Talk:Lists of atheists/Archive 5

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Archive 4 | Archive 5 | Archive 6

Shortening the article

The list is currently 82 kb long, and ought to be shortened. One option is splitting the list. I do not think splitting into separate articles by occupation would be a good idea, since the individual articles would be vulnerable to the "irrelevant intersection" objection in an AfD nomination (eg. "What does being a comedian have to do with being an atheist?" etc.). Another way of splitting would be to divide it alphabetically, which would avoid that objection, but then it could be objected that the list is not selective enough, and a comprehensive list of notable people who are atheists is little better than a category.

I believe a better solution would be to tighten the inclusion criteria to something like it was before (about a year ago), ie. persons whose atheism was relevant to their public life or works. Persons listed wouldn't have to be atheism advocates on par with someone like Richard Dawkins. Woody Allen, for instance, would qualify, since reliable sources mention his atheism as being influential in his work. Information for persons who are confirmed atheists, but whose atheism isn't identified as being influential in their public life or works by reliable sources, could be moved to the biography articles. What does everyone think? Nick Graves 16:33, 18 October 2007 (UTC)

The biggest sections are "Activists and educators", "Authors", "Philosophy", and "Science and technology". Not coincidently, perhaps, these are also areas where atheism's influence seems most significant. These could become separate articles, while the smaller sections remain here.
That said, I thought 100k was the guideline size for shrinking articles. Of course, If it's 82k now, it's only a matter of time before it's 100k. Ben Hocking (talk|contribs) 17:09, 18 October 2007 (UTC)
I believe that suggestion would still be vulnerable to the "irrelevant intersections" objection. For example, most of the authors listed are not known for their writings concerning or inspired by atheism, or at least it is not evident in the sources currently cited. Many of them would have to be trimmed from the sub-lists for that reason. The same goes for the Science and technology section. Maybe their atheism had something to do with their science, or vice versa, but it would be hard to make a compelling case that there is a strong enough connection to justify a stand-alone list of atheist scientists. Besides, this would lead to the rather bizarre situation of having a main list full of people whose atheism really isn't that significant to their work, with a bunch of sub-lists where there is at least some sort of significance. Nick Graves 18:40, 18 October 2007 (UTC)
Personally I think the list is useful in its current form and don't find it too long - after all we've already moved nontheists from it - but if the consensus was to shorten I would support tightening the criteria rather than splitting. Cheers, Ian Rose 03:10, 19 October 2007 (UTC)
I looked at some guidelines and found that 32kb is the recommended length for the main body of an article, but that excludes references, which are extensive for this article. Also, greater flexibility is allowed for lists, so I guess we can just leave it as is for now. It's something to think about for the future, though. Nick Graves 14:43, 19 October 2007 (UTC)

Richard Branson

Why has Richard Branson been moved onto the nontheist page? The reference from his Autobiography said "I do not believe in God..." (p.239). I know the definition of Atheism can be at times ambiguous, but he's explicitly stated that he does not believe in god. What more do you want? Would it not be possible to have him on both lists? Matt Roberts 00:37, 30 October 2007 (GMT)

If someone claims not to be an atheist, they shouldn't be on the list. Note that many people don't consider someone to be an atheist unless they are a strong atheist, and might otherwise consider themselves to be merely agnostic. It's definitely a WP:BLP concern, although I'm sympathetic to your POV. (Note: I have no idea if Richard Branson has claimed not to be an atheist.) Ben Hocking (talk|contribs) 01:30, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
In looking through the archives, it appears Richard Branson was only rejected due to a lack of references supporting him being an atheist. It seems you have that covered. If no one complains by tomorrow, I will also remove him from the list of the rejected. Ben Hocking (talk|contribs) 01:34, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
Certainly, a source has now been found for Branson's lack of belief in a deity, but it still does not definitively identify him as an atheist. This issue has been hashed out many times previously, as you'll see in reviewing the archives. A person who says "I don't believe in God" isn't necessarily an atheist since, as Ben Hocking points out, many believe that only strong atheism is true atheism. What's needed to have Branson included, therefore, is a reliable source specifically calling him an "atheist," or a statement in which he says "I believe there is no God," since such a statement constitutes atheism no matter what definition is being used. Nick Graves 16:04, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
Hence, the reason I wait. I don't have strong feelings about this, either way (which I assume is clear), but especially with an issue as divisive as atheism, we should be very cautious when dealing with WP:BLP. I suspect that he does identify as an atheist (and have found several non-reliable sources as such), but until we have a reliable source... Ben Hocking (talk|contribs) 16:25, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
To quote the second sentence of the List of atheists page... "An atheist is one who disbelieves in the existence of a deity or deities.". The reference is "I do not believe in God...". Is there something I'm missing here? If your definition of Atheism is that the person has to state that they believe 100% that there is no god, then you'd have to remove some of the most staunch Atheists on the planet from the list. E.g Dawkins, Hitchens, etc. Matt Roberts 18:29, 20 October 2007 (GMT)
As silly as it may sound to some people, it's a WP:BLP issue. There are people who have stated that they do not believe in God who have also said that they were not atheists, but were instead [agnostic|nontheist|something else]. (Personally, I don't find it that silly. For a long time, I did not believe in God and believed myself to be an agnostic but not an atheist. I am now an atheist who believes in the absence of God.) Ben Hocking (talk|contribs) 19:19, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
But when he said: "I do not believe in God" then we can safely rule out agnostic. --Strappado (talk) 23:47, 23 December 2007 (UTC)
it's up to branson to 'rule himself in' as an atheist. frankly i think unless a reliable source can quote a person in question as genuinely self-identifying "i am an atheist", they should not be included. Anastrophe (talk) 01:15, 24 December 2007 (UTC)
I was merely saying that calling Branson an agnostic would not somehow be just as reasonable as calling him an atheist. When he says he does not believe in God, then actually, there's a bigger chance that he believes in Odin than that he is an agnostic. Believing in Odin does not contradict 'not believing in God'. But being an agnostic does contradict 'not believing in God'. --Strappado (talk) 14:06, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

Carl Sagan

Just curious, was the astronomer and scientist Carl Sagan considered an atheist for the purposes of this article list? -- AzureCitizen 03:53, 2 November 2007 (UTC)

Whether someone is included or excluded depends entirely on what the reliable sources say. Sagan is not yet included (and may never be) simply because no one has yet found a reliable source that identifies him as an atheist. He has been identified as an agnostic, so you'll find him on List of agnostics. If you can find a reliable source that calls him an atheist, or that quotes him as saying something like "There is no God" (finding the latter seems very unlikely, as he was a staunch empiricist), then he would be a welcome addition to the list. Nick Graves 14:27, 2 November 2007 (UTC)
Makes perfect sense; thanks for the reply.--AzureCitizen 15:28, 2 November 2007 (UTC)

