Talk:Atheism/Archive 9

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random unsigned opinion

Look, truth is not defined in terms of majority opinion---and neither is nuetrality. In this article neither atheism nor theism is endorsed or condemned. Your definition---Venn diagram man---assumes a theistic point of view and, thus, the moral code that goes along with it. Furthermore, your belief in God cannot be demonstrated by evidence, demonstrability from evidence being another sign of nuetrality (in fact, since Thomism is attacked in most religions, most theists are proud of their inability to prove). The current article is, for the reasons that it endorses neither view but also is not contrary to the evidence, nuetral and correct.

Request for comment.

I am choosing not to involve myself in this dispute because I dislike (unfriendly) conflict of any kind, but I think it is something that needs to be resolved in order for the ongoing argument to stop and constructive contributions to the article to resume. Due to this, I have made a request for comment and have formally begun the dispute resolution process since the dispute at hand does not appear to be going anywhere and is getting slightly abusive toward some.

I have worded the description as follows: Basic disagreement over whether atheism is a passive or an active stance as well as whether one must be either atheist or theist by definition. If anyone feels that this does not accurately portray the current dispute, please feel free to alter it, but remember to keep it neutral.

Please do not ask for my opinion in the argument at hand for I will not be providing it. I am simply acting on behalf of the community to resolve this matter in an amicable manner. Skyler1534 16:35, Oct 24, 2004 (UTC)

I think your summary is very astute, and compliment you on your impartiality, as well as your focus on civility, and the needs of the project. Sam [Spade] 16:43, 24 Oct 2004 (UTC)
It generally goes, if you aren't a theist you are an atheist or agnostic. If you believe a higher power exists, you are a theist. If you don't you are atheistic. If you are unsure you are an agnostic. Fairly simple, I can't see any other interpretation or a reason for another interpretation. --metta, The Sunborn 17:12, 24 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Although I am personally of the opinion that atheism is quite simply the lack of any theistic belief system, I quite understand that the term is also very commonly understood to mean an active denial of theism. I think the introduction should articulate both understandings. olderwiser 17:30, Oct 24, 2004 (UTC)
The article already does articulate both understandings. Note Types of atheism. Weak atheism (or negative atheism, general atheism, atheism) is a passive condition of lacking theistic beliefs. Strong atheism (or positive atheism, Atheism) is the active belief that gods do not exist.
  • A weak atheist states, "I do not believe in gods nor do I believe they do not exist."
  • A strong atheist exclaims, "Gods do not exist! I have proof."
The weak atheist reserves judgment while the strong atheist declares "war" on theism. The adjectives "weak" and "strong" do not redefine "atheism." Instead, they add to a new instance of atheism to enhance the identifiability of both types of atheism. Both types of atheists retain the condition of lacking theistic beliefs (atheism); however, the strong atheist makes that condition active by disbelief in gods rather than the weak atheist's passive abstention from theistic beliefs altogether.
Since neither atheism nor theism is a religion nor do either prescribe a system of values, using the basic, most objective, and generally applicable definitions of "atheism" (the condition of lacking theistic beliefs) and "theism" (the belief in gods), an individual eithers believes in gods or does not; therefore, a person is either an atheist or a theist. Lacking theistic beliefs or believing in gods does not preclude other behaviors (such as agnostic a/theism) and other beliefs (such as Buddhistic a/theism.) Adraeus 20:03, 24 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I realize this distinction is explained in the article. Hence my comment specified that "the introduction should articulate both understandings". While you and a few others are evidently persuaded by the logic of your reasoning, there remains the matter of common usage which, if Wikipedia is to have any credibility, cannot be ignored (or discounted or dismissed as mistaken) in the opening statement of the article. Many people do not share your POV and, although you may be certain of the correctness of your reasoning, convincing others of that is not the point of Wikipedia articles. olderwiser 20:22, Oct 24, 2004 (UTC)
How many more times do I have to explain that atheism as "the condition of lacking theistic belief" IS the common definition? In fact, it is so common it applies to weak atheism, strong atheism, anatheism, and every derivative of atheism that has ever existed since the coining of the term "atheism." That is objective fact, not subjective fantasy. If atheism is misunderstood before reading atheism article, that's not the article's problem. If atheism remains misunderstood after reading the article, that's not the article's problem. If some people continue to misunderstand atheism before and after reading the article, their ingrained false interpretations of atheism is not indicative of a problem with the article but rather a problem with their perspective. As I've said time and time again, naive misperceptions do not make for reasonable redefinitions. The current article is correct and NPOV. The arguments against the article's correctness and NPOV-state are incorrect. I also think your claim that "many people" do not agree with the article's content is absolute rubbish. Define "many people." So far all you have here are a few diehard dissenters, whom also seem to lack an opinion as to what exactly the article should reflect, while the rest of the atheistic community is called to defend the article from sabotage. Adraeus 00:22, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)
You appear to subscribe to the belief that there is some objective meaning to a term such as atheism. What this discussion illustrates is that the meaning of terms varies as people use them. Wikipedia should describe such usage and discuss the various points of view regarding such usage but to hold that only one understanding is the one true way of understanding is arrogant and elitist. As to your dismissal of the claims of "many people" as rubbish -- well in the discussion on this page alone the opinion seems pretty evenly divided, so I really don't see what makes your opinion more valuable than anyone else's. olderwiser 01:32, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)

