I don’t reject your god.

I simply don’t think your god exists.

This is a subtle but very important difference, which a lot of theists either don’t understand or refuse to understand.

There is a third option why some theists insist that atheists are “rejecting god” it is that they can not comprehend that not everyone believes in their god. They think that everyone believes there is a god but are just lying to themselves when they say they don’t. The reason for this I surmise is that the theist is worried that the atheist might be right (which we are by the way 🙂 ) and therefore their whole belief system, and for some their whole way of life, is a fabrication and a lie (which it is by the way 🙂 ).

So why discuss this topic, again?

Well I came across this site yesterday and posted a reply to the post Is Atheism a Crutch? , in which I thought I had clearly spelt out the definition of an atheist and thus the reason why the whole concept of their post was wrong (my comment is near the end). The author of the post stated this:

Perhaps atheists are rejecting God because they’ve had a bad relationship with their father.

Which is a Straw Man of the highest order. Atheists don’t reject god they just don’t think god(s) exists (hard to reject something that doesn’t exist), secondly the author’s reason for the rejection is just wrong on so many levels.

Well it seemed that my simple explanation for disagreeing (my comment starts “What utter tosh…”) with the author’s post, and particularly with the authors definition of atheism, wasn’t simple or logical enough.

A person by the name of MrSprinkleFingers replied to my comment with, well this:

@OzAtheist

One red chip. One green chip. One blue chip. None of which have an inscribed value. The poker players in Game A decide to assign $1 to the red, $2 to the green, and $5 to the blue. The poker players in Game B decide to assign $10 to the red, $20 to the green, and $50 to the blue. Which group of poker players has assigned the correct value to the poker chips? The question is non-sensical because it assumes a “correct” value exists when none, in fact, does. What matters is that when the poker players of Game A and Game B decide play together that they come to a common agreement on what the value of each color chip will be. Likewise with the word “atheist.”

There exists no innate or “correct” meaning to the token “atheist.” There only exists the meanings which groups of people have assigned to the word. Hence, it makes no sense to speak of atheist as having a “correct” or “incorrect” meaning.

To go a step further, because Koukl’s definition of atheist as being one who rejects god(s) is indeed the common usage, it stands to reason that the popular definition of atheism being propagated by atheists on the Internet stands outside the norm. Thus, for practical reasons, it makes more sense to employ the common definition rather than some convenient definition created and defended with a horrendous etymological argument to avoid the responsibility assigned to all participants of a conversation via the Cooperative Principle.

I tried posting the following reply but the site wouldn’t take my comment, I suspect it may be too long? So I decide to post my reply here.


Lot’s of nice big words there @MrSprinkleFingers but I will still have to disagree with you.

For a start Greg Koukl, who I’d never heard of until I read you comment, is a Christian apologist, therefore HIS definition of atheist does NOT constitute the common use of the term. As is often the case with religious apologetics they create there own definitions for words in order to either demonise others, or to try and rationalise their own beliefs. This does not make their definition correct or the one that is in common use, unless you are talking about in common use amongst religious apologetics who are attempting to win arguments by changing the definitions of words?

I would believe a dictionary or wikipedia before I would believe any religious apologetic when it comes to defining a word.

a·the·ism [ey-thee-iz-uhm]
-noun
1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.
from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atheism

see, nothing about “rejecting” in those definitions. This is by far the more common usage for the term atheism, particularly amongst atheists.

The Atheist Foundation of Australia, of which not surprisingly I’m a member, uses this to define atheism:

“ATHEISM

is the acceptance that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods or the supernatural.”

The problem with religious apologetics using the definition of the word atheism as meaning “one who rejects god(s)” is that it implies that atheists actually believe god(s) exist, which is not the case.

Oh, and your whole first paragraph is irrelevant nonsense. There is a vast difference between assigning values to something (poker chips) and defining a word. A poker chip is still a poker chip, no matter what dollar value you assign to it everyone will still know what a poker chip is. Equally with any other word, it has a standard definition which is commonly accepted. In the case of the term ‘atheism’ it is generally held to mean “the absence of belief that any deities exist” (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism ), or similar as shown above, NOT “rejecting god(s)”.

It should be noted that the word “reject” is used on the wikipedia page, however unlike Koukl’s totally incorrect definition “one who rejects god(s)”, the term is used as follows: “the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.” Note the difference, which is subtle (perhaps too subtle for some) but important, Koukl’s definition is implying that god(s) exist (and that atheists know this), whereas wikipedia’s definition does not.

Like a lot of words, their meaning and definitions can change slightly over the years, dictionaries will regularly update accordingly, currently atheism is defined around the concept that atheists consider that there are no gods.

Oh, and don’t start on the term belief it doesn’t mean what you probably think it means when used in the contexts above.