In The Demon-Haunted World he identifies himself as an 'atheistic Jew' or something like that. The varieties of scientific experience is as much a book promoting Atheism as The God Delusion. He doesn't say 'there is no god' or whatever because he doesn't need to. The book is about explaining the logical fallacies of the position and the empirical evidence against it. Also, Ann Druyan should be on this list. Although I do hear they give the Richard Dawkins award to Christians now and again... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:54, 25 March 2008 (UTC)

I have that book, and don't remember him saying anything like that, though it's been a while since I've read it. I did skim through the chapters and index today, focusing on sections dedicated to religious skepticism, but did not find any statement about his being an atheist. He does express skepticism of the "God hypothesis," but I think that's as far as it goes. You might be thinking of Stephen Jay Gould, another skeptic and science popularizer, who called himself a "Jewish agnostic." I see that the Wikipedia article on Sagan has him categorized as a Jewish agnostic, though there is no source there for this claim. The words "atheist" or "atheism" are not currently mentioned in that article, nor did I find them in the index of the book. Sagan is included in the List of agnostics, which cites a reliable source that calls him a "sceptic" and "agnostic." As for "reading between the lines" to conclude that Sagan is an atheist, that would qualify as original research, which Wikipedia articles are not supposed to contain. Nick Graves (talk) 16:58, 25 March 2008 (UTC)

Nikos Kazantzakis

Author of poems, novels, essays, plays, and travel books, was arguably the most important and most translated Greek writer and philosopher of the 20th century.In 1946, The Society of Greek Writers recommended that Kazantzakis and Angelos Sikelianos be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1957, he lost the Prize to Albert Camus by one vote. Camus later said that Kazantzakis deserved the honour "a hundred times more" than himself.Outspoking Atheist. One of his books is 'The last temptation of Christ'. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:35, 8 November 2007 (UTC)

According to this review, Nikos Kazantzakis "rejected traditional views of God, [and] was erroneously perceived as an atheist." Nick Graves 00:57, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

reliable sources as pertains to this article

robert ince has been added to the list based upon a myspace page. after i reverted the addition, based upon WP:RS, the following was dropped on my talk page rather than here:

==Official MySpace page not reliable?==

Please explain exactly why someone's official MySpace page is not reliable. In particular, please contrast such a page with someone's official webpage or biography in other media. I understand that MySpace is likely not reliable for many things but a blanket "it's never reliable for anything" is nonsensical. --ElKevbo 03:10, 12 November 2007 (UTC)

please see WP:RSEX for further information regarding use of myspace as a source. particularly:

MySpace: MySpace is generally not acceptable even as a self-published source, because most of it is anonymous or pseudonymous. If the identity of the author can be confirmed in a reliable, published source, then it can be used with the caution appropriate to a self-published source

another author added the myspace page back. i'm not going to revert it, but to play by the rules, it should be removed until another confirming source is provided per the above. Anastrophe 08:16, 12 November 2007 (UTC)

Are you questioning whether self-published comments by Robin Ince are a reliable in this case? Or are you suggesting we need a citation that the MySpace page in question actually belongs to Ince? Marwood 14:24, 12 November 2007 (UTC)
i'm suggesting precisely what wikipedia policy recommends, per the section i reproduced. not sure what's confusing about that. Anastrophe 15:51, 12 November 2007 (UTC)
The Wikipedia policy says if the author can be confirmed, then MySpace pages can be used. So again - are you suggesting that Ince is not a reliable source for his own religious views, or alternatively that Ince is not the author of the page? Marwood 16:10, 12 November 2007 (UTC)
i see no supporting citation for the myspace citation. therefore, it's not acceptable by wikipedia standards. i don't understand how much more clearly it can be spelled out. Anastrophe 16:35, 12 November 2007 (UTC)
Which claim do you want supporting? The identity of the author of the page? Or that the author is qualified to comment on the issue? I'd suggest that both of these things are self-evident in the case of an official 'celebrity' myspace page commenting on the religious opinions of said celebrity. Marwood 16:41, 12 November 2007 (UTC)
i give up. i can't make If the identity of the author can be confirmed in a reliable, published source, then it can be used with the caution appropriate to a self-published source any clearer than it already is. Anastrophe 16:53, 12 November 2007 (UTC)
The identity of the author of Robin Ince's MySpace page is self-evidently Robin Ince! Marwood 16:59, 12 November 2007 (UTC)
Seeing as Bill Hicks also has an "official MySpace", I would say this is not the case. ~ Switch () 21:58, 12 November 2007 (UTC)
Fair enough - so we want a citation that says Ince writes/sanctions his MySpace page then? Fair enough. Wasn't that the question I asked about nine hours ago? I'll see what I can find. Marwood 23:05, 12 November 2007 (UTC)
and it was the same answer that was given to you repeatedly as well. Anastrophe 08:04, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

What about personal websites? (see which I was attempting to use as a citation for Vova Galchenko) Euphemism (talk) 22:26, 22 January 2008 (UTC)

Personal websites would be acceptable for sourcing self-identification of atheism, but there would need to be confirmation from another reliable source that the website is actually authored by the person being talked about. Nick Graves (talk) 02:38, 23 January 2008 (UTC)
Well, the WJF links to Vova Galchenko's Youtube account which in turn links to Would you consider that reliable? Euphemism (talk) 02:02, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

Peter Atkins reference is verifiable

Anastrophe deleted a reference to a Channel 4 documentary claiming "That's not a verifiable reference, it's a description of a reference.." - sorry, that's like saying that providing a book title is not a verifiable reference, it's only a description of a reference. That documentary is a verifiable reference: (a) you can obtain a copy of the documentary from Channel 4; (b) they have downloadable podcasts on their website; or (c) you can view the episode on YouTube and on Google Videos. If it was a book, you could verify it by buying a copy; borrowing a copy from a library, or stealing a copy. I've viewed the episode and confirm the reference, so I'm restoring Nick Graves' reference. --David Broadfoot (talk) 04:42, 20 November 2007 (UTC)

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, recently added, is mis-placed between Linus Torvalds and Alan Turing – otherwise, excellent and very appropriate company! I would move him myself, but am short of time. Any takers? Nihil novi (talk) 03:39, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

Done. --David Broadfoot (talk) 06:43, 24 November 2007 (UTC)
Thank you! Nihil novi (talk) 06:48, 24 November 2007 (UTC)
Unfortunately, NNdB is not a reliable source, so I removed this name. I believe that some time ago I had scoured the internet for a reliable source for Jobs being an atheist, but found nothing. I will look again. Nick Graves (talk) 16:24, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
After doing a little research, I suspect you won't find one (although I encourage you to keep looking). I suspect that Jobs has made the savvy business decision to not let this be public knowledge (while at the same time remaining ethical enough not to pretend otherwise). Ben Hocking (talk|contribs) 16:40, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

on Nietzsche

Founder of Nihilism? Can this be referenced? Nietzsche was against nihilism as we see in one of his lat works, Der Antichrist. Besides, there were Russian Nihilists who lived before Nietzsche. - Teetotaler —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:22, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

