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Summary of the Problem?

I've come across the Atheism article, being an atheist myself, and have found it protected. I've tried to read this discussion and see what the problem is, but it's very long. :)

Could I get a short summary of what the conflict is that keeps it protected, and what is being done to solve it?

I'm in the same position as you, except that rather than being new, I returned to the article last week after about a year, finding a largely new cast of editors. I have posted above my interpretation of the issue. This is based on some reading of the arguments in the archives, but I have only scratched the surface. As you see, they are very long. As you may not have seen, they are also very rancourous.

My statement above of the issue has been rejected by two of the participants, apparently. Whatever the issue is, I doubt it is actually anything that could not be solved using the usual Wikipedia methods of NPOV, compromise, neutral presentation of multiple points of view, and civility between editors. However, there seem to be some strong personalities involved who have not accepted Wikipedia methods, except insofar as it is to their advantage, and who would seem to prefer to have the article frozen rather than engage in compromise and tolerate the possibility that the article state anything other than the one point of view which they consider correct. So it seems that any change to the article by one "side" is immediately reverted by the other. I asked the administrators to remove the freeze last week and for a few days an administrator and I tried informal mediation. It isn't even clear to me how many sides there are yet. The freeze had been on for about a month, but apparently nobody has cooled off. The mediation attempt didn't get anywhere and the edit wars started again almost immediately, with only a couple of the people engaging on the Talk pages with the mediation attempt. The administrator put the freeze back on after a couple of days. I'd be delighted to have any help in getting things sorted out. The administrator who can unprotect the article is monitoring this in the background but has temporarily given up. --BM 02:58, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)

That does not sound very positive. I'd like to see in unprotected. Any chance this is just a ploy by a user or group to keep this page locked? T2X 03:14, Dec 8, 2004 (UTC)

Unclear. I don't think so. As you see from the above exchange, it is hard to get anyone to respond on what the problem is. You could request the admin who locked it to unprotect it again and we could see what happens this time. He's a nice guy but doesn't have a lot of time to babysit one article. The situation is pretty intolerable. Basically some editors need to be told either to engage on the Talk Page and progress towards a compromise on their issues or to go away so that the article can make progress, but I'm new enough to Wikipedia that I don't know how one does that, and whether it is even practically possible. --BM 04:20, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)

This article's protection status has been enabled and disabled numerous times. Each time it has been enabled due to edit warring between Good Faith Editors and Bad Faith Trolls (POV Warriors). Formal dispute resolution, initiated by a POV Warrior, was a joke because the mediator thought he could resolve the issues by ignoring the issues. Arbitration was sought by the same POV Warrior (because the results weren't as he wanted) and nothing came of that attempt. Informal mediation is what it is: informal and incredible. Conclusion: both conspiracy theories and suggestions of disabling article security must be laughable efforts to produce humor because both are irrational considering this article's history of conflict. Adraeus 04:25, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I agree totally with Adraeus. My view is that the scenario we have here is indicative of a systemic problem within Wikipedia. Wikipedia generally works very well, but on topics that seem to stir sanctimonious outrage - such as atheism or on topics that generate strong emotions, Wikipedia is very vulnerable to those either acting either in bad faith or those who are simply unable to see their own strong bias combined with little intellectual integrity and accept a balanced, neutral article. For some reason some folks, Sam Spade in particular, wish to limit the general definition of atheism to only cover strong atheism. This despite numerous well sourced citations, the etymology and the use of atheism in many other Wikipedia articles which demonstrate that the weak definition is in common use. Until this point is resolved specifically by Sam in particular either conceding on it, being persuaded to agree explicitly to stay away from the atheism article (unlikely in my view), or being directed so to do, we are wasting our time here. Given what's been written before in these atheism talk pages I intend to minimise repeating the arguments ad nauseum that I and others have made in support of the broad definition. I'm more interested in these systemic issues within the broader Wikipedia--Nick-in-South-Africa 05:50, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Nick, I think you are missing the point. There are competing definitions. The broad/weak definition, which generally is favored by the "freethought" tradition and is especially current online. And the narrow/strong definition. We shouldn't be arguing which position is the "correct" one. Editors will have their own POV about that. You may not think the narrow definition is a correct one, but that isn't the point. If the two definitions have currency, or even if the narrow definition is only of historical interest, then both of them need to be mentioned in the article. You seem to be saying either that the narrow definition is so twenty-years-ago that it must not be mentioned, or perhaps even that the editors here who seek to have it mentioned are just ignorant and imagining it, even though there have been quite a few of them trying to get it into the article. Look at how the article on how "Agnosticism" handles this terminological dispute. They have a section covering "variations" in terminology near the top of the article. That not only shows that the narrow definition is real, but also indicates how the article should deal with it. --BM 14:00, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
BM And if you'd read the recent archives you would know that I support the inclussion of both the positive/ strong/ active AND the negative/ weak/ passive definitions in the general intro. I am NOT nor have I ever argued for the exclusive negative definition, I am well aware that both have currency--Nick-in-South-Africa 18:23, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Adraeus and Nick present a fair and accurate summary of the last few months here and describe the issue well, I think. An additional significant part of the problem as I see it, is:
  1. Several editors here are woefully unread on the topic and in their obtuseness are unaware of the historical canon and facts, and hence fail to understand basic the nuances, distinctions, but even unaware of how much they do not know.
  2. Those same obtuse individuals willfully remain so. When presented with compelling evidence that they are uninformed or mistaken they either lightly dismiss it or fail to acknowledge it altogether.
Progress will not occur until those of us in concurrence on the topic resolve how to deal with obtuse and POV obstructionist editors.
BTW, BM, I can't find you in the edit history of the article or the talk pages here as you claim. Would you care to clarify this? --FeloniousMonk 06:13, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Yup its clear that there are many here that have a thin understanding of the subject matter and are rather shooting from the hip we even have one now who is using it as a bulletin board or soap box. BM candidly it's simply inconsiderate and bone idle to not read the archives and then wade in. Its also not suggestive of you acting in good faith to come and sound off here with sweeping genralisations and cutting but unspecific charges rubbishing ALL the arguments presented here. It doesn't introduce you favorably in my eyes for one. Please read the last few archives if you want to contribute and please take a little more care before using sweeping generalisations rubbishing others arguments--Nick-in-South-Africa 06:56, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Maybe someone needs to create an "RTFA" tag for articles like this...--FeloniousMonk 07:00, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Nick-in-South-Africa, I think it's inconsiderate and bone idle of you to bash (BM?) for giving his opinion of what the issue is. It doesn't introduce you favorably in my eyes to act like that. Do you really expect people to read an archive going back nearly three years? This is a talk page, let's act a bit nicer. You can disagree with his opinion, but don't be hostile. T2X 12:10, Dec 8, 2004 (UTC)
UTC Im not sure what your aim was in your post. In any case, I never commented on you and now you have mis-represented my position, firstly I never said I expected anyone to read 3 years of archives, and I was explicit on this….just go back and check. Secondly I am not being hostile to BM he is reaping what he sowed by getting a robust response having trashed all arguments prior to his interjection and clearly being ill briefed about what has happened here in the last couple of Months. --Nick-in-South-Africa 18:23, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Do not, please, drag me into the ad hominem nonsense. I have done nothing to warrant it. Even if I were in fact a complete idiot, who knew nothing about atheism, I have the same power to edit this page as you (presently none), whether someone likes this or not, and civility, Wikipedia policy, and just practical common sense demand that I be treated with courtesy and respect. I am on completely firm ground in demanding this. Nor should it be necessary for someone who wants to edit this page, or who seeks to mediate a dispute, to read a couple of megabytes of bickering between a handful of people. I've already taken a couple of hours to read through at least some of the archives and I thought I had gleaned the issue under dispute from that reading. I'm not going to read any more of the archives. By the way, my editing of this article was done as an anon. Look in August 2003. You will see it. Yes, not so long ago, Wikipedia was quite a different place, and people could anonymously make major edits without being immediately reverted and hooted down. I found that this is now impossible and so I registered. Now, will someone PLEASE stop rehearsing all the sleights of the last year, perceived or otherwise, and state the issue, since you have scornfully dismissed my statement of it. --BM 12:48, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)


I am concerned that this article is a good example of a failing of our consensus based editing system. The majority of the editors on certain pages are enthusiasts of the subject (in this case, atheism). They feel strongly, and are thus far more agreeable towards otherwise unpleasant personalities who champion their cause. Some editors who would normally behave in a polite manner become belligerent due to their overwhelming POV in regards to the subject they were attracted to. And here is the clincher... admins sit back, aloof from the fray. The page may be protected, but civility and intellectual honesty is not enforced. Good editors are thus driven off, and the rancorous, aggressive partisans rule. There was a sermon I heard recently, which gave grave insight into this very sort of circumstance. The gist of it was this: There is evil in the hearts of some, and many wicked things done. But there is something far worse: The silence of good men. [[User:Sam Spade|Sam Spade Wants you to vote!]] 11:09, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Sam I agree with you totally for once! Where I suspect we will part company is that I and I have no doubt a goodly few others will see your comments about the problems here as a rather fair encapsulation of you and your behaviour. I put it that you are the main blockage towards progress on this article and that your behaviour here is typical of the negative reputation that you have built yourself with so many Wikipedidians.
With regards civility your e-mail using the Wikipedia system to Felonious Monk for which you have shown no contrition and I quote verbatim with all due apologese for the foul langage: "Fuck you, you ignorant rat bastard," can hardly be termed a 'civil' interaction or the mark of a 'pleasant personality'. More, any fair minded, reasonable person only has to look at the views expressed on the Wikipedia:Arbitration Committee Elections December 2004/Candidate statements/Endorsements/Sam Spade about you following your self nomination for Admin. Now granted one possibility is that perhaps those voting against you are being unfair and their points about your POV and conduct are unreasonable, a second is that there is a grand conspiracy against you by others with an agenda and they are picking on you who are simply a bold editor acting in good faith, the third possibility is that these folk have a point. I leave it to any fair minded, reasonable individual to compare and contrast comments against your nomination with those of all others and then to review these talk pages and come to their own view.
I agree Admin should step in; and to reign you in, you waste an inordinate amount of time of so many good people--Nick-in-South-Africa 12:05, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Thank you for the fine example of the sorts of Ad hominems which have stiffled honest debate. BTW, you misquoted me (as if it matters). [[User:Sam Spade|Sam Spade Wants you to vote!]] 12:36, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I merely enjoy pointing this out... Wikipedia:Arbitration Committee Elections December 2004/Candidate statements/Endorsements/Sam Spade Look at all those people who are, quite frankly, tired of Sam Spade's idiocy and related shenanigans! You've certainly made many enemies, Spade, more than friends. I wonder when people will begin to move to have you banned. Adraeus 13:00, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Sam, your hypocrisy is unhelpful and disingenuous. Implying that those here who disagree with your actions here are "evil" and doing "wicked things" is itself a form of ad hominem, making your claims of being a victim of ad hominem hypocritical. There's no need to go into detail of your history obstructionism this topic or of sending offensive emails to me, it's public record for anyone who cares to look.
I think it's the height of irony that you of all people here would invoke "intellectual honesty" after proclaiming "Everybody knows what Atheism means... Its the active disbelief in God." just 4 weeks ago. Your defining both "atheism" and "disbelief" for every reader thusly is neither intellectually honest nor fair. And it was your actions that have directly resulted in the article being protected 3 times in the past months. You've resisted all progress and compromise, indeed you have since last February. That qualifies as rancorous, aggressive in my opinion, and so yes, good editors have been driven off indeed, like Bryan.
Your arguments here have all the indications that your reading on the subject of atheism spans the entire writings of Jack Chick but is limited only to that POV. Many of your comments appear lifted whole cloth from his tracts. You are woefully unread on the topic. Your past statements indicate you are apparently completely unaware of any writings and historical facts regarding atheism. Hence, you fail to understand basic the nuances, distinctions within atheism, compromising your ability to make cogent, coherent contributions to the article. And you repeatedly choose to willfully remain obtuse on the topic. Time and again here, when presented with compelling evidence that your are uninformed or mistaken you dismiss it or ignore it altogether. :Your words "Some editors ...become belligerent due to their overwhelming POV..." describe your actions and attitude here far better than anyone else found in this discussion. --FeloniousMonk 17:41, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)