MrSprinkleFingers your “logic” (using the term very loosely) is rather bad. You state that “it makes no sense to speak of atheist as having a “correct” or “incorrect” meaning.” but then state “Koukl’s definition … is indeed the common usage” on who’s authority is Koukl’s definition the correct one? Certainly not any atheist’s that I know of. Then you state the following “it stands to reason that the popular definition of atheism being propagated by atheists on the Internet stands outside the norm.” erm how? If a popular definition of a word is being propagated by it’s adherents (and backed up by dictionary definitions!) wouldn’t that make it the norm rather than some obscure religious apologetic’s definition? Your logic MrSprinkleFingers fails again. Your last sentence is utter semantic nonsense, lots of big words but all you are trying to say is “use my definition not yours” – despite Koukl’s definition being wrong and not in common use like you (alone) assert.

If you want to cooperate try using the correct definition of the terms atheist and atheism (ie. acceptance that there are no gods) NOT your incorrect demonising definition that implies atheists know that god exists but are ‘rejecting’ him because of whatever reason (we hate him, or he did something bad to us, or whatever ridiculous argument you come up with to try and rationalise in your head that ‘atheists reject god’, because you can’t accept that, unlike yourself, not all of us are deluded into the belief that god exists).

All these words and I just realised that’s basically what I wrote in my first post! MrSprinkleFingers I think you will find that this comment only further backs up my original assertion: “If an atheist has confidence [and I do] that god(s) do not exists, or confidence that the likelihood of god(s) existing is so remote as to make them non-existent, then how is it possible for an atheist to be worried about “the frightening implications of God’s existence”?”

So, can you answer my original question?

One last thing, please stop propagating your incorrect definition of the term atheism.

I think you will find that the correct term for atheism is something along the lines of number 2 of the online dictionary “disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings”, and yes it does make sense to use the term “correct” as that is the definition in various dictionaries and internet reference sites which adheres to what atheists actually think and which is most commonly used (except for some religious apologetics who are using an incorrect definition for their own nefarious reasons).


I attempted to post a link to this page on the ‘Stand to Reason‘ blog, but that wasn’t accepted either,  perhaps there is a fault on that blog at the moment. I got the following in an error dialogue box:

We’re sorry, we cannot accept this data

Please let me know if you think I have incorrectly defined the terms atheist and atheism, or if any of my logic is wrong. But be prepared to back up your claims with evidence.

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20 Comments

Filed under atheism, atheist, god, religion

20 responses to “I don’t reject your god.

  1. The first line in this post says it all.

    If you have a chance, stop by and see my post. It is hilarious, IMO.

    Hope you are happy and well.

    🙂

  2. MrSprinkleFingers

    @OzAtheist

    Greg Koukl, the author of the blog entry, is using “rejects god(s)” synonymously with “believes that there is no god(s).” (For clarification on Koukl’s register, see the entry “Atheists’ Non-Belief.”)

    The analogy and brief explanation is making a distinction between “correct” and “accepted.” Correct carries the connotation of value judgment (i.e., true or false). It makes no sense to speak of a definition as “true” or “false.” Rather, a definition simply “is.” Accepted carries no such connotation. I, along with other descriptive linguistics, do not speak about language features as being “true” or “false” (i.e., “correct” or “incorrect”). We describe them as they are used.

    I hope this helps clarify the misunderstanding.

    • No, it doesn’t clarify it one bit.

      Trust me, you are in a quite small minority of “descriptive linguistics” the vast majority of us use words as they are generally used. Thus for the vast majority of us the “correct” term for atheist (or any other word for that matter) is the one that is generally accepted by the majority of the populace and the one (usually the same meaning) that is found in most dictionaries.

      So I still stand “correct” that the definition of atheist (and the one that is most commonly accepted) is the one I have mentioned above, not the one that Koukl likes to use.

      Can you prove me wrong or incorrect on that? I doubt it, without delving into intricate meaningless semantics.

      Besides it was you that first brought up the “correct” “incorrect” semantics I simply stated “atheists don’t “reject god” they reject the notion of god.”. It was your first reply to me that ‘muddied the waters’ and caused me to write this post.

      I’m sorry but you can not use

      “rejects god(s)” synonymously with “believes that there is no god(s).”

      it makes no sense. There is a vast difference in the descriptive word “reject” and the phrase “believes there is no” if you can’t see that then I a) doubt the usefulness of “descriptive linguistics” or b) are, as I inferred in my original text, just trying to make atheists look bad.

      Whatever descriptive words you want to use “true” or “false”, “correct” or “incorrect”, “accepted” or “not-accepted” the bottom line is the phrase ‘atheists reject god’ is wrong, false and not-accepted.

      PS. I have not listened to the audio on the link you posted as it is not working for me.