Albert Einstein

has been misplaced, in the "Science and technology" section, between Steven Weinberg and David Sloan Wilson. Nihil novi 22:04, 2 December 2007 (UTC)

why is einstein on the list? at best his position on god was ambiguous. did he ever say, outright, "i am an atheist"? Anastrophe 22:16, 2 December 2007 (UTC)
example of the ambiguity:

"Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe - a spirit vastly superior to that of man...In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive."

these are not the words of an atheist. Anastrophe 22:25, 2 December 2007 (UTC)

This case, and many other instances of excluded persons are documented at Talk:List of atheists/Rejected. There is a link there to a pretty extensive discussion of Einstein's views on God. Nick Graves 21:12, 3 December 2007 (UTC)

I disagree, we only have to look at Albert Einstein's page here on wikipedia, under his religious views section to see he disbelieved in a God, although he frequently used poetic dialougue, this is no implification of belief. "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it." - Einstein

Although Einstein never identified himself as an atheist, by modern standards he would be. He says it right there "I do not believe in a personal God" If he was agnostic he would say "I am open to the possiblity of a personal God." —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:47, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

need it be pointed out that wikipedia is not a WP:RS for reference? Anastrophe (talk) 16:51, 30 December 2007 (UTC)
"I do not believe in a personal God" and "I am open to the possibility of a personal God" are not mutually exclusive statements, for starters. Few agnostics actually believe in a personal God. Einstein never identified as an atheist, and he never expressly denied the existence of God. It would be dishonest to say he was definitely an atheist. ~ Switch () 01:40, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

Atheist by definition vs self-identification

The issue with Einstein demonstrates a problem with these sorts of lists - do we go by someone fitting a definition of atheism, or do we only list those who self-identify as one? This occurs in other areas too - for example on List of bisexual people, what happens where there is someone who has had sex or relationships with both men and women, but has never identified as bisexual? What if they explicitly state that they are straight or gay, or not bisexual? On the one hand, just because they say so doesn't stop them fitting the definition of a bisexual person, but on the other hand, we tend to respect people's self-identification on these issues.

What about people who existed before the term atheist (or bisexual) was in common use, but blatantly fit the definition? For people living today, we run the risk of WP:BLP violations if we label them something they disagree with, even if it seems perfectly true.

The article is confusing on this matter - firstly it says "Only those who have called themselves atheists, have been identified as such by reliable sources,", but then it contradicts that by saying "or fit the narrower sense of the word atheist (they have denied the existence of any deities) are included." Which is it? Einstein explicitly denied belief in a personal God, but he never self-identified as an atheist. By this reasoning, he should be included in the list, but I'm wary to do so due to lack of self-identification (as for being an agnostic, yes he was and I believe he stated that, but being an agnostic and atheist are not mututally exclusive - I am both, for example).

For these reasons, I've seen a lot of these List of... articles deleted. For a lot of people, it's not as simple as they either are or aren't. Often it's better to cover the issue in the appropriate depth at the person's article (as we do with Einstein) rather than having a single list to put people in. Mdwh (talk) 14:26, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

Yes, the inclusion criteria description could be clearer. On the one hand, it gives the impression that self-identification is the primary criterion, but then it also says people can be included if they've been identified as atheists by reliable sources, or if they fit a certain definition. I continue to believe that identification of a person by a reliable source is sufficient for inclusion, with certain exceptions (that is, if someone says they prefer another label, or deny being an atheist, the reliable source is trumped by an even more reliable source--that is, the person themselves).
As for including those who "fit the narrower sense of the word atheist," I don't see how that can be controversial. All definitions of atheist apply to people who deny the existence of God or deities. This is definitely a case of "calling a spade a spade."
There is a difference between "denying belief in God" and "denying the existence of God." The former amounts to saying "I don't believe in God," which is weak atheism. The latter amounts to saying "There is no God," which is strong atheism. That's why Einstein and similar nontheists are not included in this list. The position called "strong atheism" is uncontroversially regarded as atheistic in the English language. The same cannot be said for "weak atheism," which many regard as something other than true atheism. Nick Graves (talk) 21:47, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
Blah! In any case, Einstein cannot be included as an atheist. Einstein only ever denied belief in a personal God - he didn't deny belief in God. --David from Downunder (talk) 13:51, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

Missing Musicians

I'm pretty sure Ozzy Osbourne and Marilyn Manson are atheists. Is there any way we could get a complete list of atheists here? - Grim —Preceding unsigned comment added by GrimReaper39614 (talkcontribs) 15:47, 28 December 2007 (UTC)

Just find a reliable source citing them as atheists - same sort of thing as what's already on the page - and you're welcome to add them. Cheers, Ian Rose (talk) 19:07, 28 December 2007 (UTC)

I also heard that Frank Zappa, Trent Reznor, all members of Rush, Elton John, Manyard James Keenan, Scott Stapp, Paul Di'Anno, and others are atheists, but I can't find sources for them. If anyone's willing to help me out, that'd be appreciated. I know Ozzy is an atheist, because I heard him say in a recent interview that he doesn't believe in God, Satan, or an afterlife. Now if only I could find that interview. —Preceding unsigned comment added by GrimReaper39614 (talkcontribs) 00:10, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

I thought Reznor was, but I've spent hours and hours looking through old magazines and internet interviews without finding the one I remember. I know pretty well that Marilyn Manson is affiliated with the Church of Satan and a Randian libertarian, so he might well be. Rush are all Objectivists so they would be. Zappa was very critical of religion but careful not to call himself an atheist. I can't say anything regarding the others. But, speculation aside, the best (and only) way to get them into the article is to find some sources which meet the list's inclusion requirements. ~ Switch () 01:46, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
GrimReaper, Scott Stapp self-identifies as Christian. --TM 17:57, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

Sorry about that, Scott Stapp is indeed Christian. But I know Paul Di'Anno, former vocalist for Iron Maiden, is an atheist. He has a tattoo that says "God = sucker" on him. He was Muslim for a while, but never truly believed in it. Here's the link[1]. Frank Zappa and Manson's Wikipedia pages also have them listed in the atheist categories, so I'll look there to find a link to a source or something about them. - Grim —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:53, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

Al Gore also won the Nobel Prize and an Oscar.

Al Gore also won the Nobel Prize and an Oscar. Berdard Shaw was the first he was the second.-- (talk) 18:29, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

Indeed. GB Shaw entry updated accordingly. Hqb (talk) 18:53, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

Gorbachev a pantheist and has expressed belief in a pantheistic God. Therefore putting him in this list is inaccurate. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:16, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

Gorbachev said he was an atheist in a 1991 interview. It was reported in a reliable source, which is cited in this list. If you can find a later reliable source in which he says he's a pantheist, please feel free to move him from this list to the list of pantheists, citing your source. Nick Graves (talk) 02:52, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

Missing some important people

Why aren't Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, and Mark Twain on this list? Bobisbob (talk) 16:53, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

Because no reliable sources have been found identifying them as atheists. Nick Graves (talk) 02:42, 14 January 2008 (UTC)
There are two essays reprinted in Hitchens, Christopher (2007). The Portable Atheist. ISBN 978-0-306-81608-6.  that answer the question for Mark Twain. Mike0001 (talk) 13:26, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The source listed also says he was a Freemason, which requires belief in a supreme being. HighPriest (talk) 19:17, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

Omar Khayyam

How could we miss this writer? Anyway, he is in now.

