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Thread: Define Atheism

  1. #1 Define Atheism 
    ox
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    What exactly is atheism? Do you really know if you are one or not?
    Monotheists are atheists when it comes to any god other than their own, and even within monotheism there can be a christian denial of Allah (except if you live in Malta) and a muslim denial of Yahweh and the christian God, unless the god of Abraham takes on many forms.
    If it is not a religion then could it be a philosophy?
    If it rejects polytheism and monotheism then I guess you could say that it disbelieves in all gods until there are none left.
    Is there some consolation that the rejection of theism will provide a clearer mind, a better understanding and an improved moral code? I don't know of any hard evidence for this.
    Agnostics have more in common with atheists than with theists (as neither believe in god) which makes agnosticism a soft form of atheism.
    If faith is humanity's oldest enemy then is a lack of faith really your friend?
    If theism inspires crusades, inquisitions, witch-hunts and terrorism then of course atheism does not. Or so the neo-atheists would have us believe.
    No atheist would kill people in defence of atheism, but point out Stalin and Pol-Pot and the argument would have to be refined: No true atheist would kill his own people. Isn't that a bit like the 'no true Scotsman' fallacy?


    Last edited by ox; March 22nd, 2013 at 08:03 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    What exactly is atheism?
    It varies from a lack of belief in god(s) to an outright claim that they do not exist.

    Agnostics have more in common with atheists than with theists (as neither believe in god) which makes agnosticism a soft form of atheism.
    No.
    Agnosticism is a stance what we can know about god, not whether he exists or not.
    One can be an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist.


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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    Monotheists are atheists when it comes to any god other than their own, and even within monotheism there can be a christian denial of Allah (except if you live in Malta) and a muslim denial of Yahweh and the christian God, unless the god of Abraham takes on many forms.
    That doesn't make sense. If you believe in a god or gods then you cannot be an atheist. It is not a relative thing. That would be like saying Jack the Ripper wasn't a murder because he only killed women.

    No atheist would kill people in defence of atheism, but point out Stalin and Pol-Pot and the argument would have to be refined: No true atheist would kill his own people. Isn't that a bit like the 'only true Scotsman' fallacy?
    Do you see what you did there? You went from "kill people in defence of atheism" to "kill his own people". Did you hope that people would think they were the same thing? Do you think they are the same thing?

    Anyway, who said "no atheist would kill people in defence of atheism"? Or did you make that up?

    Would Dawkins kill in defence of atheism? Probably not. Would others? Who knows. Did Stalin? Maybe. But is "defence of atheism" the same as "[an attempting at] destroying religion"?
    Last edited by Strange; March 22nd, 2013 at 08:52 AM. Reason: added back missing part of comment (underlined)
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    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    Is there some consolation that the rejection of theism will provide a clearer mind
    Huh?
    There's possibly a case that it's the other way round - clearer thinking leads to atheism (in that it won't accept unsupported claims).

    No atheist would kill people in defence of atheism, but point out Stalin and Pol-Pot and the argument would have to be refined: No true atheist would kill his own people. Isn't that a bit like the 'no true Scotsman' fallacy?
    It would have to be redefined IF Stalin and Pol Pot had killed in "the defence of atheism" (as opposed to political paranoia/ hanging on to a power base/ it being Tuesday and they were bored).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    Monotheists are atheists when it comes to any god other than their own
    That doesn't make sense. If you believe in a god or gods then you cannot be an atheist. It is not a relative thing. That would be like saying Jack the Ripper wasn't a murder because he only killed women.
    You've made it appear illogical because you removed the caveat (and subset) from the example.

    It would actually be like saying Jack the Ripper wasn't dangerous to men--which would be a true statement.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    You've made it appear illogical because you removed the caveat (and subset) from the example.

    It would actually be like saying Jack the Ripper wasn't dangerous to men--which would be a true statement.
    I have added the rest of the quote back in, in my post. I wouldn't want it to be thought I was selectively quoting to make a point. I don't think the examples make any difference to the definition of atheist.

