Instigator / Pro

Atheism is simply "a lack of belief"


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Contender / Con

Full Resolution: The definition of atheism should be accepted as merely "a lack of belief in a god"

The definition contrasts with Con's position that the definition of atheism entails a belief in the non-existence of any gods. The purpose of the debate is to determine which of these two definitions should be considered the most reasonable to accept and utilize.


Definitions: Worldview --> a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint.

Ism --> noun: a belief (or system of beliefs) accepted as authoritative by some group or school Synonyms doctrine philosophical system philosophy school of thought

archaic : godlessness especially in conduct : UNGODLINESS, WICKEDNESS

Agnosticism: n. 1. The doctrine that certainty about first principles or absolute truth is unattainable and that only perceptual phenomena are objects of exact knowledge.

Disbelief: The refusal to believe that something is true (Cambridge International Dictionary of English-1995). Disbelief: Refusal or reluctance to believe (American Heritage Dictionary of English Language-1996).

Etymology n. 1. The origin and historical development of a linguistic form as shown by determining its basic elements, earliest known use, and changes in form and meaning, tracing its transmission from one language to another,

Naturalism --> 3. Philosophy The system of thought holding that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws. 4. Theology The doctrine that all religious truths are derived from nature and natural causes and not from revelation.

Secularism: n 1. (Philosophy) philosophy a doctrine that rejects religion, esp in ethics 2. the attitude that religion should have no place in civil affairs

umanism (ˈhjuːməˌnɪzəm) n Humanism: 1. (Philosophy) the denial of any power or moral value superior to that of humanity; the rejection of religion in favour of a belief in the advancement of humanity by its own efforts

Round 1
Thanks to Con for accepting.

In this debate I will establish why atheism should be accepted merely as a lack of belief in a god, as opposed to an active belief in the non existence of any gods. To make this case I present two points:

Logical Incoherence 

Defining atheism as the belief in the non-existence of any gods is at its core logically untenable. The simple fact is that god is one of the most widely defined words in the English language, if you ask 10 different people to define god you are likely to get 10 different answers. Everything from the God of the Bible (of which itself has about 30,000 different denominations), to Allah, to Zeus, Thor, or obscure god concepts like “god is energy” or “god is love”, to pantheism which posits that God is the universe. And then there’s polytheism. I could go on. 

Any individual who accepts any of these concepts qualifies as a theist because they meet the one necessary requirement; they believe a god exists. In order for atheism to be the belief that no gods exist the atheist must therefore be in the position of having an active belief in the non-existence of every god concept imaginable. This is a logical absurdity as one cannot hold a belief towards a concept they themselves have never even contemplated.

This is the ultimate error advocates for this definition make, they begin the conversation by presuming that the god concept they accept is the only one worthy of consideration. From the atheists perspective, they have no idea what the theist’s concept of god is until they propose it. Once a god concept is proposed the atheist can then reject it as non-existent, however this only applies to the one god concept being discussed, not necessarily every one.

As an atheist myself there are many gods I will reject as non-existent. That doesn’t mean this is my attitude towards all of them which is what Con’s definition necessitates.

Even when an atheist proclaims themselves to be of the belief that no god exists it is important to note that the very act of rejecting a proposition requires the proposition to first be proposed. In other words they’re not expressing an attitude towards all possible god concepts, only the small subset of concepts they are contemplating. But theism isn’t limited to any small subset. Therefore this definition cannot possibly provide an accurate picture of the atheist’s position.

Practical Uselessness

Imagine 3 roommates; one believes in a god, one believes there are no gods, and one does not hold a belief either way. One of these individuals is not like the other two.

The individual who believes in a god likely goes to church on Sundays, says a prayer over breakfast, and/or is likely to approach the world in a way they otherwise wouldn’t because they think that’s what a god would want. The other two roommates do none of these. In every practical way, the other two are identical in terms of how they live their lives.

Because of this, there is no use to creating a separate category for these two individuals. It serves no purpose within our society. The point where one’s approach to life and/or society changes is when one moves from non-acceptance of the god proposition to acceptance. Both of these individuals are in the non-acceptance category even if one takes it a step further.

Some theists might argue that this actually proves their point, claiming that if one holds a belief and the other acts the same way, they must both hold the same belief regardless of what they profess. This argument confuses the difference between the middle ground when it comes to beliefs vs how it applies to actions.

Think of our justice system. In a criminal trial the prosecution has the burden of proof, which is to say that the defendant’s guilt is the only thing being considered, not his innocence. Therefore the jury has the choice between a verdict of guilty or not guilty. There is no innocent verdict. But a juror can believe the defendant is guilty, believe the defendant is innocent, or withhold any conclusion based on lack of evidence. So why not have a third category?

Because while we don’t have to form a conclusion, we do have to act. We can either treat the defendant as if they are guilty, or treat them as if they are innocent. There is no such thing as treating the defendant as if no conclusion has been formed.

The same applies to our approach to life. We can approach life as if there is a god or approach it as if there is not. There is no lack of belief approach. Our approach is about our actions, but theism and atheism are labels that address our belief system. One has a middle ground, the other does not.