Is everyone who appears in The Portable Atheist by Christopher Hitchens included now? Mike0001 (talk) 11:57, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Use of ndash and mdash

Please note that ndash is used for number ranges—such as 1066–1082—and mdash is used as in this sentence. Is there some simple way to correct this article? Mike0001 (talk) 11:57, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Richard Dawkins

There is a reference to Richard Dawkins in the footnotes, but he is not mentioned in the authors section - Is there a reason for this? Considering he has recently brought to light the growing numbers of atheists, it seems a bit strange not to have him listed (more so with several books under his belt around the subject) (talk) 19:37, 6 February 2008 (UTC)

He is mentioned in the Science and technology section. Hqb (talk) 19:45, 6 February 2008 (UTC)

URLs in references

I have had to edit a series of URLs in references, which cannot be split, and so span several columns in our 3-column format when the browser window is small. Please note that the actual URL does not need to appear in the reference text! Use left square bracket, URL, right square bracket, wherever possible. Mike0001 (talk) 13:57, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

no, it's better to use a proper web-cite, rather than bare url refs, whether with or without brackets. e.g.
<ref>{{cite web
| url =
| title =
| accessdate = 2008-03-21

Anastrophe (talk) 19:18, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

just to clarify as that was a bit terse - yes, it's not necessary to 'show' the url in the ref as long as the url is present within the ref. but formally, it's better to use web-cites (or news-cites or book-cites, obviously as the case may be) for clearer presentation of the reference. Anastrophe (talk) 19:25, 12 February 2008 (UTC)
Ah, that makes more sense! So as long as the title is there, that will appear in the reference, linked to the URL. This needs a bit of tidying up then... Mike0001 (talk) 15:55, 14 February 2008 (UTC)

Paul Heaton

So, I noticed he was missing, added him in a rush before leaving work but forgot the refs and dates, came back this morning to do it, and someone's removed him. Well, he has stated it in a TV documentary, as mentioned in his entry here, so I guess the reason for the undo was lack of refs?

So the question is, how do we reference a TV programme? It's not on YouTube as far as I can tell... are details as per his main entry good enough? (And yeah, I'm new to this, so sue me :p but my addition is correct.) --Oolon (talk) 11:48, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

Sometimes, transcripts of TV programs can be found from reliable sources online. Failing that, a direct quote of him saying something like "I'm an atheist" ought to be included in the ref, the TV show itself should be cited (episode title, original airdate, etc.). If you include those details in your entry, I'm sure someone will come by and put it into proper format later. Nick Graves (talk) 22:42, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

Thanks Nick. Looks like I'll have to wait for ITV to repeat it then. I saw it, so did many others, and it's referred to online several places, but I didn't bother to keep my recording, so haven't got his exact words! Hmmm. I suppose that impacts on his main entry too then...? Cheers, Simon Oolon (talk) 17:16, 21 February 2008 (UTC)

David D. Friedman (the economist) I understand that there needs to be proof that this blog really is his before this page may be counted as proof of his atheism. There is a link to it at the top of his website here In turn, the authenticity of that website has his may be found here where it is listed on the right-hand side. More recently, the blog has again mentioned being an atheist May we put him back onto the list now? Note that the article for David D. Friedman already has a sentence that says "He is an atheist". Epa101 (talk) 15:59, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

Tobias Menzies

Tobias Menzies, who appeared in the HBO series Rome and was Villiers in Casino Royale is apparently an Atheist. At least that's how he identifies himself on his myspace:

I'm just not sure if he's notable enough to put on the list (what's the criteria for that?), he does have a wikipedia page so if that's enough it's probably worth putting him on the list. —Preceding unsigned comment added by NeoRicen (talkcontribs) 09:41, 29 February 2008 (UTC)

Why do people keep putting Ibn Warraq on here?

This article has self-identification as the postulent for being an atheist. On this basis, Ibn Warraq should not be on the list. He self-identifies as agnostic. The current reference for him is a third party comment. I have taken him off twice before, and someone keeps putting him back on. Epa101 (talk) 23:06, 2 March 2008 (UTC)

Maybe you should add him to the List of rejected people, including a pointer to a concrete source documenting his self-identification as an agnostic. That'll make it easy to remove him on sight, should he get added again. Hqb (talk) 18:52, 3 March 2008 (UTC)
Done. Epa101 (talk) 10:12, 4 March 2008 (UTC)
Guilty. I had restored Warraq to this list because the entry did cite a reliable source that said he advocated "outright atheism." I had also deleted Warraq from List of agnostics because of lack of sourcing. Since then, a reliable source has been found (by EPA101, I believe) that reports that Warraq self-identifies as an agnostic. From that, it can be presumed that "agnostic" is his preferred label. Note, however, that agnosticism and atheism are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Some may identify as both: Andy Rooney, Kurt Vonnegut, Steve Wozniak, and Bertrand Russell (with caveats), for example. Nick Graves (talk) 19:48, 17 March 2008 (UTC)
Also, you have to consider the date of the citation. A later date should take precedence in general. --David Broadfoot (talk) 14:21, 18 March 2008 (UTC)

David Hume

David Hume was a pretty prominent Atheist. He should be on this list. Not having him here would be like not having Bertrand Russell or something. I just can't be bothered finding the exact section of his 'On' or 'Of' miracles or wherever he states the absurdity of the position. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:07, 25 March 2008 (UTC)

There is a great deal of disagreement as to whether Hume was an atheist or not. He was commonly charged with atheism by his contemporaries, but I am unaware of any instance in which he admitted to it. As far as I know, he never explicitly denied the existence of deities. Notice that Hume is currently categorized as both an "Atheist philosopher" and a "Deist thinker" in his Wikipedia article. This article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy answers the question of whether Hume was an atheist with a "maybe." That doesn't pass the threshold for inclusion in this list. That said, if you or anyone else can find a reliable source that unequivocally calls him an "atheist," I would be in favor of including him (assuming he never denied being an atheist), so long as caveats are given in the entry that explain that not all sources agree on this, and that Hume never specifically called himself an atheist or denied the existence of deities. Nick Graves (talk) 17:19, 25 March 2008 (UTC)

Weinberg self-identification as atheist

Is this interview with Weinberg where he directly says "Yes." to whether he is an atheist better than the other sources we already have for him? [2] Edhubbard (talk) 07:04, 25 March 2008 (UTC)

Yes, it is better. I added it to the other two (having multiple sources is always a good thing). Thanks for finding that! Nick Graves (talk) 16:24, 25 March 2008 (UTC)

