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November 10, 2018

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@ Brian - I came across that book at Waterstones i(our national book seller) and nearly purchased it. Having read your last blog on it - I decided not to buy it. Now it appears you were right in your first blog about this book. Athiest beliefs do not form a religion. Just a mind set that there is no power driving this world.

Would you say you are happy now than when you were following RSSB - if I may ask?

I do find most of RSSB folk depressive - and check this out ! I avoid them. Bet you didn’t see that one coming Brian.

Have a good day

Hi Brian
Any one of us can be accused of being intellectually dishonest simply because we are not consistent thinkers. None of us.

But the concepts introduced by Gray are interesting.
The notion that the Bible is all metaphor, and the alternate notion that it is all literal, covers the range of beliefs held by believers, both Christian and Judaic. But in practice it becomes a purely symbolic document.

The idea that religion seeks to find meaning in life, through metaphors of the supernatural that actually represent realities of the human experience echoes themes well expressed by Joseph Campbell 's writings, and the work of Carl Jung, among others.

God is seen as a symbolic metaphor for something very real and part of the human experience, but which at present we can only understand through symbols and legends.

In Bible study class this becomes most salient as Sunday school church teachers, or Saturday school temple teachers ask their young students and older colleagues how a Bible story has relevance in our lives today. In that instant the story has been transformed purely into a metaphor. From that metaphor the students attempt to decode some lesson for our life situations today.

Without that process even the most literal pentecostal preacher has no relevance. Regardless of belief in a Bible story as literal or figurative, actual scripture study reduces the story to a metaphor for symbolic interpretation. Because the point is to interpret our current situation and the Bible story to extract a principle to guide our actions. So even our own actual situation is also converted into a metaphor to match up with these past stories.

They are forced to do this to bridge the range of contradictions and opposing rules and claims found throughout the Bible.

And of course the Bible has so much poetry and figurative language. Even the Bible characters tell their followers other l dream fables, visions and stories for interpretation.

It all boils down to the insight and inspired vision of the individual, and the utility of that interpretation to extract some principle of right behavior that is then adhered to "religiously" to guide their actions.

So yes, religion is 100% the search for meaning, and actually placing meaning as the higher reality that supercedes the physical reality. Many take comfort in choosing to believe the metaphor has more relevance, importance and truth than the physical circumstances.


I m reading :

777 types of frustration !

777

-

Also, perhaps there is a confusion between humanism, atheism and anti-theism.

Atheists and anti-theists are not always very positive about "progress" in culture and humanity. Many Agnostics are also great humanists, believing that the Spirit of Life and God, whatever that may be, lives in the nobler visions of humanity and the development of culture.

Atheists do not hold a belief in a God, but they do so only on the basis of lack of evidence.

That is different, Brian, from your view, which is Anti-Theism. The firm belief there is no God.

Atheism and Anti-theism have both been mixed up and labelled Atheism, but they are not the same. Some Anti-theists, trying to coopt Atheism, have labelled Atheism as soft Atheism and hard Atheism, with the preference of Hard Atheism, which is really not Atheism, but Anti-Theism. The two are worlds apart.


Atheism, which is to hold no belief in God (A-(without) Theism (Belief in God.) does not deny a purpose for humanity and in fact includes a secular humanism, that we can create our purpose and live for that purpose, and that purpose is as powerful and truthful as any God, and as real or more so to the individual, than this physical reality. This form of Atheism includes Stoicism. Indeed Atheism is rightly the modern expression of Stoicsim.

In contrast, Anti-Theism, which appears to be your belief, Brian, is the firm belief that God doesn't exist. The Anti-Theist believes based on their own non-evidence that reality proves there is no God. And they may also question reality as humans perceive it, as nothing more than an illusion in the mind of human beings, far distinct from scientific reality, which is the only reality they hold. They label all internal notions, including the subconscious, and even the creative world of ideas as illusory, because they are not direct reflections of scientific data.