And as far as why those who lack belief would approach life as if there are no gods, that’s because non-existence is the default position. We live our lives as if any proposed being doesn’t exist until we have reason to believe it does. To live life otherwise would put us in the position of accepting every proposed concept until proven false, even contradictory one’s. Imagine someone praying to God of the Bible, then Allah, then Zeus, etc. Not only would that be absurd on its face but is also self contradictory since most god concepts require that you place no gods before them. This is logical absurdity defined.


Since defining atheism as the belief in the non-existence of a god is both useless and logically untenable, the only sensible alternative is to recognize atheism as the lack of belief in a god.
NOTE: AOB refers to the "absence of belief." 

I thank Pro for initiating this debate; however, I want to make my position clear* although I asked three times to modify his Description definition, I can work with it. Here is what Pro states:

"Con's position that the definition of atheism entails a belief in the non-existence of any gods."

Interesting, a belief. Yes!

*As a Christian, I believe that Atheism is a denial or disbelief in the existence of God or gods. Pro has definite beliefs about God and gods. Atheism is a philosophy about life, as the suffix "ism" connotates. In this debate, I believe Pro defines atheism more in line with agnosticism. More on that later.** 

Definition of ism 
1a distinctive doctrine, cause, or theory

3adoctrinetheoryreligion Buddhism
badherence to a system or a class of principles stoicism
4characteristic or peculiar feature or trait colloquialism - Merriam Webster

What this debate is not
It is not proof of the existence of God or gods but whether "atheism" means merely an absence of belief in God or gods, or more, such as disbelief and denial. 

I apologize to RationalMadman for getting into semantics and word definitions to establish what atheism means.

I apply two dictionary definitions for God (God or gods): 
1 God: the supreme or ultimate reality: such as
a: the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped (as in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism) as creator and ruler of the universe
or less commonly God: a being or object that is worshipped as having more than natural attributes and powers 
specificallyone controlling a particular aspect or part of reality [1] 

Questions: Pro, do you hold a concept and understanding of the biblical God? How about gods?  

*With God or gods, we are speaking of the supernatural realm. We are speaking of an intelligent, transcendent, supernatural, personal, non-physical/spiritual, wise, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, immutable, and eternal being with the Christian God. The conceptual, biblically revealed Judeo-Christian God is the only one I defend as necessary, logical, reasonable, knowable, and sufficiently evidenced. I, with Pro, deny the existence of other gods as anything other than human fiction. 

1) Etymology of Atheism
a- (1)
prefix or inseparable particle, a relic of various Germanic and Latin elements.
a- (2)
word-forming element meaning "away," from Latin a "off, of, away from," the usual form of Latin ab before consonants (see ab-). 
a- (3)
prefix meaning "not, without," from Greek a-, an- "not" (the "alpha privative"), from PIE root *ne- "not" (source also of English un-). [2] 

word-forming element meaning "god, gods, God," from Greek theos "god," from PIE root *dhes-[3]

Theism = God.
Atheism = No God.

"An atheist is someone who does not believe in God. The root of this term comes from the Greek words a (no, without) and theos (god). The religious attitude associated with being an atheist is called atheism.[4]

"By putting "a" in front of "theos" the word "atheos" was formed, which means "no god." In Greek "a" can also mean "without," although I think in this case "no" makes more sense.[5]

Thus, an atheist is a person whose doctrine or theory (ism) denies or disbelieves God or gods exists. He is different from an **agnostic (who does not know whether or not God or gods exist). The atheist has definite views (a worldview) on life, the universe, morality, and knowledge that usually involves naturalism as the explanation. 

2) Atheists, in their own words:
“We atheists believe that nature simply exists. Matter is. Material is.” (Madalyn Murray O’Hair, What on Earth Is an Atheist? 1972) [6]

Thomas Nagel, The Last Word. p. 130-131:
“I want atheism to be true...It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God...It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

“Atheism is the deliberate, definite, dogmatic denial of the existence of God...the absolute denial of the absolute.” (Etienne Borne, Atheism 1961) [6 -ibid]

Pro, in his own words
"I don't even believe in a God. I'm an atheist, so why would I presume God can know that which is unknowable?" God cannot solve solipsism [Post 29]

That is more than an AOB. That is a belief. 

"An atheist is someone who does not believe in a God. That's it. That's all..." Morality - Is Atheism More Reasonable than Theism? [Post 1206]

Notice what the atheist is doing. He argues that his philosophy on morality is more reasonable than theism by denying the Christian/theistic position is true. Notice, too; Pro is making a claim against belief in God, not merely an absence. "Does not believe" equals disbelief, not "lack of belief." He denies theism is more reasonable, just as Bones claimed AOB while denying God's existence with four arguments he believes (see here). His conclusion, "c1. God does not exist." (x3)

3) Atheism Defined
"The theory or belief that God does not exist. The word comes (in the late 16th century, via French) from Greek atheos, from a- ‘without’ + theos ‘god’" - The Oxford Dictionary of Atheism [7]