    Yes, those people do not believe in "other" gods (J the R didn't kill men) but that doesn't make them atheists (he is still a murderer).
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    The term atheist is often used in reference to rejecting a specific god--and often did throughout history, such as accusations against Abraham Lincoln (wasn't a Christian), Thomas Jefferson, (or even Omar Khayyam (wasn't a Moslem).

    The term murderer isn't usually as wide as to not include a specific group.

    The phrase in question made it clear what it meant.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    The term atheist is often used in reference to rejecting a specific god--and often did throughout history, such as accusations against Abraham Lincoln (wasn't a Christian), Thomas Jefferson, (or even Omar Khayyam (wasn't a Moslem).
    Oh, OK. I have never come across it used with that meaning (I don't have my OED with me to check ). I'll withdraw my objection then.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post

    That doesn't make sense. If you believe in a god or gods then you cannot be an atheist. It is not a relative thing.
    It is a relative thing. Someone who belies in YHWH but not Zeus is an atheist wrt Zeus and a believer wrt YHWH. You can't say someone isn't an atheist by only measuring from one perspective. I think this is an important thing to stress, monotheists think atheism is simply not believing in their god, and not see their own skepticism about the thousands of other gods that have been worshipped by mankind over the years.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phlogistician View Post
    It is a relative thing. Someone who belies in YHWH but not Zeus is an atheist wrt Zeus and a believer wrt YHWH. You can't say someone isn't an atheist by only measuring from one perspective. I think this is an important thing to stress, monotheists think atheism is simply not believing in their god, and not see their own skepticism about the thousands of other gods that have been worshipped by mankind over the years.
    As I say, I have never come across the word used that way before. (But it isn't a subject I have read/discussed much so maybe it isn't surprising.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phlogistician View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post

    That doesn't make sense. If you believe in a god or gods then you cannot be an atheist. It is not a relative thing.
    It is a relative thing. Someone who belies in YHWH but not Zeus is an atheist wrt Zeus and a believer wrt YHWH. You can't say someone isn't an atheist by only measuring from one perspective. I think this is an important thing to stress, monotheists think atheism is simply not believing in their god, and not see their own skepticism about the thousands of other gods that have been worshipped by mankind over the years.
    You are right Strange, the actual meaning of atheist is from the Greek "A" "theos" meaning without god, you cannot both be a theist and an atheist at the same time, it is nonsensical. The two are mutually exclusive.
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    So if I believe in Zeus but not in Allah or Yahweh, does that make me an atheist or not ?!?
    If atheism can be dated back to ancient Greece (Atheos), there must have been non-believers then, and presumably they didn't believe in Zeus. In the Psalms it is recorded that the wicked do not seek after God, so there were atheists then.
    My problem with monotheism is that God did not reveal himself until the time of Abraham, and then only to one man who was trying to sacrifice his own son. So with respect to the God of Abraham I am an atheist. My atheism is further confirmed that in an age increasing disbelief God does not refresh us with his presence at some mass event like the Superbowl where clearly he could get through to the whole world.
    But I also note that what hardened theists and neo-atheists have in common is that they are loudmouths in this world.
    Atheists love to point out that if you were born in Karachi you are most likely to muslim, or Jerusalem a jew or Calcutta a hindu. They omit to mention that were you born in England you are more likely to be an atheist, as this is where a disproportionate number of atheists have come from (Paine, Hobbes, Newton, Shelley, Darwin, Hardy, Russell, Dawkins, Hitchens to name just a few).
    When it comes to the Church of England then I'm only half an atheist, as I'm told that hell does not exist (at least it hasn't since the 1920's), and its attitude has sometimes softened so much that even some of its priests have doubted the existence of God.
    So that's basically what I'm saying; you cannot be 100% atheist so any definition of atheism has to be an approximation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    So if I believe in Zeus but not in Allah or Yahweh, does that make me an atheist or not ...So that's basically what I'm saying; you cannot be 100% atheist so any definition of atheism has to be an approximation.
    If you hold any belief that the existence of any god/s as being true, you are a theist. Any atheist holding any belief of a god existing as true would make them a bad atheist (they are doing it wrong), thus a theist (or at least a deist which is a subset of theism).
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrMojo1 View Post
    If you hold any belief that the existence of any god/s as being true, you are a theist. Any atheist holding any belief of a god existing as true would make them a bad atheist (they are doing it wrong), thus a theist (or at least a deist which is a subset of theism).
    So if I believe in the sacred ox as a manifestation of the almighty, or the oft repeated flying spaghetti monster, then I'm a theist? I doubt it. What gods are these other than to the beholder?
    If an atheist holds a belief in god then he is probably a deist. You can't be a bad atheist, but you can be a bad theist as when some are found guilty of apostasy by believing that the earth is round. There is still a law against apostasy in some states (even Malaysia) and it is punishable by death.
    Deism is not always a subset of theism. You could argue it the other way around. Go back 2 millennia and you had mostly deists.
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    You can doubt whatever you like; you seem determined to craft your own definitions. If you hold a true belief that any god exists, you are a theist.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    If an atheist holds a belief in god then he is probably a deist.
    So what is the difference between a theist and a deist? (And between an atheist and an adeist?)
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    Perhaps a theist believes in a specific god and a deist believes in a non-specific god? I don't think there are any differences really. One time, I burned my finger in a fire, therefore they are one in the same.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    So if I believe in the sacred ox as a manifestation of the almighty, or the oft repeated flying spaghetti monster, then I'm a theist? I doubt it.
    Hate to burst your bubble, but that's what you are. Theism is a belief in at least one god, so if you believe in a god, you are a theist.