Reality exists, but we can't know it, says the Anti-Theist. Along with this system of belief is the notion that all higher and nobler concepts are illusions people cling to and not based in reality, which has no morality at all. Morality itself is a cultural illusion, according to the more extreme Anti-Theists.

Anti-Theism, in its more extreme areas, includes Nihlism, and derives from and is the modern version of Skepticism.

Only a fool would call Christianity an Abrahimic faith, in fact it warns about false prophets. All these concepts of various religions allude to energy, physics and creation of universe. Only a fool would would think that a physical being is sitting in the heavens watching everything. Being of energy can exist rationally, logically and empirically to create universes and galaxies by divine energy

Gray: "A provisional definition of religion may also be useful... Religion is an attempt to find meaning in events, not a theory that tries to explain the universe."

This is a broad definition indeed. So broad, in fact, as to be meaningless (ahem).

My provisional definition of religion would be a bit different. Religion has two principle tenets—(1) some form of continuity of consciousness and (2) some form of improvement in the our condition eventuating in the experience of maximal goodness.

In my opinion, conceptual considerations (meaning, knowledge, justice, etc) are ancillary. Furthermore, to Gray's point, meaning in religion is typically given and not found.

These two principles (conscious continuity, endless progress/maximal goodness) occur together. Utopian ideologies (humanistic or otherwise) believe in the theoretical possibility of the latter but with no illusion as to the former.

As I understand it, the belief in God is typically self-serving. People hope that there is a God largely because of what God's existence might mean for them; what God will give them. It turns out that the question of God's existence is really only important for most believers to the degree that it relates to these concerns—namely conscious continuity and maximal goodness.

Religion promises total fulfillment through the quenching of our two most inveterate drives: seeking survival and seeking positive experience. Religion takes these drives and exaggerates them, stretching each to infinity. Mere survival becomes life that will never end (eternal life) and positive experience is brought to its absolute zenith; experience which categorically cannot be any better (heaven, paradise, nirvana, the "pure land").

My provisional definition of religion would be a bit different. Religion has two principle tenets—(1) some form of continuity of consciousness and (2) some form of improvement in the our condition eventuating in the experience of maximal goodness.
These are exactly the two reasons why cunning atheists negate Divine Energy. They can do whatever they want with no accountability after this life. They have no moral obligation to dedicate their lives for the goodness of world.
But their days are numbered, with every passing day Divine Energy is manifesting in greater glory pissing off atheists even more. Their fate is sealed and they will be brutally judged by their deeds and they will not be spared

To further emphasize the salience of (1) unceasing survival and (2) maximal positive experience in religion, the notion of "judgement" is carried out via one of these two principle elements.

The is either the threat of (1) annihilation or (2) relegation to the torments of some version of "hell".

The threat of annihilation obviously speaks to the survival drive, the idea being that one could have continued to survive eternally if not for this.

The threat of "hell" speaks to our inviolable drive to seek positive experience and the attendant avoidance of negative experience. With "hell" there is survival yet with the elimination of all positive experience and the dispensing of maximal negative experience.

Both of these strike fear into the very core of believers.

Hi JB
Nicely put
"The threat of annihilation obviously speaks to the survival drive, the idea being that one could have continued to survive eternally if not for this.

The threat of "hell" speaks to our inviolable drive to seek positive experience and the attendant avoidance of negative experience"

Of course there is also the threat of eternal hell, just to round out the picture. Worse then death, or so it's been advertised.

Religions are about brain washing. Programming. Religious leaders are snake oil salesmen. People will follow because of their desperate longing for something better. It is difficult, this world, and they have my sympathy but once again its giving one's own personal power away to another. What preachers do, they feed off the energy of the vulnerable and gullible.

Its much better imo to stand on one's own, find some inner strength, be authentic and live a moral life and have faith in one's own self. I hope there is an afterlife where we have a spiritual self and I'm aiming to be a force to be reckoned with, a shooting star in the firmament. LOL its all a game peeps, enjoy...

Sorry about my previous comment. I seem to have been severely triggered and its not for me to judge others who probably do find meaning in their religious beliefs and its none of my business anyway. So I'm annoyed with myself now. Hope I haven't offended anyone.

