Weak and strong atheism


Weak and strong atheism

Strong atheism is a term generally used to describe atheists who accept as true the proposition, "gods do not exist". Weak atheism refers to any other type of non-theism. Historically, the terms positive and negative atheism have been used for this distinction, where "positive" atheism refers to the specific belief that gods do not exist, and "negative" atheism refers merely to an absence of belief in gods. [Martin, Michael (1990). "Atheism: A Philosophical Justification". Temple University Press, pg. 281. ISBN 0877229430] Because of flexibility in the term "god", it is understood that a person could be a strong atheist in terms of certain portrayals of gods, while remaining a weak atheist in terms of others.

Overview

The distinction between strong and weak atheism is one of several applied to beliefs about the existence or nonexistence of gods. It is similar in ways to the popularly held conception of "atheists" and "agnostics," in which atheism has generally been considered an active disbelief in gods, except by starting instead with the broader definition of atheism which includes any absence of belief in gods and thus encompasses some forms of agnosticism (see agnostic atheism). Accordingly, the division between "strong" and "weak" atheism functions to separate atheism as a disbelief in gods from forms of atheism that fall short of this, and which could simultaneously be characterized as agnosticism. The validity of this categorisation is disputed, however, and a few prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins avoid it. In "The God Delusion" Dawkins describes people for whom the probability of the existence of God is between "very high" and "very low" as "agnostic" and reserves the term "strong atheist" for "I know there is no god". He categorises himself as a "de facto atheist" but "not" a "strong atheist" under this definition. [ The God Delusion pp50-51]

Within negative or weak atheism, philosopher Anthony Kenny further distinguishes between agnostics, who find the claim "God exists" uncertain, and theological noncognitivists, who consider all talk of gods to be meaningless. [cite journal |first=Anthony |last=Kenny |authorlink=Anthony Kenny |year=2006 |title=Worshipping an Unknown God |url=http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1467-9329.2006.00339.x |journal=Ratio |volume=19 |issue=4 |pages=442 |doi=10.1111/j.1467-9329.2006.00339.x ]

Strong and weak atheism are compared as well to the philosopher George Smith's less-well-known categories of implicit and explicit atheism, also relating to whether an individual holds a specific view that gods do not exist. However, the original and technical meanings of implicit and explicit atheism are distinct from weak and strong atheism in having to do with conscious rejection and unconscious rejection of theism rather than with positive belief and negative belief.

History

The "strong" and "weak" groups did not come into common usage until the early 1990s, their popularization assisted by their common usage in the alt.atheism Usenet group at the time. While the terms themselves are relatively recent, the concepts they represent have been in use for some time. In earlier philosophical publications, the terms "negative atheism" and "positive atheism" were more common; these terms were used by Antony Flew in 1972, although Jacques Maritain used the phrases in a similar, but strictly Catholic apologist, context as early as 1949. [cite journal |url=http://www.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/jm3303.htm |title=On the Meaning of Contemporary Atheism |journal=The Review of Politics |first=Jacques |last=Maritain |authorlink=Jacques Maritain |year=1949 |month=July |volume=11 |issue=3 |pages=267–280]

References

ee also

*Hard and soft polytheism
*Antitheism


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Strong atheism — a condition of being without theistic beliefs; an absence of belief in the existence of gods, thus contrasting with theism. This definition includes both those who assert that there are no gods and those who have no beliefs at all regarding the… …   Mini philosophy glossary

  • Implicit and explicit atheism — Implicit atheism and explicit atheism are subcategories of atheism coined by George H. Smith (1979, p.13 18). Implicit atheism is defined by Smith as the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it (i.e., those who have not… …   Wikipedia

  • Negative and positive atheism — A diagram showing the relationship between the definitions of weak/strong and implicit/explicit atheism. Explicit strong/positive atheists (in purple on the right) assert that at least one deity exists is a false statement. Explicit weak/negative …   Wikipedia

  • Atheism — Atheism, as an explicit position, can be either the affirmation of the nonexistence of gods, [The Oxford American Dictionary defines atheist as a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or gods. New York: Avon Press, 1980.] or the… …   Wikipedia

  • Strong agnosticism — Part of a series on Irreligion …   Wikipedia

  • Weak atheism — a condition of being without theistic beliefs; an absence of belief in the existence of gods, thus contrasting with theism. This definition includes both those who assert that there are no gods and those who have no beliefs at all regarding the… …   Mini philosophy glossary

  • Atheism — a condition of being without theistic beliefs; an absence of belief in the existence of gods, thus contrasting with theism. This definition includes both those who assert that there are no gods and those who have no beliefs at all regarding the… …   Mini philosophy glossary

  • Atheism — Athéisme L’athéisme est une attitude[1] ou une doctrine[2] qui ne conçoit pas l’existence ou affirme l’inexistence de quelque dieu, divinité ou entité surnaturelle que ce soit, contrairement, par exemple, au déisme, au théisme et au panthéisme… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Weak agnosticism — Part of a series on Irreligion …   Wikipedia

  • Weak agnosticism — the philosophical view that the truth values of certain claims particularly theological claims regarding the existence of God, gods, or deities are unknown, inherently unknowable, or incoherent, and therefore, (some agnostics may go as far to… …   Mini philosophy glossary


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.