Atheist: One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods. []. Atheism is a big group, it includes people who believe in particular religions that don't have a deity, it includes people who don't care/don't know/don't believe it can be known whether there is a god, and it includes people who believe that there is not a god. All of this certainly needs to be explained, but the original definition is what it is and I don't see why we would change it, accuracy is what we're going for here, not complacency. --Starx 19:39, 24 Oct 2004 (UTC)

It seems we have a different opinion of what "don't know" means. That dictionary definition says "disbelieves or denies", which to me, certainly does not include somewhat who doesn't know. If I didn't know that George Bush was president of America, would that make me someone who was part of the group of Al Gore supporters who disbelieve or deny he won the election? I think not. Shane King 00:37, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)
I can see your point, but I don't agree. I think there is a huge difference between people who deny something and people who disbelieve it. I think if someone asked you if Bush won the election and you said I don't know, then you would certainly fall into the group of people who do not believe that he won. And I think that a distinction should be made between the people who think Gore won and the people who just weren't aware of the results or the situation behind the election. As long as it's made clear that there are diffrent sets of beliefs that can be described by the word atheist then there wont be any confusion. The article already has a segment about the difference between strong and weak atheism so I think it's covered. --Starx 03:14, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)
The noun "atheism" has 2 senses in WordNet. (Princeton University's lexical reference system)
1. atheism, godlessness -- (the doctrine or belief that there is no God)
2. atheism -- (a lack of belief in the existence of God or gods)
Both senses are covered in the article. Adraeus 01:08, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)
That's just strong atheism, for the billionth time, ShaneKing! Andre (talk) 01:22, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)
I can't help it if the dictionary definition is quoted back to me! I agree the dictionary definition is lacking, and seems to only refer to strong atheism. I have no beef with you over the definition of strong atheism. I believe the definition of weak atheism being used here is overly broad. I agree the concept exists (in my experience, most atheists are weak atheists, so of course it exists), I just don't think you can describe all non-theists as atheists. To be a weak atheist, I believe one must conclude that there is no evidence God exists, and that the logical conclusion from this is that God most likely does not exist. If one instead believes that they have no evidence God exists, but since they lack evidence God does not exist they should not take a stance either way, I believe they are an agnostic, not an atheist. This is common usage, at least in my part of the world amoungst the circle of people I know. Maybe the usage is different in your part of the world, I am not an linguist and hence can't be certain. I don't doubt your sincerity in believing in your view of atheism; I just doubt that it's the universal view of what atheism is. Shane King 02:07, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)
I just came home from Borders where I read six introductory chapters to six different books specifically discussing atheism. Two of those books refute the arguments against this article; however, both books were completely ignorant of the etymological foundations of the term "atheism," completely ignorant of the two types of atheism, and completely ignorant of the history of Huxley's agnosticism. Those two books concentrate on strong ("narrow") atheism. One of the four books which refute every statement regarding atheism I've made here to date that stood out was George H. Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God. Obtain a copy or get to a bookstore and read the first chapter. I didn't bother to buy it since it seemed that everything I said here regarding atheism is merely phrased differently within the book. The chapter makes clear that being identified as an atheist or as a theist only describes whether the person has theistic beliefs or not, not how a person believes or doesn't believe.
Honestly, I had never heard of this author or this book until this debate prompted me to do even further research. You can read the first chapter here. I also suggest this FAQ. Adraeus 03:15, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Doesn't the fact that the author in the link you cite has to mount an argument against that view of atheism act as proof that it exists? Therefore, if it exists, it deserves a place in the article, according to the NPOV policy. QED. Shane King 03:23, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)
An argument against misperceptions is proof that misperceptions exist; however, that does not certify misperceptions as correct and/or appropriate for inclusion in the introduction of this article. This article is not a case against ignorance or a case for atheism; it is an encylcopedic article detailing atheism as it is, not as it is misperceived. If we were to include misperceptions of atheism in the introduction to atheism, then we should also include atheistic views of Christianity in the Christianity article. Next we might as well include Creationist views in the introduction to evolution. If alternate views exist, they are inappropriate for the introduction and more suited for either a separate topic or an article's subsection. I've suggested many times before that we should create a "criticism of atheism" section to specifically address these issues but that suggestion has been ignored. Adraeus 03:39, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)