If it is any help in getting us away from licking old wounds, I don't believe Sam is in fact the main impediment at present to a resolution of "the issue", although I have no trouble in believing that this may have been true in the past. The social problems here are (a) days and days go by trying to get people to discuss anything and the Talk page is quiet; (b) when people do engage their aim does not seem to be reach a compromise, but rather to belittle the other side's POV and to refuse to concede that the article mention anything other than their own POV, to refuse to concede that the narrow definition has any currency whatsoever; (c) they constantly descend into ad hominem bickering and rehearsal of old grievances. I may not have read the hundreds of pages in the 12 editions of the archives, but I have read enough for it to be clear that there there is more than enough blame to go around when it comes to who is responsible for the rancour, and Sam comes in for his share. But in the week I've been trying to break the deadlock, I haven't found Sam to be as much a problem as some others. --BM 13:15, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
  • (a) days and days go by trying to get people to discuss anything and the Talk page is quiet;
Such is life.
  • (b) when people do engage their aim does not seem to be reach a compromise, but rather to belittle the other side's POV and to refuse to concede that the article mention anything other than their own POV, to refuse to concede that the narrow definition has any currency whatsoever;
*ahem* [1]
Stop ignoring progress. STOP IGNORING PROGRESS. That goes out to everyone who is ignoring that section of this page.
  • (c) they constantly descend into ad hominem bickering and rehearsal of old grievances.
No, only Sam Troll consistently descends into "ad hominem bickering and rehearsal of old grievances."
  • But in the week I've been trying to break the deadlock, I haven't found Sam to be as much a problem as some others.
Refer to [2] for the reason why. Apparently, POV Warriors and Trolls don't like being pointed out and admonished. Adraeus 13:47, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Can we drop this discussion about who is the biggest troll and talk about the issues? Even if you think Sam is on his best behaviour because of being admonished, rather than gloat about it, take it as an opportunity to make progress. --BM 14:08, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
BM I cant see how your post contributed to the forward movement of the article or the logjam, indeed it seems you are guilty of precisely what you charge others with! Except you are not naming names, just issuing forth vague accusations and judgments unto the ether! Perhaps you should have studied the page a little as well as the subject matter before wading in and shooting from the hip and antagonizing by seeking to belittle all arguments presented before your interjection.
Then if you wanted to contribute you could have aptly picked up on the progress pointed out by Adreaus :::*ahem* [3], it was right open! This is still open, feel free to have a bash at it.
Re your charge that folks around here "refuse to concede that the narrow definition has any currency". I don’t see anyone denying the positive, strong or narrow definition of atheism here or that it has merit. The arguments I have seen relate to accepting the positive definition at the exclusion of the negative, weak or broad definition. I do however see the converse of Sam and a couple of now notably quiet folks supporting the positive definition and specifically excluding any acceptance and acknowledgement that the negative or weak definition has any currency....this despite the ample...nay…. crushing support offered as to the validity and currency of the negative definition. So the way I see it this charge of yours misrepresents the facts relating to the history of these talk pages in the last few Months.
Again on a positive note, why not walk your talk and pick up an run with the progress Adreas pointed out --Nick-in-South-Africa 15:40, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Nick, not to be snarky, but now it is my turn to ask *you* to read the archives. In the last archive, there is my proposed re-wording of the introduction, to which Felonious proposed some edits. --BM 19:19, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)

It should be obvious to everyone here that I could not posibly be the cause of the problem here, since I rarely involve myself on this page. The reason why I rarely involve myself is the incivility, personal attacks, and refusal to discuss the article. It is clear to me that the problem on this page is that very incivility which keeps me from being fully involved here, not the minor presence I do make. If certain unnamed others in this discussion were more interested in discussing the matters at hand in an intellectually honest manner, rather than making personal attacks and vandalizing my user page, perhaps we'd have the page unprotected and edited in a manner acceptable to all sides by now. [[User:Sam Spade|Sam Spade Wants you to vote!]] 15:17, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I don't agree. The article history tells a very different story. When Sam does edit the article it is so blatantly POV that it invariably leads to the article being protected:
  • 03:59, 8 Nov 2004 Michael Snow m (unprotected)
  • 20:23, 8 Nov 2004 Sam Spade (adding andre's definition)
  • 20:36, 8 Nov 2004 Nick-in-South-Africa (Reverted Sam Spade's edit as after the recent dispute he presumed to make a change without attempting to reach an amicable consensus. This is not on please dont do it again Sam.)
  • 20:51, 8 Nov 2004 Sam Spade ({{TotallyDisputed}})
  • 21:04, 8 Nov 2004 Adraeus (yeah, right, sam. and i'm doctor phil.)
  • 21:08, 8 Nov 2004 Sam Spade (DO NOT REVERT DISPUTE HEADERS)
  • 21:14, 8 Nov 2004 Adraeus (quit editing for your own selfish agenda, sam. i know your game.)
  • 21:31, 8 Nov 2004 Michael Snow (protected)
  • 13:16, 3 Dec 2004 MacGyverMagic (unprotected)
  • 16:14, 3 Dec 2004 Sam Spade (Atheism is disbelief in the divine. Some consider Atheism to be a state of merely lacking such beliefs, while others consider Atheism to be the active disbelief or denial of the divine. Some re)
  • 16:31, 3 Dec 2004 Adraeus (rv. vandalism by Sam Spade)
  • 18:51, 3 Dec 2004 Sam Spade (rv to last version by noisy. Don't make false accusations of vandalism, Adraeus)
  • 16:41, 3 Dec 2004 Adraeus (rv. vandalism by Noisy. Don't ignore the consensus again.)
  • 21:13, 3 Dec 2004 BM (Sam, this page is now unprotected, but unless you want to re-protected, I think you must participate in a bona-fide discussion on the Talk page of how to resolve differences before further edits.)
  • 17:19, 4 Dec 2004 MacGyverMagic ({{protected}} - please come to a concensus on talk before editing.)
There is no lack of consensus here that you have obstructed progress on the article since February. This is backed up by the Talk archives, and the public record of a supposedly now resolved RfC you were part of, though much of what you are accused of in the RfC is exactly what we see here from you now.--FeloniousMonk 19:03, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Description of article conflict

Firstly, this is mainly a matter of personality conflict, but lets disregard that for now. There seem to me to be two (maybe three) major camps here.

  1. Thinks atheism = anyone who is not explicitly a theist, including those who are secular, agnostic, irreligious, or non-devout. They want the article to express this non-traditional POV as a fact, and feel they have references to back that up
  2. Thinks Atheism = those who reject God. Feels we should portray other, non-traditional interpretations of atheism (such as weak atheism) in the article, but not in the intro. Feels that this article should be more in common w other similar online encyclopedias (brittanica, encyclopedia.com, columbia encyclopedia, etc...)
  3. Takes no stand, feels that both definitions should be in the intro, and portrayed as equally valid and essentially equally widely utilized.

Does anyone disagree w my summary? [[User:Sam Spade|Sam Spade Wants you to vote!]] 15:26, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Sam, Yup indeed I do. This is extremely revealing because it shows your POV approach even when you are trying to supposedly summarise other's position neutrally. It's slanted as if written by a monotheist who has an axe to grind. Let me explain the main points. The expression those "who reject God" is slanted towards monotheism as it only details one of many gods as if there was only one specific God (indicated by the capitalization) for an atheist to be without belief in. Strong or positive atheists withhold belief in all gods; this includes any particular God; all of them from Allah to Zeus. Also the term 'those who reject God' rather pre-supposes that there is something to reject and that's POV. Additionally the term 'non-traditional' in 1 and 2 is bias as it's suggesting that the weak definition is indeed 'non-traditional' and this aint so. Finally you have rather revealed a POV by referencing supporting quotes in option 2 but it's notable that you have failed to do this for the other two options, despite a goodly few being available in these here talk pages, this is yet again biased. So picking up on your summary and re-working it to cover your 3 categorisations neutrally it could read...
There are 3 main camps with regards the definition of atheism in Wikipedia these respectively feel the article should cover those who…
  1. Are not theists, including those who are secular, many agnostics, and the irreligious and those incapable of holding a view. This camp want the article to express exclusively this definition in the intro. Other aspects are to be covered in the article body.
  2. Withold belief in all gods. This camp feel other aspects of atheism (such as weak atheism) should be covered in the article, but not in the intro.
  3. As Detailed in 1 and 2 ie the intro should cover both positions. This camp feel that that the article should drill into the specifics of strong/ positive Vs weak/negative definition in the article body and cover other aspects such as the relationship with agnosticism.
I fall into the latter camp and suspect Felonious Monk and Adreas do too, and a goodly few others. I know of no one who falls into the first camp and I suspect you Sam fall closest to the middle camp (but you probably have a problem with the fact that I didn’t capitalise the word 'gods'. I did this not because I have an axe to grind, but because I was referring to all gods not any specific God such as Jehovah/ Yahweh, a specific deity often referred to as 'God'). From this little revealing episode I think it clear that you are incapable of being neutral on this subject and I think you should be honest withy yourself on this --Nick-in-South-Africa 16:51, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I fall into the other camp. All possible definitions of atheism should be included in the article, written as neutrally as possible. The "strong atheist" v. "weak atheist" distinction is a farce if it is portrayed as a rule because atheists don't neccessarily divide themselves into such groups, but since the article clearly says that only some atheists classify themselves as either, I will not make it a quibble. The current article isn't terrible, so all modifications should be minor and geared toward improving the neutrality of the wording and toward improving the accuracy. All information should be factual, and distinctions such as "strong atheist" and "weak atheist" should be explicitly attributed to the people who may have been responsible for first coining the terms. Also, these terms should not recieve any sort of endorsement in the article. Also, we should say right there in the intro that there is much debate on what exactly makes one an atheist.--Bill Mutz
I disagree with your summary, Sam, for the same reasons as Nick describes above.--FeloniousMonk 20:57, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
As I keep saying, I think there are two parallel issues. One is a terminological issue as to the definition of the various terms, such as atheist, agnostic, etc. This is a matter of labelling. The second is the set of actual philosophical positions that need to be covered by the article: god exists; god does not exist; disbelief/scepticism that god exists; god-language is meaningless; it is not possible to know whether god exists or not; etc. Because of the terminological issue the labels for these positions vary, in a manner that can be confusing and give rise to controversy. The two issues are not unrelated. Adherents of the various positions have definite terminological preferences, although other things such as organizational affiliations, age, and background, enter into it. But the terminoligical preferences and the actual positions are not completely correlated. For example, I believe that no gods (or indeed any supernatural entities or forces) exist. I call myself a materialist and atheist. Some atheists whose positions are identical to mine have no objection to the weak/strong atheist distinction and quite happily call themselves strong atheists. People who do not adopt a positive position on the existence or non-existence of god, might call themselves "weak atheists" and call me a "strong atheist". Others with this point of view might call themselves skeptics, skeptical atheists, agnostics, or agnostic atheists. Some of them might call themselves agnostics and resist the atheist label strongly, especially if they hold the epistemological position that it is not possible to know whether gods exist. Those who believe that god-language is meaningless (and therefore do not have a positive position on the existence or non-existence of god) might call themselves positivists and reject the atheist label, while weak atheists would include them as a type of atheist. The terminology situation is messy. The article could just pick a terminology, because it is just terminology and nobody should care as long as the definitions are clear. However, they do care. Moreover an encyclopedia article introducing someone to this space needs to let people know that there are different and inconsistent terminologies, because they need to aware of it. --BM 18:35, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
"Moreover an encyclopedia article introducing someone to this space needs to let people know that there are different and inconsistent terminologies, because they need to aware of it." --Your points above, particularly the one I quote, were addressed by the solution I proposed earlier that you and Sam summarily dismissed. Since Nick, Adraeus and Bryan had largely agreed to it previously, I'll try it again, taking into account your previous concerns:

Atheism is the denial of, or the condition of being without belief in, God or gods. Some consider Atheism to be a state of merely an absence of belief in God or gods, while others consider atheism to be the active disbelief or denial of God or gods.

The term atheism has several meanings. Theism literally refers to a belief in a God or gods. Since the prefix "a" means "without," the term atheism literally means "without theism." Therefore atheism is the absence of a theistic belief. However, the term encompasses two meanings. The one form of atheism is simply the negation of theism. A person who simply does not include God/gods in his metaphysics is often identified as a Weak Atheist. Those atheists who take a stronger stance by actively denying the existence of God or gods, are often referred to as Strong Atheists. Agnosticism, by contrast, is the epistemological position or doctrine that God (gods) is (are) unknown and answers to questions of God or gods are unknowable." Some religious communities consider the term atheist to be cognate with infidel and atheist can be found being used in a pejorative manner.

Many credible dictionaries define Atheism as "the disbelief in, or the denial of, God or gods." This definition is the source of much contention and confusion regarding the definition. One should note that "disbelief" is susceptible to interpretation for it allows for both agnostic and strong atheistic definitions: a) "doubt about the truth of something" and b) "rejection of belief." This ambiguity allows for those claiming primacy of both the weak atheistic and strong atheistic definitions to each claim that "disbelief" as used in the definition of Atheism is consistent with their own view.

I've tried to address all reasoned, valid concerns with this stab at it, and am willing to entertain any additional points for improvement.--FeloniousMonk 20:57, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
FM That's very good, the essence is there, it's accurate, balanced, nutral and comprehensive--Nick-in-South-Africa 09:05, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC).

