Atheism is a belief

So let’s analyse the statement that atheism is a belief, or faith, or a religion. First of all we need to understand the meaning of a few terms.

The first we’ll have a look at the definition of belief. Belief is “an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof”

The latter part of the definition is significant, but it’s not universal across all beliefs. A belief that water is wet is a belief – an acceptance that a proposition is true – but also one that has proof.

So we’ll limit ourselves at this stage to just the “acceptance that something exists, or is true”.

We’ll also look at faith, which defines as a “strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof”. So again this comes back to belief.

Now before we go too much further, these are not the only definitions of these terms. Both of these terms have alternate meanings that relate back to trust. For the sake of what we are discussing here, we will refer to the acceptance of the truth of a statement or the existence of a thing. Simply as the context of the statement often relates back to the initial definition.

So let’s look at religion as a definition. Religion is defined as “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.” It is also defined as “a particular system of faith and worship.”

Both of these definitions come back to either “belief” or “faith”. And again this is the acceptance of something as true or existing.

There is also the definition of religion as “a pursuit or interest followed with great devotion.” This is the less common usage of the word, and relates more to phrases such as “gardening is my religion” or “I follow my local sports team religiously”.

This latter definition does allow for anything to be referred to as a religion, but not as a belief. Fans of the band Nickelback could be considered religious in their devotion to the band, but that doesn’t require acceptance of a statement as true or an object as existing. In short, it isn’t a faith or a belief. It is however, as a side note, an example of poor taste.

So going back to the main point, when we say atheism is a belief, faith, or religion, we are stating that atheism is an acceptance of a statement as true or acceptance in the existence of a thing. Or to phrase it differently, for atheism to be considered a religion, belief or faith, it must, by definition, mean that one of the following propositions is correct:

Proposition 1: “Atheism is the acceptance that a particular statement is true”
Proposition 2: “Atheism is the acceptance that a particular thing exists”

So let’s delve into the definition of atheism. Atheism is defined as “a lack of belief or disbelief in the existence of a god or gods”.

Note that I have intentionally used lowercase “g” for a “god”, as atheism is not related to a deity of a specific religion.

Note that this specifically relates to a “lack of belief” and “disbelief”. Now a lack of belief is a fairly straightforward concept, as we’ve already gone through the definition of belief earlier.

Disbelief defines as “an inability or refusal to accept that something is true or real”. If someone were to put forward the proposition that “water is not wet”, as we are very aware this is untrue, this would be met with disbelief. We would be rationally unable to believe something that is contrary to all evidence, and we would rationally refuse to believe this.

The definition of atheism can also be seen in the etymology of the word. The “a-” prefix relates to “not” or “without”. This is similar to terms such as “afebrile” (not having a fever), or “asynchronistic” (lacking synchronicity). “Theism” is a belief in a god or gods.

So atheism is a lack of belief, or inability or refusal to believe in, a god or gods.

So going back to our earlier propositions, let’s substitute the term atheism with the definition of atheism.

Proposition 1: “A lack of belief, or inability or refusal to believe in a god or gods is the acceptance that a particular statement is true.”

This proposition is obviously untrue. The absence of a belief is not a belief, in much the same way that the lack of a specific rock is not a different rock. It simply means that a specific rock is not there.

Proposition 2: “A lack of belief, or inability or refusal to believe in a god or gods is the acceptance that a particular thing exists”

This is not only obviously untrue, it is patently absurd.

Does this preclude atheists from having any beliefs, faiths, or religions? Absolutely not.

A belief that water is wet is still a belief, but it is not based on an acceptance of a god or gods. In the same way there are religions that are atheistic in nature, but may or may not still contain a belief in the supernatural.

To expand from this and say due to one or some atheists being religious or holding beliefs, to then assert all atheists are religious of hold a belief, is a fallacy of inductive reasoning.

A classic example of this fallacy is the “white swan” fallacy. The statement “all swans we have seen are white, therefore all swans are white” does not hold true. It is further disproven by the discovery of swans that are black. To then continue to say that “it’s a swan, therefore it is white” contrary to evidence is then just ridiculous.

Now the one thing I have not mentioned is the argument that atheism is a belief, faith or religion that states that there is no god. This argument is not completely without merit, but it does contain a logical fallacy.

If an individual contains a belief that there is no god, then they would, by sheer logic, not hold a belief that there is a god. (Cognitive dissonance notwithstanding.) The belief that there is no god is often referred to as anti-theism.

To assume that all atheists (individuals that lack a belief in a god), therefore hold a belief there is no god, based upon the fact that a sample of the population hold this belief, is erroneous.