But whether it's a misconception is a POV issue, especially since some atheists choose to identify that way, and others who fall under your description of atheism choose not to identify that way. As surely as I'd be annoyed if some Christian tried to tell me I'm a Christian, I'm rather irked that people are trying to tell me what my religious beliefs are. I imagine you wouldn't be happy if someone tried to tell you you're not an atheist: please use the same courtesy and allow people to self categorise by acknowledging that atheism means different things to different people. I'm not asking for one definition to be declared right or wrong (which is not the point of an encyclopedia), I'm asking for acknowledgement that different definitions exist. Shane King 03:50, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)
The broad--general, unspecific, all-encompassing--definition of "atheism" is "the condition of lacking theistic beliefs." The definition of atheism is the opposite of the broad definition of theism which is "the belief in gods or a god." How can you disagree with that definition and identify as an atheist? If you choose to identify another way, that's POV. If you choose to promote your views as NPOV, that's wrong. Etymology and history are on my side to refute the article's content: what do you have on yours?
atheism - without theism.
There is one definition of "atheism," which is all-encompassing, and there are two types--two categories--of atheism that have separate definitions. You don't have to agree with everything that is described of "weak atheism" or "strong atheism" to identify as an atheist just as you don't have to agree with everything described of the Republican or Democrat parties to identify as an American. The definitions in the article merely detail what is most common regarding the common usages of the term "atheism." The article is therefore NPOV and correct. I've suggested many times before that we should create a "criticism of atheism" section to specifically address issues of misperception but that suggestion has been ignored. Adraeus 04:15, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Also read this. The last paragraph is interesting: "According to this reasoning, one who denies God's existence is a legitimate atheist, but he subscribes to a particular species of atheism. If, however, we construe atheism as the denial of God's existence, then the person who merely lacks theistic belief is not a real atheist, but an imposter. This exclusion by definition, it seems to me, is ungracious, and it shows ignorance of what important atheists have argued for many years." -- George H. Smith, Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies Adraeus 04:33, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Entomology being on your side is debatable. For example (
This argument is rather unsatisfactory for at least two reasons. First, it is not completely clear that the correct translation of the Greek prefix "a" is "without." It might also mean "no," in which case "a-the-ism" could be translated as "no-god-ism," or "the view that there is no god." Note that there is no "ism" in Greek. Second, even if the etymology of the word "atheism" did indicate that it once meant "without belief in God," that is still not a good guide to current usage. It is quite common for words to acquire new meanings over time. It seems far more important what people mean by a word today than what it once meant long ago.
If we use your argument, the article on pedophilia should be about child friendship, not child sexual attraction.
Thirdly, the reason I've ignored your suggestion of a "criticism of atheism" section is because I find it insulting. I'm not a critic of atheism. I just think the term has a different meaning than you do. I fail to see how that makes me a critic of the concept (which I find perfectly valid). I'm a critic of your attempts to give it a single meaning which I don't think accurately reflects reality. Let me repeat: I don't suggest removing your usage from the article, only to balance that with other ways the term is understood.
You ask what I have on my side: how about Encyclopedia Britannica saying that atheism is positive denial? Surely Britannica is as good a source sa any, since that's been the benchmark of what this encyclopedia aspires to since day one.
I don't want to fall into the trap of being like Britannica and only accepting one point of view though. I want you to state your case also. I want to be better than Britannica and more inclusive of the bredth of human knowledge, and not confirm to only one editor's view of how life is. Shane King 04:43, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)
"Etymology" -- it is on my side and it isn't debatable. Recently, I discovered epistemology is also on my side. My defenses are stacking and the screen is about to scroll right at 1600x1200... Since you're not going to bother reading the essays I linked...
"The technical problems of defining "atheism" may be divided into two categories: (1) etymological and (2) epistemological. (For the purpose of this discussion, I shall accept the common definition of "theism" as "belief in a god or gods.")
1. It is sometimes claimed that the chief etymological problem in defining "atheism" is how to construe the prefix "a." Should we regard it as a term of privation meaning "without," or should we regard it as a term of negation meaning "no"?
If we choose the privative meaning of "without," then "a-theism" will mean "without-theism" -- i.e., "without (or lacking) belief in a god or gods." This clearly supports the definition of atheism as the absence of theistic belief.
What if we construe the prefix "a" negatively to mean "no"? This has been preferred by those who wish to define atheism as the outright denial of God's existence. But consider: even the negative sense of "a" doesn't, by itself, give us this definition. "A-theism," with the negative "a," translates into "no-belief in a god or gods." Here again, we have an essentially privative definition -- atheism as the absence of theistic belief.