Richard Rodgers

I'm not interested in edit-warring so let's discuss it here. With or without the 'context' of the question in the cited quote, I don't see an explicit declaration of atheism consistent with the criteria used for inclusion in this article. Happy to hear others' opinions... Cheers, Ian Rose (talk) 13:40, 28 March 2008 (UTC)

Without the context, it's definitely not good enough. Given the question asked, I'd assert that if he did believe, he would have included the word "yes" in his response. People are often too afraid, especially in America, of responding with an outright "no". I think that we've stumbled on the definitive borderline criteria example! --David from Downunder (talk) 14:40, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
or, rather he was trying to instill a dual-mode ethic in his daughter. furthermore, how old was she? if she was a small child, the response has a different meaning than if she asked him when she was in her forties. as well, it calls into question the accuracy of her memory if it was as a small child. it's not a good enough question and response to consider him as self-identified as an atheist. i'm curious why you added it back when above you say it's not good enough for inclusion. we can't base inclusion upon an editor's speculation of what he meant, or whether he was afraid to admit atheism - we can't read his mind. Anastrophe (talk) 17:08, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
I didn't say it's not good enough for inclusion, I said "Without the context, it's definitely not good enough." --David from Downunder (talk) 17:12, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
P.S. Sorry for incorrecting your spelling of "instill" above. (I just made up that word "incorrecting" - do you like it?) Firefox's built-in spell-checker flagged "instill" as incorrectly spelled... and too many years of programming in FORTRAN IV with its six-letter-maximum-length identifiers had tricked my brain into accepting that. --David from Downunder (talk) 02:37, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
i'm not an atheist, and i'd have no problem saying exactly what rodgers is quoted as saying. quite simply: he has not self-identified as an atheist. the question and response are not adequate to make that leap. Anastrophe (talk) 17:14, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
Even with the context, it's not good enough. He never calls himself an atheist, and he never denies that there is a God. Judging from the quote and the context, it is quite possible that he does believe there is a God, but pragmatically acknowledges that human intervention is a much better approach to sickness than prayer. Perhaps he thinks God is above answering such piddling requests. Rodgers' answer is perfectly consistent with a belief in God, especially a God of the deistic variety. All this quote proves is that Rodgers believes that medical science is more effective than prayer. Heck, practically every theist believes that. With the exception of such minority groups as Christian Scientists, any God-believing person in the modern world, if given the choice between seeing a doctor or praying to get better, would choose the doctor. Even if the quote proved that Rodgers doesn't believe in God (which it doesn't), that position only justifies Rodgers' inclusion on List of nontheists, assuming a reliable source does not also specifically call him an "atheist." Nick Graves (talk) 17:26, 28 March 2008 (UTC)

Inclusion criteria and defining atheist (formerly George Soros)

Nick... please explain how Kroft: Do you believe in God? Soros: No does not imply atheism? --David from Downunder (talk) 02:48, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

It depends on how one defines atheism. The quote certainly indicates a nontheistic stance, but he might be an agnostic, which many people see as a position distinct from atheism. See the explanation of the use of definitions in the intro to the list. Nick Graves (talk) 02:56, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
You make it very hard to contribute to this page. I did read the intro. It says people who "have denied the existence of any deities are included". It also says "Persons who have merely expressed skepticism about the existence of any deities or who have criticized religion are excluded." "No" means "no" - there is no element of skepticism there. It even meets the definition of a "strong atheist" --David from Downunder (talk) 03:05, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
The question was "Do you believe in God?" not "Does God exist?" So no, Soros' answer is not confirmation of strong atheism. It is certainly consistent with weak atheism. But then, it's not universally agreed that "weak atheism" is really atheism at all. The intro explains that no preference is given to any particular definition. Those identified as atheists by reliable sources are included (even if they are "weak atheists"), and those who deny that there is a God or deities are included (because all definitions of atheism apply to such people). These criteria were developed because it is not universally defined or agreed upon who is and who is not an atheist. Limiting the list in this way avoids a number of potential problems related to Wikipedia policy or guidelines, including WP:NPOV, WP:OR and WP:BLP. Nick Graves (talk) 03:38, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
If you are going to reject such clear-cut assertions of atheism in favour of a definition of "strong atheism" then the article title must be change to "List of strong atheists". As it is, it is entirely misleading. Furthermore, your definition is in conflict with the definitions provided in the article's introduction:
  • one who asserts that there is no God (a strong atheist)
  • one who rejects belief in any deities (what does this really mean?)
  • one who simply does not believe in the existence of any deities (a weak atheist)
I reassert that Soros and Buffet both fit into that third category, and your insistence on strong atheism is at odds with the criteria stated in the article. Furthermore, from a practical point of view, most interview questions are not going to distinguish between weak and strong atheism, though they will usually distinguish between atheism and agnosticism, so requiring persons on the list to be atheists (rather that strong atheists) does three things:
  1. it is practical
  2. it matches the article's name
  3. it conforms to the criteria set out in the article's introduction --David from Downunder (talk) 04:26, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
Saying "No" to the question "Do you believe in God?" is not a clear-cut assertion of atheism. One may be agnostic and still answer "No" to such a question. There are plenty of weak atheists in the list. Take Pete Stark, for instance. He has said he does not believe in God, but I have yet to see any source that confirms that he believes there is no God. But since he's called an atheist by reliable sources, he's in the list. It is clear that you want to use weak atheism as the definition for atheism. However, I am not insisting on using any particular definition, as I acknowledge there is ambiguity in the word and divergence in usage. What you suggest is not practical, because it will result in the inclusion of persons who may not be atheists. Those who do not believe in God are not always atheists. It would also lead to violations of WP:BLP, as it would open the door for false information about the (ir)religious identity of living persons. What you suggest would not match the article's name, since it would allow the listing of people who are not necessarily atheists, despite their lack of belief in God. What you suggest would not conform to the criteria set out in the article's introduction, since it would allow for identification of people as atheists even if they might reject that label for themselves. Nick Graves (talk) 05:14, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
I see what you are saying, but... saying "No" to the question "Do you believe in God?" is a clear-cut assertion of atheism. An agnostic would answer quite differently. By the definition in the article, it satisfies the criteria "one who simply does not believe in the existence of any deities". But you are insisting on the additional requirement that that the subject should self-identify as an atheist. However, the subject's wishes are irrelevant. There is a subject on Wikipedia who insists that his photo should not be included on Wikipedia because it is a gross invasion of privacy. But we are trying to wrote an encyclopaedia here, not to cater to everyone's whims and preferences. Let's take the example of someone was born in the USA, has sole US citizenship but lived in Australia for a number of years, then lived in the US for the past decade. His Wikipedia entry identifies him as an American, but he wished to be identified as an Australian. So what? He is what the is, not what the wants to be labelled as. The definition of an atheist is not conditional on self-identification as such, and the intro to this article should be changed to remove any suggestion of such a requirement. --David from Downunder (talk) 06:22, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
Here's a counterexample to your claim about not believing in God being a clear-cut assertion of atheism: "I am an agnostic. I do not ‘believe in’ God, but I am not an atheist, because I believe the statement, ‘There is a god’ does not admit of being either confirmed or rejected." (Milton Friedman, as quoted at List of agnostics). At present, we have no confirmation that Soros or Buffett do not share exactly the same position as Friedman. Therefore, it is premature and misleading to come to the conclusion that they must be atheists. Definitely they're nontheists of some sort. Maybe they're atheists--but they might just as easily be agnostics. And, since Soros and Buffett are both living persons, we must be particularly careful about overinterpreting, and possibly misrepresenting these subjects. Nick Graves (talk) 08:19, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
Yes, know all that, but I repeat what I wrote before: saying "No" to the question "Do you believe in God?" is a clear-cut assertion of atheism. An agnostic would answer quite differently. You know, it quite funny reading that sentence of yours: Definitely they're nontheists of some sort. Maybe they're atheists when "a-theist" means "without theism"! I think a correction is in order: you should have said Definitely they're nondeists of some sort. All nondeists are either weak atheists or strong atheists (using the accepted meaning of the word "atheist" (even though what we all really mean is adeist".) So, it comes down to you:
  • accepting an explicit statement of atheism (unspecified whether it is weak or strong), or
  • accepting a quote implying strong atheism, but
  • not accepting a quote implying weak atheism.
That just being inconsistent.
P.S. we must also be careful not to make this list inconsistent and lacking in usefulness. I might add that the living person can always make a clear statement and thus have Wikipedia amended. ---David from Downunder (talk) 14:08, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