    What gods are these other than to the beholder?
    What?

    If an atheist holds a belief in god then he is probably a deist.
    If an atheist holds a belief in a god, then he is not an atheist. Deism is the belief in a non-intervening god, whereas atheism is a lack of belief in a god (or the belief that no gods exist), so you can't be both an atheist and a deist.

    You can't be a bad atheist, but you can be a bad theist as when some are found guilty of apostasy by believing that the earth is round. There is still a law against apostasy in some states (even Malaysia) and it is punishable by death.
    What does this have to do with anything?

    Deism is not always a subset of theism. You could argue it the other way around. Go back 2 millennia and you had mostly deists.
    I don't know where you got that idea, but it isn't true. Two thousand years ago, most people were polytheists. In fact, Yahweh began as a god in a pantheon of gods before being adopted as the "one true God" of the Jews. He even had a wife!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phlogistician View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post

    That doesn't make sense. If you believe in a god or gods then you cannot be an atheist. It is not a relative thing.
    It is a relative thing. Someone who belies in YHWH but not Zeus is an atheist wrt Zeus and a believer wrt YHWH. You can't say someone isn't an atheist by only measuring from one perspective. I think this is an important thing to stress, monotheists think atheism is simply not believing in their god, and not see their own skepticism about the thousands of other gods that have been worshipped by mankind over the years.
    I've never subscribed to this usage of the term. It's used by atheists to illustrate the point that atheism isn't an irrational position. (Sam Harris is fond of saying "I only believe in one less god than you.") But there are better ways to make this argument, since, as we can see, referring to everyone as an atheist only confuses things, and robs the term of any meaning.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    If an atheist holds a belief in god then he is probably a deist.
    So what is the difference between a theist and a deist? (And between an atheist and an adeist?)
    Theism = a belief in at least one god and normally through religion.
    Deism = a belief in god, but rejecting revelation and the supernatural found in religion.

    From the deistical perspective, Christians are atheists because they have replaced god with a man.
    Buddhists are also atheists because they have replaced the gods with a man.

    Christians replaced the idea of the sacrifice of sacred animals with the sacrifice of a man. The jews were themselves slaughtered because they worshipped the sacred bull and declared to be guilty of idolatry. But a deist would not necessarily have a problem with idolatry. A deist does not have a sacred book but instead relies on reason.
    How many Christians and Buddhists do you know who venerate rather than read their holy scripture? In my experience few Christians know anything much about the Bible at all, and probably because they choose to ignore its mainly gruesome, contradictory and unintelligible content.