I suggest, therefore, that the real problem in defining "atheism" lies, not in the meaning of the prefix "a," but in determining precisely where that prefix should be inserted.
Atheism as outright denial can be achieved only if the negative "a" is used, not to qualify the entire meaning of "theism," but only part of it -- i.e., "a-theism" means "belief in no god or gods." In this interpretation, atheism is construed, not as the absence of a belief, but as a particular kind of belief.
The case for atheism as a kind of belief -- the belief in the nonexistence of God -- was championed by no less a figure than J.M. Robertson, the great historian of freethought. Robertson argued that any "ism," including atheism, implies that we are dealing with a positive belief or doctrine, not a simple privation. Contrary to Robertson's view, "-ism" can mean something other than a doctrine or belief; it can mean "a state or condition" as well. Thus, the privative definition of atheism is still possible. Atheism as the absence of belief can denote an "ism" -- a state of mind in which theistic belief is absent.
2. Linguistic arguments over the correct definition of "atheism" will solve little, because -- as philosophers like to remind us -- questions of word-meaning are ultimately determined by conventional usage, not by the decrees of linguistic "experts." But conventional usage does not solve the problem either, for we may ask: whose usage? During the McCarthy era, for example, atheism was commonly linked to communism. What, then, were noncommunistic atheists to do? Should they have stepped forward and defied conventional usage, thereby incurring the wrath of McCarthy, his goons, and philosophers?
Those philosophers who rely solely on "conventional usage" should recall that "atheism" has been used throughout history as a term of opprobrium, a veritable smear word. Indeed, until the eighteenth century, an "atheist" could be anyone who disagreed with one's own religious convictions -- a person who denied the divinity of Roman emperors, or who disbelieved in witchcraft, or who denied the Trinity, or who rejected infant baptism, or who maintained that philosophers should be free to seek the truth, wherever it may lead them.
Perhaps atheists can find refuge from the tyranny of "conventional meaning" in what philosophers call "technical, definitions." Thus, biologists are permitted to offer their own definition of "life," for example, without being overly concerned whether laymen (the conventional majority) agree with, or even know of, their definition. Similarly, professed atheists may have the epistemological right to define atheism, in the technical sense, as the "absence of theistic belief," even if most laymen (i.e., theists) disagree with that definition.
Or perhaps atheists can fall back on the rule of fundamentality, which says that a definition should identify the fundamental, or essential, attribute of the concept being defined. Obviously, the absence of theistic belief is more fundamental than the denial of theism, for the latter is a subset of the former. (One who denies the existence of God also lacks belief, but the reverse is not necessarily true: one who lacks belief in God does not necessarily deny its existence.)
According to this reasoning, one who denies God's existence is a legitimate atheist, but he subscribes to a particular species of atheism. If, however, we construe atheism as the denial of God's existence, then the person who merely lacks theistic belief is not a real atheist, but an imposter. This exclusion by definition, it seems to me, is ungracious, and it shows ignorance of what important atheists have argued for many years."
-- Defining atheism by George H. Smith, from his 1990 book Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies
Also read The Presumption of Atheism by Anthony Flew (1984), regarded by George H. Smith as a signature piece on atheism, which apparently supports my side too. Adraeus 04:59, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)
And dammit, Shane, describe your view of atheism! Thus far you've only said "I want my view in the article too" but you've never actually described your view. Adraeus 05:02, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I've described it at least 3 or 4 times! I'll put it in a seperate section just to make sure you see it this time. As far as this back and forthing goes, I'm done with it. I've already said that I feel the mere fact that these authors you quote have to spend so much time defining atheism to be what they believe it to be shows that alternate definitions have widespread usage and acceptance. Therefore, quoting more of them at me is only (to my mind) proving my point. As a side note, no I didn't read your last link before posting, it showed up as an edit conflict when I tried to reply, so I didn't have much of a chance to when composing my reply. Having now glanced at it, I repeat what I've just said: it reinforces my point that the definition of atheism is (and probably always has been) under debate.
Anyway, I shall (re)post my definition and be done with it. If you want to respond to my other points (eg Britannica defining atheism), be my guest, but your entomology argument doesn't hold much water with me, unless you can explain away things like pedophilia being about attraction to children, not friendship with children. Shane King 05:10, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)
As far as I know, the Greek paidophiles never had a current form in English until the modern sexual sense was introduced in 1905. Why Ellis chose that word, instead of paiderastes, which would have been more correct as a Greek term from 2,000 years earlier, I do not know.
There's nothing to explain, because the word never had any other sense in English, and so no "original meaning" was "lost."
In the case of "atheism," the original meaning was and is "without theism;" thus, "the condition of lacking (or being without) theistic beliefs." Adraeus 00:36, 26 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Skyler's Domain