[Decreased indent] No, saying "no" to the question "Do you believe in God?" is not a clear-cut assertion of atheism. I gave you a clear example of someone who is not an atheist (Milton Friedman) answering "no" to that very question. The vast majority (if not all) of the persons on the List of agnostics would have answered the question exactly the same way. Those who just say they don't believe in God cannot be safely assumed to be atheists. They might be agnostics, just like Friedman.

The term "nondeist" appears to be a neologism--I am unable to find it in the Oxford English Dictionary. Regardless, I don't think your usage of the word is consistent with the typical meanings for "non" and "deist." A deist is someone who believes in a God who does not intervene in human affairs (through supernatural revelation or miracles). A nondeist would then be anyone who does not believe in such a God--atheists, most agnostics, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc. I don't think that's the meaning you intended, but it's the meaning I gather from the definitions of its parts. In any case, that term isn't helping us understand each other, and I think it would be helpful to leave it out of this discussion--there are already more than enough terms to sort through without introducing new ones.

If my position seems inconsistent, it is only because of the inconsistency in the language itself. The meaning of atheist is not a settled issue, and it would be inadvisable to pretend that it is for the sake of consistency. I have tried to support as consistent a standard for inclusion on this list as possible, but the reality is that usage of the term is not consistent, and there are often contentious disagreements about what it means. This reality is thoroughly documented by the Atheism article, and the sources used for the intro give a good overview of the controversy. Let's survey what those sources have to say:

  1. The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy says “Atheism is the position that affirms the nonexistence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief.”
  2. Encyclopædia Britannica says that "...a more adequate characterization of atheism consists in the more complex claim that to be an atheist is to be someone who rejects belief in God for [reasons that depend] on how God is being conceived."
  3. David Eller, author of Natural Atheism, considers atheism to be lack of belief in God, a position expressed much earlier by d'Holbach, who said that "All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God."

So which of these definitions are we to use? Here we have 3 reliable sources--two encyclopedias and a self-identified atheist who is the author of two books on the subject--each giving different, and progressively broader definitions for the word. By the first definition, only those who deny the existence of God are atheists. By the second, only those who reject belief in God are atheists. By the third, anyone who has no belief in God is an atheist, even if they haven't considered the concept enough to choose to reject it. As Wikipedia editors, it is improper for us to choose any of these definitions, each supported by reliable sources, in preference to the others. Such would violate Wikipedia policies concerning neutral point of view and original research. To rule in favor of one definition over the others would be to take a particular point of view on the controversy. Such a ruling would also rely on the judgment of Wikipedia editors that goes beyond what the reliable sources say, which is original research.

How about using all three definitions? Well, depending on how that approach is implemented, that could still bump into the same problems already mentioned. If we say that each definition represents a necessary criterion for identifying someone as an atheist, we have in effect ruled in favor of using the first, most narrow definition. If we say that each definition represents a sufficient criterion for identifying someone as a atheist, we have in effect ruled in favor of using the last, most broad definition.

There is a very easy way to avoid these problems, which has been the basic approach used for the article. We can simply agree that we will not prefer any of these definitions over the others, and faithfully report the identifications that reliable sources have made. Maybe these reliable sources are assuming definition 1, 2 or 3, but we needn't be concerned about that. No matter what definition is being used, we can still be satisfied that it is verifiable in a reliable source that person X is an atheist. Perhaps my own preferred definition for the word includes only those people who say "There is no God," or perhaps your preferred definition includes anyone who says they don't believe in God. These preferences are immaterial, since what the reliable sources report always trumps the preferences of Wikipedia editors.

In addition to faithfully reporting the identifications made by reliable sources, we can also confidently identify someone as an atheist if they deny the existence of God. That's because such a position qualifies as atheistic regardless of which definition is used. Clearly, such a person has a position consistent with definition 1. Just as clearly, they have rejected belief in God (which is consistent with definition 2), and they also lack belief in God (which is consistent with definition 3). In contrast, we cannot definitively identify someone as an atheist based solely on them making less forceful expressions of nonbelief in God, because such positions are not universally regarded as atheistic.

Furthermore, we have a duty to exclude persons who deny being atheists, or who use a self-identifying term other than "atheist" to describe their position on God's existence. That's because we are required by policy (based on legal considerations) to be vigilant in reporting accurately about those who are still living, especially if material in an article could be perceived as negative (applicable here, as atheist still has a potentially pejorative sense, ie. "godless" or "immoral"). Calling someone an "atheist" when they specifically reject that label for themselves would be misleading. Calling someone an "atheist" when they have chosen a label such as "agnostic" for themselves (which in most cases strongly implies rejection of the label atheist) is also misleading. It is inconsistent with WP:BLP to suggest that it's ok to go ahead and make a quite possibly wrong judgment about someone's (ir)religious identity, and correct it only if the living person takes the initiative to disabuse us of that notion. The onus is on us to get it right, and to defer in cases where we cannot be sure. Nick Graves (talk) 19:36, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

