idea how we are supposed to come up with a percentage of early 20th c. atheist humanists, short of unearthing a poll where people were asked "are you a humanist? are you an atheist?".
  • Rationalists, moreover, are necessarily atheists. You cannot be a rationalist and at the same time rely on a concept defined by its transcendence of rationality.
dab () 09:48, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

But many believers don't hold that the concept of god is defined by its transcendence of rationality. I don't just mean Thomists, though they're obviously significant, but it's the official position of the Catholic Church, and has been held by the majority of philosophers of religion, from Augustine (and before, in fact) to Swinburne, van Inwagen, Plantinga, Adams, Stump, et al. The retreat to a notion of faith based in irrationality is relatively recent as a mainstream phenomenon. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:54, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

ok, this is rather subtle now. afaik, Thomism holds that the necessity of existence of God is provable rationally, but I suppose the proof heavily relies on the point of rationality itself having been created by God. This doesn't imply that God does not transcend rationality, indeed, if he didn't, God would just be a Turing machine. So, similarly to infinite regression, which is a valid proof without actually performing an infinite number of regressions, Thomists hold that God's existence can be proven rationally, without claiming that they could in principle implement a complete model of God. The question is, is a rationalist somebody who believes that existence presupposes rational cause, or is a rationalist merely someone who thinks that it is useful to make rational arguments now and again? Are we talking about weak and strong rationalism here (*rolleyes*) ?
All this is beside the point really, since we're really just looking for an attribution of the statement in question. dab () 10:02, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

There are dozens of ways of rationally proving God, personal revelation being the most obvious. See Arguments for the existence of God. There is nothing about rationalism that excludes theism. What about pantheism for crissakes, if you define God as existence, you can rationally prove existence, can't you? (Sam Spade | talk | contributions) 10:05, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Personal revelation doesn't count as proof of god; first, for all sorts of reasons that this isn't the place to into, concerning the nature of private experience, etc., but secondly because proof is here used with regard to the third person. x's claim to have personally experienced god shouldn't convince y of anything. the question isn't whether any of the arguments works, but whether it's a matter for rational argument at all. the history of theology and philosophy says yes. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 10:10, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
hm, I am not sure you are really on top of this conversation. Logically, the statement you have just removed is the more meaningful the more ways there are, as you claim, of "proving" God rationally. So, are you saying we remove it because it is not meaningful, since all rationalists are atheists anyway, or are we removing it because there were actually more theist than atheist rationalists? Can we also just wait with the edit warring for a minute until we have sorted this out here? dab () 10:11, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

In fact we still have in the article:

It is particularly prevalent among scientists, a tendency already quite marked at the beginning of the twentieth century, developing into a dominant one during the course of the century.

which as far as I'm concerned says it all, so I'm quite satisfied with removing the other more hand-waving statement as redundant. dab () 10:17, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

  1. I'm simply saying that being a rationalist doesn't imply being an atheist (aside from anything else, one can be a rationalist and wrong); thus the claim that most rationalists are atheists isn't tautologous, as was claimed.
  2. I replaced the sentence simply because it was still under discussion, and I thought it better to finish talking before acting.
  3. The fact that it's in the article, explained at greater length, surely doesn't preclude it from appearing in the summary; rather the reverse, if anything. Isn't the summary supposed, in part, to summarise what comes later? Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 10:29, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

It would be helpful if SS could stop removing the sentence in question while we're still in the process of discussing it. Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 10:33, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

The intro doesn't say that rationalism or humanism necessitate atheism; it says that atheism is the dominant position among rationalists and humanists. I am confident that this is true. However, I'm in favor of removing rationalists and humanists unless someone can produce surveys or polls of "rationalists" or "humanists" similar to those we have cited in the article and on the Talk page concerning "scientists". If such polls were done, I don't have much doubt as to the outcome, notwithstanding the odd Catholic humanist, Thomist, pantheist, or Deist here or there. But I don't know how we would prove this. --BM 10:51, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