"Philosophical denial of the existence of God or any supernatural or spiritual being." Oxford World Encyclopedia [8]

"The attitude that affirms there is no God." Oxford Concise Companion to the Jewish Religion [9]

"Atheism is the belief that there is no God. Atheism is the opposite of theism, the belief that God exists. Atheism is also distinguished from **agnosticism, a belief which states that human beings do not, and cannot, know whether any gods exist." The World Book Encyclopedia p. 852 [10]

"Atheism, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings. Atheism is to be **distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open whether there is a god or not, professing to find the question unanswerable, for the atheist, the non-existence of god is a certainty." (The New Encyclopedia Britannia-1993). [11]

"The term “atheist” describes a person who does not believe that God or a divine being exists." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy [12]

An atheist is a person who maintains that there is no God; that is, that the sentence “God exists” expresses a false proposition. . . . a person who rejects belief in God." (Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1967) [6 - ibid]

There are better words to describe a person who lacks belief (ignoramus, agnostic, apathetic) in God than atheism, which is counter to an AOB in most cases since the atheist espouses naturalism and/or solipsism in some form as more reasonable than theism. 

4) An atheist has a worldview
Atheism is a way/system of looking at life, existence, morality, knowledge, etc., that denies or ignores God or gods as the reasons but seeks a naturalistic or solipsist explanation. The atheist claims knowledge of reality that excludes God.

President of American Atheists David Silverman:
"There is no objective moral standard. We are responsible for our own actions..." "The hard answer is it [ Moral direction] is a matter of opinion.[13 - see 30:23-26 minute]

Silverman holds to a philosophic naturalism worldview in explaining atheism over theism. He rejects (denies) claims about God as atheists do, not that he has no belief about God.

Questions: Pro, how do you believe the 1) universe, 2) life, 3) morality came to be, 4) what happens to us when we die, and 5) is there something more than matter, energy, and space? 

There either is a God/gods, or there is not. What is your belief?*** 

5) Propositional definition of theism and atheism
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) poses three reasons why atheism is a denial or negation of God/gods: 

1) The question, "Does God exist?” leaves only two possible direct answers to this question: 
a) “yes,” which is theism, and
b) “no,” which is atheism.
***Answers like “I don’t know”...are not direct answers to this question.[14]

2) Absences of belief (AOB) is too vague. "...babies, cats, and rocks [can be counted] as atheists by virtue of lacking belief in God.[14] 

3) The proposition “theism” defines that God exists.
"Atheism” is defined in terms of theism. 
SEP: "[T]he “a-” in “atheism” as negation instead of absence, as “not” instead of “without”—in other words, to take atheism to be the contradictory of theism.[14]

6) AOB is not atheism
Wokeupbug posted an outstanding series on Atheism versus AOB. He argued there is a vast difference between someone who "believes there is no God" and someone who believes neither "there is no God" nor that "there is a God." [15] He even argued that Richard Dawkins, The Poverty of Agnosticism, p. 69-77, who offered a seven-point measure for religious belief, classified atheism as believing there is no God. 
1. Strong theist = I know God exists.
2. Weak theist = strongly believes God exists.
3. Theistic agnostic = siding towards God.
4. Impartial agnostic = siding equally between God existing and not existing.
5. Atheistic agnostic = siding towards Atheism.
6. Weak atheist = assumes God does not exist.
7. Strong atheist = I know God does not exist.

Only positions 6 and 7 apply to atheism, 3-5 to agnosticism. [16] (see Third Myth)

The "Four Horsemen" of atheism cannot get around the denial of God. They write books on their rejection of God.  

7) What is Pros authority?
Please note, to date, Pros' "absence of belief" is nothing more than his preference and opinion. He has not documented one (credible) source. 

Round 2
Disappointingly, Con has chosen not to address a single argument I made in the first round despite agreeing that I would take full BoP. Without rebuttals to address, my points remain standing. So with that, I'll clearly have to spend the rest of this round responding to Con's points. 

1) Etymology of Atheism

Con's argument here focuses on the use of the prefix "a" which is defined as "not" or "without". However, his argument falls apart because he is using the prefix towards the wrong concept.

He argues that since theos refers to god, atheism means "no god". However since atheism is a response to theism, in order to determine what the "a" applies to we need to start by defining theism which Con has not sufficiently done.

As Con pointed out, a god either exists or does not exist. There are no other options. But as Con also and more importantly pointed out, the issue at hand is not about the actual answer to the question, it's about one's beliefs or mindset towards the question. This also follows from the suffix ism which denotes a doctrine, further establishing that when we talk about theism we're talking about a state of mind and not a truth value, affirming that theism is a belief system to be described, not a proposition to be evaluated.

If theism is a belief system, then a-theism is the negation of that system.

The negation of "I believe a god exists" is not "I believe no gods exist". The negation is "I do not believea god exists". This follows from the third law of logic, aka the law of excluded middle.

To illustrate this point further, I'll use true and false as examples. Let's evaluate whether the following proposition is true or false:

"This sentence is false"

If false is the negation of true, then by not being true this sentence would have to be false. But if this sentence is false then that would make it true. So what is the answer - True or False?