We can't just pick any one definition; the definition we pick must be compatible with that used in other books of reference. Were an encyclopedia, not infidels.org, and this page will be read by far more people than atheist advocates. Even if this page were only for atheists, we would still do them a disservice by providing them w an atypical definition. [[User:Sam Spade|Sam Spade Wants you to vote!]] 18:58, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)

For those now joining us, read Spade's text closer and you'll see his POV, which he has stated on numerous talk pages. His POV boils down to this: "Atheists are evil, manipulative demons who corrupt the minds of enlightened, good Christians." Any rational person looking through the archives will find a list of resources, including books, that corroborates Nick's, FeloniousMonk's, and my comments regarding atheism. Sam Troll ignores these resources and consistently attempts to insert his POV. After all, he is a POV Warrior! Adraeus 23:47, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Adraeus, please stop. Wikipedia policy is no personal attacks. If you think Sam Spade's behaviour is unacceptable your recourse is to try to have him disciplined through the various community processes. Attacking him, as you have done in many of the posts you have made lately, is not one of your recourses, however justified you believe this may be. --BM 00:30, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I think you meant ...find a list of resources, including books, that support Nick's, FeloniousMonk's, and my comments regarding atheism..., not refutes.--FeloniousMonk 03:08, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Yup Adraeus you've got the meaning of the word 'refute' askance by 180º --Nick-in-South-Africa 08:56, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Dammit, let me respond. Pointing out and admonishing trolls and POV Warriors is not against policy. In fact, nobody enforces policy so policy is quite irrelevant. (I see you removed your hypocritical ad hominem attack from the beginning of your lecture. Smart move.) Sam Troll has contributed nothing positive to Wikipedia and continues to do so; therefore, he's neither a Wikipedian nor is he a user. He's an abuser; thus, not subject to any policy regarding civility. Adraeus
Actually, no matter what he does he's still a user (I think even banned users are still technically users, though obviously ones with a lot of restrictions on them). I totally agree that Sam is a biased POV-pusher, but please do try to keep calm in dealing with him - if you start breaking policy yourself it makes Sam's transgressions stand out less obviously against the background. Just point out his biases when they show and trust that they will be countered by the Wiki way. Bear in mind that for most of the past year the article was actually in pretty good shape, I'm sure it will be again soon. Bryan 01:39, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Adreus, you should read Wikipedia Etiquette again. It calls upon people to turn the other cheek, and that is what you should do. I think most people will forgive someone who loses it right after being egregiously provoked. But so far as I can see Sam Spade has not written anything to insult or provoke you in recent days. You need to bury the hatchet, at least on this Talk page. It is simply not your decision that any particular user is beyond the pale and not entitled to civility. This isn't just because people should make nicey-nice. Incivility drags down the discussion and takes everybody away from the task of improving the encyclopedia. --BM 02:16, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Felonious, as I think I stated previously I think your version is basically better than we have now. You might have missed this comment since things get archived so fast and this Talk page is so full of distractions. I wouldn't object to it replacing the current text. I would want to edit it some, once it was in. (Of course.) Even better would be my wording. But I don't insist that my wording win. The main problem that I see with your wording is that it doesn't discuss the terminological issues directly enough, and fairly quickly adopts the "weak atheist" , "strong atheist" line of terminology, before making it clear enough that this terminology is controversial. --BM 02:03, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Alright, with that text as a start, how about rewriting the parts you think need work and replying with it here, then I can do the same with your edited version, and so on... Hopefully that way we can all have hand in it and address our concerns. A side benefit being it will not be just one person's version as well; we'll all have stake in it, making it harder for any who fail to participate here resist it going live.--FeloniousMonk 03:08, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Atheism, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as the denial of the existence of gods and alternatively as the condition of being without theistic beliefs. These different definitions diverged from the original meaning, "without theism", due to interpretations of the a- prefix as either "not" or "without". The issues concerning self-identification and categorization as an atheist are complex as both involve adoption of the former definition or only the latter definition, or both. Each definition is respectively known as strong [epistemological] atheism and weak [epistemological] atheism.

By the way, where is this page's Table of Contents? Adraeus 07:44, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)



As it is protected, I can't do this, but can someone add an interwiki link lv:Ateisms here ? --PeterisP 11:26, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Encyclopedias which use the correct definition of Atheism

First we have the other online english encyclopedias, which I have so often cited, lets have a look again:

There are many other wikipedia languages w this article, lets have a look at them:

Rough translation of intro:
The term atheism (v. Greek. : άθεος - átheos: godless) designates comprehensively each form of philosophical or ideological acceptances that deny the existence of a God or several Gods and generally of transcendental beings.
The label „atheism“, for one, that existence of a God negative weltanschauung, comes from that 4th until 3rd century v. Christ.
The concept was used originally as a depreciating label ("gottlos") for views, that stood in the conflict with the established religions, also for newly developed religious views. Also the Christians became first of all as αθεoι atheoi designates.
Although there are religions, that no Gods know, one understands atheists to be persons who consider the acceptance of the existence of Gods or, generally, of supernatural beings (spirits, angels, demons) or powers, incorrectly.
Rough translation of intro:
Athéisme designates a thought or attitude excluding the belief in the existence of all divinity.
It would be more just to talk about the athéismes, the athéisme not being a thought system structured as are religions. In addition, it develops often in reaction to an, or several religions dominating in the country. Nevertheless certain traits are common with most of the athées.
Rough translation of intro:
The classical definition of ateísmo is the disbelief in the existence of God, being that the atheists persons that do not believe in God.
Many atheists, however, do not accept that definition, consider it incorrect and say that she neither reflects the true spirit of the ateísmo not is even faithful to the etymology of the word. For these, ateísmo is a sort of philosophical shackle characterized by the not-belief in the existence of God. The word "God" utilized in the previous definition serves for show that all of the kinds of God are excluded in this religious position.
Or it be, although many persons find that the atheists are persons that have faith in the not-existence of God (generally the catholic God), the atheists say that this concept is made in mistake because the ateísmo is not a "belief". The word "ateísmo" comes of the Greek one atheos – "to" (without or not) "theos" (God) –, and signifies simply "distant of the belief in God". Obeying to the root etymology of the word, the atheists "believe" – there is not nothing in him that implique a belief.
Some that a disbelief is equivalent to a belief, but many atheists do not accept that equivalence. For them, one is going to believe in the inexistence of an entity or of supernatural entities, and another one does not believe in the existence of those same entities.

I insist that we remain compatable w other references, and other wikis. How about you?

[[User:Sam Spade|Sam Spade Wants you to vote!]] 13:03, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

No, I don't really agree. It may be that in the other countries/languages served by these other encyclopedias, the weak/narrow definition is not significant enough in the sources to warrant mention. I cannot comment on that. However, the weak/narrow definition is quite common in English-language sources, and I have to admit is rather dominant in online sources in English. I say this somewhat regretfully. You know my opinion of the weak definition. Moreover, as a practical matter, it seems the majority of editors of this article are weak atheists, and even if we thought their definition/position was held by so small a number of people that it did not merit mention in the article, it would mean unending edit wars to try to exclude them -- as you have seen, Sam. --BM 15:42, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Since it has once again scrolled off into the archive subpages, here's a link to the most recent section of talk where FeloniusMonk presented a pile of references supporting the inclusion of weak atheism: Talk:Atheism/Archive 13#Summarized views - an unofficial attempt at mediation. Furthermore, even if one version of atheism's definition is more common in other encyclopedias that still doesn't mean it should be the definition here. What if tomorrow all those encyclopedias suddenly published errata that changed their definitions to include weak atheism? Would you then complain that no encyclopedias use the "correct" definition any more, and drop your insistance on compatibility? If so, there must be some other basis for you calling it the correct definition than simply the fact that it's in other encyclopedias. (additional note: as far as I can tell, the French and Portuguese wikipedia definitions actually are compatible with weak atheism, and once again you've refernced two identical copies of the Columbia Encyclopedia Sixth Edition as if they were independant sources - both [4] and [5] are the same one-paragraph-long article. You really need to pay closer attention, what would you say if I went around to all the various Wikipedia duplicates out there and used references to them as support here?) Bryan 17:02, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

What/who determines "...the "correct" definition of Atheism"? & why this thinking is flawed

Yes, I too insist that we remain compatible with other references: credible, neutral, academic references. Once again Sam is trying to define all terms for all people, this time in unilaterally proclaiming what is "correct." There is no "correct" definition... there is an entire spectum of definitions, some of which are more common and consistent, other's being unique, with defintions from trusted academic sources being the most credible. Neither encyclopeadia brittanica, nor encyclopedia.com, nor columbia encyclopedia are credible academic references, they are commercial publications.

Credible, neutral academic sources are readily available, and consistantly define atheism thusly:

  • Encyclopedia of American Religious History:
Atheism, literally the absence of belief in God...
  • Harvard Human Rights Journal, Vol. 16 Spring 2003 ISSN 1057-5057 [6]
"atheism, or what one might call the absence of belief"
  • Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Class: Introduction to Theology [7] (pdf file)
"Atheism is actually the absence of belief in a god. An atheist is one who has no belief in god, or does not believe that God exists. There are two kinds of atheists: *Dogmatic atheists: consciously promote the belief that there is no god *Practical atheists: simply live their lives as though there was no god."
  • Hamline Graduate School of Education, Religion, Glossary [8]
"Atheism: the lack of belief in the existence of God or gods, may include denial of existence or lack of interest."
  • Texas A & M, Corpus Christi Class, Philosophy [9]
"atheism is disbelief in a god or gods, or is the absence of belief in a god or gods. (The prefix "a" means "without.") Atheism is not the belief that God does not exist; atheism involves no belief whatsoever."
  • The Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences
In its narrowest sense the term atheist applies to one who categorically denies the existence of any gods. But in its wider sense it properly applies also to skeptics, materialists, positivists and all other who do not accept the claims of theism - that the world was created or is governed by a person or persons having the human traits of intelligence and will in more or less magnified form. Moreover, as people generally do not discriminate between belief and conduct, the term atheist has also been applied to those who refuse to participate in the customary forms of public worship. Thus the Romans called the Jews and early Christians atheists because they did not pay the customary honors to the sacra of the established imperial cult.

I insist we remain neutral and factually correct, despite what comercial publications (which must by definition serve business requirements to be sold, in other words, meet their customer's expectations) and other wikis may say. There is no assurance that other wikis have been any more successful at negating POV campaigners in their articles than we have been here, and that the content of their articles does not represent some form of compromise of the facts or tone.--FeloniousMonk 19:14, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

FM: I've disagreed with Sam's citations as proving that the "correct" definition is the narrow one, at least based on English-language sources. But I hope you aren't now trying to prove with your list of sources that the broad definition is the only "correct" one. I would also have to disagree with that. I thought we were reaching a consensus that there is no one "correct" definition at least in English sources. By the way, many of the sources on your list are "commercial" as well, in the same sense: published by concerns seeking to profit from sales of their books. Are you saying that the EB has made its definition in order to pander to the strong atheists in a naked attempt to increase sales? That seems a bit far-fetched, not to mention that it implies that EB thinks there must be more strong atheists than weak, which is not actually a point you would want to make, I presume. If the EB changes its articles in order to pander to various groups, which is highly doubtful, I suspect you would find that its atheism article would pander to Christians. --BM 19:53, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I just checked my printed version of Britannica (the 1980 edition) and it has the same text as Sam has quoted from the online britannica.com. The "Atheism" article was written by Cornelio Fabro, Professor of Theoretical Philosophy, Univ of Perugia, Italy, author of God in Exile: Modern Atheism. ("theoretical" philosophy, as opposed to "applied" or "experimental" philosophy (!) hmmm. ) The article does not mention "strong" versus "weak" atheism and maintains the consistent line that atheism is "denial of the existence" of God. It traces a long intellectual history, back to Plato's times, for atheism defined thus. It would be valuable to have the intellectual history of atheism in our article, if we can ever get it unprotected. The Italian origin of the author is a bit of evidence for my hunch that the weak definition largely comes out of the Anglo-American "freethought" movement, and the professor may not have been very familiar with these sources. --BM 20:16, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Britannica is neither academic nor canonical, that's my point. It's watered down and not intellectually as rigorous as actual scholarly primary writings. Britannica is not used as a reference in serious, academically stringent scholarship. For every britannica intended for public consumption there are more intellectually rigorous, clear thinking academic tomes intended for formal education, not informal home reference, that the public would never be be aware of. I've presented some of them here. And to a one they do not assert strong/explicit atheism is the primary understanding of atheism.
Regarding your opinion on what you may think may be origin of the concept of weak atheism being the "Anglo-American "freethought" movement", this is what I was getting at earlier about some editors being unread on the historical basis of atheism and so arguing from a position of ignorance. Eight years of education by Jesuits provided me plenty of opportunities to read on the historical basis of atheism. The distinction between implicit atheism (weak atheism) and explicit atheism (strong atheism) has been a subject discussed in Western philosophy ever since Thomas Aquinas presented "The Five Ways" to defeat the presumption of atheism in his Summa Theologica over 800 years ago. And once again I'll remind you and Sam that Paul Henri Holbach (1772), Voltaire(1778)[10], Charles Bradlaugh (1876)[11], Charles Watts [12] all in their writings made the distinction between weak and strong atheism, then known as "implicit" and "explicit" atheism. The distinction is not a product of the "freethought" movement.--FeloniousMonk 21:27, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

A bit more information about the EB article. There is a www.corneliofabro.org web site, in Italian and Spanish, which I cannot read. However, I think it is the same Fabro. He is now quite old, having been born in 1911. From the photographs of him on the site, in which he is wearing a clerical collar, I would suppose him to be a Roman Catholic priest, as well as an academic. If so, I'm a bit disappointed to learn that the Encyclopedia Britannica got a RC priest to write its article on Atheism. Be that as it may, his relatively long article does not mention the distinctions you are talking about. It does refer to "practical atheism", which is not a theoretical position but rather the demonstration through the manner in which one lives one life that one does not believe in God, what you might call "implicit atheism". But not much is made of this; it is basically an aside. Regarding your list of thinkers intended to disprove my hypothesis that the current emphasis on the "weak/strong" distinction comes out of the freethought tradition, I am not familiar with the writings on atheism of all the people cited, but Charles Bradlaugh isn't a good proof of your point, since he was a well-known freethinker. As Charles Watts was a close friend of Bradlaugh's, he most likely was as well, although I have not seen that stated. As for the others, Voltaire, Aquinas, Holbach. Do you have any direct quotes or secondary sources on that? --BM 21:42, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Incidentally, on the hypothesis that the emphasis of the weak definition is attributable to the freethought movement, that isn't original with me. I've seen that stated, although I cannot recall where, and I don't recall what sources, if any, were given for the claim. --BM 22:21, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

So you want me to do your research for you now? Aquinas' Summa Theologica containing the "The Five Ways" is available in most good university libraries, as are the collected works of Voltaire and Holbach. I suggest you start with Aquinas. An astute reader will have no trouble seeing that Aquinas acknowledge the distinction between those who actively reject god and those who simply do not believe.
The original point was that Charles Bradlaugh and others developed their positions from those who came before them, Aquinas, et al. Implicit atheism as a concept and as a position has been around far, far longer than the freethought movement (1880's), even if you are unaware or refuse to accept the fact.--FeloniousMonk 19:06, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Let's reference the trusty ol' tome known as the Oxford English Dictionary, shall we?

atheism [a. F. athéisme (16th c. in Littré), f. Gr. |: see atheal and -ism. Cf. It. atheismo and the earlier atheonism.]

Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a God. Also, Disregard of duty to God, godlessness (practical atheism).

1587 Golding De Mornay xx. 310 Athisme, that is to say, vtter godlesnes.

atheal [f. Gr. | without God, denying God (f. 2 priv. | God) + -al. Cf. F. athée]


Considering that the weak epistemological form of atheism, also called practical atheism, existed back in 1587, I have difficulty accepting that the weak definition is a product of a freethought movement. I also spoke with 84-year-old Dr. John Smart of Philosophy who wrote the Atheism-Agnosticism entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. [13] He responded that at the time of writing he was unaware of the distinctions. J.J. Smart is a "strong atheist." George H. Smith, who wrote several books on atheism (one which is considered an atheism bible), is a "strong atheist" that explains the differing definitions in the introduction to his books. He's also a professional philosopher like John Smart.

As you can plainly see, philosophers often disagree with each other. Adraeus 23:52, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I'm not hypothesizing that this notion was introduced by the freethought movement. As I said, the writer of the 1980 Britannica article on atheism, who was probably not influenced by freethought mentions "practical atheism", but it is an aside. I'm theorizing that the current tendency to make it the primary definition, which is especially noticable in online sources, was a product of the freethought movement, who favored it because they thought it made atheism the "default" position, and shifted the burden of proof to the theists (and the strong atheists). The weak atheists didn't have to prove anything. --BM 23:58, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

No, the weak epistemological form of atheism is a general description. It applies to all atheists. A "strong atheist" is also a "weak atheist" but what makes the "strong atheist" different is that the "strong atheist" is activistic whereas the "weak atheist" is not.
The primary general definition of "chair" is "a seat for one person with a support for the back." Would you support or object to changing that definition to reflect a certain type of chair? Perhaps all chairs are wooden and the definition of "chair" is more accurately "a seat, made out of wood, for one person with a support for the back"? Ridiculous, yes? The same logic applies to "atheism."
The primary general definition of "atheism" is "a condition of being without theistic beliefs." A "strong atheist" is without theistic beliefs but also positively claims the nonexistence of gods. A "weak atheist" is without theistic beliefs for whatever non-positivistic reason. See agnostic atheism.
Your theory is ultimately incorrect. The burden of proof has always rested with the theists and "strong atheists." Believers do not require themselves to possess reason or evidence for their faith. You have to understand that all "truths" are incomplete, provisional and falsifiable. In fact, a "truth" must be theoretically falsifiable to be provisionally true. Believers tend to reject and fabricate evidence to support their faith when confronted with the need to produce "truth"; however, neither actions are rational and the product of such manipulation is always irrational belief, which isn't a component of the scientific method. "All belief is essentially irrational, as belief can only occur where acceptance is not compelled, for if acceptance is compelled, then belief is not required to accept that thing. Belief is thus the acceptance of some thing as being provisionally true where: contradictory evidence exists which throws doubt upon or compels the rejection of the thing being accepted as truth; or where insufficient evidence exists to compel or suggest acceptance of the thing as truth." Adraeus 00:23, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
But Adraeus, old bean. You've written the foregoing on the basis that the primary definition is the weak one, and that is precisely what is being disputed. At this point, it seems that there is some consensus that it is an open question as to whether either definition is primary. There seem to sources on both sides. At any rate, nobody has put forth a case or list of sources that it so compelling that I would accept an article that says one or the other is primary (including the narrow definition that I personally prefer). My impression is that the narrow definition was the primary one at one time in the U.S. and I am hypothesizing that the broad definition has gained ground among atheists themselves in the last century in the English-speaking world due to the influence amongst atheists of the freethought movement; but I can't prove this hypothesis anbd I am not proposing that this idea be in the article. If we stop arguing about which of these definitions is primary, I don't think it should be that hard to write an article that is acceptable to everybody. --BM 01:04, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I'm a little confused by how Adraeus characterizes strong and weak atheism. I thought (and have seen it described in several sources) that strong atheism was an outright rejection of the existence of god. This was criticized by some as simply substituting one unprovable metaphysical belief for another. Weak atheism (by my understanding) on the other hand asserts no claims regarding the existence of god, but rather considers that there is no sufficient reason to believe in god and thus lives without any such belief. However, it appears that some so-called weak atheists (what I have characterized as "militant" weak atheists) are making their own sort of unprovable metaphysical hypothesis by assserting that the default condition for human nature is to be atheist. This seems just as unprovable an assumption as any regarding the existance of god. I think this is the essence of my objection to using the set/category rationalization for weak atheism. olderwiser 01:40, Dec 10, 2004 (UTC)
The idea that humans are born without theistic beliefs is scientifically falsifiable since it is a psychological issue (developmental psychology) and not metaphysical. People learn to believe in God, a god or gods. Without a thorough understanding of cognitive sciences, the ignorant skeptic of this idea will never understand why this initial human condition is so. Instead of calling those who understand this idea "militants," why don't you do some research and start e-mailing some doctors of developmental psychology? I've done my research. Have you? Adraeus 07:14, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Ah yes, resort to the ad hominem method of arrogance that we've all become so familiar with on this page. Now I'm an "ignorant skeptic". Thank you very much. But I do not buy it. I do not accept that the status of belief in infants is scientifically falsifiable. Just how exactly do you prove it one way or the other? I'm not saying that infants or children are born with any specific beliefs in any specific gods, but there has been research that indicates humans have a predisposition to what some call magical thinking, which by some accounts, is what got humans to belief in gods. olderwiser 13:01, Dec 10, 2004 (UTC)

Atheism, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as the denial of the existence of gods and alternatively as the condition of being without theistic beliefs. These different definitions diverged from the original meaning, "without theism", due to interpretations of the a- prefix as either "not" or "without". The issues concerning self-identification and categorization as an atheist are complex as both involve adoption of the former definition or only the latter definition, or both. Each definition is respectively known as strong [epistemological] atheism and weak [epistemological] atheism.

Apparently, the above introduction to "atheism" is acceptable since nobody opposes it. Bkonrad (older/wiser) stated a complaint or two but thought this was our best move forward thus far. Unless, BM, you're going to add to the discussion rather than forcing us to restate old comments, I suggest you start focusing on improving the above introduction. Adraeus 01:12, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I'm more or less OK with this. This does not explicitly make any unprovable metaphysical assertions about default categorization with regard to weak atheism, which is one of my primary objections to some of the other formulations so far. olderwiser 01:40, Dec 10, 2004 (UTC)
I'm OK with it. I'd accept it.--FeloniousMonk 15:53, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Jewish views of atheism

I feel this section should be removed temporarily.

I'm more than willing to do the research, and add a section on what some other major religions (Christian, Buddist, Muslim, Wicca, etc) I intend to do this research based on some sort of gallup pollesque data, so that my personal views of what are "major" religions wouldn't interfere, I'd just go by the numbers.

But until I finish this (I estimate it'd take roughly a week or two), I think the above mentioned section should be removed. To have only one major religions view of atheism posted, while not NPOV in nature, gives the illusion of it. Again, I'm not saying it should be deleted, it would be added with two weeks.

Most judges will not recuse themselves not only if they have a personal interest in a case, but also when it appears they might. Again, I'm not saying the section is NPOV, but the lack of other religions' views give the illusion of NPOV. [[User:GregNorc|GregNorc|Talk]] 00:14, Dec 10, 2004 (UTC)

Considering this article is indefinitely locked, I think it best if you prepare a more accurate section now and replace the current section later. Adraeus 07:03, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Use of the word "belief"

I noticed that the page includes, under the definition of "Strong Atheism" in the "Types of Atheism" section the following phrase: Strong atheism, or positive atheism, is the position gods do not exist, which is different from a lack of theistic belief.

This phrase is flawed, and I believe somewhat representitive of the greater debate, though really only tangentially related. I do not think "belief" is the proper NPOV word to use here. I think a more NPOV phrasing would be: Strong atheism, or positive atheism, is the lack of belief in gods.

Now, the main issue I see here is the other definition overlaps with this one. This is true. However, the two ARE different; a strong atheist rejects the existence of gods, while a weak one does not utterly reject it but simply does not believe in any god, while not rejecting their existence as absurd. Belief implies faith, which makes the next paragraph, that "Critics of strong athiesm contend that atheism requires faith due to a supposed impossibility of proving negatives", redundant. If the word "belief" is used, then there is no reason for critics to say such things. It would be critics who say it is a belief. Therefore, it probably would be best to be neutral and not support their position in the definition of athiesm.

Overall, atheism IS the lack of belief in gods; by its very definition in dictionaries and its roots, that is what it is. Neither weak atheists nor strong atheists say there are gods nor believe in one. Weak atheists assert there is no conclusive evidence there is a god, but no conclusive evidence there is not a god. Strong atheists assert there is no reason to believe in the existence of gods. Lack of belief should not really be defined as a belief. Would you say you hold the belief the world is not flat, or would you say you do not believe the world to be flat? This also raises another question: if someone had never heard of religion nor of gods, would they be considered a strong atheist or a weak one?

The issue seems to be mainly not this subject (over a semantic difference of a single line), but whether weak atheism should be included at all. However, from the root of the word, atheism seems to mean "without theism", or "lacking theism", and thus not possessing belief in gods. This would mean agnostics who neither believe nor disbelieve in the existance of gods are, by definition, atheists, because they lack belief in gods. However, by the strong/weak categorization, they would be "weak" atheists. Thus, even though these agnostics themselves may not think of themselves as atheists, they technically are.

One last question/issue: I have heard there being a distinction being made between weak atheism and agnosticism. What, if any, is the difference? Are there any agnostics who actually believe in gods, or is it simply an area which is unoccupied but theoretically possible? [[User:Titanium Dragon|TD|Talk]]

"Weak atheism" does not a regard a belief; however, "strong atheism" does. "Strong atheists" assert that no gods exist; therefore, "strong atheists" believe that no gods exist due to a lack of conclusive evidence. "Weak atheists" are merely without god-beliefs. Notice the difference:
  • "God does not exist." ("strong atheism") [ The absence of god-beliefs is implicit. ]
  • "I do not believe in God." ("weak atheism") [ The absence of god-beliefs is explicit. ]
In addition, to attach a specific reason for either position is POV. I reject your claims of what "weak" or "strong atheists" think or believe. Some "weak atheists" do not believe in God, a god or gods for a reason or a variety of reasons. See agnostic atheism. Some "strong atheists" do not believe in God, a god or gods and assert that such beings are nonexistent due to logical impossibilities, differing philosophies, etc. We need to leave the reason for nonbelief and disbelief open and only provide examples. For instance, a person might conclude that no gods exist because his/her family members were brutally slaughtered by a deranged maniac. A person might not believe in gods because, perhaps, they were never introduced to the concept. This brings us to the topic of what examples of reasons do we provide: minor or major? I say major. Minority views that are held by a few people in the world can be excluded without hurting the article's NPOV state. The problem is that some of these minorities think their views are major.
Atheism and agnosticism cannot be compared because both regard different concepts. Atheism regards what one thinks or believes while agnosticism regards how one thinks or believes. Again, see agnostic atheism. Adraeus 06:57, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I still fail to see why strong atheism has the word "belief" attached to it, while weak atheism does not. Could you not describe weak atheism as the belief there lacks reason to assert the existence or nonexistence of gods? I think both should have the same term attached to them, and I believe position is probably better than belief for NPOV reasons. After all, if you use position for one and belief for the other, then you are discriminating between them. It is a minor point beside the major disagreement over whether to even include weak atheism, but I think it is important nonetheless to some degree. [[User:Titanium Dragon|TD|Talk]]
"I still fail to see why strong atheism has the word "belief" attached to it, while weak atheism does not."
  • "God does not exist" is a belief that "God does not exist." ("strong atheism")
  • "I do not believe in God" is a position of "not believing in God." ("weak atheism")
"Strong atheism" is the same condition/position of "weak atheism" with the addition of subtractive god-beliefs. "Weak atheism" is simply, merely, only and just the condition of being without god-beliefs.
"Could you not describe weak atheism as the belief there lacks reason to assert the existence or nonexistence of gods?"
No. "Weak atheism" is simply, merely, only and just the condition of being without theistic beliefs. It is not the belief that there lacks reason to assert the existence or nonexistence of gods. It is the position that one takes when they do not possess god-beliefs; hence, the condition of being without theistic beliefs.
"After all, if you use position for one and belief for the other, then you are discriminating between them."
As we should. This does not make the article POV though. "Strong atheists" believe gods do not exist based on whatever reasons they can conjure. "Weak atheists" simply, merely, only and just are without god-beliefs. What I don't understand is why you don't understand. You are probably entering this discussion with preconceived notions about the strong and weak epistemological forms of atheism and those notions are then distorting the way you perceive these explanations. I'm not certain. Adraeus 12:33, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Okay, I understand your argument, but still do not think it is the best wording possible for NPOV. The next paragraph seems to highlight this, given that it states "Critics of strong atheism contend that atheism requires faith due to a supposed impossibility of proving negatives; an assertion that there are no gods requires omniscience to be certain there are no gods in the universe." The word belief supports this assertation, which is, needless to say, a point of view. I saw a few previous wordings which seemed more neutral to me.
Perhaps a better way of saying it would be:
Strong atheism, or positive atheism, is the active rejection of the existance of gods, which is distinct from a lack of theistic belief.
Another more neutral way of saying it might be:
Strong atheism, or positive atheism, is the positive assertation gods do not exist, which is distinct from a lack of theistic belief.
Another idea:
Strong atheism, or positive atheism, is active disbelief in the existence of gods, which is distinct from a lack of theistic belief. Titanium Dragon 07:11, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The New Cult King

