Thought on How to Rhetorically Defeat the ‘Atheism is Just a Lack of Belief’ Meme

Modern atheists love to claim that atheism is just a ‘lack of belief in God’, but this is bullshit for a good number of reasons (see my ‘Is Theism Just a Lack of Belief in Atheism’ paper for details), and so, in order to rhetorically defeat this atheistic talking point, the next time that an atheist condescendingly tells you that he just “lacks a belief in God”, look him right in the eyes and say “Well, if that is the case, then, concerning the topic of the existence of God, you are as fucking dumb as a rock, for rocks lack a belief in God too, and since rocks have nothing of value to say about the existence or non-existence of God, I guess its the same with you, so please piss off and stop wasting my time”; and then, when the atheist starts stammering that “Well, I just do not find the arguments for God’s existence compelling” or that “I see no evidence for God” or that “I just do not think that the arguments are good either way” or that “I’m an atheist agnostic” or that “blah, blah, blah”, you can then point out to the atheist that 1) not only are all of his statements positive claims about the God question that show that he has thought about the God issue and that he does not just lack a belief but actually has positive beliefs about the topic of God that require positive substantiation, but also that 2) most of these atheistic responses show the atheist to be more of an agnostic than an atheist, and so by claiming to be an atheist, the ‘lack of belief’ atheist is essentially spreading a falsehood by labeling himself as an atheist, and so not only is the atheist incompetent in his own self-description, but he is also potentially being deceptive with it as well, which is a damning indictment either way…and that, my friends, is a good rhetorical way to shut down the ‘atheism is just a lack belief’ meme that modern atheists love to prattle on about (and lest the atheist tries to claim that rocks cannot have beliefs so the analogy is not sound, note that the analogy works just as well if the term ‘rock’ is replaced with ‘cat’, or ‘monkey’, or ‘a newborn baby’).

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12 thoughts on “Thought on How to Rhetorically Defeat the ‘Atheism is Just a Lack of Belief’ Meme

  1. I’m one of those self-described atheists who defines that term as meaning “a lack of belief in deity.” I understand that you reject this definition. My question is, “So what?” The definition of that label does not change what it is that I believe, nor what it is that I do not believe, nor my reasons for these. If you prefer that we use another definition for “atheist” than the one which I utilize, that’s fine– but what’s the point?

    If your goal is evangelism, then such pedantic quibbles over semantics aren’t likely to win any converts. After all, they do nothing to address the reasons why people like me do not believe claims that deity exists.

    If your goal is to defend the rationality of belief for other believers, then wouldn’t they be better served by addressing the positions actually held by the preponderance of self-described atheists than by playing word games?

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    • Hello Boxing,

      The goal is definitely NOT evangelism, as apologetics and evangelism should be kept separate. Furthermore, at this point in my standing on the debate between atheism and theism, I don’t care whether atheists are convinced or not. They can freely go to hell–I mean that in the literal sense–for all I care, for if God gave you free will to make that choice (as he did for atheists), whom am I to take it away. And atheists are big boys and girls, so they don’t need me to help them make their decisions.

      So, all that you will read here is the truth as best as I understand it….nothing more and nothing less. Take it or leave it.

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      • Cool, then your goal is apologetic in nature– in which case, my second question remains. Wouldn’t your goal of apologetics be better served by addressing the positions which are actually held by the preponderance of self-described atheists than by playing word games?

        Imagine, for example, a young Christian with doubts is looking for answers to lingering questions. Let’s say he comes across my blog, and finds a whole slew of information which fosters even more doubt within him. This young man then comes to you asking for advice. What good would it do this young man to tell him that I am wrong to call myself an “atheist,” and should rather use the term “agnostic?” This doesn’t answer any of the questions which he has. This doesn’t alleviate any of the doubts in his mind. This doesn’t respond to any of the articles which he may have read on my blog.

        Are trivial semantics really all that important to apologetics?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Boxing,

        Two points:

        First, the goal of the specific post that we are commenting on was rhetorical in nature, and given that rhetorical plays on definitions, semantics, quips, etc., then it was relevant for that specific post.