The answer is of course neither. This is why a negation is not the affirmation of the opposite. A negation is simply... "not". As in this sentence is either true or not true. It can also be false or not false.

So to reiterate, the negation of "I believe X" is not "I believe X is false". The negation is "I do not believe X".

Another way to confirm this would be to look at any other term using the prefix "a", such as asexual or apolitical. If one is asexual that simply means they do not have sex, there is nothing about this requiring the individual to go a step further and somehow believe in the immorality or harmfulness of sex. Apolitical simply means one is not political, it does not mean they advocate against politics.

Con cannot justify leaping over the negation in order to get to the extreme.

Lastly here, Con also attempts to paint his purported middle ground as agnosticism while ignoring that agnosticism addresses knowledge, not belief. This term was defined in the description which remarkably was provided by Con himself:

"Agnosticism: n. 1. The doctrine that certainty about first principles or absolute truth is unattainable and that only perceptual phenomena are objects of exact knowledge"

Nothing about this definition supports it being used as a middle ground between theism and atheism. Moreover, if an agnostic is the middle ground between a theist and a atheist then what is a gnostic? Con's definitions are not coherent.

2) Atheists, in their own words:

Con lists a bunch of cherry picked quotes from atheists to make his case. It does not, Con needs to provide an argument explaining why we should accept his definition based on what a few atheists may have said.

3) Atheism Defined

Con again lists a bunch of cherry picked definitions to make his case. Two can play this game:

Atheist: a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods : one who subscribes to or advocates atheism

I could go on since most dictionaries define atheism this way including one's if Con's own examples. Con needs to provide an actual argument.

4) An atheist has a worldview

Con essentially argues that because atheists have beliefs, atheism must be a belief. That's nonsensical. Atheists have beliefs because people have beliefs, and atheists are people. 

If I asked a group of pro lifers what they think about the death sentence and they all gave me the same answer, that doesn't make their answer part of what it means to be pro life.

We define words based on their commonality. Many atheists are naturalists. That doesn't make atheism naturalism any more than a lot of theists being Christians makes Christianity theism.

5) Propositional definition of theism and atheism

1 - "Does God exist?" is not a proposition, it's a question. "God exists" is a proposition. "God does not exist" is a different proposition.

Theism addresses "God exists", therefore since atheism is a response to theism, it must address the same proposition. "God does not exist" is therefore not what were discussing, just as a court of law does not address a defendant's innocence, only their guilt. In propositional logic we deal with one proposition at a time.

2 - the suffix ist clearly means we're talking about people

3 - non argument

6) AOB is not atheism

Con needs to make his own arguments, not link us to Wokeupbug. Without supporting argument his 7 levels of belief should be dismissed.

7) What is Pros authority?

My authority is reason and common sense. Con seems to take issue with my argument not relying on tons of sources but this isn't that kind of debate. Reminder of the full resolution posted in the description and agreed to before the debate started:

Full Resolution: The definition of atheism should be accepted as merely "a lack of belief in a god"

The resolution makes this debate subjective by definition. We're talking about how the term *should be* utilized within our society. That's a question for each individual to evaluate, it's not something you can prove by posting someone else's words. Con is trying to write off my argument as mere opinion while his case relies almost exclusively on other people's opinions.

Looking forward to reading Con's response to my first round in his rebuttals. Till then.

The resolution remains affirmed.