    When I travel by train to Oxford and leave the station I am greeted by a magnificent sculpture of an ox (the Oxford ox). I can't help but feel sorry for this poor creature who down the ages has stood defenceless against the butcher's axe. There is no greater sacrifice for man. If I reject the god of Abraham but believe in the ox as a manifestation of a deity then I am an atheist to the monotheists, but a theist to about 1 billion hindus. All gods might be a figment of the imagination, but there are times when I feel I can understand why the hindus revere certain animals. A deist would claim that if god exists then god is unknowable but can be implied by observation, reason and logic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    Buddhists are also atheists because they have replaced the gods with a man.

    ...

    How many Christians and Buddhists do you know who venerate rather than read their holy scripture?
    I've always been intrigued by how the rest of the world views buddhism and buddhists, and the above is one example of what I consider to be a stereotypical view held by non-buddhists (or at least by people who have not had much exposure to practicing buddhist other than reading about it from books or resources found online).

    Tell me; what do you know about the phenomenon known as buddhism, the practices of various branches of buddhism by various types of buddhists, the general stand of buddhism and buddhists with regards to deities, etc. and how buddhism is distinct from say the cultural phenomena known as Chinese folk religions?

    I ask this because your first sentence in the above quote is at best isn't accurately phrased (or at worst incorrect altogether depending on what you may have wanted to say but didn't quite come out the way you wanted it to), and your second sentence above makes no sense (i.e. buddhist scripture isn't holy, and both venerating and reading aren't mutually exclusive).
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    [From the deistical perspective, Christians are atheists because they have replaced god with a man.
    Incorrect...in a number of ways. For one, it's deistic, not deistical. Two, Christians claim that Jesus was the physical embodiment of God, one part of a whole. Jesus is God.

    Buddhists are also atheists because they have replaced the gods with a man.
    They haven't replaced anything. Buddhism is supposed to be a philosophy, not a religion, though many Buddhists actually do worship Buddha almost as a deity, so I guess in practice it's not so black-and-white. But yes, Buddhist by definition would be atheists because they don't believe in any gods.

    Christians replaced the idea of the sacrifice of sacred animals with the sacrifice of a man. The jews were themselves slaughtered because they worshipped the sacred bull and declared to be guilty of idolatry. But a deist would not necessarily have a problem with idolatry. A deist does not have a sacred book but instead relies on reason.
    Whether deists have a problem with idolatry is irrelevant (one doesn't need to believe in a god to have an opinion on idol worship). What matters is that they wouldn't be practicing it themselves, since their concept of God is more based on a rational rejection of the supernatural and the opinion that the universe could not simply have arose without agency than a belief in a particular deity. You'll notice that this was a popular position in the 18th century. But deism is no longer the refuge of the reasonable. That distinction now belongs to atheism.

    When I travel by train to Oxford and leave the station I am greeted by a magnificent sculpture of an ox (the Oxford ox). I can't help but feel sorry for this poor creature who down the ages has stood defenceless against the butcher's axe. There is no greater sacrifice for man. If I reject the god of Abraham but believe in the ox as a manifestation of a deity then I am an atheist to the monotheists, but a theist to about 1 billion hindus. All gods might be a figment of the imagination, but there are times when I feel I can understand why the hindus revere certain animals. A deist would claim that if god exists then god is unknowable but can be implied by observation, reason and logic.
    It's really not as complicated as you make it. If you are a deist, you may be a heretic to monotheists, and indeed an unbeliever, but never an atheist. Not so long as you believe there is a god.
    Last edited by Meraxes; March 23rd, 2013 at 09:23 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    What exactly is atheism? Do you really know if you are one or not?
    Monotheists are atheists when it comes to any god other than their own, and even within monotheism there can be a christian denial of Allah (except if you live in Malta) and a muslim denial of Yahweh and the christian God, unless the god of Abraham takes on many forms.
    If it is not a religion then could it be a philosophy?
    If it rejects polytheism and monotheism then I guess you could say that it disbelieves in all gods until there are none left.
    Is there some consolation that the rejection of theism will provide a clearer mind, a better understanding and an improved moral code? I don't know of any hard evidence for this.
    Agnostics have more in common with atheists than with theists (as neither believe in god) which makes agnosticism a soft form of atheism.
    If faith is humanity's oldest enemy then is a lack of faith really your friend?
    If theism inspires crusades, inquisitions, witch-hunts and terrorism then of course atheism does not. Or so the neo-atheists would have us believe.
    No atheist would kill people in defence of atheism, but point out Stalin and Pol-Pot and the argument would have to be refined: No true atheist would kill his own people. Isn't that a bit like the 'no true Scotsman' fallacy?
    Hi Ox