Heaven and hell, more than believers cunning atheists seem to be afraid of them in times now. Question is why atheists are so bothered about beliefs of religious people, answer is their own fear of being punished by the results of their deeds. Atheism has become escape mechanism for scoundrels and rogues

Quote Spence: Also, perhaps there is a confusion between humanism, atheism and anti-theism. ---- (...) Atheists do not hold a belief in a God, but they do so only on the basis of lack of evidence. ---- That is different, Brian, from your view, which is Anti-Theism. The firm belief there is no God. (...) ---- Atheism and Anti-theism have both been mixed up and labelled Atheism, but they are not the same. Some Anti-theists, trying to coopt Atheism, have labelled Atheism as soft Atheism and hard Atheism, with the preference of Hard Atheism, which is really not Atheism, but Anti-Theism. The two are worlds apart. ---- Atheism, which is to hold no belief in God (A-(without) Theism (Belief in God.) (...) ---- In contrast, Anti-Theism, which appears to be your belief, Brian, is the firm belief that God doesn't exist. (...)


This is just a pedantic-ish nit pick, in that I'm not really addressing your larger point but only quibbling about semantics: but Spence, I don't think anti-theism means what you think it does.

Anti-theism, to my understanding, is an opinion -- a negative one -- on the effects of theism.

The anti-theist believes that theism has, in sum, a baleful influence on the individual and/or on society.

As such, anti-theism is not directly linked with atheism at all. While I suppose in practice -- and certainly in my personal experience -- anti-theists tend to be atheists; nevertheless, I suppose it is possible, at least in theory, to think of a theist who also happens to be an anti-theist.


.


Thinking this through, I'd suppose that anti-theism probably has more to do with one's environment, that is, a function of the kind of theism one is exposed to.

Thus, it is very possible, at least in theory, to think of a Muslim living in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or Iran, who believes in Allah, but who is (rightly) appalled at the ridiculous and malevolent religious practices he seems all around him. If this is the only sort of theism he has been exposed to, then a 'theistic anti-theism' would be a very reasonable position for this person to hold.

Nor is this only about Islam, of course. No doubt the same could have been said about Christianity a few centuries ago.


.


Sure, I take your point, there are those, today, who do take this view about religion in general. Without myself expressing a view on this either way at this point, I'd say that you can counter today's anti-theism only by presenting a counter-argument that is based on the actual (cumulative) effect that religion in general has on today's world.



So Brian, as a matter of curiousity, what exactly are the "seven types of atheism" that John Gray speaks of?

A quick google search does not seem to answer that question. Although I glanced through the Guardian's review of this book, where they bring out the curious fact that apparently a few centuries ago, the word 'atheist' tended to be used for Christians who did not toe the state-sanctioned version of the religion. (I'm not sure if the Guardian reveiewer was merely presenting his/her own personal perspective on this, or actually quoting from Gray's book, so I'm not clear if this would be one of these seven types of atheism.)

So anyway, would you tell us how Gray breaks up these seven categories of atheism?


I'm giving the living proof of Divine energy/ Theism and that is energy present in structure of atom which is in dynamic state since zillions of years. Now cunning atheist tries to scuttle the argument by saying energy was put in the universe at the time of big bang. My counter argument to expose their cunningness is Energy is not unlimited quantity, the finite energy would have exhausted itself in the structure of atom way back in time. These atheists are paid trolls who don't want that people in developing countries should rise in life by using this energy. Basically they are leeches who have benefitted from the research of innovators without paying a dime. Now they are spreading lies in the name of atheism. By any yardstick, cunningness is not intelligence, cunningness is for deceiving gullible people who lack sound understanding of Physics

If you look up "religion" in the Oxford Dictionary one of the definitions includes, "A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion."

Hi Appreciative!

You wrote
"Anti-theism, to my understanding, is an opinion -- a negative one -- on the effects of theism."

That is a novel and interesting idea, because it allows for a theist who dies not believe that formal religion is s his thing, but actually a bad thing.