These are interesting posts (i mean this it's not a sarcastic comment), there is much cogent stuff here, however how do we get over the problem of Sam ignoring all the arguments and evidence as to the widespread currency of the wide definition of atheism and editing the intro as soon as the article is unlocked so that it only covers strong atheism and putting his strong slant on it? --Nick-in-South-Africa 09:53, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
1. Ignore him in discussion since he's a relentless POV Warrior with a history of related consistent behavior.
2. Motion for his ban from Wikipedia. This is not his only playground. There is most likely enough support to pass this motion. We just need to organize it.
Justification for both measures is provided on his "endorsements" page.
Adraeus 10:25, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I agree.--FeloniousMonk 17:09, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I am interacting with Sam on the pantheism article and he has been nothing but cordial, reasonable, and compromising with people of different viewpoints, and he is definitely contributing positively on that article. Actually, most of my interaction with him concerning this article has been unexceptionable, too, although I did think him a bit overeager to start editing it again before there was an agreement on this Talk page, which is one reason that it got protected again. There is clearly some bad blood between Sam and some of the other editors of this page. But if people can get past that, I don't think it should be that hard to come up with an article that Sam will support, and which will be "more better" (as my daughter says) and more NPOV than the current wording. If I am wrong, then we should deal with that when it happens, rather than dwelling on it further now. As for banning him, you are entitled to make motions and to seek to do that, but this page isn't the place to discuss that or organize your banning campaign. I wouldn't vote for it or support it. --BM 12:47, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
"I wouldn't vote for it or support it."
I wouldn't care. You don't understand the issues and aren't willing to look through the archives to analyze his behavior. We experienced Sam Spade; you did not and are therefore irrelevant. You're basically just some random guy who walked in here from the street, making loud noises, attempting to lecture others on proper Wikipedian behavior while behaving in a contrary manner. There are currently 23 people, from around Wikipedia and not just here, who oppose Spade's election to the Arbitration Committee for similar reasons: he's a POV Warrior and he's abusive. FeloniousMonk can attest to that with Sam Spade's e-mail to him that said, "Fuck you, you ignorant rat bastard", on November 4 of this year.
  • In addition, on an administrator's talk page Sam Spade writes, "I am militantly anti-atheist. ... I am a fundamentalist theist, with a close, personal relationship to God."
From Sam Spade's Talk archives, he writes:
  • "For me, 'without theism' translates directly to 'apart from God'. Being apart from God is a decision, it cannot be done accidentally. God is always here; we must choose not to accept him. have you ever wondered why every culture on earth has God and/or gods? The concept is omnipresent, a Jungian symbol, inherent and instinctual to the human animal."
  • "I also happen to know God is conscious, since I have a personal relationship w him (this is an extra bonus not everybody has, or so I hear). Since God is all, and imminent within all things, all things are alive and conscious to me. Its called Pantheism, Monism, Panentheism, Sanatana Dharma, lots of things, but it is in no way illogical or disprovable. Science is simply one way of reading Gods law."
I mean... C'mon! Stop defending this idiot. The guy is clearly off his rocker. My jaw literally dropped reading his worldview. I'm amazed that there exists people who are completely devoid of rationality. For Sam Spade, reason is an evil scientist's weapon for use against God. The fact that we constantly use this weapon is more cause for Sam Spade to abuse policies to include his bigoted POV in this article since by using reason we are, in effect, attacking his close and personal friend who he happens to personally know. I wouldn't have looked at his Talk archives if you didn't strongly influence me to find instances of Spade's insanity. Now that I really know what this guy is about, I'm not holding back regardless of the consequences. Just read this. I'm baffled.
  • "As far as 'what’s the point of having a God', that’s a nonsensical question to a believer in an immanent God. We might as soon ask 'why exist?'. God is more than efficient; he is the only basis for reality. His absence leads to a removal of existence. In other words, without him there is nothing."
...therefore, atheists have no purpose. Atheists do not exist in reality. Atheists are creatures of fantasy. Atheists are nothing. Great. I cannot possibly ever be offended by such a loon and I reject all accusations from you that I am offended in some way. I am disturbed by his thoughts. Extremely disturbed. I would never want to meet this guy in person. I'm afraid he'd kill me. After all, he did claim that I am this article's problem and therefore his problem. Adraeus 13:26, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Look, I don't mean to be impolite to you, Adraeus, but you seem a bit obsessed on the subject of Sam Spade. You seem to object as much to his world-view as to his behaviour. He is a classical pantheist. That isn't your world-view, or mine, but many people have this world view. I sincerely wish that you would find somewhere else to talk about him, if you must. This page is for discussion of the Atheism article. We were doing that and making progress. I don't want to talk about Sam Spade any more, unless he becomes a barrier to progress on this article. I'm not going to say that you don't have reason for your grievances against Sam, because I haven't investigated it far enough. I'm not going to either, because I'm not interested in squabbles, as much as you might think I should be. I am interested in this article. If you want to go on a campaign against Sam, there are other places for that. Please take your concerns about Sam Spade to one of those other places. --BM 13:51, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I don't mean to be impolite to you, BM, but you seem a bit ignorant of the subject of Sam Spade and why we discuss him here. I sincerely wish that you would find the time to research the issues, both of Sam Spade and of this article's conflict, before ever posting again here. This page is for discussion of the atheism article. (Don't capitalize it. That's insanely POV.) We were doing that until you came along and started this bullshit about not discussing one of main problems with this article's progress: Sam Spade. You may not want to talk about Sam Spade but we sure as hell do. He's blockaded this article's progress in the past. He's the reason why this article remains protected. He's the reason why protection is sought. Without him, there is rationality. I'm not going to say that you don't have a reason for your grievances against me, because I recognize that my "rancorous behavior" is overwhelming to newcomers but I'm justified by 23 people's problems with Sam Spade and by Sam Spade's own comments about atheism. I'm uninterested in squabbling with you. You've contributed essentially nothing to this article's progress. You've simply asked questions we've already answered within the archives which you've refused to analyze because there's just sooooo much to read. You're not interested in this article. A person interested in this article reads the archives, understands the issues and doesn't repeat the same questions we've answered over and over again. A person interested in this article does research and doesn't shoot from the hip. You're not interested in this article. Whatever you're interested in, it's demonstrably not this article. Adraeus 14:12, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Sam's a "classical pantheist"? Has he said this? He states on his Talk page that he's a fundamentalist and previously that he's a christian (but he insists he's not a christian fundamentalist). Either you're mistaken, or he's being dishonest.--FeloniousMonk 17:09, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
OK, enough of this. You can have the last word. --BM 14:20, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Etymology will help

Casually, I came to this page and found this interesting discussion here and decided to help. Using my classical greek dictionary, we've got: á-theos (< á + theós (god)): atheist, who negates the existence of god(s). This is a fact: in ancient greece, an atheist was who negated the existance of gods. We should ask ourselves if this definition survived through history. In latin, according to my dictionary, atheus (cleraly borrowed from greek), mantained its meaning. At least, in my american english dictionary I found that atheism is the 'disbelief or denial of the existance of god'.

It seems that the concept of weak atheism isn't very clear. Can someone give a short and precise definition (not the examples from above, I didn't understand them, really) of that? --Neigel von Teighen 13:52, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

According to the Oxford English Dictionary...

[a. F. athéisme (16th c. in Littré), f. Gr. |: see atheal and -ism. Cf. It. atheismo and the earlier atheonism.]
Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a God. Also, Disregard of duty to God, godlessness (practical atheism).
1587 Golding De Mornay xx. 310 Athisme, that is to say, vtter godlesnes.

[f. Gr. | without God, denying God (f. 2 priv. | God) + -al. Cf. F. athée]

The weak epistemological form of atheism, also called practical atheism, existed back in 1587. I spoke with 84-year-old Dr. John Smart of Philosophy who wrote the Atheism-Agnosticism entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. [14] He responded that at the time of writing he was unaware of the distinctions. J.J. Smart is a "strong atheist." George H. Smith, who wrote several books on atheism (one which is considered an atheism bible), is a "strong atheist" that explains the differing definitions in the introduction to his books. He's also a professional philosopher like John Smart.
Read the above excerpts for an explanation of the weak epistemological form of atheism.
Adraeus 23:52, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Niegel, welcome to the happy band of Atheism editors, currently reduced to Talk:Atheism editors. I hope you can help get the article unblocked, and will contribute to it once it is. To get the article unblocked, we are working hard on this Talk page towards a compromise on the various disputes. Concerning your point about etymology, though, I don't think it can help. Each side of the dispute gives a different account of the etymology. You read it as "negating God" (i.e. denial of God, or the belief that gods or God do not exist). What some call "strong" atheism and others call simply atheism. Others interpret the Greek as "without or lacking god", and therefore supporting the weak definition of atheism. Etymology doesn't help; actually it contributes to the confusion. --BM 14:09, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

'In the beginning was the Chaos...' :) What I notice is that the splitting out between 'strong' and 'weak' comes from a confussion between the former and the later meaning of átheos. First, it meant 'who negates gods/God', then, 'who is abandoned by the gods/God' (because of practical atheism). Who's abandoned by gods is clearly without gods. Who negates gods is, also, without gods. Who is without gods is who doesn't live as the divinity wants. This later called 'weak atheism' isn't necessarily a form of atheism. I can be a practical atheist and believe in God (obviuosly, this is a kind of hypocresy, but we're not discussing morality here). Maybe we should do a list of our thesis in this page and, after we know what everyone is saying, begin a better discussion. --Neigel von Teighen 14:30, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
That is truly interesting. Following the literal Greek, a practical atheist is one who is abandoned by gods/God yet that condition does not preclude the practical atheist from believing in gods/God. This should definitely be covered later in the article; however, using this literal interpretation would seriously screw us since "atheism" would then mean "without gods/God" instead of today's "without belief in gods/God." Adraeus 14:42, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
"Etymology doesn't help; actually it contributes to the confusion."
Ha! I'm not confused and presumably neither are Nick-in-South-Africa, Andrevan and FeloniousMonk. Comprehension of the etymological foundations of a term help editors compose an NPOV article based on history. Without history, we'd be forced to rely on subjective personal interpretations of a term—of which there are many in this case—and this article would be far more confusing. Etymology lends a hand in establishing credibility and clarity. As pointed out by Douglas Harper, editor of the Online Etymology Dictionary, etymology does not produce definitions since the meaning of words change over time, which is studied in etymology. Etymology provides direction for understanding a word. Sometimes that direction may be opposite of the intended meaning when a word was coined, but often, like in this case, the meaning of a word doesn't change; it's merely amended and clarified. Adraeus 14:22, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Etymology often does help; but in this case the Greek is consistent with both of the definitions that we are talking about, and doesn't apparently decide between them. Partisans of either definition can make an etymological argument. The Greek can be used to argue for the primacy of either definition; or (as I am doing) that neither definition is primary. Adraeus, are you back to arguing that the "weak definition" should be the primary one? FM and Nick, anyway, seemed to be agreeing that the resolution to the NPOV dispute was that both definitions been given with care taken not to present either as the primary one.
By the way, regarding your citation of the George H. Smith article above, I read it, and his definition of atheism is clearly the weak one, as you said. However, he says the following "As here defined, the term "atheism" has a wider scope than the meanings usually attached to it." (My emphasis) He then goes on to quote Paul Edwards:

First, there is the familiar sense in which a person is an atheist. If he maintains that there is no God, where this is taken to mean that "God exists" expresses a false proposition. Secondly, there is also a broader sense in which a person is an atheist if he rejects belief in God, regardless of whether his rejection is based on the view that belief in God is false.