The resolution: Atheism is simply "alack of belief."
Pro: The definition of atheism should be accepted as merely"a lack of belief in a god."
Con: The definition of atheism entails a belief in the non-existence of anygods. The purpose of the debate is to determine which of these twodefinitions should be considered the most reasonable to accept and utilize.
1) Pros definition is his feelings or preference on whatatheism "should be." Contrast that with what the word means and isrecognized in dictionaries [1] [2] [3],etymologies [4] [5], and philosophical works [6] [7], aswell as by atheists [8] [9] not only in their writings [10] and thinking [11] (i.e., the Four Horsemen) but also in their actions.
2) Pro uses two references in the whole of his R2,one in R1, to back his opinion.* The rest is hearsay.** Prothinks his feelings determine what atheism means or should mean.
3) Pro is moving the goalposts. The resolution in R2 morphedinto, "We're talking about how the term *should be* utilized withinour society."
The keyword is what atheism should be, whether it bein Western or North American societies or the larger world. 
"Obviously, if "theos" meant god, thenthere would need to be a word that meant the opposite. By putting"a" in front of "theos" the word "atheos" wasformed, which means "no god. " [12]
If 'theos' means God (or belief in God), then theism'sopposite should be no God (or disbelief in God).
Con charges I never addressed a single argument in R1. This is simply not true. 
1) I addressed his claim that atheism is simply a lack orabsence of belief by showing,
a) it was so much more,
b) he and atheists have beliefs about God and gods,
c) atheists deny God and gods in what they say (anddo). 
2) R1 presented my side of the debate.
Rebuttal of R1 
Lack - 
1: the fact or state of being wantingor deficient [13]
Absence - 
1: a state or condition in whichsomething expected, wanted, or looked for is not present or does notexista state or condition in which something is absent 
When Pro states "why atheism should beaccepted merely as a lack of belief in a god," he is suggesting"lack of belief in a god" is reasonable and true by his positiveassertion of "should." You should accept it. "Should"implies a moral obligation or duty. But what God/god is Pro basing his assumptionon? He says he has lack of belief in any. If he has lack of belief in any howreasonable is the truth value of his statement? What Pro is suggesting is that hehas no belief "there is a God" and no belief "there isnot a God." His claim is not to know either of these two propositions(lacking). Generally speaking, this is not the atheist position; it is more inline with agnosticism, apathy, or ignorance.  
Pro states, "Defining atheism as the belief in thenon-existence of any gods is at its core logically untenable.
I agree, it is logically untenable, yet that is whatatheists do by citing "lack of evidenceand adenial that God/god exists. [15] [16] [17] [18]
While they shout "lack of evidence," theycite biblical references and call the biblical God names *** in arguing against such a God, denying His existence. 
*** "[God is] a vindictive bloodthirstyethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, homophobic racist, an infanticidal, genocidal,phillicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciouslymalevolent bully."
― Richard Dawkins, a quote from The God Delusion [19] [20]
The funny thing is that Dawkins offers all kinds of evidenceand beliefs about why you should NOT accept the reasonableness of the biblicalfaith by refuting it, showing his idea of the biblical God is not "lacking." With almost every professing atheist on Debateart, I could list examples of themdoing the same thing. Their denials have all kinds of beliefs about God. [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27]
Thus, Pros' lack of belief view is inconsistent withatheism. 
Pro argues, "for atheism to be the belief that nogods exist the atheist must therefore be in the position of having an activebelief in the non-existence of every god concept imaginable."
Again, this is not true. The atheist denies and arguesagainst the concept and being of God/gods existence. That existencewould apply to any god, not intending to deny every specificdeity, one by one. 
"Once a god concept is proposed theatheist can then reject it as non-existent, however this only appliesto the one god concept being discussed, not necessarily every one."
The atheist REJECTS any god concept, that means every singleone. It does not have to be proposed before the atheist rejects it despite Pros'claim. 
"As an atheist myself there are manygods I will reject as non-existent. That doesn't mean this is myattitude towards all of them which is what Con's definition necessitates."
Pro, as an atheist, rejects (denies) many gods. Thus, he hasa belief about these gods, not a lack of belief. His belief about said gods isapparent in that he understands things about these gods. 
"Even when an atheist proclaims themselvesto be of the belief that no god exists it is important to note that I) thevery act of rejecting a proposition requires the proposition to first beproposed. In other words II) they're not expressing an attitudetowards all possible god concepts, only the small subset of concepts theyare contemplating. But theism isn't limited to any small subset.Therefore this definition cannot possibly provide an accurate picture of the atheist'sposition.
Pros statements here are false. Theists believe inparticular gods, not every god. The proposition is that their particular Godexists or the entity "God" exists. Thus, as Pro pointed out, theyhave small subsets within theism (see Practical Uselessness). While some can believe gods areall real, logically, each god contradicts the other, as Pro has pointed out.Some are personal, others impersonal, such as "The Force." As aChristian, I believe only in the biblical God, the ONE true God. Abeliever in Allah believes in a particular God and holds exclusive beliefs thatonly that god is true or real. Same with a pantheist or panentheistic. Whilethe Muslim and Christian have common beliefs they share about God, their claimsare exclusive; therefore theists limit themselves to smaller subsets in their definitionof God/gods. I don't believe every god exists, only the biblical God. I deny allthe rest.
Pro admits an either-or distinction and contradicts hiswhole argument:
"We can approach life as if there is a god or approach it as if there is notThere is no lack ofbelief approach."
Exactly. Reader, did you get that? There is no lack ofbelief. Treating life from the standpoint of there is no God/gods is adenial of such, not a lack of belief. Pros first sentence reads there is not a God/gods. It is a fundamental belief that all other beliefs are filteredthrough (thus forming a worldview). His argument is very inconsistent.
"It takes more than 'lack of belief' to define anatheist." [28]
It takes more than a lack of belief to define what anatheist is, which is different from an agnostic. A Carm article [29] reflectssome of the problems that I summarize:
1) A lack of belief is complete ignorance or"non-awareness" of something. Pro demonstrates awareness, as do mostatheists. 
2) Lack of belief would mean neutrality. That is impossibleif one has been exposed to a concept.
3) Actions reflect beliefs. 
4) The atheist actively undermines and attacks theisticproofs.
5) The atheist lives by faith in his presuppositions, justas the Christian does. 
Rebuttal of R2
1) Etymology of Atheism
Pro claims I do not understand theprefix charging I'm using it towards the wrong concept. How?
"the alpha-privative prefix "a-" or"an-" is still used in Greek words to express negation or absence," [30]
Pro admits atheism "is a response to theism"and claims I did not define theism. I did. 
Pro understands one's beliefs are about one's mindsettowards the question of God's existence. He believes a state of mind cannot bea truth value. Why?  Then Pro admits that if theism is a belief system,then a-theism negates that system. My point exactly. Pro is confused yetagain. 
Pro claims the negation of "I believe God exists"is "I do not believe God exists," not "I believe no Godexists." The negation of "God (exists)" - theism - is "noGod (exists)" - a-theism.  
 Pros "This sentence is false" isself-refuting, a nonsensical sentence. Contrarily, either God exists ordoes not exist is not logically self-refuting. One or the other propositionmust be true. 
Asexual is not sexual, apolitical isnot political, and atheistic is not theistic. The Greek word for against isanti. Anti-politics is against politics.  
Pro falsely defines agnosticism as addressing knowledgerather than lack of knowledge. The Greek term for knowledge is Gnosticism. A Gnosticis someone who knows. 
2) Atheists, in their own words
Pro does not refute my argument; he strawman's it, supplyingno proof of his own. 
3) Atheism Defined
Again, Pro gives lip service, no proof. 
5) Propositional Definition...
1) I am not following Pros logic. I identified"Does God exist?" as a question. What follows are the twopropositions. 
2) Fair enough.
3) Yes, it is. 
6) AOB is not atheism
Pro is mistaken. The "seven levels" argument is Richard Dawkins, as I noted. 
7) Pros Authority?
Pros reason and authority? Why should I trust it? Because hesays so?