    Perhaps a new Science should be created: The Science of ISMOLOGY?
    The science of ideologies, isms , their properties, and the properties o fthe ppl addicted to any ism.

    As a newborn Ismologer I think you raise interesting qestions to analyse.
    What are the objects "atheism","theism","religion","Philosophy","Polyth eism","Agnosticism"
    "Moral Code","Evidence","faith","crusades" "inquisitions","witch-hunts","terrorism"neo-atheism".
    And what tools are we to select in our enquiry?
    There seems to be a lot to do in order to get some solid hypotheses to test against reality. Good luck Ox
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    Quote Originally Posted by scoobydoo1 View Post
    I've always been intrigued by how the rest of the world views buddhism and buddhists...Tell me; what do you know about the phenomenon known as buddhism, the practices of various branches of buddhism by various types of buddhists, the general stand of buddhism and buddhists with regards to deities, etc. and how buddhism is distinct from say the cultural phenomena known as Chinese folk religions?
    I'm intigued as to why the east never embraced Christianity. Perhaps it was something to do with the experience of Christavao Ferriera who tried to convert the Japanese to Christ, but was tortured and ended up becoming a Zen Buddhist. Francis Xavier also failed miserably, except in one or two spots.
    Well this a big question and one I can only offer a very small opinion on. I have a limited knowledge but whenever I've been to places like Singapore, Malaysia (Penang), Hong Knong and Thailand I've always tried to check out the Buddhist temples and shrines. I live in the UK and we also have some here. I've been to buddhist meditation classes here and I have visited a Tibetan monastery in Scotland.
    So Buddhism like other religions is very diverse. It's a pity there isn't ONE Buddhism like it's a shame there are so many divisions in Christianity.
    It seems that generally the western mind is not compatible with Buddhism, and yet there are more similarities between Christianity and Buddhism than there are differences. These ideas were almost certainly conveyed down the Silk Road. But Buddhism itself grew out of Hinduism and so it retains some of its ideas. The main exception being that the gods themselves are on the wheel of death and rebirth, which effectively means that the gods are not the almighty beings they are perceived to be in the west.
    I would say that enlightenment is simply an impermanent state of mind and not a reality, and I think this view is common in the west.
    Another view I hear is that Buddhists view time differently. They are more relaxed in a traffic jam. Time even stands still in Buddhism. So maybe they understand different physical laws. And in the west we are still confused as to whether Buddhism is a religion, a philosophy or just a traditional way of life.
    As to the Chinese folk religions the only one I know and have experienced is Daoism found in Hong Kong.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    I'm intigued as to why the east never embraced Christianity.
    I'm not sure what you base that on. I think Christianity is the largest religion in South Korea. And certainly in the Philippines. A significant number of my Japanese and Singaporean colleagues are Christian. There is a large Christian population in China (I know, there is a large population of anything in China!), Malaysia and many other Asian countries.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    I'm not sure what you base that on. I think Christianity is the largest religion in South Korea. And certainly in the Philippines. A significant number of my Japanese and Singaporean colleagues are Christian. There is a large Christian population in China (I know, there is a large population of anything in China!), Malaysia and many other Asian countries.
    South Korea: Only 29% are Christian. So 71% are not and are either non-religious or belong mainly to Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.
    Philippines: Mainly Christian by conquest rather than conversion. There is a growing body of atheists, agnostics and freethinkers.
    Malaysia: Less than 10% are Christians and 70% of these are in Borneo. In peninsular Malaysia most churches are in cosmopolitan Kuala Lumpur.
    There is still a huge body of non-Christians in Asia, where it has met with the more resistance than anywhere else in the world.
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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    South Korea: Only 29% are Christian.
    It is still the largest religion. The first thing that surprised me, looking out my hotel window in Seoul, was just how many churches there were.