Unfortunately, anti - theism as it has been used by Hutchinson and others includes opposition to any beliefs in God at all.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antitheism


Sorry autospell

Should read

That is a novel and interesting idea, because it allows for a theist who doesn't believe that formal religion is s good thing, but actually a bad thing.

Hi Jen
If even 50% of religion is brainwashing then someone needs to call it out.

Living in denial of things we know are wrong isn't healthy either, though as you rightly point out we should do what we can to improve our own situation, the one we can actually change.

Still, I feel strongly that we also have a duty to call it. As you did very nicely.

As well, the roots of the word "religion," is in a Latin word that means to bind. Interestingly, an exit poll at a bunch of Catholic churches in Canada discovered that there were three different kinds of Catholics.
The smallest number went to church because of the theology - I believe....etc.

"I am bound to theology."

The second group said they went to church because of the importance of tradition.

"I am bound to tradition."

The third and largest group send they went because of how it made them feel, and when asked about theology they expressed a great deal of doubt.

"I am bound to feeling good (loving)."

Then there is this: https://globalnews.ca/news/4648180/atheist-minister-toronto-congregation/



Quote Spence:
“That is a novel and interesting idea, because it allows for a theist who dies not believe that formal religion is s his thing, but actually a bad thing. ---- Unfortunately, anti - theism as it has been used by Hutchinson and others includes opposition to any beliefs in God at all. ---- https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antitheism”


Hello, Spence.

Actually I was being quite matter-of-fact there. I don’t think what I’ve said is at all novel.


Here’s what the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy very clearly says: “ … in none of those senses is one required to be an atheist in order to be an antitheist, so antitheism is not a variety of atheism.”


And here’s what RationalWiki has to say: “Antitheism … is the belief that theism and religion are harmful to society and people, and that even if theistic beliefs were true, they would be undesirable ”

RationalWiki further says: “Whereas … atheism and theism address one’s belief in the existence of Gods, antitheism addresses the utility and favorability of theistic beliefs. ”

And further, that “Antitheism can also be used in the context … of someone who believes that even if a God exists … this does not automatically justify obedience to certain or all demands of a certain religion. Such an antitheist would argue that the existence of God-like beings does not automatically make them the source of morality and, in fact, that such a being, depending on its demands, could even be in violation of it.”


Yes, in the Wikipedia article, that you linked to, they simply define the antitheist as “One opposed to belief in the existence of a god”, without clearly spelling out the reason for that opposition; but as I’ve tried to show by referencing other sources, the rationale for that opposition is the belief that theism is essentially a malevolent force, that takes away from the happiness of us humans.

In fact, the Wikipedia article actually quotes Christopher Hitchens -- whom you mention in your comment -- as saying the following: “I’m not even an atheist so much as I am an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief, is positively harmful.”

That, above, was from the very link you’ve yourself provided, and clearly bears out what I was saying. It clearly points to antitheism having to do with the (allegedly negative, allegedly harmful) effect of theism.




So no, I don’t think my use of that word was at all “novel”. Nor was my idea that antitheism can, at least in theory, extend to theists as well.

Yes, the actual example I provided, of God-fearing Muslims in whacko Muslim lands, who might find themselves strongly repelled by the crazy brands of theism practiced in those unhappy lands, that was from my own imagination. You could think of that example as “novel” if you like, but given the express views in both Stanford Encyclopedia and RationalWiki, as well as the quote from Hitchens in the link that you’ve yourself supplied, I’d say that example is very much in line with what all of these sources are saying.


Hi Appreciative

Thanks for the quotes. Yes I see now that anti theism doesn't by definition need to include Atheism, though Christopher Hitchins is most certainly an Atheist.

Read his fine book The Portable Atheist to learn more about that.

The Wikipedia citation includes both.

And I do think you may have taken the rationalwiki quote out of context. think the rationalwiki says best what my understanding is


"Antitheism, also known pejoratively as "militant atheism" (despite having nothing to do with militancyWikipedia's W.svg) is the belief that theism and religion are harmful to society and people, and that even if theistic beliefs were true, they would be undesirable. Antitheism, which is often characterized as outspoken opposition to theism and religion, asserts that religious and especially theistic beliefs are harmful and should be discarded in favor of humanism, rationalism, science and other alternatives."

