Atheist Dictionary Missing the Point?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by PsychoticEpisode, Apr 20, 2010.

  1. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    they do? is this well established? how exactly did you come to acquire this knowledge that "theists think we have to have believed in god, or reject god for some reason, and can't understand, that we simply do not believe, and perhaps never have"?

    do you speak for all theists? are you psychic?

    moreover, not being a theist yourself, how can you possibly purport to "understand the mindset" of a theist?

    ahhh, so it seems--wavering a bit, are we?

    and i'm not quite sure what you mean by "convolve."

    do you realize how utterly absurd this sounds?

    and because you have had this experience with a few theists, you are making these claims on behalf of all theists? fascinating.


    personally, i find it rather difficult to take you seriously, given the claims you've made above. at the same time, i am quite intrigued.
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  3. phlogistician Banned Banned

    The wikipedia article on Atheism uses the word 'deities', not 'god' in the singular. Dictionaries that cite atheism being a lack of belief in one god, are falling into the trap of only explaining the term from a narrow cultural viewpoint, and taking the widely held misconceptions about the term into consideration too much.

    So, onto polytheism, vs monotheism, I think it's rather arrogant of a monotheist to patronise a polytheist and assert that their collection of gods are not distinct entities, but facets of one, unified god.

    OK, in the monotheists case, the dismissal of polytheists' viewpoint is seemingly due to a positive idea about a single god, rather than a lack of belief in individual gods, it's an exclusive viewpoint. But clearly, as you recognise;

    The bible hasn't changed. It still says that. God recognising the existence of other gods. So what are we left with? A supposedly inerrant bible, being re-interpreted by the masses for their convenience (perhaps you now see where I develop my dislike for letting masses redefine things), simple terms like 'atheist' being hijacked, and monotheists rejecting polytheists gods without examining the full reasons to do so.

    So, to sum up, I don't feel believing in one god is a 'Get out of Jail Free' card for monotheists, when it comes to being accused of some degree of atheism. Sure, some rejection is down to dogma and arrogance, but surely some is down to sheer disbelief. It is this latter part that is most salient.
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    It means to join two or more things together by rolling, twisting, coiling, etc.
    Please continue to keep the discourse civil. This is not the Politics subforum.

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    I often cite Wikipedia too, but at this point I have to play the academic trump card and remind you that when Wikipedia disagrees with other sources its authority is always given the lowest priority.
    How many times do I have to remind you that the consensus of the anglophone population regarding the meaning of a word is not a "widely held misconception"? It is, in essence, common law. You need to make the distinction between vernacular and scholarly use of words. Of course this website is a place of scholarship so scholarly jargon is common in our discussions, but when the discussion turns to the meaning of a word in vernacular usage we have to recognize and accept the meaning of a word in vernacular usage, or else we descend from scholarly to sophomoric.
    Umm... unlike the Torah and the Koran, it is commonly read in translation. This unavoidably results in arguments over the meaning of various passages. The worst case (IMHO as a business major) was the translation of the Hebrew word for "usury." (Sorry I haven't got a Torah handy and memory fails me so I can't post it here.) Medieval Christians and modern Muslim fundamentalists translated it as "any lending of money for interest," which wrought havoc with their economies as civilization inexorably increased their surplus wealth and they needed a way to convert it into capital. There's no incentive to loan out your surplus wealth--always a risky proposition because you might not get it back--when you are not paid interest as compensation for taking the risk, so you might as well spend it on consumption and luxury, which dampens any effort to invest in the future. So when Christians in the Middle Ages needed to borrow money, the only people willing to lend it to them were the Jews. This didn't do much for their image.

    Modern fundamentalist (what an oxymoron) Muslims have found a way around this, by collecting a "service charge" on the transaction. As a result there is now capital in Bangladesh and its pitiful economy is slowly turning around.
    I understand and even sympathize with your disapproval of the democratic nature of the English language. Nonetheless, that's the way it is and we all need to make peace with it. That kind of iconoclasm does not serve a scholar well if he wishes to be a teacher and not merely a monk. Not only does it impair communication with laymen, but it breeds resentment.
    Please let's restrict this discussion to matters of language. SciForums has two entire boards for discussions of religion itself.
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  7. phlogistician Banned Banned

    It was the 'sheer disbelief' that was the important part there. That's what atheism is. I know we seem to be going round in circles, but I think we are circling the issue, so let's go with it.

    'Apostate' describes someone who has lost faith (but not their unmbrella), so the term 'atheist' needn't encompass those people.

    'Anti' would be a better prefix for someone who believes that god does not exist, don't you agree?
  8. phlogistician Banned Banned

    True, but it is popular,....

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  9. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    then can you explain to me how exactly i am to take a person seriously who make claims to know the minds of others--seriously, did you read the post to which i was responding? and, at the same time, he claims that these others cannot possibly "understand the mindset" of himself, or these mysterious "atheists" of which he is speaking.

    now, ordinarily the sorts of persons who make such, uh, unusual claims would be challenged on this, would they not? i've got to wonder how he keeps the others from knowing his mind, while he can know theirs--tin foil hat perhaps?

    so are we supposed to simply tolerate woo woo bullshit on the linguistics subforum?
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Just work at it. You'll find a way. You don't have to respect someone in order to find the strength of character to treat him with respect anyway.
    You can start by using civil language. When people start insulting each other, a discussion loses all hope of progress. From that point on it becomes a question of who can make the other the angriest.

  11. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Uh, no. Way simplistic.

    The majority of who(m)?

    How big a majority does it take? Can it change back and forth from year to year, as the talk radio jockeys find different footholds in the discursive landscape?

    A general consensus of the best employers of the language - recognized as the best by that ever-evanescent "majority" - might be right by definition, but not a simple usage count among the population. Not even that majority of the population would agree with you - most people are comfortable with the idea that they and their neighbors sometimes misuse or confuse words consistently, and that using them "correctly" would be better.

    And they expect the better speakers to do just that. As the bricklayer said to the college boy: "Four years of schoolin' an' they didn' learn you to talk better'n that? You should get your money back."

    Words do change, over long times, but it is also true that people change words - even refine them, make them more useful, in the popular lingo - by deliberate effort and insistence. This discussion about the use of "atheism" is not settled by reference to majority opinion - especially a casual or unconsidered majority opinion, being brought into discussions in which its inconsistencies and inadequacies have substantial effects.
    You can't be "part atheist", it's a presence/absence condition. A person with an obsessive interest in one political cause is not "partly apolitical", eh?
  12. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    I agree with Fraggle on this one. The experts should note how people use terms and in this they can be experts, but it is native speakers in general who determine what words mean. Experts can agree in certain contexts - scientists in a given field for example can decide that a certain terms has a certain meaning in relevent contexts. But in general humans in general determine meaning.

    If people use a certain word regularly in communication with each other, it is silly for experts to say they are wrong. Because meaning is determined by use in communication. There is no objective means, these are signs.

    If we tell the majority, for example, that they are using a word wrong, we are telling them that they are not communicating with others. That is a silly thing to say if they are and effectively.

    'But the word doesn't mean that,' the expert objects.

    Well, it did in all those instances and it was effectively used in them.
    Last edited: May 1, 2010
  13. phlogistician Banned Banned

    Well, I kind of agree with you, and I think we could dispense with the notion that people who believe in one god are partly atheist, if we used the correct name for their belief, which is monotheism. I think we fall into a little trap of assuming theism implies monotheism.

    Either way the point is, monotheists probably do not accept the full pantheon for varying reasons, one of which is sheer disbelief, and another which is arrogance.

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