To illustrate this, let’s assume that all dogs lack wings. To then assume anything that lacks wings is a dog is, obviously, erroneous.

So, a lack of a belief is not a belief. A lack of a faith is not a faith. A lack of religion is not a religion.

Atheism is not a belief. Atheism is not a faith. And atheism is not a religion.

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Thank God it’s Friday

I’ve been thinking a lot about how religion shapes the way we think, and mainly about the way we speak recently.

The first phrase that I’ve been thinking of is the title of this post. The classic “Thank God it’s Friday”.

The first thing that springs to mind is why we are looking to thank any Deity at all. Okay, if I assume for a minute, beyond any evidence to the contrary, that there is an interventionist God, why would I thank them for Friday?

Doesn’t time continue moving constantly? Isn’t one day followed by another? If it is, then no intervention is needed to get to Friday. You can spend the other six days of the week praying that Friday will appear, and there’s an extremely high likelihood that it will – much the same as if you spend the previous six days not praying.

And why Friday especially? I know, I know, end of the work week, yadda yadda. But Friday is still a work day. Why not Saturday? After all, if Friday is exciting because it means the last day of work for the calendar week, wouldn’t Saturday being a day of rest be more exciting?

Of course, I wonder if we don’t get excited about Saturday because once it arrives we’re disappointed. “Hooray, It’s Saturday. Now I have a day when I have to do all the cleaning that I didn’t get a chance to earlier in the week. Plus I have to mow the lawns, fix the car. Oh, and the in-laws are coming to visit… How long until Monday now?”

But, assuming that Friday is the most exciting day of the week, and assuming that we have only gotten there due to the intervention if a deity – yes, I’m asking for suspension of disbelief – then which God are we thanking?

Now many in the western world will automatically assume a Christian God. To me, this is a false assumption. Basing it on the while of the phrase, the Christian God is only assumed due to the lack of name. (After all, we don’t say “Thank Allah…”, “Thank Jehovah…” or “Thank Bhudda”.)

Now we do suggest that we are looking at a single deity, by the use of the singular. But that doesn’t automatically assume that we are looking at a mono-theistic concept. We are looking at a deity that intervenes in a direct way with mankind – otherwise why would we need to give thanks?

So the only identifier we can go by to really narrow this down us the specific in the statement – that it is Friday.

So, of all the Gods in belief systems universal, which God has the most to do with it being a Friday?

Well, in English we call it Friday from the old English frīgedæg, after the Goddess of love – Frigg (Aka Frige, Freyja, Freya, Freja, Freyia, Frøya, and Freia). In Latin we have dies veneris from Venus – likewise Goddess of Love.

And thinking further on this, Friday is often considered “date night”. We’re often encouraged to wear casual dress in the corporate world, which allows us to show ourselves in the most flattering way to our work colleagues.

This means that Friday is more related to Goddesses of Love, then it is to any other God.

Now Christian commandments suggest we shouldn’t be using the name of God in vain. Secularism suggests that we should avoid using God in places where it’s not appropriate. So I’m thinking, for the point of accuracy and causing the least offence, that the saying should be changed.

So, from here on, I’m now looking at saying “Thank Frigg it’s Friday” as the more polite version of the phrase. And I’m encouraging others to do the same.

Tip-off to Media Watch

This is a copy/paste to a tip-off that I sent to Media Watch. (NB edited to improve formatting only.)

Just a quick note here, that I would love to see more investigation into, of the news.com.au comment moderation policy.

Although I haven’t been able to find a written copy of the policy, there was this article here that expressed that they were moderating comments to remove ” However as a publisher we have a duty not to print comments that may be defamatory or would incite religious or racial hatred.”

Also “No decision not to publish or to edit a blog posting on the grounds of suitability is undertaken without proper consideration and sometimes apprehension of straying into perceived bias and censorship.”

Having said that, it seems the policy itself is actually the opposite – to actually use posts that only seem to scew an argument in one direction or another, and to potentially incite racial friction.

A significant number of the comments refer to “Muslims” and “building mosques in every street” and “their own law”, yet the article itself doesn’t mention the Islamic faith. However others who have supported this campaign – which is a reiteration of what is actually put forward by the ABS here

This, admittedly, may be an isolated incident. But given this particular incident, and many other comments that are published in other forms, I’m wanting to know why it is that many comments are excluded, including one that was reposted (although slightly extended) here, and other comments that are openly hostile to a religion/racial background are included.

In short, it appears that the moderation policy has stumbled over the lines of censorship and headlong into propaganda.