The basic argument in and of itself is interesting to discuss, but it does not appear that this will solve the problem we are facing. Frankly, I don't care enough whether it is a passive or active stance to make an argument either way. What I do care about is resolving this dispute in a way that is satisfactory to all parties. It is his/her choice whether or not s/he chooses to act, but since User:20040302's requests for dispute resolution is what alerted me to this problem and I have since seen posts stating that if the user's views were contributed to the article, they would be considered vandalism, I am going to request the user (on their talk page) to articulate what they would like added or removed from the article as it is now. Hopefully, this will lead to a discussion of the problems of the article (and not of the particular POV of the users) and it can be negotiated reasonably as to what will be an acceptable change to the article in order to make it NPOV in everyone's mind. Skyler1534 21:15, Oct 24, 2004 (UTC)

Admirable of you, Skyler. Andre (talk) 00:29, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)

This page is now being protected at my request. After looking at the past week's edits, they seem to consist of a series of good faith contributions to make the article NPOV and then these edits being reverted by Adraeus as vandalism. I make it a point to make the assumption that all edits to Wikipedia which are not clear vandalism are done in good faith, so I assume Adraeus' reverts are also in good faith in attempting to make this article better for everyone in accordance with his/her view of how this should be done. Unfortunately, I think this will only serve to inflame tempers, which will damage the dispute resolution process. Please express your views on this talk page rather than the article page. And if anyone has a problem with the protected status, please feel free to attack me and not the others. I have requested this unilaterally and take full responsibility. Your patience is appreciated. Skyler1534 01:52, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)

I suggest the page remain protected henceforth since there is no immediate need for adjustments. Adraeus 09:40, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)


I've sought endorsements of this article's current state from significant figures in the community of atheism and atheistic endeavors. I'm waiting on Cliff Walker the Editor of Positive Atheism, and Richard Dawkins.

Adraeus: "Do you disagree with this Wikipedia article's introduction, etymology, and types sections?"

  • Dr. Michael Shermer responded, "No, I do not disagree with this summary. In fact, I think it is quite good. It is taken straight out of George Smith's book, Atheism."

Adraeus 05:57, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Articles on the wikipedia are never to be written solely from the POV of those who embrace the concept the article describes. read NPOV.
Sam [Spade] 15:41, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Articles are supposed to represent a NPOV, which this article does. Just because you dont like it; it goes against your biased POV - doesn't mean that it is POV. Just because rational, honest Atheists do not disagree with it does not make it 'from their POV.' The Rev of Bru

My definition of the terms

As requested, here's my understanding of the terms, as they are commonly used.

  • Atheism: The belief there are no gods.
    • Strong Atheism or Faith based atheism: The belief that there are no gods, based on one's personal intuition or other mechanism that is outside the realm of logic.
    • Weak Atheism' or Scientific atheism: The belief that there are no gods, on the basis that there exists no proof that there are gods, so the scientific method prescribes the default stance to be atheism.
  • Agnosticism: The belief that there may or may not be gods, but the truth is either unknown (weak/open agnosticism) or unknowable (closed/strong agnosticism).
  • Ignosticism: (or so I've heard it called, I don't know how widespread it is): The belief that there are no consequences as to whether God exists or not, so the question is not important.
  • Ignorance: Someone who has never been introduced to the posibility of gods. I'm calling this ignorance, because I'm unaware of any even semi-official label.

I agree that someone could be an agnostic and an atheist at the same time. I don't believe that one implies the other in either case. Heck, you can be an agnostic and a theist. You can also be an agnostic who sits right on the fence and doesn't lean either way.

There's also some overlap between ignosticism and agnosticism, but again, neither is a superset of the other.

When used without qualifiers, I believe in common usage agnostic tends to refer to the fence sitter variety. I offer no reason why this is, but in my observation those who are atheists or theists tend to view that aspect as more important than their agnosticism, and so emphasise it.

In the real world, the number of possible labels is probably a lot higher, but capturing that would probably be beyond the scope of an encyclopedia article and into the realm of original research.

In the interests of full disclosure, I consider my own views to be not quite agnostic, not quite ignostic. I believe that the existance of gods would make a difference, but it wouldn't make a difference to me, so the question to me personally is unimportant. I also believe if gods did exist, it would be possible for them to be personal not universal, so therefore I am unable to take a firm agnostic stand on whether the truth is unknown or unknowable, even though I suspect it's both. This also means I can't be an atheist, because even if I did take a personal stance on Gods not existing, I can't claim to speak for other people and their own personal deities that may or may not exist. Shane King 05:30, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)