  1. Re your statement No, saying "no" to the question "Do you believe in God?" is not a clear-cut assertion of atheism. I gave you a clear example of someone who is not an atheist (Milton Friedman) answering "no" to that very question. - please show me where Milton Friedman was asked "Do you believe in God" and he responded with as unqualified "No".
  2. You are again arguing a need for inclusion based on a definition that is "universally regarded". Where in the guidelines is universal agreement stated to be a requirement? For example, judo is not universally regarded as a martial art (many consider it to be only a sport), but the Wikipedia article states "Judo is a modern Japanese martial art and combat sport".
  3. In choosing as you have done, you are making Wikipedia inconsistent. Of course everyone knows that there is a range of definitions for the term. However, this article is not conforming to the definition chosen in the article Atheism.
Cheers. --David from Downunder (talk) 04:12, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
  1. Friedman's unqualified "No" is right there in the quote. What you take to be qualification is actually an explanation and justification of his unqualified answer. The form of his response is not "No, but..." The form is "No, and here's why..."
  2. I am not arguing for a need for inclusion based on a definition that is "universally regarded." I am arguing for inclusion based on what the reliable sources report, no matter which definition they are using. In certain cases where specific identification with the word "atheist" is lacking, I am arguing that we are not justified in listing someone unless they clearly express a view that is uncontroversially atheistic. "I believe there is no God" is uncontroversially atheistic--all three of the basic definitions for the word would apply to such a position. "I don't believe in God" (absent a denial of God's existence) is not uncontroversially atheistic--this position of mere nonbelief is not consistent with the first basic definition of the word, which describes atheism as an assertion or belief.
  3. The article on Atheism does not choose a single definition. It covers all of them neutrally, which is a precedent that I intend to maintain for this article. It also points out that, although agnosticism may be considered to be a form of weak atheism, it is also often viewed as being distinct from atheism (especially by those who call themselves agnostics). That's the crux of the controversy, and the reason we cannot definitively categorize all nontheist agnostics (or nontheists in general) as atheists. Nick Graves (talk) 18:52, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
Whether he said "No, but..." or "No, and here's why..." is irrelevant to my argument. Your debating skills are very good, but picking up on such minor distinctions is not really helpful: my point is that he didn't simply reply "No." If someone simply says "No" then that should be considered atheism. If they add to the "No", then the rest of what they say has to be taken into account. Otherwise, as another poster pointed out, it is just getting all anal about it; it's introducing distinctions beyond the appreciation of most readers; it leads to a less useful list; and it gets it wrong most, if not all, of the time. P.S. If someone was forced to answer the question with a Yes/No response then I grant your approach, but if they are allowed to elaborate and they don't, then they are clearly an atheist. Totally clear. --David from Downunder (talk) 02:51, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
  1. Whether he said "No, but..." or "No, and here's why..." is perfectly relevant to your argument. You said Friedman's answer was qualified. It was not. It was an unqualified "no", and his further explanation for his position proved that one can be an agnostic and not an atheist even if one definitely does not believe in God (a position which you have said should be considered a form of atheism). Friedman's case provides a counterexample to your argument, and disproves it.
  2. You say that an agnostic would never simply say "No" to the question "Do you believe in God?" What is your support for this contention? How do you know this to be true? Without evidence for this assertion, you are just begging the question.
  3. Whether the distinction between asserting there is no God and not believing in God is beyond the appreciation of most readers is irrelevant. The distinction does exist, and is important to a significant portion of he readership (most of those who consider themselves some type of nontheist, for example), and most likely significant to the subjects of the biographical claims made in this list. I'm not willing to take a chance judging someone who simply answers "No" to be an atheist when they might very well consider themselves agnostic and not atheist. There is a perfectly adequate list where such persons can be added until a more specific identification is made. The label "nontheist" does not carry the same pejorative baggage as "atheist," and this solution is a good way to categorize nonbelievers when a more specific category is not known to be applicable. Nick Graves (talk) 17:33, 2 April 2008 (UTC)

Warren Buffett

Before I go to the trouble to edit the page again, what about "He adopted his father's ethical underpinnings, but not his belief in an unseen divinity" from a Doubleday biography about Warren Buffet? --David from Downunder (talk) 02:49, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

Just as with the Soros source, this definitely signifies nontheism of some sort. But it might not be atheism. Nick Graves (talk) 02:57, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
No... certifying non-belief in a divinity is expressing a lot more that non-theism, it expresses non-deism, i.e. it expresses what is normally meant by atheism, and what this article defines as atheism. --David from Downunder (talk) 03:21, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
This article lists several definitions for atheism. The one you're referring to is the variation known as "weak atheism." Yes, by that definition, Buffett would be an atheist. But not everyone agrees on that definition, so we cannot definitively identify him as an atheist using the quote you mentioned. Nick Graves (talk) 03:44, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

Larry Flynt

And Larry Flynt who stated in his autobiography "I have left my religious conversion behind and settled into a comfortable state of atheism.”

That's an absolutely unambiguous confirmation that Flynt is an atheist. By all means, cite the autobiography, include the quote, and give the page number. Excellent work. Nick Graves (talk) 02:59, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

Richard E Grant

Is this good enough for him to be included, do we think? That's the trouble really. Unless someone actually uses the word 'atheist', expressing mere disbelief in gods seems... problematic, I gather ;-) Oolon (talk) 16:07, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