Round 3
Disappointingly, Con has all but dropped my main contentions in this debate instead choosing to focus on grammar and syntax, irrelevant quotes, cherry picked dictionary definitions, and strawman arguments.

Con claims I am moving the goal posts for this debate. Clearly, he didn’t read the rules prior to accepting, which is remarkable being that we agreed on them before I issued the challenge:

“Full Resolution: The definition of atheism should be accepted as merely "a lack of belief in a god…

The purpose of the debate is to determine which of these two definitions should be considered the most reasonable to accept and utilize

The full resolution makes clear that this is a philosophical debate focusing on what makes one definition preferable over another and how it applies to theism/atheism. I made my case on that clear in round one; we should accept “lack of belief” as the definition because it is logically coherent and societally useful whereas the alternative is neither, making my definition preferable.

Con has made no attempt to counter any of this. His case is essentially that we should accept his definition:
  • Because the dictionary says so
  • Because grammar and syntax says so
  • Because scholars say so
  • Because atheists act like they believe no gods exist
Aside from being very poor reasons to accept his definition in the face of my reasons why we shouldn’t, none of these points are true and/or valid and I’ve countered them all already. Because I have no meaningful rebuttals to my case to address I’ll respond to what I’ve been given to work with, but so far my case stands affirmed and any sincere effort by Con to refute it at this point would qualify as a new argument.

Response to Con’s case

Con says I claim to have no belief that there is a god, and also no belief that there is no god. I actually haven’t made any claim of what I personally believe on this proposition. We’re talking about atheism, not Double_R. 

The only requirement to my definition of atheism is that one lacks any belief that there is a god. Whether one goes further and accepts that there are no gods is not relevant. Con tries to characterize this as apathy, ignorance, or agnosticism. These all fail:


In likening lack of belief to ignorance Con ignores how this applies to anything else. There are countless cases that police have filed away as cold cases despite mountains of evidence complied after years of investigation, countless documentaries on these and other unsolved mysteries, and juries have spent months deliberating over trials only to reach no conclusion at the end and declare not guilty based on a lack of evidence. Not drawing a conclusion says nothing about how much one knows about the subject.


The same examples apply to apathy as well. No one would claim that police would spend years investigating or a jury would spend months deliberating over something they did not care about.


Con continues to try and shove agnosticism in as a middle ground between theism and atheism.

Once again, Con’s own definition refutes his claim that agnosticism is a middle ground between theism and atheism. Acceptance of the idea that “certainty about first principles or absolute truth is unattainable and that only perceptual phenomena are objects of exact knowledge” has no bearing on whether one believes a god exists.

To believe is to accept something as true. One does not need to be certain about something to accept it as true, nor does one need to have “exact knowledge” about something to accept it as true. Knowledge is a category of belief, specifically it’s the highest category. This makes knowledge categorically different from belief, which is the very thing theism/atheism address.

Also recall in previous rounds I asked Con if agnosticism fits between theism and atheism, then where does Gnosticism fall? Con ignored my question.

Agnosticism is not a middle ground, it’s a position on an entirely different question.

Logical Coherence

Con agrees with me that his definition of atheism is logically incoherent, thus Con confirms that he is arguing we should accept a logical untenable definition as the most reasonable. Needless to say, this is a self defeating proposition that should lose the debate on this point alone.

Con’s attempt to argue past this includes showing quotes by other atheists to make the case that even if we believe the definition makes no sense, this is what atheists subscribe to.

Con is again confusing atheism with atheists. In the last round I used the example of the pro life position on the death penalty, Con dropped my point and proceeded to keep making the same argument as if it was never countered.