I am not a fan of your Ignosticism word, not only because this is the category that I fall under and I don't like the idea of me being ignorant of anything. We are not allowed to make up or use words not found in the dictionary. Ignosticism is not found in the dictionary, therefore we can't use it in anyway. ---The Sunborn
Your definition of "atheism" is the definition of "strong atheism" and strong atheism is less common than weak atheism and less common than the definition in the article. Moreover, since your definition of "atheism" is incorrect your definitions of "strong atheism" and "weak atheism" are also incorrect. Sorry, your misperception does not qualify for addition to the article. Your definitions are extremely specific, extremely biased, and practically ignorant of the historical basis for what is described in the current article. I think it's unfortunate that you learned nothing in our roundabout discussions which is apparently indicative that you have faith in your misperceptions and are therefore not subject to change. After all, an argument with a believer cannot be won. Adraeus 09:37, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Once again, thank you for you personal attacks. I've kept to a civil discourse, and I'd prefer if you would do likewise, as it tends to be more constructive. Moving right along, I stated that these are my impressions of the common usages of the term. The only way you can get common usage is talk to the "common" people. My experience of "common" people will no doubt be influenced by my background: I'm a public-schooled, university educated Victorian who now works as a software engineer in Queensland. No doubt the common people I meet will be influenced by that. Maybe the "common" people you meet are different, I don't know. I don't claim my understandings of the terms are universal, only that they are what is used in my experience.
I've said all that can be said I think. Anyone who will be convinced of the merit of my argument has enough material provided by me already, anyone who is not convinced is unlikely to be convinced by me writing further. I hope that my fellow wikipedians can find a reasonable compromise here; I only hope that they take into account that wikipedia policy says they should not take a stance on what is "right" and "wrong", and instead we should just present the facts and let the reader decide.
I thank anyone who has read this far for taking the time to listen to what I've had to say. :) 09:59, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)
If criticism of your opinion is ad hominem, then I've personally attacked you throughout this discussion. Regardless, the article presents the facts; you're just unwilling to accept them. If you're looking for agreement, understand that no rational person would agree with your narrow view of atheism. Adraeus 10:04, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Please refrain from stating what does or does not qualify for inclusion into the article and also please refrain from saying what is correct and incorrect. We will never get anywhere if this course continues. The fact is; in an NPOV dispute, there are only two ways to correct the problem: (1) remove the offending piece of material that is considered by some to be biased or (2) incorporate other people's views in the article. With the exception of "ignosticism", which I do not believe is a recognized word or term, I do not think Shane King's views are that unreasonable. Certainly there should be little objection to including the concept of Agnosticism into the article as it is often recognized as the "third" view (e.g. Theist, Atheist or Agnostic is often considered to mean "I believe", "I disbelieve" or "I don't know"). So Adraeus, please respond with your objections to including this concept into the article rather than saying that one can only be a theist or an atheist and please refrain from calling it incorrect. Skyler1534 13:43, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)

Exposition by Venn Diagram

Let's try something different

Sets A, B and C


B = All Atheists
A = Positive Atheists (whose view is otherwise known as strong atheism) - those who actively deny the reality of ANY deity
C = All Theists - all who subscribe to belief in the existence of 1 or more deity
Negative Atheists,(whose view is otherwise known as weak atheism) - that is those simply without any god belief fall within that part of B not within the domain of A.

That 'Negative atheist' is a well described and documented term is dare I posit; undeniable even if its nueance is not familiar to the bulk of the general population. That there are many people who's World view falls within the meaning of this definition is I humbly suggest also undeniable. That 'Negative Atheist' is a subset of the more general term 'Atheist' is very plain and in no way POV. It follows from this that the description of the more general term 'Atheist' should encompass the meaning of the term 'Negative Atheist'.

It also follows from this that those who seek to exclude from the definition of the general term ‘Atheist’ people who one could describe as 'Negative Atheists,' a term well covered in the article, are in error.

I have left out Agnostics as this article is not about them and am pointedly not discussing the detail of this here as there is a risk of a false dichotomy or trichotomy. Whatever the meaning of Huxley's coined term 'Agonostic' it has no bearing upon the definition of the term 'Atheist' any more than the meaning of the terms 'Mammal' and 'Omnivore' bear upon each other, so I'd sooner not muddy the water by discussing Agnosticism.--Nick-in-South-Africa 11:47, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I like the concept, but it would appear that the dispute is mostly regarding the NPOV state of saying that you can only be a theist or an atheist. Given this as the dispute, it would appear that either this concept must be removed from the article or Agnosticism must be included. Skyler1534 13:49, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)
Well, Skyler, if you agree with that Venn Diagram, that's the only logical explanation of it. You're either in the ball or you aren't. Agnostics are always atheists, usually negative/weak ones. Andre (talk) 14:14, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)
To clarify a tad: since agnostics never believe in gods or God, since they believe the state of gods or God is unknown and/or unknowable, they therefore lack belief in a deity and are negative atheists. I'm not actually sure if agnostics can be positive atheists. Regardless, it's not really relevant. Andre (talk) 14:17, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)
From what I understand of it, the nature of the dispute is that not everyone agrees with the statement that "Agnostics are always atheists" due to the question of whether Atheism is an active or passive stance. In some people's view, Theism, Atheism and Agnosticism are all active stances and there is no real term for those who do not take an active stance. And let me reiterate that I do not agree or disagree with anything being said. I am simply here to assist; not to take sides. I'd like to stick to the issue of deciding how the article can be written to everyone's satisfaction, rather than who is right or wrong. Skyler1534 14:30, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)