    Some surveys show a similar proportion for the UK, for a "western" example.

    Philippines: Mainly Christian by conquest rather than conversion.
    Here. Let me help you with those goalposts. They look heavy.
    Without wishing to overstate my case, everything in the observable universe definitely has its origins in Northamptonshire -- Alan Moore
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Some surveys show a similar proportion for the UK, for a "western" example.
    Yes, and most of these are what I call atheist Christians. They rarely attend church, going mainly at Christmas and Easter basically for somewhere to go, and especially if the weather is bad. They have little knowledge of the Bible or the history of Christianity. Ask them to quote from the Bible and will usually say 'Love Thy Neighbour' or 'Turn the Other Cheek', and will not be aware that the first was borrowed from Hinduism and the second from Buddhism/Taoism.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meraxes View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    [From the deistical perspective, Christians are atheists because they have replaced god with a man.
    Incorrect...in a number of ways. For one, it's deistic, not deistical. Two, Christians claim that Jesus was the physical embodiment of God, one part of a whole. Jesus is God.
    1. Deistical is an adjective found in the Oxford English Dictionary. It means inclined or tending to deism. It gives as an example 'in a deistical way'.
    2. Catholics claim that Jesus was a man.
    But deism is no longer the refuge of the reasonable.
    That is nonsense. Try the philosopher Anthony Flew.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sigurdV View Post
    What are the objects "atheism","theism","religion","Philosophy","Polyth eism","Agnosticism"
    "Moral Code","Evidence","faith","crusades" "inquisitions","witch-hunts","terrorism"neo-atheism".
    And what tools are we to select in our enquiry?
    Object of atheism : To point out that there is an alternative to theism. Best explained by the neo-atheists such as Michel Onfray, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Earlier by Jean Meslier, Anthony Collins, Peter Ammet, Charles Blount, Jean Astruc, Abner Kneeland, Kersey Graves and many others.
    Object of theism : To control and manipulate the population, and especially to get inside the minds of kids.
    Object of religion : To prove that the mind is capable of the irrational.
    Object of philosophy : To prove that the mind can instead be rational.
    Object of polytheism : To prove that under the influence of certain mind altering drugs, the imagination is capable of anything.
    Object of agnosticism : There is no object of agnostism as it is for people who cannot make up their mind.

    Now you fill in the rest.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    Object of atheism : To point out that there is an alternative to theism.
    Nope.
    The "object" of atheism (if there is actually such a thing) is to ignore (or refute) any claims of god.

    Object of agnosticism : There is no object of agnostism as it is for people who cannot make up their mind.
    Not even close.
    "[Dywyddyr] makes a grumpy bastard like me seem like a happy go lucky scamp" - PhDemon
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    1. Deistical is an adjective found in the Oxford English Dictionary. It means inclined or tending to deism. It gives as an example 'in a deistical way'.
    "Deistic" serves the same purpose and doesn't sound as clunky.

    2. Catholics claim that Jesus was a man.
    They claim Jesus was God incarnate. Do you not understand the trinity?

    That is nonsense. Try the philosopher Anthony Flew.
    Flew's argument is a typical god of the gaps logical fallacy. He doesn't know the naturalistic explanation for the universe, therefore God did it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    2. Catholics claim that Jesus was a man.
    There are at least half a dozen heresies (for which people have been killed) based around the arguments as to whether Jesus was man, God, God made man, man made God, part man and part God, part God and part man, part of God, all of man, ...
    MrMojo1 likes this.
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