Con is essentially arguing here that an atheist’s attitude towards one god concept shows their position towards all god concepts. Meanwhile Con himself acknowledges that there are many god concepts he himself believes don’t exist. So he is living proof that his own argument fails. If his active belief that god X does not exist does not preclude him from believing in god Y, then he cannot argue that any atheist believing god Y does not exist precludes their attitude towards god A, god B, god C, etc.

Commonality is how we define terms and label groups. The only commonality possible among every self professed atheist to have towards every god concept is that they lack belief in it.

Propositional logic

Con claims that a proposition does not have to first be proposed in order to be rejected. This is a baffling claim. If Con is using the term “reject” as an action, then he is claiming atheists are actively against concepts they have never contemplated. That is logically incoherent. If on the other hand he is using reject as a default position meaning “not in position of acceptance” then his argument literally means atheists simply lack belief. 

Actions vs Beliefs

Con claims I said there was no such thing as lack of belief. Again, my full statement was that there is no lack of belief approach.

The justice system demonstrates this as I’ve already pointed out. 

There are only two types of criminal justice systems; one that presumes innocence until guilt is proven, or one that presumes guilt until innocence is proven. One of these must be the default position because there is no middle ground on how to act

Belief does have a middle ground, aka a third option. Con acknowledges this full well by trying to label it agnosticism. Regardless of its label, this shows that Con’s arguments here are fallacious. It’s simple math at this point; 3 is bigger than 2. The number of positions we can take with regards to how we act cannot account for all belief positions, this is why we have default positions with regards to our approach.

These default positions apply to many things, but are especially the case with any existential claim. Here, the default is that nothing exists until it is demonstrated to exist. The alternative would be that everything exists until it is demonstrated to not exist. The latter is again, an untenable approach. That would require one to pray to every god imaginable unless they can prove one by one that each one doesn’t exist.


Con argues that the prefix “a” means negation. Great, we agree. The negation of “I believe” is “I do not believe”. Con continues to try and paint this is a matter of negating the proposition while ignoring the fact that the subject of theism/atheism is belief.


I summarized this debate in the beginning so I won’t repeat here. I’ll just reiterate that none of Con’s arguments stand and he’s made no meaningful attempt to engage in the essence of my case as to why we should accept “lack of belief” as the most reasonable and useful definition of atheism. The resolution is affirmed.
I thank Pro for arranging this debate!

The resolution was, "Should atheism be accepted as simply/merely a lack of belief in God or gods?" I argue it is so much more. Pro believes it should "merely" be so on his preference and subjective feelings alone. Why are his personal feelings an accurate barometer in judging what atheism is or what it means? He gives two sources outside his feelings in three rounds to back his claims. I will discuss those later. 

My argument was based on several verifiable claims, documented as coming from someone other than myself and essentially reputable sources, not via a fallacy of authority. Here are the arguments I laid out, which Pro falsely claims do not address a single argument of his (repeatedly). 

1) I showed atheism was much more than "merely" a lack of belief in God or gods. Atheists have all kinds of beliefs ABOUT God and gods. 
(i) I gave examples from prominent atheists of the denial of God and gods.
(ii) I cited examples of Pro and his denial of God and gods.
(iii) I cited other atheists on DebateArt. 
2) I showed the word's root and how significant sources of authority viewed its meaning.
Theism is a belief in God or gods. A-theism is no belief in God or gods. 
3) I discussed the difference between atheism, theism and agnosticism.  
4) I discussed why "lack or absence of belief" does not do the word justice but fits more with agnosticism. Atheists more fittingly use disbelief or denial (as witnessed in literally thousands of forum posts on DebateArt and throughout the Internet who argue against God). 
5) I argued atheism is a worldview. Atheists answer all kinds of ultimate questions about life, the universe, morality, and the question of being and truth while opposing God/gods as the reason.  

So, Pro's claim that I did not address the resolution is false. 

Accept my definitions as opposed to Pros,
"Because the dictionary says so" as opposed to what, that Pro says different?
"Because grammar and syntax" matter to helps us to understand the meaning of the word.
"Because reputable scholars say so," as opposed to Pro telling us what to believe without evidence? 
"Because atheists live as if God does not exist while arguing against Him" is good reason to believe they are engaging in more than a lack of belief. They have all kinds of beliefs about God.
Pros ONLY Two Sources 
1) Atheism - 1a: a lack of belief or a strong disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods
b: a philosophical or religious position characterized by disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods

I don't know how Pro believes this definition helps his case in any way? Strong disbelief is not the same as someone lacking belief, and I can't find many/any cases online of any atheist lacking a belief about God or gods. Instead, they deny God or gods not only by what they say about such a God but also by their lifestyle and worldview. It is very exceptional for an atheist to have ONLY an absence of lack of belief. It generally means they have not thought out the implications of their worldview. 

2) Atheist - a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods one who subscribes to or advocates atheism.

The atheist has assumed that God or gods do not exist, based on a worldview that tries to answer life's ultimate questions by denying or excluding God as a reasonable answer. It is a choice not to believe, and the ramifications are so immense that every avenue of their worldview is affected by this choice.  

Thus, Pros arguments hold little water. 