Notwithstanding that I feel most contributers are aware of what the issues at hand are, I shall re-express it using the diagram supplied. Some of us (including myself) consider that NOT (B OR C) aka NOT B AND NOT C (the area depicted in white) is not a null set, whereas others consider that it IS a null set, (which directly implies that B is defined as ~C, and C is reciprocally defined as ~B).
Regardless, I feel that this does not adequately expose the nuances of the argument, which appear to rest on the issues of whether or not atheism is an active stance or a passive one. (I consider distinctions of atheism to belong solely to specialists who wish to slice and splice). I offer a thought experiment: I ring up 10 random friends and relatives and say "Lokesh's new baby girl is an atheist." How many of them would say "Of course she is! All babies are atheists!" The answer is none. How many would say "Of course she is, but only a weak atheist!" The answer is none. How many would say something like "What on earth are you on about? How could you know her views? She cannot even speak yet." The answer is not none, though some conversants may be polite and be concerned with my sanity. Maybe this is a difference of usage in the UK and Indian subcontinent than in the USA, but if that is the case, the article needs to express that. (20040302)
Your argument is meaningless because it employs the fallacy "argumentum ad populum." Just because most people are ignorant about weak atheism, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Andre (talk) 15:23, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)
What's under discussion is a definition. If people are ignorant of it, then it does not exist. If only some people know about it, then we must establish how those people have a superior claim to defining it. - Nat Krause 16:04, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)
What specifically would you like to see added to or removed from the article? We are going to need to specify in order to dicuss this with those who detract from your point of view. Skyler1534 14:39, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)
Thank-you Skyler. I shall not continue to respond here as it will not help to resolve anything. Thank-you for gently reminding me. (20040302)

New Venn Diagram

Sets A, B and C

A=Theists (those who know God)


B=Non-religious / agnostics (those who don't take a stand, but do not reject God)

C=Atheists (those who reject or deny God actively and consciously)

Sam [Spade] 15:38, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)

That B column is, to me and others, "weak atheism" - the lack of a belief in God without conscious dissent. I think it's come down now to just semantics. Non-religious = weak atheism in all but name. Andre (talk) 17:03, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)

The point is, were making an encyclopdia here, not an atheist propoganda peice. The article should reflect common usage, not atheist opinion. Of course we must mention atheist terms and their meanings, but we cannot imply they are either accurate nor widely accepted. Atheists are a very small minority, and cannot expect the english language to conform to their rhetoric. Sam [Spade] 17:24, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Your insulting anti-atheist POV is causing me Wikistress, so I am going to remove myself from this discussion and remove this page from my watchlist. I leave my current opinion and comments. Good luck in building a consensus. Andre (talk) 18:57, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)
I'm sorry, I did not mean to be insulting. I think if you read over recent discussion on this page, you might find I am far from the worst offender. That said, I appologize for any perceieved insult. Sam [Spade] 19:40, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I think you are trolling, here. This is clearly offensive. And IMO you are one of the worst offenders. The Rev of Bru
Maybe a small minority in the US, less than one tenth of one percent. There are large ammounts of atheists in Asia and a small ammount in the rest of the "civilized" world. The most quoted web numbers at suggest an upper number of 200 million atheists and 850 million if non-religious are grouped in. ---The Sunborn
But non-religious are not to be lumped in! I am "non-religious", and I'd sooner die than be an atheist (no exaggeration). Sam [Spade] 19:40, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Dispute Resolution Sub-page

Okay. I have set up a page for the sole purpose of dispute resolution. The article is located here: Atheism/DR.

It occurred to me that since the arguments on this page are too broad, it would probably be best to fix the article piece by piece. Because Adraeus has expressed content with the article as it is now, I made an exact replica of the article to begin with, minus the {{protected}} tag. User:20040302 has made edits to the article on the dispute resolution page to conform with what he desires from the article. The purpose of this is to look at the changes made and (rather than revert them as was being done) discuss them and discuss what would be acceptable rewording to satisfy the other parties involved.

I ask that no-one edit the dispute resolution page unless I request it. I will be adjusting the article as we go along in the discussion in order to adequately conform it to others standards while still keeping necessary information intact. The page is to be discussed on the dispute resolution talk page. This will be done section by section.

Please only comment on the section that is being discussed. When one section is finished to everyone's satisfaction, we will move on to discussion of the next section. Please make all comments constructive and attempt to not offend the other parties. When you comment on something being wrong for the article, please stick to the article and not the concept and please do not only comment that it is wrong, but attempt to comment on how it can be conformed (saying simply that it needs to be removed is not a desirable comment, so try to work around removing it by adding or rewording).

I am hoping this will facilitate some negotiation and eventually, after every part has been discussed, the dispute resolution page can be moved to the article page and then deleted. Anyone with the desire to attack me, yell at me, etc. for being too authoritative, presumptuous or just plain annoying, please leave these comments on my personal talk page as I feel they would be counter-productive if left on this page. Thank you for your time and trouble.