So, Appreciative, anti theism isn't simply against religion but beliefs in theism.

RationalWiki: "...the existence of God-like beings does not automatically make them the source of morality and, in fact, that such a being, depending on its demands, could even be in violation of it.”

Yes, as an aside, it needs to be mentioned that there is nothing in existence that even remotely demands or suggests a creator/God, much less a moral one.

I've always said that if God exists, it is either malevolent, incompetent, or some combination thereof.

All goodness can be reconciled and thoroughly explained with the absence of God, while misery cannot be reconciled or explained with the presence of a benevolent God.

While it is rarely acknowledged as such, the existence of misery is the unambiguous, incontrovertible "nail in the coffin" against God. This, obviously, in addition to total lack of evidence for God.

No intelligence would ever create this abhorrent, loathsome existence.

Hi Appreciative!

As I think more and more about this and re-read the various definitions I would indeed revise mine.

Atheism is simply not holding a belief in God. It is not a firm belief against belief in god. It is not a view about religion or theism at all. It's just a decision not to hold a belief (often due to lack of evidence or lack of perceived utility in theism).

Anti-theism now seems to me to be a mix of three things: A very negative view that says beliefs about God ("theism") are bad things regardless of whether God exists or not; Or, the practice of religion is a bad thing; thirdly, Anti-Theism can also be a view that is directly against theism...ie; theism is wrong...the view that God exists is false.

All three represent the group called Anti-theism.

So an Anti-Theist who firmly believes there is no god isn't actually an atheist, since atheists hold no view.

An Anti-Theist who believes their might be a God but thinks such beliefs or their practices are bad is also not an atheist.

If you don't hold a belief either way, you can say you are an Atheist. You choose not to believe.

If you hold a belief that there is no god, or hold a belief that believing in God or practice of that belief is a bad thing, you are an Anti-theist.

I would say that a lot of people here who claim to be atheists are actually Anti-theists, since they firmly believe there is no God, and or they believe the practice of belief is wrong and bad.

Notice that anyone can say "I could be proven wrong, it's just my belief" but that does not convert an Anti-theist into an atheist.

An atheist does not hold such virulent views. They don't hold any view by choice, except the view that they choose not to hold one. Or if they did, they would be an anti-theist. Or a theist.

But I can see that you can't really be two of the above. If you hold no view, you can't be virulently against.

Folks who think religion is a sham aren't atheists. They are anti-theists.


Quote Spence: “Hi Appreciative! ---- As I think more and more about this and re-read the various definitions I would indeed revise mine.”


And absolutely, I appreciate that.

It ought to be a simple thing, an effortless thing, to immediately give up one’s previous beliefs once they’ve been shown to be erroneous. At least in theory. But as I can attest from both observation of others as well as painful awareness of my own shortcomings in this regard, in practice this is far from easy.

Which is why, like I said, I appreciate your being able to leave behind such of your beliefs that you recognize to be deficient, even if with some lag.

This discussion about semantics is entirely trivial, although absolutely, in a small way it does illustrate this: a much more dramatic instance than this discussion on meanings of words would be how you could fight with and ultimately leave behind your personal mental block that would not let you see even perfectly justified criticism leveled against GSD.

Not everyone is capable of this kind of intellectual honesty, that I have now seen you demonstrate not once but twice.


Quote Spence further: “Atheism is simply not holding a belief in God. It is not a firm belief against belief in god (… ) So an Anti-Theist who firmly believes there is no god isn't actually an atheist, since atheists hold no view. (…)If you don't hold a belief either way, you can say you are an Atheist. (…)An atheist does not hold such virulent views. They don't hold any view by choice, except the view that they choose not to hold one.”


Pardon my repeated pettifogging about semantics, Spence, but I’m afraid you still haven’t, as I see it, quite got it right. I’m afraid you continue to conflate soft atheism with atheism, and hard atheism with anti-theism.