These quotes show that though Smith and Edwards prefer the wide definition themselves, they recognize that the "familiar" or "usual" definition is the narrow one. --BM 14:40, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I thank you for finally participating in this discussion, BM.
All atheists acknowledge that the "familiar" or "usual" definition of atheism is narrow since there are, quite frankly, more god-believers than non-god-believers. The vocal majority has ultimate control of what's common and what's not due to the number of people which pass on memes. The wider definition is what has been used by most atheists since day one. The vocal atheist minority are "strong atheists." The quiet atheist majority are "weak atheists." (Warning! Insightful stereotypes!) Strangely, "weak atheists" usually don't have a say in what they identified with because on one side there are the "strong atheists" who think the "weak atheists" are fools for not believing in the nonexistence of gods and then there are the "strong theists" on the other side who just think all atheists are fools.It's a difficult battle for "weak atheists" since they are naturally passivistic. Adraeus 14:53, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Thanks for finally admitting that the "weak definition" is the minority one, Adraeus. As you say, the narrow one is the usual one since it is the definition used by the theists, and they are by far in the majority, and they are joined by some of the strong atheists, agnostics, etc. Amongst those labelling themselves atheists, I don't know which is the more common definition. My sense is that weak atheism (and therefore the weak definition) has gained a lot of ground over the last couple of decades. I'm 50 and have been an atheist for about 35 years, and I'm basing this on my own observations. I don't know whether weak atheists have overtaken strong atheists in numbers, but it is possible. --BM 15:08, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Nevertheless, polling of academic references shows that the broad definition (weak atheism) is presented as the primary definition of atheism most often, with the narrow definition (strong atheism), secondary. I suggest you do some research (beyond encyclopaedia britannica) should you doubt. Personal, anecdotal information is not a basis for sound encyclopedic entries. Thirty five years of anecdotal opinion and ten hours spent here making unsupported assertions is no substitute for even three hours in a decent university library (and certainly not for a lifetime of reading primary writings).--FeloniousMonk 18:23, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Potential unprotection.

Atheism, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as the denial of the existence of gods and alternatively as the condition of being without theistic beliefs. These different definitions diverged from the original meaning, "without theism", due to interpretations of the a- prefix as either "not" or "without". The issues concerning self-identification and categorization as an atheist are complex as both involve adoption of the former definition or only the latter definition, or both. Each definition is respectively known as strong [epistemological] atheism and weak [epistemological] atheism.

If everyone accepts the opening paragraph as suggested by Bkonrad, I'm almost ready to unprotect. I'll just need some time to check the entire talk page to see if there's some open objections to something else... Please be patient with me... - [[User:MacGyverMagic|Mgm|(talk)]] 14:23, Dec 10, 2004 (UTC)

A point of clarification: This definition was NOT suggested by me (Bkonrad) but by Adraeus. I merely indicated that I did not have major objections to it. olderwiser 16:44, Dec 10, 2004 (UTC)
Accept. I accept it. Bkonrad knows why! ;) Adraeus 14:29, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Accept. I also accept this. It's the best option we have for en this long discussion. --Neigel von Teighen 14:34, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Maybe. I would accept it, except for the last sentence, which I propose be changed to: The two definitions are respectively known as the strong or narrow definition of atheism, and the broad, wide, or weak definition of atheism. The reason for this is that weak and strong atheism are not defintions, they are positions. As I said before, a strong atheist can be a supporter of the wide definition, or not. While there are correlations between adopting a particular position and advocating a particular definition/terminology, the various positions and terminological preferences are not equivalent. Also, it isn't clear to me what epistemological adds in this context. --BM 14:51, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Accept--FeloniousMonk 18:25, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Accept as a starting position. I agree somewhat with BM that the last sentence could be tightened up stylistically, though I'm not sure I agree with his suggestions. I agree with the general sense expressed in the sentence, but the phrasing is a little clumsy. But AFAIAC that is a minor point and I could deal with the awkwardness of it. I think it may be clearer to express strong and weak as explicit and implicit rather than using a bracketed "[epistimological]"--something like "Each definition is respectively known as strong (or explicit) atheism and weak (or implicit) atheism." olderwiser 16:44, Dec 10, 2004 (UTC)
"A person who believes that gods/God do/does not exist" is the definition for "strong atheist."
"A person who is without belief in gods/God" is the definition for "weak atheist."
These are definitions. Any instance where a meaning is attributed to a word is an instance of definition.
People often are confused by the "strong" and "weak" adjectives and do not know what they mean. The editorial brackets [] intend to explain that "strong" and "weak" reference epistemology. I would suggest we replace "strong/weak" with "implicit/explicit" since those are, indeed, more academic than the epistemological descriptors. Adraeus 15:00, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
But "strong" atheism is not an epistemological position. It is the denial of the existence of God or gods. It isn't clear to me that "weak" atheism is always an epistemological position. Sometimes, one is a weak atheist because one has a particular epistemological position; sometimes one is a weak atheist because one holds the position that god-language is meaningless; sometimes one is a weak atheist because one is a baby; etc. "Epistemological" doesn't belong in this context. --BM 15:32, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
"Strong atheism" is an epistemological position as it posits, claiming knowledge, that gods/God do/does not exist and then becomes belief. Regardless, "strong atheism" is always a position—a choice—whereas "weak atheism" is always a condition of being and sometimes a position (choice). I don't understand what you mean by "god-language." Like I said, if we are to change those terms, we should use "implict/explicit" since they are far more definitionally descriptive than the informal "strong/weak" descriptions of epistemology. Adraeus 15:55, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Your use of "epistemological" is odd, in my opinion. Someone who makes the positive statement that X would almost certainly also state that he "believes X", and also most probably that he "knows X" (although he might say he "has faith that X" and not claim knowledge. This doesn't make every claim of X an epistemological claim. An epistemological claim would be "it is/is not possible to know that X". The word "epistemological" doesn't clarify anything in this context and the only thing it adds is confusion. --BM 17:04, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
The problem is that the sentence I am disputing immediately slides into the weak/strong distinction which is in dispute and ruins the NPOV of the statement. Up to that point it is fine. By the wide definition, there are no "strong" and "weak" atheists; (all atheists deny the existence of god by the narrow definition, and the people who call themselves "weak atheists" really aren't atheists at all, but skeptics or agnostics with a different terminology. To use the "strong atheists", "weak atheists" opposition, you are already buying into the weak/broad/wide terminology. --BM 15:19, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Atheism itself is in dispute. That doesn't mean we should stop editing the article. The wide definition does not preclude "strong" and "weak atheism." The narrow definition does not preclude "strong" and "weak atheism." Generally, these wide/narrow definitions are not disputed and are widely accepted in the atheist community instead of narrowly disparaged here. I don't understand what you intend by your (remark) so I won't respond to that until you clarify. There's no con to "buy-into." The weak/broad/wide terminology was coined to help communicate and clarify the distinctive atheistic positions, not manipulate the term. Why does it seem like you're ignoring the etymological history of "atheism"? "Weak atheism" does not refer to a new concept. Adraeus 15:55, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
No that isn't correct. It is true that anybody who has read widely in the atheist literature (especially in English on-line sources) will have encountered the wide defintion and the "weak" / "strong" terminology. Obviously, I recognize that my position is what some people refer to as "strong atheism", and I know what someone means when he says he is a "weak atheist", even though I might prefer to call his position "skepticism" or "agnosticism". But the terminology favored by weak atheists is by no means the only one in use, and (in my opinion) is not the dominant one, as you admitted yourself above. It may be the dominant one amongst those who identify themselves as atheists; but we have no proof of that either, Felonious and his list of sources to the contrary notwithstanding. While it is apparent that the participants in this discussion are mostly weak atheists who favor this terminology, I don't think that an NPOV article can simply adopt this terminology. Neutrality demands that the terminological differences be stated and the article should avoid adopting only one of the disputed terminologies. Unfortunately, this will make it wordier. Read the Agnosticism article for an example of how terminology can be better handled. The proposed new wording is an improvement on the existing text, but the last sentence spoils it. --BM 17:14, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Please, to all people discussing here. Place your opinion to the definition given by Bkonrad. The 'voting' up to now is 2-0-1 (aye-nay-other). This is a real form to help in this topic--Neigel von Teighen 15:07, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
  • Again, a clarification, the definition was offered by Andreaus, not by me. olderwiser 16:44, Dec 10, 2004 (UTC)
If the article were unprotected with the proposed wording in place, I would edit out the last sentence and replace it with my version. I don't know if that would lead to edit war. I don't insist on replacing it with my version. Why not remove the sentence entirely? There is, anyway, more on "strong" versus "weak" later in the article. --BM 15:27, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Such an unapproved action would lead to an edit war, further protection and you would be added to the list of this article's problems. Removal of this distinction is nonsensical. Adraeus 15:55, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I agree. We can't take that risk up to now. The distinction between both types of atheism is necessary. If a user needs to do an essay about atheism, he should know, at least, that there are people that say that there are two kinds of atheism. We must think that this is an encyclopaedia article! --Neigel von Teighen 16:02, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I agree with Adraeus and Neigel. The distinction is necessary and needs to remain in some form, and I find BM's objections to it compelling and suggested reworking of it fatally flawed.--FeloniousMonk 18:32, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
It isn't necessarily that there are two kinds of atheism. That statement requires adoption of the broad definition, according to which the "lack of belief" position is a type of atheism. There are certainly two different positions, with various labels. There are two terminologies for describing positions in this space. It wouldn't lead to an edit war solely on account of me. I would make the edit I have described. If someone reverted it, I wouldn't revert again. But I'm not the only one with my particular view on what is needed to make the article NPOV, and there could well be an edit war. A better solution would be to put the proposed text in, WITHOUT THE LAST SENTENCE. --BM
One more agument as to why the last sentence is just wrong. Consider the theists and those who identify themselves as agnostics. Many, possibly most, of these would use the term "atheism" more consistently with the first definition of than the second. Obviously, that does not make a theist or an agnostic into a strong atheist. It is true that people who identify themselves as weak atheists prefer the weak definition, since on the strong definition they aren't atheists at all. But people with a variety of positions (ranging from theism to strong atheism) prefer the first definition. Having a preference for one definition or other is not the equivalent of adopting one atheistic position or another. The sentence isn't objectionable because it is POV; its just confused and/or false. Don't confuse the terminology dispute with the dispute between the actual positions. --BM 18:40, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I propose this:

Atheism, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as the denial of the existence of gods, or, alternatively, as the condition of being without theistic beliefs. The word is from the Greek prefix a-, meaning either "not" or "without", and theosmos meaning "belief in god". The ambiguity in the meaning of the prefix leads to conflicting definitions. Those who define atheism as the active denial of God or gods, sometimes referred to as the narrow or "strong" definition, tend to use other terms (such as agnostic, or skeptic) for those who are without belief in God or gods. On the other hand, those who define atheism as "absence of belief" see two types of atheism. The positive denial of the existence of deities is "explicit, positive, or strong atheism", while the withholding or absence of belief in deities is "implicit, negative or weak atheism". This is sometimes called the broad, wide, or "weak" definition of atheism.