Skyler1534 20:16, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)

I will not negotiate. The article is correct, accurate, and reflects common usage now. Like Andrevan, "I am going to remove myself from this discussion and remove this page from my watchlist. I leave my current opinion and comments." I do not hope for a consensus though. There is nothing to be changed. There is nothing to be discussed. Adraeus 23:11, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Although it is unfortunate that Adraeus and Andrevan have both decided to withdraw their contributions to WP regarding this article, I consider that the dispute is still open. Most especially, I would like to see comment from Bryan Derksen, who has been generously devoting his time to the article since 22 Oct 2002. Moreover, Sam Spade and Nick in South Africa have both had lengthy tenures regarding this article, and I would hope that they too may comment. (20040302 23:50, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC))


I've been talking w Andrevan here User_talk:Andrevan#Talk:atheism and on my talk. I don't find the atmosphere on this talk page very conducive to communication myself (never have, thats why I left for so many months), but if things are going to be polite maybe we can get something done. Sam [Spade] 23:57, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I have been doing my best to keep things cool here, but it is not an easy task. However, while User:20040302 is willing to comprise, Adraeus states above: "I will not negotiate. The article is correct, accurate, and reflects common usage now." This derails the dispute resolution process. Once dispute has ended, contributions must resume. Since Andre (for whom I have a decent amount of respect, though some of his posts are slightly more hostile than I would like) and Adraeus (who I assume to be acting in good faith, though not willing to compromise) have both walked away from the table, it does not appear there is much left. If Adraeus has unilaterally withdrawn from discussion while the other side of the dispute shows a willingness to work things out, I will consider the dispute ended. I will ask that the page be unprotected and if Adraeus continues to revert edits that do not conform to his views as he previously has, I will consider it to be hostile activity and support a move toward arbitration. It is up to Adraeus if he would like to continue informal dispute resolution on this page or not. All I am concerned about here is resolving the dispute. If one side vanishes, it is resolved and I am done here. Skyler1534 01:17, Oct 26, 2004 (UTC)
Thank you again for your hard work here attempting mediation User:Skyler1534, it is appreciated. Sam [Spade] 01:19, 26 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I'm out of here too; there is little point in banging ones head against highly emotive POV positions such as has been put forth by Sam Spade who will not concede the simply crushing case made on the point in question. Namely that the definition of atheism should within its meaning cover both the positive and negative sense.
Sam has seen fit to come up with his own version of my Venn diagram set descriptions above which rather tells all. His agenda is clear, "Those who know God," and "those who don't take a stand, but do not reject God" Please! The premise and POV virtually leaps off the page. I posit that Sam is a Theist with an agenda and that agenda is that he personally feels the term 'atheist' is an extreme pejorative (he's been rather open on this point) and this has skewed his judgment so that he seeks to limit the general definition to that of Positive atheism so as few as possible are sullied by the term.
I agree. He's clearly got a hostile agenda. The Rev of Bru
I have no problems with atheists, agnostics or Theists, but none of them should be allowed to foist their agenda on Wikipedia's NPOV editorial policy.
I shall leave this topic and stick to more esoteric subjects less likely to be on the radar of folks with what comes over as some sort of agenda. This alas is one of Wikipedia's weaknesses, good articles can all too easily be compromised by dogmatic folks with a POV and some sort of agenda. I think this wider problem needs to be addressed within Wikipedia, because this is not the only article on a contentious topic that has fallen foul of those who insist on skewing the article with a POV slant. Anyway good luck with the dispute resolution Skyler1534 --Nick-in-South-Africa 07:08, 26 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Skyler1534, it appears that the DR is indeed ended. It would have been nice to have received comment from Bryan, but I am sure that after two years of sensitive and careful contribution he will return to comment/edit the main article in a reasonably WP-sensible manner. However, Bryan is notable by his absence in this DR process, and there remains difficulties with contradictory definitions on other atheism articles, namely weak atheism and strong atheism, but I guess they should be addressed within their own light. As for those who choose to walk away from the dispute without positive contribution, I feel they do nothing but disempower themselves. (20040302)

I wandered off when I saw that the debate was starting off down the same arduous path that I argued at length back in February or thereabouts, I didn't want to go through it all over again. The formal dispute resolution thing started after I turned my attention elsewhere and I didn't even know it was "formal" until I noticed Skyler announcing its closure. I'm a volunteer and this is a collaborative encyclopedia, I don't see why I should have to fight every battle that falls in my lap. Indeed, if I were the only one holding a position then perhaps that would be a good indicator that I shouldn't be fighting that battle. Glancing over the article as it currently stands I think I'm satisfied with the way it looks, so this seems to have worked out well enough. Maybe I'll be rested enough to be a more active participant the next time this same argument comes up again in six months or so. Bryan 03:12, 28 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Bryan, I apologise if I sounded accusational - all I meant was that I value your opinions, as you have worked so faithfully on the article for the last two years. Of course I can sympathise with your decision not to take part in yet another 'battle'. (20040302)
S'okay, this article holds a special place in my heart (not a good one) because it was the first one I got dragged into the soul-crushing and seemingly-endless process of Official Dispute Resolution on. So I'm a little on edge about it. :) Bryan 20:26, 31 Oct 2004 (UTC)