If you’ll permit me to discuss this at some length:

Atheism refers to not having belief in god(s).

There are two strands within atheism. Soft atheism refers to not accepting god beliefs in the absence of belief; while hard atheism refers to the claim that there is no god, that there absolutely is no god at all.

Just like theists can be unreasonable, so can atheists. In order to be reasonable and rational, the soft atheist needs simply to point out that there is no evidence to support god beliefs. While the hard atheist, in order to be reasonable and rational, needs to actually prove his claim that there is no god.

Irrespective of whether they are reasonable or not, there can be no doubt at all that both soft atheists and hard atheists are atheists.

(Yes, some people conflate atheism with hard atheism. Some others -- like you -- favor the strictly semantic derivation of the word, and tend to conflate atheism with soft atheism. But I would say that both soft atheism and hard atheism are two different categories within the superset of atheism.)


As for antitheism: that, as you recognize, refers to opposition to theism.

It really has little to do with either theism or atheism, at least not directly.

The theism-atheism categories (and, within atheism, the soft-hard categories) look at beliefs about the truth value of god beliefs.

While antitheism looks at utility of theism, it looks at the effects of god beliefs (and not their truth value).

True, generally antitheists tend to be atheists: but as I have tried to show, and as you now recognize, that is not necessarily the case. You may well -- at least in theory, and perhaps occasionally in fact as well -- have an atheist who sees theism as a benignant force and supports it; and you may well have a theist who sees theism in malignant terms and opposes it.


So, well, long story short, the antitheist is someone who opposes theism because he sees it as harmful. He could be either a soft atheist or a hard atheist, or for that matter even a theist: what is relevant is whether he sees theism as harmful, and whether he opposes theism.




In any case, Spence, as I’d already qualified in my initial comment, all of this, that I’ve said here, is by way of a pedantic-ish by-the-bye. It does not really impact your core argument against Brian. (Not that I’m taking your side in that particular argument; and nor do I oppose you there: that is something I really do not have any pronounced opinion on.)

All I wanted to do is to point out that your use of the word “antitheist” was not quite correct, as far as I could make out.

And also to suggest that the best way to argue with (or against) the anti-theist is to address the reason for their antitheism: which would be their belief that theism is, in sum, harmful to the individual and/or to society.

That is: addressing the ‘true’ or ‘false’ of theistic beliefs is probably not a very apt argument to make against the antitheist. Because irrespective of whether the argument holds weight, the fact is that that argument doesn’t address the core rationale for this antitheism at all.

Which is why I’d said, in my original comment, that if you wish to argue effectively against the antitheist (in as much as you correctly recognize someone to be an antitheist), then perhaps your best bet is to try to show how theism is, net-net, something that benefits people.


Hi Appreciative:

You wrote:

"Just like theists can be unreasonable, so can atheists. In order to be reasonable and rational, the soft atheist needs simply to point out that there is no evidence to support god beliefs. While the hard atheist, in order to be reasonable and rational, needs to actually prove his claim that there is no god."

I find this very elegant and clear. Your clarity of expression has become my clarity of understanding.

Thank you.

You also wrote:

"And also to suggest that the best way to argue with (or against) the anti-theist is to address the reason for their antitheism: which would be their belief that theism is, in sum, harmful to the individual and/or to society."

I would have to say that I am, by definition, an Atheist who is an Anti-Theist.

But not in the traditional way.

I hold no belief in God. My experiences are all. And they are significant. In deep meditation, a flood of beautiful light and sound, and a sea of love that brings tears to my eyes.

But my interpretation of them is wide open and inclusive. I adore my Master, and worship through the Spirit brings about amazing adventures within, and vision of what is going on around me in my daily life. I understand physics better, and psychology.

But that is still experience, and as personal experience it can only be subjective.

So, beyond that experience, and my personal interpretation of it, there is no actual belief. There is practice and experience, that is all.

But I am quite antagonistic to religion. Yet I see so many who need to believe in something outside of themselves. A good pastor, a good church serves this function.