  1. I yield to this point, but note the intro to Rationalism: yes, it's not identical with, or a subset of atheism, but it's a related stance, so that it is no marvel that most rationalists should be atheists.
  2. I think it would be best to find a compromise. Right now, the intro addresses scientists, rationalists and humanists. Only the "scientists" claim is backed up by the article. I readily believe that percentage among the remaining groups is even higher, but if it's in the intro, it should be elaborated upon in the article.
  3. again, granted for "scientists", not the case for rationalists or humanists.

it's a small thing, either remove the rationalists/humanists from the intro, or mention them in the article. I have no problem with the statement, I am "arguing for the enemy", acknowledging that it is not backed up water-tightly. Edit conflict, agree with BM. dab () 10:57, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Fair enough; I'll Google, and contact a couple of Humanist organisations to see if they can provide citations. In line with Wikipedia guidance on NPoV, though — is there anyone who genuinely questions the claim that most rationalists and humanists are atheists? If so, on what grounds? I mean, it's easy to question anything for the sake of disruption, but is there any ground for such questioning here? (This question is obviously not aimed at either dab or BM.) Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 11:26, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

arguing from a theist pov, I wouldn't contest it as being incorrect, but as being suggestive of "everybody with any sense was an atheist" while being carefully crafted to include the specific groups with atheist leanings. again, I would advocate a compromise wording, such as "widespread among...". dab () 11:29, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I'd be fine w that. The problem w all this is that "rationalist" and "humanist" are terms which can apply to people and concepts which may not be readilly identified with them. Wouldn't any charity be humanist? Wouldn't any sensible, logical position be rationalist? I agree that the overwhelming % of people who self identify w these labels are at least weak atheists. Scientists I reject, and if you look into it there is no good evidence that the amazingly broad international community of "scientists" is atheistic to any l;arge degree. (Sam Spade | talk | contributions) 15:42, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
nope, you are thinking "humane" and "rational". the -ism part changes that into a fundamental-ist position. A humanist is fundamentally humane, if you like. dab () 17:33, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
The grounds for such questioning, Mel, is that such a claim of fact is a generalization, and most of us are aware that generalizations are fallacious and "bad science". Use Occam's Razor to cut through the vegetation. Adraeus 19:38, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I originally started this section asking about the last sentence of the intro, the claim of prevalance of atheism among scientists, humanists, and rationalists. Someone then mentioned a source for the claim about early 20th-century scientists. (Although I was not able to find it.) As for humanists and rationalists, we seem to be in stark disagreement about the very nature of the statement. I propose that we take rationalists and humanists out of the statement, because it's a little odd to lump a group defined by philosophical positions along with a group defined by an occupation, in expressing a statistic; and because there's no source, and certainly no semblence of agreement. I also propose that the statement be moved into the main article, under the statistics section, with a documented source. Does anyone have a reason not to do these things? --SamuelScarano 00:37, 2005 Apr 7 (UTC)

I support your proposal. Adraeus 04:58, 7 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I also think the humanists and rationalists statement is a bit odd, given that rationalists are more or less defined by their aetheism (not entirely, of course), and humanists similarly (again, not entirely). It would make more sense to say it's the common position among scientists and philosophers, which is what I believe it used to say. SlimVirgin (talk) 13:03, Apr 8, 2005 (UTC)

