How does one become an atheist?

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jake-the-peg | 10:16 Tue 21st Feb 2012 | Religion & Spirituality
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Tweaker asked this in the thread on JWs

Personally I grew up in a familly that wasn't particularly religious, and it slowly grew on me.

I certainly remember at the age of 12 the Headmaster doing a role call of who was Christian, Jewish etc. and then asked "any others" - I put up my hand and said I was an atheist.

There then followed much consternation and d bluster before he said rather arrogantly "Well I hope you find a religion one day"

I guess that was when I first identified myself as an atheist.

How about the rest of you? Do you remember when you first identified yourselves as atheists?


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@Slaney - I wasnt meaning to criticize as such - its just that my memory of the discussions over that atheist bus campaign were that the word probably was always going to be used - My memory could be fallible though :)

I think there were some proponents of both wordings right from the start, and in the end it was felt that using the word "probably" would forestall any objections from the advertising authorities, whilst at the same time being more philosophically correct.
vetuste, I can only point you back to my previous at 14:30. I think it does not need clarifying. Are you either, an atheist, an agnostic, or a theist ? please state which. There is no belligerence intended (on my part). Confucius was right. 'If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.
Khandro, atheism is a lack of belief in the existence of a god or gods, belief and disbelief don't come into it. Probability is a sliding scale from almost zero to almost 100%, just like from infinitely small to infinitely large. If you don't understand these concepts, I am sure someone on AB will be happy to explain them.
It could start innocently enough. Someone might question The Immaculate Conception or The Assumption and before they knew it find themselves standing on a soap box at Speakers Corner challenging God, if he exists, to strike them down with a thunderbolt.
Sad, really...
Sandy, It is an amusing idea but slightly @r$e about. Do you have personal experience of such a thing?
Anything truly infinite cannot be, by definition, either 'large' or 'small'... infinity cannot be measurable...
I disbelieve in Yahweh, Baal, Moloch and Ashteroth, Khandro. I also disbelieve in angels and djinns. So I'm an atheist. I don't have an open mind on the subject; I am not awaiting more evidence; the V_E jury is not out on these issues. My mind is made up. So I don't call myself an agnostic in one of the main senses in which it is popularly used.
So, say I admit I can't disprove their existence? So what? I don't get the point you're trying to make. What fine nuance is missing by my sloppy use of language in the paragraph above? It all seems (forgive me) a little pedantic. And to assert that my or others' linguistic imprecision is a threat to art and morals seems... intemperate, perhaps?
jomifl, This morning at 10:38 you posted; "my dictionary defines atheism as 'a disbelief in god'." Now at 16:04 you say "atheism is a lack of belief in the existence of a god". Disbelief and lack of belief are not the same. Do you want me to explain the difference?
vetuste, you are right, I need not have included the full quotation, the first part was enough, - but I just like it in it's entirety.
Khandro, I am well aware of the difference between my dictionary's definition of atheism and my understanding of the meaning of the word. There are various interpretations of the meaning of the word. 'Disbelief' implies that something exists that may or may not be believed in. My view is that there is nothing to be believed in. This is not just my view, check it out if you wish. We are probably getting bogged down in semantics but I think that the distinction between the two meanings is significant, it certainly is significant to me.
Good. Then we both agree with Confucius; "There must be no arbitrariness in what is said". Bon soir!
et la meme a vous, a la prochaine.
Khandro, just as you’ve been around the houses asking for definitions of ‘god’, so you’ve been around the houses arguing the definition of ‘atheism’. It seems to me that either you find it impossible to conceive that anyone is simply devoid of belief in any supernatural god – or that you object to the very existence of non-believers.

Your insistence upon splitting hairs about the literal definition of 'atheism' is tedious and mendacious. There is no question about it. Atheism is the rejection of the existence of all deities. It is rather like a rejection of the notion of Father Christmas – we know his name, what he wears, where he lives and what his function is. But we don't *believe* in him. We know he doesn't exist because the idea of such an entity is completely and utterly absurd.

However, no one can honestly say that Father Christmas definitely doesn't exist any more than they can say that the night sky of stars and galaxies isn't some kind of magic, faked planetarium put in place to confuse and bamboozle us. The likelihood of both these things being reality is so tiny that they can and are accurately referred to in everyday speech as being false and untrue.

Hence, atheism is not really a 'belief' that god doesn't exist. This is where your confusion lies. Atheism is a rejection of the existence of all gods. You've become hung up on the words 'belief' and 'disbelief' and think that you've found some kind of logical linguistic loop-hole to beat atheists with.
There are as many preferred 'definitions' for the term 'atheist' as there are for the term 'god' and there are as many different forms of atheism as there are flavours of religion. Throwing in the term, 'agnostic', at this stage only exasperates an already hopeless situation.

The simplest way to define an 'atheist' is as one who is not a theist, that is, one who does not believe in the existence of 'god' . . . whatever the term 'god' is supposed to mean. Defining 'atheist' in this manner clearly places everyone in one of only two possible camps; those who believe and those who don't. From there it is possible to clearly separate the various forms of atheists into distinct sub categories making cogent discussions about the nature of each kind potentially possible. There's not much point is discussing any of the questions posed by this thread for as long as there is no consensus on the meaning of the term, 'atheist'. If one goes by the conceptually explicit definition I propose, than Dawkins is definitely an atheist . . . whether he knows it or not.
And finally, in answer to the question; "A little philosophy inclineth a man to atheism, depth in philosophy brings men's minds back to religion - Francis Bacon".
^^I disagree with that too.
Well I suppose its a bit like - have you got the television switched on or (I'm an Atheist) and I've got it switched off.
Can you see light at the end of the tunnel - or is it just a big black hole !!

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