So, as far as RSSB is concerned, Fraud is Fraud. Nothing on earth will alter my insight into what has happened, because the facts are there, from various sources. It took Brian a bit of heavy lifting to get me to see it, but there it is. Now there is no hiding that. Whatever I believe, this pillar has been set.

Inner evidence and outer evidence. They appear to conflict, but I don't think they do.

I don't really know GSD. I would say from my experience as a Satsangi, that his actions have always been extremely assertive, so the idea that he has also been an aggressive investor is quite understandable.

I have also seen him within, and have seen him give exceptionally compassionate advice and support. And I've seen him take care of my son in ways I was unable to do.

And I have seen him cut people off at the knees in his comments to them.

I can't possibly attribute anything to that.

I can definitely vouch for the power and health of the practice.

But I can say nothing to support the organization.

Spence, and all, regarding the supposed distinction between theism and anti-theism, I think this is spurious. Here's why.

Let's consider communism and anti-communism. Pretty clearly, someone has to be other than a communist to be an anti-communist (I'm thinking back to the cold war days, but vestiges of communism remain).

It isn't possible to be an anti-communist unless one isn't a communist, which we can call "acommunist," in the same way someone who isn't a theist is an atheist.

So all anti-theists are atheists first and foremost, as this is the basis for their being opposed to religions. Some atheists are milder, simply lacking a belief in God without being committed to opposing religion.

My point is that atheism is the key thing here. It doesn't make sense to speak of atheists and anti-theists as different. An anti-theist is a more radical and committed atheist, just as an anti-communist is a sub-set of people who aren't communists.

We just don't have a name for this, like acommunists, because so few people are communists, whereas the vast majority of people in the world are theists, so we have a word for non-religious people, atheists.

Hi Brian
The difference between soft Atheism and hard Atheism is significant.

One holds no view by choice.
One holds an opposing view..

The hard Atheist is nearly and in most cases entirely indistinguishable from the anti-theist. They both hold negative views of religion and or the existence of God.

The term hard Atheist is an invention of hard Atheists so they can call themselves Atheists.

But they are not Atheists. They do hold a view, a negative one.

Therefore they are actually anti theists. Not Atheists.

They should just own it, and not try to hide behind real Atheism, which they have tried to coopt by labeling it soft Atheism.

Soft Atheism is Atheism.
Hard Atheism is a contradiction in terms. It's actually Anti theism.

Anti theism can contain more than just those who believe there is no god. In their ranks are also those of varying personal beliefs who believe the practice of religion is wrong.

But if you believe there is no god, or if you believe such beliefs are harmful, you are not an Atheist. A (without) theist (belief). No. You are an anti theist (against belief).


Quote Spence: “I would have to say that I am, by definition, an Atheist who is an Anti-Theist.”


Coming from you, Spence, that is a simply breathtaking acknowledgement.

I empathize with you in the strongest possible terms. And I’d also like to express my very sincere appreciation of your intellectual honesty and intellectual courage in being able to acknowledge this to yourself.

I remember, in my early days here at Brian’s blog, I wouldn’t dream of applying the label ‘atheist’ to myself. Much like you. Exactly like you. I was okay with thinking of myself as an agnostic, but “atheist” carried too negative a connotation in my mind -- as well as the fact that, by the word “atheist”, I tended to favor the older meaning of the word that is today best described by the term “hard atheist” -- so that I wouldn’t, then, dream of thinking of myself as one.

Today, much like you, exactly like you, I have no qualms calling myself an atheist, as long as one is very clear that it is the “soft” meaning of the word we’re referring to here.

And, much like you, in fact exactly like you, I set a great deal of store by meditation, and would be happy -- in fact, not just happy, but overjoyed -- to change my mind in favor of theism if, going forward, the actual evidence (whether objective or subjective) were to point me towards that direction.