--BM 18:23, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I think your proposed solution is neither factually accurate nor particularly readable. You make several unsupported characterizations/assertions here. First off, there's no compelling evidence that "ambiguity in the meaning of the ("a-") prefix" does indeed lead to the conflicting definitions. It's an unsupported assertion. I could just as easily assert that conscious and unconscious biases arising from personal ideologies are the cause of various attempts to define atheism, and I'd have a lot more empirical proof to make that assertion. Nor is it certain that only those those who define atheism as "absence of belief" who "see two types of atheism."
Adraeus' definition avoids making any assertions or characterizations at all other than that the issues are complex, which surely no one here will deny. We have a majority accepting it and so should deploy it as is.--FeloniousMonk 18:50, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Look, Felonious, the group of people currently voting are, with the exception of me, all weak atheists, apparently. Somehow it doesn't seem likely that this vote is going to result in an NPOV article. I don't necessarily agree to abide by this vote. However, I already said I would accept the proposed text, without the last sentence. This sentence is not only POV, but more significantly it is just plain wrong. This sentence says that the definition of atheism as "denial of god" is strong atheism. Strong atheism is not advocacy of a particular definition of atheism; it is denial of god. Many, even most, theists advocate that definition too (if, indeed, they are even aware of the weak definition). Likewise, agnostics. That does not make them strong atheists. The last sentence is just sloppily written and wrong, and must be removed. --BM
Having re-read Adraeus' def for the 4th time, I have to ask you: What are you talking about? The def introduces atheism as:
  1. the denial of the existence of gods
  2. and alternatively as the condition of being without theistic beliefs
The last sentence then finally states: "Each definition is respectively known as strong [epistemological] atheism and weak [epistemological] atheism."
  1. the denial of the existence of gods = strong [epistemological] atheism
  2. and alternatively as the condition of being without theistic beliefs = weak [epistemological] atheism
Hence: Strong atheism is denial of god. What's your issue with that? I think you are confused.--FeloniousMonk 19:17, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
The sentence states, "The definitions are known as strong atheism and weak atheism". My objection is that this is just imprecise, and therefore wrong. Strong and weak atheism are philosophical positions regarding the existence of gods. They are not definitions. I say it again. Supporting a particular definition of atheism is not equivalent to adopting a particular atheistic position. Theists who support the "denial" DEFINITION are not themselves strong atheists. Surely you can understand this. --BM 19:24, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Actually, looking more closely at the proposed text, I take back my provisional agreement. More than just the last sentence is unacceptable. The sentence, These different definitions diverged from the original meaning, "without theism", due to interpretations of the a- prefix as either "not" or "without". is debatable. What evidence is there that the "original" meaning was "without theism". It seems more likely to me that the "original" meaning was not this, that historically the primary meaning has been "denial", and that if this has changed recently, it is mainly in the atheistic community itself. Certainly without some research on the history of usage of the word from its earliest occurrences we cannot make claims about the original meaning. Regarding the next sentence, The issues concerning self-identification and categorization as an atheist are complex as both involve adoption of the former definition or only the latter definition, or both. -- I think I know what this is trying to say, but it is very vague and doesn't belong in the introduction when the "issues" it refers to have not even been broached. Then there is the last sentence, which as I said is just flat out confused and wrong, as well as being POV. So out of four sentences, I agree only with the first, which basically reports the OED definition. --BM 19:28, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
You're merely ignoring everything we've posted over the past few months. Troll. Adraeus 20:14, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Well. you know, it is hard to take anything that you say seriously when you cap it off with some petulant incivility (as you have done several times now). olderwiser 20:20, Dec 10, 2004 (UTC)
I am surprised to find myself accused of incivility. If you care to point out where you think I have been uncivil, I will consider it. Possibly I will apologize, since that was not my intent. As for Adraeus' characterization of me as a troll, if it takes reading the entirety of the Talk:Atheism archives, or at least back to where the current participants starting dropping their pearls of wisdom, to avoid being characterized as a troll, then I am; however, that seems to be rather an idiosyncratic definition. Your aim seems to be to repel all boarders from the Good Ship Atheism who don't agree with you. I doubt Wikipedia policy supports this as a valid aim. --BM 20:38, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Adraeus is not accusing you of incivility, he's saying you're a troll. Justifiably so since you repeatedly refuse to acknowledge and afford any validity to all of our patient contributions over the past months by refusing to read the archives and summarily dismissing anything that contradicts your own somewhat untutored POV here. I'm not sure what else to think of someone so willfully and stubbornly obtuse. How is you as a relative newcomer can expect us to consider your comments and proposals when you repeatedly refuse to recognize those who have invested months attempting to make progress here?--FeloniousMonk 22:56, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
In case there was any confusion, I was not accusing BM of incivility. My comment above was in reference to Andraeus calling you a troll. olderwiser 20:52, Dec 10, 2004 (UTC)
Oh, I beg your pardon. I guess I'm feeling a little beleaguered. --BM 21:03, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Comment on Communism, Marxism, etc section

My comment add regarding "In Communism, Marxism and the Cold War" section.

It was not only the Cummunists have the same rejection regarding superstition and/or religions. Mr. Xhung, the first elected president of China before Commuist China, was also famous for his furious reaction towards religions. Once he ran across a suburban temple and witnessed poor people were indulged in deism worship and neglected their own proper education of civilization and he declared that it is one of the factors that the Chinese failed to acheive and compete with the rest of the world. There were some similar occurrance in India, European, Middel East and America.

Sorry, I would like to put in some corrections such as translated name and link of reference.

My comment is added regarding China "In Communism, Marxism and the Cold War" section. It was not only the Cummunists rejected superstition, a bi-product of religions. Mr. SunYat-Sen (http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=SunYat-Sen+&x=13&y=13), the first elected president of China before Commuist China, was also famous for his furious reaction towards religions. One time he ran across a suburban temple and witnessed poor people indulging in deism worship and neglected their own proper education of civilization and he declared that it is one of the factors that the Chinese failed to protect their country against imperialistic invations and currupted traditions. There were similar histories and heroes in India, European, Middel East and America.

I am not sure what is his personal belief. Some said he is a Christian after finishing schools here in United States then he went back to China studying and practicing medicine. No sure reference I have found that he had ill feelings toward idol worship or forcing people leaving their religious beliefs base on his own faith. He did emphasis indulging in worshipping lifeless idols failing Chinese.