      • MrSprinkleFingers

        @OzAtheist

        I was presenting two separate arguments. I apologize for not making that clear. One is about the notion of “correct” definitions. The other is about Koukl’s definition of atheism. I will seek to clarify.

        I intended to write descriptive linguists rather than descriptive linguistics. The distinction being made is between descriptive linguistics which describes how language is used and prescriptive linguistics which prescribes how language should be used. The latter is almost universally criticized within the field of linguistics.

        Linguistics has been generally critical of the prescriptivist approach, emphasizing instead the importance of descriptively accurate studies of usage, and of the need to take into account sociolinguistic variation in explaining attitudes to language. More recently, there has been interest in studying prescriptivism objectively, as a sociocultural phenomenon.

        Source: Crystal, D. (2003). A dictionary of linguistics & phonetics. (5th ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

        Further, the feeling amongst most linguists regarding “correctness” is rather critical.

        correctness (n.) A term usually encountered in linguistics in the context of criticism of prescriptive attitudes to language. The judgements of traditional grammarians that usages were either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ (correct v. incorrect) has been replaced by a concern to describe the observable facts of linguistic usage, without reference to value judgments, and to replace absolute notions of correctness by an emphasis on the relative appropriateness of language to social settings.

        Source: See above.

        Linguists almost universally reject the notion of “correct” ways to use a language. Rather, they discuss “appropriateness,” or, per my term, accepted conventions. Thus, your argument about “correct” definitions stands at odds with nearly the entire field of linguistics.

        Turning to Koukl’s definition of atheist, you have misunderstood his definition of “reject.” You are attaching ideas of “submission to.” That is, you are suggesting Koukl means an atheist accepts God’s existence, but refuses to submit to God’s authority. Rather, he is using reject to mean denial; refusal to accept; and so on. His definition of reject incorporates nothing about submission or prior acceptance of God’s existence on part of the atheist.

  3. Emphasis on the “refuse to understand”. It’s self-serving for them to pretend otherwise – it helps them peddle the notion that were are being overconfident, bloody-minded, dogmatic etc.

    This latter category of theists who refuse to understand disbelief, in order to hang opinions on atheists that atheist don’t hold are beginning to disgust me.

    I’ve got a special section of my book that’s dedicated to this, but I’ve made the conviction in the book not to make personal accusations (such as bigotry) in order not to back people into a corner. It’s becoming apparent that it’s going to be harder than I thought.

    Grrr…

  4. @MrSprinkleFingers

    Yes that does clarify it somewhat, though now my head hurts from all that linguistics. 🙂

    I can see your point, however as I said earlier, there ain’t many linguists out there (I’d imagine) so us undereducated layperson use what we feel is most appropriate when it comes to discussing matters.

    If it makes you feel better from now on I’ll use the term “appropriate” rather than “correct”. Though from my layman’s point of view you saying appropriate and I saying correct; is much like you say tomato, I say tomato. 🙂

    Never the less, would you agree that the most appropriate usage of the word ‘atheism’ is in reference to the disbelief in god?

    • MrSprinkleFingers

      @OzAtheist

      Happy to see clarity has come. I can have a nasty habit of conciseness without clarity. 🙂 I often get bogged down with my readings and forget to outline the terms in play. (Naughty, MrSprinkleFingers. Naughty.)

      That said, I agree regarding atheism. I believe the common usage of the term is accurately reflected as you have describe.

      Cheers.

  5. Hermes

    “It’s becoming apparent that it’s going to be harder than I thought.”

    Bruce, the presumption of unearned privilege should not be tolerated. Those who claim it often do not see anything wrong with taking what they see as naturally theirs by association. This attitude shows up in many places and on many levels. I can think of a dozen examples, many of them associated with sectarian religious/theistic beliefs.

    Well, forget that. I’ve completely given up on being nice about repeated abuses, and I have no qualms about calling a bigot a bigot.

    The bigots, though, take offense to being called on it and wonder why those they are biased against are so upset.

    Yet, they do not back down and continue to insist without shame on their claimed privileges mostly gained by denigrating others broadly by group. To say it another way, they wonder why those they denigrate and demean are so uppity. Why can’t they learn their place?

    If you need any encouragement, here is a notorious case in point (Paula Zahn – discrimination against atheists);

  6. To throw a spanner in the works.

    Given that in discussions, ‘atheist’ is often argued (by theists) to traditionally mean the positive rejection of God, or the idea of God, rather than a lack of belief; how do they explain the charge of atheism levelled against Spinoza?

    I think the term is technically accurate in describing Spinoza as without theism, but not in as far as a positive rejection of God – which he most definitely didn’t do – his ‘Pantheism’ simply equated nature as God, with naturalism being a way to get closer to God. (Given it’s naturalism as opposed to supernaturalism, I don’t think ‘pantheism’ qualifies as a ‘theism’ – it’s just naturalism with poetry).