        Second, having proper definitions, and worrying about them, are not semantic trivialities given that if we are pursuing what is true, the first step in that quest is using proper and true definitions. If we fail to truthfully and properly define our terms, then the rest of our intellectual endeavours are suspect…and that is why semantics are important. Furthermore, in your case, speaking the truth, even if only the truth about definitions, is more important than so young man’s doubts, and he will either eventually see that and appreciate it, or else he won’t and so was not really interested in the truth in the first place.

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      • While I certainly agree that having clear and well-understood definitions is quite important to any sort of dialogue, human language is quite fluid, and words very often change their meaning over the course of time. “Atheist,” for example, used to mean “one who denies the divine.” Even people who believed that God exists used to be considered “atheists.” In fact, the early Christians were so labeled by the pagan Romans due to their denial of the Roman gods. It wasn’t until fairly recently that philosophers redefined the term to mean “those who claim God does not exist.” Similarly, the word has been utilized differently over the last 50 years by those of us who self-describe with it.

        The truth is that words only have meaning insofar as we can agree upon that meaning. The word “atheist” does not have some objectively-true definition, written into the fabric of the cosmos which is being contradicted by those of us who use it differently.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are correct, but only to a certain extent. For example, the word ‘atheist’ given its historical roots, could never come to mean a believer in God. So the fluidity can only go so far.

        But the very fact that words are fluid reinforces my point of our need to define them as precisely and accurately at the outset so that a terminological miscommunication does not occur.

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  2. There actually is only ONE way to, in a way, defeat the argument that atheism is “just a lack of belief”.

    Words have definitions, and atheism is broken down into two primary meanings:

    1) NONbelief – merely a lack of belief

    AND

    2) DISbelief – believing that there is no god

    Most words have multiple meanings, and these are the two primary meanings of the term atheist. Both types of people can be accurately called atheists.

    So you are right in one sense – atheist can’t, by definition, accurately be defined as “just a *lack* of belief, because there are other meanings that also fit the definitions of atheist.

    But you are incorrect in another sense – people who have “just a lack of belief” can indeed be accurately labeled atheists – also literally and by definition.

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    • Except that, arguably, weak or negative atheism (lack of belief) atheism, fits better into the category of agnosticism or should rather be label “igno-theism” (ignorance of theism, which is the only case in which a person would truly lack a belief about God).

      Ultimately, my points is that no atheist actually just lacks a belief in God; rather, he believes that the arguments for God are poor, or that there is no evidence for God, or that God’s existence is less probable than not. But all of these are positive beliefs that require a defense; they are not a lack of belief about the God topic, but positive beliefs about it.

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      • “Except that, arguably, weak or negative atheism (lack of belief) atheism, fits better into the category of agnosticism or should rather be label “igno-theism” (ignorance of theism, which is the only case in which a person would truly lack a belief about God).”

        Incorrect. You’re layering your own opinion on this subject, while I’m stating facts. You can argue with dictionary definitions all you want, but disagreeing with them doesn’t change the fact that that is what the word means.

        Furthermore, a lack of belief actually isn’t a necessary component of the agnostic perspective. While I personally take that ‘agnostic atheist’ stance myself, as do most agnostics – in my experience – there are plenty of agnostics who recognize that they do not know, and yet choose to believe (agnostic theists) anyway. All agnostic means is that you recognize that you do not know, and/or that you think that it is unknowable.

        Lastly, injecting a new term (igno-theism) doesn’t make atheist any less of an accurate label. They’re synonyms – multiple words with overlapping meanings don’t magically make either of them suddenly delete the overlapping definitions.

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    • I would also note that if atheism can be defined as a lack of belief, then so can theism. To see this argument articulated, see my “Is Theism Just a Lack of Belief in Atheism?” post.

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      • Also incorrect.

        Atheism doesn’t not require belief – it is an absence of such. Being a theist doesn’t require anything other than believing in some deity, or deities.

        Again… words have definitions, and disagreeing with those definitions doesn’t make them any less the case. There is no right or wrong here in a moral sense – you’re merely misusing words.

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