Articles :: Terminology

Shedding light on terminology sometimes used in this web magazine:
A brief overview.

Atheism: Atheism is a disbelief in the existence of god or any other deity; the doctrine that there is neither god nor any other deity.

An Atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in god or any other deity. An atheist isn’t a devil worshipper, or a pagan, or a wiccan, those are all in fact religious constructs. And while an atheist could correctly be called “godless,” it would be incorrect to use that term if by saying this the speaker intends to mean a bad person. Atheists can be bad persons just as any Christian or Jewish or Muslim or other religious person can be. Mainly, though, they are good, moral, decent, hardworking, normal human beings.

How does Atheism differ from Agnosticism? Agnostics tend to be freethinkers who have decided to keep an open mind on the subject, or who have not made up their minds about whether they believe in god or any other deity; or conversely, whether to commit to saying that there is no god. Atheists on the other hand have made a choice in the matter and decided that there is no god. Formally, from Webster’s Third International Dictionary, agnosticism is the doctrine that the existence or nature of any ultimate reality is unknown and probably unknowable or that any knowledge about matters of ultimate concern is impossible or improbable; the doctrine that god or any first cause is unknown and probably unknowable. The term “agnostic” was coined in 1869 by Thomas Huxley.

What about Skepticism? True skeptics are freethinkers, like the agnostics. They generalize, however, to holding that any true knowledge is uncertain. In regard to religion, skeptics tend to doubt but not necessarily deny basic religious principles such as revelation, immortality. AB.net suspects that true skeptics (as opposed to individuals who are merely healthily skeptical with regard to dubious facts presented to them without any supporting evidence) must have a very uncertain existence. If you doubt all knowledge, there is no way you can commit to knowing what is right and wrong, and although AB.net sees all shades and colors of right and wrong, it sincerely believes they exist, and in some persons, they exist in extreme forms.

Other helpful beliefs to consider: The Sophists. In ancient Greece, the sophists were philosophers and intellectuals, given to making clever but often fallacious arguments, which they used to show their own brilliance or sometimes for pure outright deception. Something like the people arguing recently for so-called “intelligent design.” These people too should fall into disrepute, just as the sophists did long ago. Humism – What’s That? That was the name given to the philosophical system or methods of David Hume, a philosopher and skeptic/atheist. He was a brilliant and complicated man, and his system seems rather hard to comprehend, AB.net will leave that to the deeper thinkers out there.

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