    The problem I see, is that on the one hand we have a raft of theists telling us that as atheists, by (traditional, authoritative) definition, we positively reject God (as opposed to just not having a belief in God), and are hence overconfident. Yet, the traditional use of the term, (similar to the charge of impiety levelled against Socrates) has been applied, and was applied appropriately (even if the consequences of the charges were not) against those with more epistemologically meek views.

    Of course, we now have the strange state of affairs of western theists trying to claim Spinoza’s legacy, after his ideas were rejected as atheistic by Judaism, Catholicism and Protestantism alike.

    This thing about atheism being epistemologically over-confident, I think is a bit of a sham.

    It’s used to smear godless people who show a lack of deference by calling themselves atheists, and amongst other things, is being used to repeal the accusation of atheism levelled against Spinoza, to claim his ostracised works as a part of Christian heritage. (Which Spinoza may have wanted at the time, but which doesn’t stand up to historical scrutiny – Christendom rejected him explicitly).

    • MrSprinkleFingers

      @Bruce

      I would suggest on plausible explanation could be based on the context in which the charge is made. If those leveling the charge accepted the Judeo-Christian God as the one and only god, then any rejection of God could be seen as atheism. Atheism need not reference “all gods,” and can be used in contextually sensitive manners. An example from antiquity is when the Christians were accused of being atheists by the Romans.

      Another plausible explanation is that atheism was being used to mean “immoral” rather than “rejecting.” This is actually one of the earlier meanings of the Greek term atheos before it took on the meaning of “rejecting” or “active godlessness” of gods in the 5th century BCE (Source: Wikipedia).

      • Hermes

        If someone “accepted the Judeo-Christian God as the one and only god” they would be a theist. That the Romans were in error only shows their bias. Why repeat their mistake?

        I refer you back to the general resources provided in my previous multi-part post on STR.

  7. MrSprinkleFingers

    @Hermes

    Your response does not address the plausibility of either explanation.

    Further, the two-dimensional model is irrelevant.

  8. Hermes

    MrSprinkleFingers, are you referring to the response I gave to Bruce here?

    • MrSprinkleFingers

      @Hermes

      Sigh, no. It’s pretty obvious. I reused the terminology from my post and referenced your comments from STR. It’s clear this discussion is going nowhere and will go nowhere. I’m done.

      • Hermes

        That’s fine with me, as I’ve had a full week and I’m not too interested in un-knotting this ball right now. (I figure it would probably take about 2 weeks of daily comments.)

        For reference, here’s one of the longer discussion threads I’ve already had on these issues and the reasons why I have my current perspective;

        What is your religious position?
        http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php?topic=833

        Context matters, especially on complex issues. That’s the primary reason why I started out slow and focused on a limited set of details. The core of the disagreement we’ve had on the topic at STR is a contextual one, while you are keenly interested to rush past basic details and dwell only in your current conclusions.

        Consider that you are just smart enough to not consider that I might be aware of something that you have missed.

  9. Pingback: Breaking Spells » The Culture Wars Between Atheists and Theists

  10. Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

  11. charles

    there cannot be any evidence for or against the notion of god because it is vacuuos and therefore nonsense.

  12. charles

    i spelled vacuous wrong.

  13. Colin

    Atheism is not necessarily the rejection of God, it is simply a refusal to accept the obvious.

    A rejection of logic and reasoning would be more accurate.

    Because if there is no creator of the universe, that therefore qualifies the universe as a “closed system”. That is, an environment which does not receive any outside influence. Let’s assume that is true.

    Well, in a closed system, the Laws of Thermodynamics are in effect. A key principal of the 1st Law of Thermodynamics is conservation of energy and matter.

    In a closed system, energy can convert to matter and vice-versa. But the total amount of energy and matter combined must always remain the same. There can never be an increase or a decrease of energy and matter in a closed system.

    And yet we see and feel all the energy and matter around us. So how do we exist? Where did all the energy and matter come from?

    How was there a violation of the 1st Law of Thermodynamics by the creation of energy and matter in the CLOSED SYSTEM of the universe, if there is no Creator capable of doing that?

    There are only 3 possible explanations:

    1) All the energy and matter in the universe came into existence on it’s own anyways, even though the 1st Law of Thermodynamics proves that to be impossible.

    2) The energy and matter which makes up our universe has always existed for all of eternity, even though the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics proves that to be impossible.

    Or 3) There is a God. A Creator of the Universe who also created the scientific laws which appear to govern our universe and has the ability to violate them.

    Atheism is not only illogical, it’s also actually impossible according to the known laws of physics.

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