The title of the piece is "Coming Out as an Atheist," so I'd say this is a case of a reliable source identifying someone as an atheist. That seems sufficient to me. Nick Graves (talk) 17:42, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
More inconsistency. The strongest statement that Grant made about his position was when he indirectly described himself as a "non-believer". So, now you are accepting that categorisation simply on the basis that an unnamed journalist from the National Secular Society used it to describe Grant. Why should that journalist's opinion take precedence? So, the guidelines in the intro need to be revised again to allow labelling as an atheist by any second-rate external source as being sufficient grounds for inclusion. --David from Downunder (talk) 04:26, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
To be fair, I think it is pretty clear that Grant is an atheist. The article makes reference to what he said on The Heaven and Earth Show, and from my own memory of that (which was why I looked him up), his answers may have been similar to those in the article, but I seem to remember them being a bit stronger.
As I said initially, we're stuck with awaiting someone actually using the word 'atheist' or being far more outspoken than a lot of people simply are. Some people just don't talk about it (countless scientists, I expect, for example); others, like Michael Shermer, dislike the label. Dammit, Richard Dawkins has said he dislikes the label too (cos it relates to a negative), but, were it not for his outspoken-ness, would we be um-ing and ah-ing about whether he's an atheist too?
I realise we need to provide verification. But because of the nature of the 'crime', that is inevitably hard to come by. In times gone by, one could have been burned or otherwise executed for providing posterity with the verification we're requiring. Note the rather poor showing by historical figures overall in our list. Things aren't so bad now (but try verifying the many atheist US politicians that there must actually be!), but even so, while I fully understand the reasons, I think we're being overly anal about it. If you disbelieve in god, you are an atheist. And isn't a "non-believer" -- when mentioned in a religious context -- someone who disbelieves in gods?
I dunno. Over to you guys...
Oolon (talk) 08:45, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
In response to David: I was hasty in concluding that this was a reliable source: It is from an organizational website, and such sites often have a questionable level of editorial oversight. And, as you point out, it is anonymously authored, which is a strike against its reliability. I would be in favor of waiting for a better source before putting Grant in. In response to Oolon: Having to wait for use of the word "atheist" in a reliable source is a consequence of the controversy over the definition of atheist, and the need to maintain a neutral point of view on this issue within the article. We aren't justified as Wikipedia editors to rule in favor of one point of view over another ("an atheist is anyone who doesn't believe in God" vs. "only those who assert that God does not exist are atheists"). But we are justified in simply reporting what the reliable sources say, no matter which of the reliably documented definitions they happened to choose. In the example above, I was in error as to whether the source was reliable enough, but I was still consistent with the inclusion requirements that I've supported in this discussion, and which I believe are necessary to remain in compliance with some key Wikipedia policies (WP:OR, WP:NPOV, WP:BLP). Nick Graves (talk) 18:16, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
Nick, even if it was a fully reliable source, I disagree with taking the journalist's categorisation of a subject as an atheist (as per the headline "Coming Out as an Atheist"). I so doing, you are putting an enormous amount of faith in a journalist's ability to define, while suspending belief in your own analytical abilities. If the reliable source quoted the subject as saying that he was an atheist, that would be a different matter.
As to claiming that as Wikipedia editors we aren't justified in taking one definition over another - that is in fact what you are doing: the article atheist defines strong atheism and weak atheism but you are favouring a subset of the total in the case where the subject has clearly identified with the term. It's simple... someone should be categorised here as an atheist in the following circumstances:
  1. if they call themselves an atheist
  2. if they say that they believe that there is no god (strong atheism)
  3. if they say they do not believe in god (weak atheism with no evidence of equivocacy)
And they should be labelled an agnostic:
  1. if they call themselves an agnostic
  2. if they make an equivocal statement about their belief in god
Interestingly, from what you wrote above, you are happy to include someone an an atheist simply because a reliable source says so, even if, for example, a respected reporter for a respected publication wrote: "Joe Blow said yesterday 'I do not know if there is a god or not'... now that he has declared his atheism, his chances of obtaining high public office are nil." The usefulness of the lists is compromised by allowing the situation where we can be excluding people from the list of atheists who have made stronger statements about their lack of belief than members of the list of agnostics. --David from Downunder (talk) 02:38, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
Reporting what the reliable sources say is the essence of WP:V (encouraged, celebrated, and required on Wikipedia). Trusting one's own analytical abilities in preference to reliable sources is the essence of WP:OR (discouraged, disparaged, and prohibited on Wikipedia). A journalist who contributes to a reputable publication is a member of a profession whose ethical standards emphasize accuracy, who has editorial oversight monitoring his or her contributions, and whose livelihood depends on getting it right. The same cannot be said of Wikipedia editors in their capacity as such, which is why the views of Wikipedians must always defer to what is reported in reliable sources.
That said, there are instances where an otherwise reliable source does get it obviously wrong. We can know this if it is contradicted by the vast majority of other reliable sources, or contradicted by a more directly knowledgable reliable source. A scientific article published in a peer-reviewed journal takes precedence over contradictory information in non-scientific popular media, for example--just as a person's own self-declaration of (ir)religious identity takes precedence over secondary reporting of it. The example you give, where the journalist draws the conclusion that someone is an atheist based on their declaration that they do not know whether or not there is a God, would be a case of an otherwise reliable source getting it obviously wrong. The person's statement does not conform with any of the definitions of "atheist," and only a rudimentary level of logic and knowledge is needed to conclude that the journalist got it wrong. This is similar to a case I encountered as I used Greenwood Daily Life Online, a generally reliable source. An article on religion in revolutionary-era America said Thomas Paine was an atheist--a claim that most other reliable sources contradict, and which is contradicted by Paine's own testimony in his writings, where he specifically declares that he believes in God.
As I've said repeatedly, I do not accept one definition in preference to the others. The list contains many persons who are so-called "weak atheists," which definition 1 would exclude. Heck, I've added some myself. I do support including people who claim there is no God (without specific identification as "atheist")--not because I have chosen definition 1 in preference to the others, but because this is the one position that all three definitions agree qualifies as atheism. In contrast, the approach of including all people who say they don't believe in God (without specific identification as "atheist") chooses definition 2 (or 3) in preference to definition 1. Definition 1 explicitly excludes such people, and including them is the same as dismissing this defintion as incorrect--that is, taking a particular point of view on the controversy between competing definitions. Nick Graves (talk) 18:07, 2 April 2008 (UTC)

[re-indenting] Seems to me that, by placing people into categories, we are doing a somewhat journalistic job.

And, we've got a bunch of definitions that don't quite agree (by focusing, in this case, on sets within sets. Everyone (and all definitions) agree that 'there is no god' = atheist, but 'I do not believe in gods', while probably indicating it, may not, and so on. So it seems to me that, if we are going to try to categorise people at all -- 'using our skill and judgement' (and evidence!), we should use the broadest of the solid definitions (to exclude is to take the softer definition as invalid, which isn't our job, right?), and note the person's actual position, so people can decide for themselves just how atheisty the person is. If 'I am a skeptic, rationalist, humanist and deny all supernatural things' counts as an atheist under some reliable, authoritative definition, then to worry away at it is to turn it into a daft grey area of our own making.

Oolon (talk) 14:07, 3 April 2008 (UTC)

John Humphrys

I think this needs looking into. I've not read his book In God We Doubt -- it's had a critical mauling -- but I gather that he's a classic fence-sitter, not really a believer but unhappy with the New Atheism. If I'm remembering correctly, he's called himself agnostic.

(Aside: following George Smith (Atheism: The Case Against God), I'll muddy the waters by pointing out that Smith argues, agnosticism is a postition relating to knowledge, not to belief. One is simply an atheist or a theist, one has belief or one doesn't, end of. Whether one also has (or thinks they have) some knowledge that informs the position is beside the point. So one can be an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist. In other words, it's a category error. So on that basis, it may be that Humphrys's entry is secure... ;-) )

Anyway, anyone read his book? Or do I have to go to the library? :-) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Oolon Colluphid (talkcontribs) 08:54, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

Smith is correct, if we base our understanding of the words on the literal meaning of their roots. However, the fact remains that actual usage diverges from the more literal parsing that Smith makes. The term "agnostic" was specifically coined by T.H. Huxley as a distinct alternative between theism and atheism--positions to which he ascribed an inherent (and, in his view, unjustified) level of certainty. According to Huxley, both theism and atheism were forms of belief, and he wanted a term that applied to his own position, which was the suspension of judgment (that is, nonbelief in either direction) on the matter of God's existence, because there was insufficient knowledge to settle it. We may think that Huxley was misguided in coining a new term to apply to a supposed third category between theism and atheism, but his term stuck, and many people in his time and to this day still insist on using it as if it were distinct from atheism or theism. Nick Graves (talk) 18:29, 1 April 2008 (UTC)