Difference between weak atheists and strong atheists

One of the things that surprises me about the strong advocacy for the "without beliefs" definition by weak atheists is that this definition does not capture their views either, and assimilates them with people with much different views. In practice, weak and strong atheists are pretty close. Those who identify themselves as weak atheists generally reject arguments for the existence of God or gods, are generally unimpressed with the evidence for the existence of God or gods, and generally believe that the existence of gods is extremely improbable. Their main difference with strong atheists, usually, is only that the weak atheists don't feel justified in going "all the way" and affirming that gods do not exist, whereas strong atheists do not hesitate. The theist "man-in-the-street" probably does not see much difference between the 90+% rejection of theism of the "weak" and the 100% rejection of the "strong" atheist. In fact, Bertrand Russell, in an essay, actually admitted this point, saying that in front of philosophers he would describe his position as Agnosticism (his term for "weak atheism") but that in front of a popular audience it would be more honest to say that he was an atheist. I consider myself a strong atheist, but actually I don't go all the way to saying that the existence of God or gods is impossible. I say God and gods do not exist; I believe they do not exist; if they do indeed not exist, then I know it, since my belief to that effect is justified by the inadequacy of the evidence and not mere faith. But I could be wrong; just as I can be wrong about many of the other things that I think I know. Perhaps a weak atheist would consider me one of them because I don't claim certainty; but I don't think certainty a necessity for knowledge. --BM 21:01, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Personal musings, specious assertions and hasty generalizations do not a compelling argument make. Your continual special pleadings to justify your own POV that strong atheism is the only correct primary definition of atheism and that weak atheism is some sort of deprecated subset of strong atheism betray your lack of specific knowledge of the subject at hand. Had you read the archives as we've asked you to dozens of times, you'd know that weak atheists cannot not be so easily categorized into one group vs. strong atheists as you do here. Just consult the tables presented in October and the Venn diagrams found in the archives. There's a multitude of states of not holding theistic beliefs; it's not simply just a matter of "weak atheists don't feel justified in going "all the way" and saying absolutely that gods do not exist." To claim this is overly simplify a spectrum of positions to the degree of being obtuse.--FeloniousMonk 21:40, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Actually, Felonious, if you read what I just wrote carefully, you will see that Bertrand Russell's definition of atheism was "denial of the existence of God". He considered himself an agnostic rather than an atheist because he did not rule out the possibility of God, only thinking it very unlikely, but not something one could know, which seemed for him to require certainty. But he thought the public would call someone who thought the existence of God was very improbable, as he did, an atheist. This doesn't mean he thought the public defined "atheism" as "without belief", but rather that he thought the public would equate "believing the existence of God to be highty improbable" with atheism. His guess as to what the public's definition of atheism was doesn't coincide with any of the definitions under discussion. As for your comment, my "musings" about weak atheists were related largely to those weak atheists who identify themselves as such.
You could regard Bertrand Russell as further proof that the "denial of God" definition is primary. I recognize that the definition of atheists favored by weak atheists includes many other types of beliefs under the rubric of "weak atheists", such as positivists (who think all this god talk is meaningless), and people who haven't thought about the issues, including babies. Most of these other groups don't identify themselves as atheists, never mind "weak atheists" -- which is a bit of a problem for the definition. I wish you would stop the ad hominem stuff, though. You aren't quite as bad as Adaeus, but its aggravating. In any case, as you would know if you had read my comments at all, I am not advocating that my POV preferences for the definition be those exclusively in the article, only that my POV is not an uncommon one and needs to be given its due in the article. You don't have to read through months of archives to know my position. Since I keep having to repeat myself, you only have to read back a bit in this page. --BM 22:02, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Well I looked at the tables. My goodness. They look like original research, and in any case extremely debatable. This is an encyclopedia article not a philosophy journal, and we need to be putting forward definitions, concepts, and arguments that have sufficient currency and are supported by many primary and secondary sources. Some of the terms used are neologisms. 'Apatheist' is a 2003 neologism which is supported by a single primary source. Do you have sources for terms like "strong agnostic" and "weak agnostic"? Those terms aren't established in the literature, surely. Now, off to look at the Venn Diagrams, but I'm not hopeful. --BM 22:28, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Once again you're missing the point. I presented the tables and diagrams as evidence that we (those of us who have actually participated in discussion here more than 2 weeks) have already discussed and resolved these issues through consensus and moved on and that there's no need or revisit them just because you now show up and refuse to read the archives as politely asked. I presented them as evidence that had you read the archives as directed, you'd know all of this already instead of wasting our time rehashing it all again for you. And now you force us to to spend our time just explaining exactly why it is we direct you to it in the first place? Amazing.
Are the tables "original research"? No. Similar information is found in university-level textbooks. Are they "extremely debatable"? Hardly, that is if you read or are aware of such a text book. You citing a recent neologism as evidence of them being original research or debatable is flawed logic. It's only proof of the author employing a recent term as shorthand and acknowledging current understandings. Certainly the article can as well; that is unless you still insist that the encylcopaedia britannica is the final arbiter of all things atheistic.
Am I making ad hominems against you? No. You've demonstrated you lack basic background knowledge on the subject at hand. That causes you to balk at every reasoned, scholarly proposal and it's an impediment to progress here. It's my contention and that of Adraeus and Nick that you've lessened our chances of progress in reaching an NPOV article, precisely because your lack of basic knowledge of historical atheism prevents you seeing beyond your POV, which you seem extraordinarily dedicated to. You've been immune to any and all evidence that does not support your personal POV, and your "compromise" solutions have been notoriously one-sided. If you continue thusly, there's going to be little justification for taking any of your proposals seriously. --FeloniousMonk 23:21, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
FM: we (those of us who have actually participated in discussion here more than 2 weeks) have already discussed and resolved these issues through consensus and moved on You've gotta be kidding. consensus was achieved huh? That's news. And what exactly was this consensus? FM: prevents you seeing beyond your POV, which you seem extraordinarily dedicated to. Looks like a case of the pot calling the kettle black. olderwiser 23:46, Dec 10, 2004 (UTC)
I don't think you are clear on what consensus I'm referring to, Bkonrad. Stay with me here. The consensus I was referring to above was on the tables and the Venn diagrams. The preponderance of the terms and concepts they illustrate were settled in October, with only the remaining matter being the positioning of strong atheism vs. weak atheism as the primary definition, with first Sam and now BM obstructing consensus despite being shown they are wrong.
I remember the Venn Diagrams. I thought they were laughably ridiculoue then and still do. I made no comment about it back then as I was still pretty fresh to these pages. The diagrams proved nothing and if you look at the discussion it is clear that there was no consensus there, except possibly in your own mind. You've established a regular pattern of dismissing anyone who disagrees with you with condescending arrogance and by spewing volumes of logorrhea and then assuming that confirms your presumed correctness. Tedious and tendentious is more like it. olderwiser 04:34, Dec 11, 2004 (UTC)
I've looked at the Venn Diagrams, now, and I agree they were not very illuminating. --BM 11:50, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)
The last time I saw a black kettle or pot was on an old rerun of Little House on the Prairie. You're going to have to change it to look at the pot calling the kettle aluminum. Your point of this being an instance of a PKB only holds true were there equivalency between the two positions- there isn't. One position is backed up by the six or so credible academic references cited here, plus a good number of others cited archives; the other by Cornholio Fabro and his personal writing for the encycolpaedia brittanica, the reference source favored by sixth graders everywhere. There's no equivalency.--FeloniousMonk 02:33, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Cornelio Fabro, the author of the Britannica article, is a well-known Italian academic who taught at the Univ of Perugia. He was a Roman Catholic priest and head of the Catholic Pontifical Institute for the Study of Atheism. He wrote a book on the subject. You try to dismiss this with wise-cracking ad hominem remarks. I asked you below to give your credentials. What justifies your posture that you are the scholar and academic expert here and that others are all ignorant fakers and trolls. Are you a professor? Truly, I don't mean to make ad hominem remarks myself, but your arrogance and persistent ad hominem attacks are becoming quite insufferable and violate Wikipedia policy. You put forward a list of historical figures intended to disprove my hypothesis that the growing emphasis on the weak/strong distinction amongst atheists was due to the influene of the freethought movement, and two of them turned out to be prominent freethinkers. I asked you for quotes or secondary sources concerning the others, and you have not answered. I also gave as an example Bertrand Russell, who held the position that you call weak atheism. He called himself an agnostic. He said he was not an atheist, although the public's interpretation of that term would compel him for the sake of honesty to call himself an atheist in front of a public audience. You keep harping on your list of sources as if they conclusively prove your point. They don't. For one thing many of them mention both the definitions that are in dispute, and don't say which is primary. Also, many of them define atheism as "disbelief" or "doubt" not as "absence of belief". As you have discussed in the archives that you insist I read, "disbelief" is not equivalent to "absence of belief". Disbelief or doubt are the active withholding of belief after an appraisal of proofs and evidence. The doubter has considered the evidence and arguments and does not believe. "Absence of belief" is true of someone who never considered the issue, but someone who has not considered the claims cannot be described as disbelieving or doubting. "Absence of belief" is true of a rock, or a child. Some of your other sources do refer to "absence of belief". Nobody is disputing that is one of the definitions of atheism; for example, it was common amongst the freethinkers. But your list of sources does not prove the primacy of that definition. Adraeus posted links to a philosopher who favored the weak definition, acting as if the point was proved, and I immediately produced a quote from the philosoper in which he stated that his was not the "usual" definition, and a quote that he in turn included from another advociate of the broad definition saying essentially the same thing. Adraeus replied that of course the usual view was the narrow definition, since theists are the majority. I pointed out that he had contradicted himself, and there was no reply. His next post, editing elsewhere on this hard-to-follow page, accused me of being a troll. All that said, you persist in asserting that Sam and I are trying to make the article say that our definition is the primary one. I have been quite clear about my POV; but I have also been totally clear that I think the article needs to reflect both definitions and neither put forward either as primary. On the other hand, you and Adraeus, who seem as obstinate and obtuse to me as I seem to you, do not concede that your position is a POV, and seem to simply mount ad hominem attacks against anyone with the temerity to be on this page who doesn't agree with you. --BM 02:58, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I'm having real difficulty keeping track of your errors of fact and logic here. Your claim "You put forward a list of historical figures intended to disprove my hypothesis that the growing emphasis on the weak/strong distinction amongst atheists was due to the influene of the freethought movement, and two of them turned out to be prominent freethinkers." is a straw man agreement; I've already once pointed out to you once before that my point was that writers of the freethought movement (1880's) were only expounding upon the previous thoughts of Aquinas, Voltaire, Holbach, etc., who all already acknowledged the existence of the distinction between implicit and explicit atheism in their writings.
So provide quotes of references, as I requested. Voltaire was a famous Deist, but if he made comments on atheism that are relevant to this dispute, I would be quite interested. But I don't trust your interpretations of comments that these thinkers have made about "implicit" atheism and won't just take your assertions as to their views on trust. Other discussions from early thinkers that I have seen do bring up the "practical atheism" point but "absence of belief" does not seem to be the hallmark of "practical atheism". It is rather that "practical atheists" are people who do not verbally deny God, but do so by their actions and apparent lack of belief in, or fear, of God. For many of these writers, who are theists, lack of belief in and apparent lack of fear of God is equivalent to denial of God, and they aren't discussing babies or mental patients. --BM 10:46, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Again, implicit atheism (weak atheism) is not the product of the freethought movement. Had you read these earlier writings you'd know this. And pointing this out is not an ad hominem as you claim, it is a statement of fact intended to help us here understand your dogged and dogmatic insistence on a clearly discredited POV. I don't think you'll get much traction with straw man arguments around here.
I didn't say it was. My "hypothesis" as I somewhat grandiosely call it, is that the increasing emphasis on the weak definition over the strong definition within the Anglo-American atheist community which I have observed is attributable to the freethough movement. I would agree that in order for this to be in the article, a lot of research would need to be done to establish, first, that the observation is true and, then, to determine whether my hypothesis is correct. Since others do not share this observation, I am not proposing it for the article, since I haven't done this research. If I did the research, unless I could find some authority who directly stated what I am hypothesizing, it couldn't go into the encyclopedia, as it would be original research. So it stays on the Talk page.
Cornelio Fabro seems to be in an academic minority on what exactly constitutes the primary understanding of atheism: John R. Hinnells, editor of the New Dictionary of Religions disagrees with Sig. Fabro. The New Dictionary of Religions, defines atheism as "Disbelief in the existence of any Gods or of God. This may take the form of: (a) dogmatic rejection of specific beliefs, e.g. of theism; (b) scepticism about all religious claims; or (c) agnosticism, the view that humans can never be certain in matters of so-called religious knowledge (e.g. whether God exists or not). An atheist may hold belief in God to be false, irrational, or meaningless." Edward L. Queen, Stephen R. Prothero, and Gardiner H. Shattuck all also disagree with Fabro. They are the authors and editors of the Encyclopedia of American Religious History which introduces atheism in this way: "Atheism, literally the absence of belief in God, has always been a minority viewpoint in American culture." Edwin R. A. Seligman also does not agree with Mr. Fabro. As the editor of the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, he saw fit to include the following passage: "In its narrowest sense the term atheist applies to one who categorically denies the existence of any gods. But in its wider sense it properly applies also to skeptics, materialists, positivists and all other who do not accept the claims of theism - that the world was created or is governed by a person or persons having the human traits of intelligence and will in more or less magnified form. Moreover, as people generally do not discriminate between belief and conduct, the term atheist has also been applied to those who refuse to participate in the customary forms of public worship. Thus the Romans called the Jews and early Christians atheists because they did not pay the customary honors to the sacra of the established imperial cult."--FeloniousMonk 04:03, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Well, this is just your same list of sources again, and whether Fabro is in the minority or not is the issue we are debating. These writers are obviously aware of a range of academic definitions, and nobody is denying that the "absence of belief" definition exists. None of your quotes represent an opinion by the author as to what the "primary" definition is, the one held by Bertrand Russell's man in the street, the sort of person who attended his public lectures, who thinks a strong doubter of God (like Russell himself) is as good as someone who does not believe in God, and is an atheist, though in discussion with other academics Russell describes himself as an agnostic, and says specifically that he is NOT an atheist. So Russell was one prominent thinker on this subject who did not consider the weak definition primary. --BM 10:46, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)
FM: Yes, I feel your comments do tend towards the ad hominem. How else would you characterize phrases like "betray your lack of specific knowledge", "hasty generalizations", etc, etc. If I lack specific knowledge, then it shouldn't be hard to correct my errors. Actually, you have no information concerning my knowledge of this field. You may have formed opinions about my knowledge but your opinion as to my state of knowledge or lack of it is not relevant and is ad hominem. As for my "hasty" generalizations, generalizations they may be, but if they are overbroad, you shouldn't have any problems finding exceptions. You have no knowledge as to whether they are hasty or not. Perhaps I labored over them a long time and they are wrong because I am stupid. Calling them hasty insults me as a person who makes statements before thinking about them, just as calling them stupid would; and does not respond directly to the statements themselves. That is ad hominem. These are just a couple of examples from your last comment, but I could cite more from previous comments. Perhaps you don't realize you are doing this, but it would be nice if you stopped.
Next, regarding your repeated point about my obligation to read all the archives. Nowhere have I seen a Wikipedia policy that states that new editors of an article must first familiarize themselves with all the previous debates between the exiting editors before joining the discussion. Nowhere I have seen a policy that states new editors must refrain from raising issues or arguments that are considered closed by the existing editors. Wikipedia is open to anyone to edit; that is its defining characteristic. If you feel exasperated by the fact that new people will arrive and go over ground that you consider already covered, that is just too bad for you. Find another hobby. Fork the wikipedia and run a site where newcomers are vetted by the existing editors and tested on their knowledge of prior debates. See if people come. But that isn't the policy here. If you feel exasperated that newcomers are not motivated to go over all your long debates/sqabbles of the past year, again I think you need to find a less exasperating hobby. If there is especially useful consensus material in the hundred or more pages of archives, then why is it not in the article, or at least in some other resource pages where it can be readily accessed? Surely you cannot be serious that reading through all your long, tedious, repetitious, ad hominem-filled, debates is a hoop through which new editors are obliged to jump? If you do, I don't agree with you. Wikipedia policy doesn't support you, and you will just have to get over it, because I'm not going away. If I read the archives, it will be because I choose to, and not because you say its a requirement. --BM 23:53, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Pointing out (or describing) the who, why, what, when, where of why we are suffering yet another deadlock here is not an ad hominem. It's called evidence. Hopefully evidence that can help us understand how to deal with obstructionist behavior. How would I characterize phrases like "betray your lack of specific knowledge", "hasty generalizations"? I this circumstances, experiencing what I have here this week... statements of fact. And I totally agree, it shouldn't be hard to correct your errors arising from your lack specific knowledge. Yet so far it has been. Whether it remains so is yet to be seen. Considering your historical utter imperviousness to reasoning or evidence that contradicts your POV here, forgive if I'm not optimistic. I contend let the policies and foundation writings be our guide here. The foundation discussion on [Responses_to_How_to_Build_Wikipedia%2C_Understand_Bias understanding bias] says "One further point should be borne in mind. Our best contributors should not have to waste huge amounts of their time handholding people who are clueless, ignorant, or have an ideological ax to grind; if some of the latter people constantly post nearly worthless stuff, and do not react to polite and reasonable criticism, they and their writing shouldn't expect to be treated nicely. ...Thus Respectful but Firm. I too respect people, not bad writing. I think it should be evident from my editing that I don't waste energy handholding, and don't expect it of others, though I wouldn't actively discourage it. Someday that may define some of "our best contributors", because that's what they want to do." NPOV policy on avoiding constant disputes states "We have to make it our goal to understand each others' perspectives and to work hard to make sure that those other perspectives are fairly represented." And here under dealing with biased contributors it states "There must surely be a point beyond which our very strong interest in being a completely open project is trumped by the interest the vast majority of our writers have, in being able to get work done without constantly having to fix the intrusions of people who do not respect our policy."
Yes, you are right, there is no hard, fast policy (that I know of) that enjoins you to read the archives before joining in on long-running discussion. But it is the right thing to do for a number of reasons, most of which are addressed in the policies and foundation writing referenced above. And talk about rants and ad hominems: "If you feel exasperated by the fact that new people will arrive and go over ground that you consider already covered, that is just too bad for you. Find another hobby. Fork the wikipedia..." "...Surely you cannot be serious that reading through all your long, tedious, repetitious, ad hominem-filled, debates is a hoop through which new editors are obliged to jump?" If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, eh? --FeloniousMonk 03:37, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)
As long as you raise the question of qualification to participate in this discussion. Mine is that I have a Bachelors degree in Philosophy from Harvard, magna cum laude, and have read widely as an amateur of philosophy including philosophy of religion for about 32 years. What about you? --BM 00:06, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)
As I said before, eight years of Jesuit education here. Four years of which were spent studying philosophy. Make whatever assumptions or conclusions from that you want.
I'm not particularly impressed with fine imprimaturs, mainly because I have one myself. I'm more impressed with fine and facile thought and clarity of reason. And I have to question the capacity for each of anyone who went to an academically rigorous institution yet would rest their entire case on one definition from the encyclopaedia britannica, which as I pointed before, is the preferred reference source of sixth graders everywhere.--FeloniousMonk 04:15, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)
We'll I note you have not mentioned your actual background. I take that to mean you went to a Catholic high school and a Jesuit college, although since you are being coy, it could be 8 years in Catholic primary and secondary schools, ending at high school. In any case, you do not have academic credentials superior to anyone else here, despite your posturing. You keep snarking away about the Encyclopedia Britannica. Actually it was Sam who brought that up, and my role was simply to check who wrote the article, EB articles generally having been written by prominent academics. You seem to be ignoring the other sources I have cited, including Bertrand Russell and the one that Adraeus himself provided, a philosophy professor who preferred the broad definition but quite honestly acknowledged, unlike you, that the narrow definition was the more usual. But I would agree that I haven't given you a list of sources, basing my arguments so far mainly on my own POV and knowledge (for which I have at present forgotten most of the sources). You consider this illegitimate, although judging from the archives, I am by no means the only person who is uncomfortable with the article's POV on this issue. You seem to think the archives establish consensus behind your position, but that is manifestly not the case, since the article has been frozen most of the time in the past months because of a dispute about the issue. It would seem to be quite easy to assert that the archives support consensus around your own POV provided you dismiss everybody who appears with a different POV as a vandal, troll, or someone who is completely misinformed, unscholarly (compared to your anonymous self, although you won't mention your credentials), and obtuse. As far as your rudeness goes, I see you think you are being stern and simply disciplining someone who is clueless and ignorant, who is standing in the way of Wikipedia progress. I wonder if the people who wrote those comments in the How To Build the Wikipedia article realized they would be interpreted as sanctioning behaviour such as yours. At any rate, you haven't provided a proper link to your quotes so I can determine the status as policy of these articles that you think support you in being so consistently rude. Please fix your link. The reason that there is a steady stream of people like me who keep appearing to frustrate consensus, as you complain, is that you have a POV and there is an unending supply of people with a different POV, at least some of whom will consider it worth the effort to work on this article to make it more neutral. You, Adraeus, etc can try to repel them as they arrive, one by one, hoping to maintain your dominance here, and keep the article frozen indefinitely. But don't suppose that what you are doing is consistent with Wikipedia policy. --BM 09:47, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Nor will I mention my actual bona fides here. Unlike some I do not believe in puffery. So assume all you want. Perhaps I merely hold a high school diploma... All the more ironic and poignant then when I point out a putative Harvard graduate relying on logical fallacies like straw man arguments to make his case.
Your attempt here to tar me with the brush of malice is transparent and hardly fair. I've yet to deploy one ad hominem against you or anyone else. Perhaps I expect too much. I can hardly expect you to understand the difference between valid, reasonable discussion of your dogmatic POV stance impeding progress and a personal attack, since you've repeated failed to distinguish between a valid logical argument and a straw man. Nevertheless, I suggest you employ Hanlon's Razor before accusing me or anyone else here of being malicious; I've obviously employed it in my estimations of you.--FeloniousMonk 17:07, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)