Rebuttal of R3
Pros charge that I dropped his main contention is not valid. I addressed it by showing him what the word means and has been understood to mean. Some atheists are trying to redefine the term. That confuses the matter and masks the consequences of making sense of such a worldview. As Pro argued, "the purpose of this debate is to determine which of two definitions should be considered most reasonable," while offering nothing more than opinion and only providing his definition is his attempt to muddy the waters. Pros fallacy of choice seemed to be argument ad populum, or an appeal to authority - solely his popularity and authority since he never demonstrated otherwise, just asserted as much. 

As for his "lack of belief" as being "logically coherent," as Pro argues, I would say the opposite. 

Yes, lack of belief is, as Pro says, "sociably useful" because it is an excuse to avoid any accountability (as demonstrated by Bones in our debate). It's a trump card to get the atheist out of a jam and avoid addressing issues that undermine atheism or that it can't answer or make sense of.  

Response to my case by Pro
Pro is not ignorant about God or gods. 

"Everything from the God of the Bible (of which itself has about 30,000 different denominations), to Allah, to Zeus, Thor, or obscure god concepts like "god is energy" or "god is love," to pantheism which posits that God is the universe. And then there's polytheism. I could go on.

"Once a god concept is proposed, the atheist can then reject it as non-existent..."

"As an atheist myself there are many gods I will reject as non-existent..."

He lists different gods and different concepts about God. He has "contemplated" the difference, plus he has a worldview that attempts to answer ultimate questions by denying God as a reasonable explanation.

"Both of these individuals are in the non-acceptance category..." (i.e., Denial, not absence of belief)

His cold case analogy fails. Notice words such as "despite mountains of evidence," "years of investigation," "juries have spent months deliberating," and so on. 

Again, beliefs were held, and the subject was thoroughly examined. There wasn't an absence of belief but an absence of conviction. Atheists believe the evidence points to no God; evidence of the universe, life, morality, etc. 

Pro says that my definition of agnosticism has no bearing on whether one believes God exists. It does since I have certainty that God exists. An agnostic has none because they are ignorant of God's existence. An atheist denies God's existence. To disbelieve is to accept something as false or unrealistic to believe. To disbelieve is to deny.

Knowledge is a justified true belief. 

Pro confuses Gnosticism with agnosticism. Gnosticism was a claimed mystical secret knowledge that contradicted the Gospel message.

Logical Coherence
Pro claims I agree with him "that his definition of atheism is logically incoherent." I acknowledged that the atheist can't make sense of his beliefs and that it is logically incoherent, but the atheist does not believe that. He sees justification for rejecting God's existence as expressed in his worldview, which is usually explained through naturalism. 

Pro charges that I confuse atheism with atheists. No, he is.  

"one who subscribes to or advocates atheism."

Pro equates the term "pro-lifers" with the death penalty, but it is a stance against abortion and for the life of the unborn, not against capital punishment. What argument is there to drop? Pro is equating two different things. Abortion murders an innocent human being, period.

Propositional Logic
Pro claims you can't reject a proposition unless you know what it is. I'm saying that the propositional set [there is no God] would include the different propositions of subsets or specific gods. Atheists, rejecting the set, reject the subsets. 

Actions and Beliefs
In Pros two types of criminal justice systems; only one is just. It is the default for justice. 

"I do not believe" is different from "I lack a belief." 

Pro, in his words
Pro states: "If theism is a belief system, then a-theism is the negation of that system.

Yes, precisely! Theism - belief in God; Atheism - denies or negates the belief in God. Atheists negate God.  

"Not drawing a conclusion says nothing about how much one knows about the subject."

When you investigate something, you know things; knowledge is a justified true belief, not an absence or lack thereof. 

Pros analogy of the justice system to atheism fails (R1). "There is no innocent verdict." Yes, there is - Not guilty.

"An atheist is someone who does not believe in a God..." (R1) 

"There is no lack of belief approach." (R1)

"If theism is a belief system, then a-theism is the negation of that system." (R2 - Not AOB but denial)
Negation - "the contradiction or denial of something:"

"So to reiterate, the negation of "I believe X" is not "I believe X is false." The negation is "I do not believe X." (R2)

Pro confuses definitions all the time. "I do not believe X" is another way of saying "I believe X is false." 

"Apolitical simply means one is not political..." (R2) And atheism means no God or not God, a denial. 

"...agnosticism addresses knowledge, not belief..." (R2) No, it addresses lack of knowledge

My arguments in R1 and R2 stand. Pro has not demonstrated that his view, atheism is a lack of belief, is anything other than his personal preference. I gave reasonable evidence that Pro dismissed without having any widely held or authority standard, but by his subjective opinion as true. WHY? Pro said I provided no rebuttal or "meaningful attempt" to engage in his arguments. That has been demonstrated in each round to be a false claim. 

I realize that my R2 is ugly to read because of a glitch in the system. I checked for errors in the Word document, then copied and pasted without further ado, not knowing the format would be changed by the DebateArt program running words together. I am willing to concede the Pro wins a point in Grammar and Spelling. As for the rest, please vote Con on a better-reasoned and documented argument.