Quote Brian:
“…the supposed distinction between theism and anti-theism, I think this is spurious … So all anti-theists are atheists first and foremost, as this is the basis for their being opposed to religions … My point is that atheism is the key thing here. It doesn't make sense to speak of atheists and anti-theists as different. An anti-theist is a more radical and committed atheist, just as an anti-communist is a sub-set of people who aren't communists.”


With respect, Brian, and with my apologies -- with my sincere respect for everything I’ve learnt from you and continue to learn from you, and with apologies for this bluntness which I cannot avoid if I am to be honest -- I have to say that you are wrong, plain wrong.

In fact, I am astonished -- simply astonished! -- that you can actually think and say this after reading those three comments of mine, addressed to Spence, without first satisfactorily refuting the arguments I presented there. I can only guess that you haven’t fully read those comments of mine (which, admittedly, are longish, and in that respect may perhaps have tested your patience), but only glossed over them. I’d like to request you to go through those three comments of mine one more time, and see if you are not able to see this in a different light?

After all, this is not just my own unsupported opinion. As the citations I have provided -- which can easily be verified online -- make very clear, anti-theism has to do with opposition to theism, and further, that that opposition is predicated on the belief that theism is, in sum, harmful. Anti-theism is an opinion on the effects of theism, and not its truth value. In fact, those citations I have provided directly and plainly actually say, in so many words, that atheism isn’t a necessarily condition for anti-theism.

Yes, absolutely, the vast majority of anti-theists, an overwhelming majority, would be atheists. That I agree with, and I have clearly said as much myself. But still, they are separate things, these two. Even if the theistic anti-theist were just a teeny tiny minority -- hell, even if the theistic anti-theist were merely hypothetical -- even then, you simply cannot conflate the one with the other. That’s a classic case of imagining that all swans must necessarily be white birds: while in the vast majority of cases that may be true, that is technically plain wrong, and in practice may sometimes lead one to erroneous results.


As for your anti-communist analogy, I’m afraid that’s plain spurious. That’s a transparently clear case of circular thinking. Here’s why:

The fact is that right off the bat you’re implicitly defining an anti-communist as someone who is not a communist. Like you say, “It isn’t possible to be an anti-communist unless one isn’t a communist, which we can call ‘a-communist’ ” . Since that is your starting point, is it any wonder that you end up with the conclusion that all “anti-communists” are necessarily “a-communists”? That’s simply restating the same things in different words!

I hope you see your error, now that I’ve clearly pointed it out? Yes, you’re right about what you say about “anti-communists” and “a-communists”. But where you are mistaken is in imagining -- without argument, without reasoning, merely as a leap that you take for granted -- that what applies to “anti-communist” must necessarily apply to “anti-theist” as well. That’s, like, simply begging the question!

I’ll make it even plainer. After speaking of anti-communists and a-communists, you then say: “So all anti-theists are atheists first and foremost, as this is the basis for their being opposed to religions.” No! That conclusion does NOT follow from the rest of your comment. Do you see this now? That “So” of yours is spurious! There’s no “So” at all! The one does not follow from the other! You’re simply baldly stating your unsupported opinion that “anti-theists are atheists first and foremost, as this is the basis for their being opposed to religions”, as if this conclusion necessarily follows from what you’ve said about anticommunists; but no, that absolutely doesn’t follow, at all! You’re simply and clearly begging the question. Think about this, please, and see if you cannot see this.

Thing is, meanings of words are dictated by usage. Usage, usage, usage, every time! We can’t just look at the semantic components of a word, and from that presume to deduce the actual meaning of a word. That often works, but ultimately it is usage that trumps semantics every time; and where semantics-based deduction of word meanings does work (as is often the case in practice), that is only because usage doesn’t happen to oppose the semantically derived meaning/sense of the word.


Again, my apologies for so bluntly challenging your view here, here in your own blog, but it would have been intellectually dishonest of me not to clearly express my disagreement.

I’ll request you to read one more time those three comments of mine addressed to Spence, to see the citations I have already provided, and to see if you don’t find yourself able to see things in a different light.

And if after all this you still don’t agree with me, I’d very much like to know why not. If your arguments are sound, then I will be more than happy to change my own views to accommodate them.


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