08-07-09, 04:23 AM #1
Definitions: Theism, Atheism, Agnosticism
I offer definitions of three key terms as a guideline for future debates in the religion forum. The explanations have been formed from considerable debate and discussion in this forum and from many external sources. And although some may disagree, I suspect the vast majority will approve.
Theism is a belief that asserts the existence of a god. The degree of belief varies from absolute certainty through various degress of uncertainty and willingness to revise, but typically when asked, the theist will say they believe in the existence of a god.
Atheism is fundamentally a reaction to theism and is overwhelming expressed as a disbelief of theist claims. Atheist opinions will vary from absolute certainty that gods do not exist through various degrees of uncertainty to simple skepticsm. Typically when asked, an atheist will say they do not believe in the existence of gods. Many atheists will leave open the possibility that gods might exist providing appropriate evidence is provided.
The definition offered here is taken directly from the words of Thomas Henry Huxley who is credited with inventing the term in the 1870s, and it is his intent and rationale that I believe should form the authoritative meaning of the term.
"Agnosticism is not a creed but a method, the essence of which lies in the vigorous application of a single principle ...Positively the principle may be expressed as in matters of intellect, do not pretend conclusions are certain that are not demonstrated or demonstrable. This principle may be stated in various ways, but they all amount to this: that it is wrong for a man to say he is certain of the objective truth of a proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty. That is what agnosticism asserts and, in my opinion, is all that is essential to agnosticism."
If you wish to debate any of these terms then please create a specific thread for that purpose.
Last edited by Cris; 08-07-09 at 04:33 AM.
08-07-09, 08:29 PM #2
Some clarification of Atheism.
As defined here it is a considered reaction. This excludes many from being labelled as atheists, e.g. infants, those who have not considered the issue, those who don't care, etc. While one could argue these should be included, in practical terms since they do not take part in the debate or offer any material then labelling them is entirely irrelevant and serves no purpose. Perhaps if they did give the matter thought, or grew to when they could then we might find they would choose theism, what then would our early label of atheism have meant? It is not worth debate.
What then of those who are apathetic towards theism and choose to ignore the issues as reaction, or perhaps those who consider the term "god" as inadequately defined, and find no comment is meaningful? I would consider them atheists if when asked they answered with anything that resembled a disbelief in the claims of theists.
Last edited by Cris; 08-07-09 at 08:40 PM.
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