Atheism in decline


(Sam Spade | talk | contributions) 15:42, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Wow, a theologian believes that "(a)theism as a theoretical position is in decline worldwide." I'm shocked. That's about the sort of non-news I expect from the World Tribune.--FeloniousMonk 15:52, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I take it you meant atheism, of course. Yeah, I'm shocked too. I'd better start shopping around to pick a religion for when the EAC finally closes up shop and I have to believe in one. :) Bryan 15:57, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Yes, I meant atheism. My cutting and pasting skills are suspect until I've sufficiently diluted the blood in my caffeine system. I've fixed it. Shopping for a new religion? You'd abandon the Invisible Pink Unicorn in her hour of need? Has she you? Apostate!--FeloniousMonk 16:08, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I've heard similar reports. I think there was a study showing increase of theistic belief in Switzerland, some 79% say they believe in God. The point is that the people responsible for this increase believe in whatever they chose. It has finally become acceptable to build your own religion as you go along. An appalling number of people who self-describe as Christians also claim to believe in reincarnation, unaware, or uninterested in the fact that reincarnation would completely defeat the point of Christianity. It's all about a fuzzy feeling you get when you think of "God" when you feel bad, but the big change is that people actually think it is okay that this should be all religion is about. I'll see if I can dig up some numbers. If we're so much into showing how atheism gained ground during the 20th century, it's only fair to show how it seems to be losing some, recently. dab () 17:31, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
The article states that Antony Flew has "embraced the intelligent design concept of scholars such as William Dembski". I don't think there's any truth to this because 1) I'm in constant contact with a professional philosopher who is a close friend of Flew's, and 2) Antony Flew believes in Aristotle's God which is quite different from the Christian God and from Dembski's "intelligent design" — Flew is still an atheist, although theists like to spin a different tale because they (i.e., those who spin these tales) are practically ignorant of any more philosophy than what they can see. Flew was initially impressed with Richard Swinburne's cosmological fine tuning argument, and Tony worried about hellfire for a few years, but he recently confessed in private that he believed only in Aristotle's God who had no interest in or even knowledge of the sublunary sphere. Aristotle thought that there are some things of which it is more perfect to be ignorant.
There are a number of factual errors in that article aside from misinformation about Flew. For instance, there is no central authority on atheism. Sure, there are organizations like the American Atheists, The Brights, and the Center for Atheism, but such organizations remain independent, each with their own objectives.
Until someone extensively fact-checks the article, Sam, I'm going to oppose the inclusion of any content from the article into atheism. Adraeus 19:20, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I can confirm what's said here about Flew (although I find it difficult to believe that any decent philosopher could be impressed by Swinburne's argument); I heard it directly from Flew (except for the reference to Swinburne). I doubt that he's even heard of Dembski (I hadn't until I came across him in Wikipedia). Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 21:01, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
In an interview several months ago Flew states that he still stands by his landmark argument for atheism. "We must follow the argument wherever it leads," he said. "I've never thought I knew that there was no God. I merely thought there is no sufficient reason that there is."
Scientific evidence also now leads him to believe in an disinterested god like that which Aristotle or Thomas Jefferson spoke of, he said. Yet, when asked whether or not he has kept up with the most recent science and theology, Flew responded: "Certainly not."
See also:[3]
I think the most we can say with any certainty of Flew at this time is that he may be a little muddled --or at eighty-something, dotty. --FeloniousMonk 23:11, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Characterizing a "change of mind" as "muddled", "dotty", or "flip-flopping" is hardly reasonable. Kerry was criticized throughout his campaign for demonstrating he is capable of learning and adapting to evidence new to his knowledge of things. I can't respect those latter comments about Flew's mental health, Felonious. More to the point, Richard Carrier's opinions on atheism (and theism) and on Tony are woefully inadequate of objectivity to be considered scientific (i.e. informed), or even aspiring to that degree of strength.
Richard Carrier writes, "Flew has thus abandoned the very standards of inquiry that led the rest of us to atheism."
To that I reply, "Neither inquiry nor standards of inquiry led me to atheism. I was born without theistic beliefs and have since remained without theistic beliefs. I do not follow. I lead."
Carrier also writes, "It would seem the only way to God is to jettison responsible scholarship."
How biased, although unsurprising considering that Carrier is a "positive" atheist, that he would claim that all theists are unscholarly. Interestingly, a history of philosophy and science would reveal many theistic scholars that have made enormous contributions to their respective fields of study. In fact, I think, the term "scholar" was originally reserved for holy scribes and other "men of God". Adraeus 00:32, 6 Apr 2005 (UTC)