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Posted: 04 March 2014 12:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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I don’t understand what you mean.

I suspect that what Tor intended to say was that Atheist deserves an initial capital, just as much as Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew (though I must say his language is a trifle obfuscatory). I don’t agree with him—they’re proper nouns, “atheist” isn’t, any more than “freethinker” or “agnostic”. Nobody’s mentioned that last one, incidentally. I prefer it to “atheist”, which sounds too definite and doctrinaire for my taste --- especially when coupled with “militant”. Who am I, to declare that there is no God (or that there is one, for that matter)? I prefer to leave the question alone. If there are answers, I guess we’ll all get them eventually. In the meantime, let’s just leave each other with whatever suits us best.  Too many people have been killed already.

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Posted: 04 March 2014 02:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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I prefer it to “atheist”, which sounds too definite and doctrinaire for my taste --- especially when coupled with “militant”.

The problem with agnostic is that it has two very different senses 1) the position that nothing can be known about immaterial things, and 2) the position that available evidence about the existence of immaterial things is insufficient to form an opinion, but presumably evidence might be forthcoming in the future.

Most atheists are what I call “agnostics who round up to atheist.” It’s not that they hold an unwavering disbelief in God, but that they have provisionally concluded that there is no good evidence for God’s existence. (Even Richard Dawkins says he is a six on a seven-point scale of disbelief. He his prepared to consider evidence for the existence of God, but in its absence has concluded for now that there is no such thing.) At some point you just have to give up the inquiry, make a judgment, and move on to more productive pursuits.

But as with most labels, people are free to label themselves however they wish. Neil deGrasse Tyson calls himself an agnostic, Richard Dawkins an atheist, but when they explain their positions there is absolutely no difference between them.

I have a problem with the phrase militant atheist, but only because nine times out of ten in any debate it is the theist who is more strident, adament, and unyielding.

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Posted: 04 March 2014 03:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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Really?  I think if you go through this forum and look for people who announce their religious position gratuitously in one of their first few posts, you’ll find that it’s mostly atheists.  This seems to match my experience IRL as well.

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Posted: 04 March 2014 04:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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I agree with Lionello’s assessment of what Tor probably meant.  FWIW, though, I think Aldi’s point is that it isn’t standard usage, in English, to capitalize “atheist.” Whether “atheists” (the word, not the people) seems to “deserve” capitalization is beside the point: either a capitalization practice is standard, or it isn’t.  There may, of course, be borderline cases, and debatable cases, but the borderlines and the debates should be grounded in facts, not in sentiments about what language should be (this is true regardless of whether the sentiments spring from a viewpoint about langauge usage in the abstract or on one’s beliefs about a non-language based issue).  FTM, if the evidence showed that “atheist” is overwhelmingly lower-cased, while “Agnostic” is overwhelmingly capitalized, those would be the standard usages, respectively, whether that distinction makes a lick of sense or not.  (As far as I know, the evidence shows no such thing, but if it did, that’s what the standard usages would be.)

It reminds me a bit of a scene in Blackadder when Edmund discovers that the captain he has hired to sail a ship has not retained a crew.  Edmund says something like, “It is my understanding that it is common maritime practice for a ship to have a crew.” The captain responds, “Opinion is divided on the subject.” “Oh really?” “Yes: everyone else says it t’is, I say it t’isn’t!”

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Posted: 04 March 2014 05:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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There ain’t - is one opinion, methinks - ‘tis.

Sometimes expressing one’s non-conformity is the point. I believe this statement is about “who I am,” not language.

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Posted: 04 March 2014 08:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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happydog - 04 March 2014 05:11 PM

There ain’t - is one opinion, methinks - ‘tis.

Sometimes expressing one’s non-conformity is the point. I believe this statement is about “who I am,” not language.

Hmmm…
Given that, I wonder if this thread ought to be in Meta.

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Posted: 06 March 2014 06:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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Really?  I think if you go through this forum and look for people who announce their religious position gratuitously in one of their first few posts, you’ll find that it’s mostly atheists.  This seems to match my experience IRL as well.

I agree (as so often) with Doc T.

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Posted: 06 March 2014 08:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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Careful Dr. T and LH, sounds like atheistist views :-)

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Posted: 06 March 2014 03:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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Really?  I think if you go through this forum and look for people who announce their religious position gratuitously in one of their first few posts, you’ll find that it’s mostly atheists.  This seems to match my experience IRL as well.

Starting to get into the topic of religious discussion, so I don’t want to go too far with this, but…

That’s not exactly what I had in mind when I made my comment, but it is a result of the same phenomenon.

The assumption in our society, especially the US, probably true in Europe but to a lesser degree, is that everyone is religious. (The same way that the assumption is that everyone is heterosexual.) You notice it when someone says they are atheist, but don’t notice the casual reference to having attended Catholic school or mention of going out to brunch after church on Sunday, or in a face-to-face discussion that cross hanging around their neck. People announce their religion all the time. (It’s not unlike the situation where a person thinks that a gay colleague making mention of his sexuality is gratuitous and inappropriate in the workplace, not realizing that the picture of his wife on his desk announces his sexuality just as loudly.)

I was referring specifically to discussions of religion. The more militant side is almost invariably the religious one. The theists tend to be more dogmatic, more adamant in their positions, more evangelical and prone to proselytizing, more apt to foist their personal morality on others, and more likely to assume their position is the privileged one. There are many, perhaps most, religious people who don’t act this way, who hold their beliefs humbly. But they are usually not the ones participating in religious discussions. “Militant” is commonly applied to atheists whether or not they are (Dawkins, for instance, is about the least militant person you will ever hear speak but is continually labeled as such; Hitchens probably deserved the label), but the term is almost never applied to the theists. That’s my objection to the term.

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Posted: 08 March 2014 06:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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I disagree about both facts and interpretations, but we have different experiences and assumptions and will probably not come to agreement.  As an atheist of long standing, I am quite happy with the term “militant atheist” and frequently apply it to the Dawkinsites and Hitchensians.  But as you say, we don’t want to go down the road of religious discussion; I just was not willing to let your generalization about militant theists and (presumably humble and unassuming) atheists stand as the last word.

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Posted: 08 March 2014 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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The expression “militant atheist” has always conjured up, for me, the “League of the Militant Godless” in the pre-WW2 Soviet Union —totally doctrinaire people, willing (eager, in fact) to do violence to anyone who did not subscribe to their dogma (the only true one, of course). The use of the term in this thread does not conform to that picture, and I’m revising my attitude to it. It is clear to me that in the intellectual circles of persons like Dave and languagehat, “atheist” and “agnostic” indeed amount to much the same thing. “Militant” is a word with many nuances, especially where religion is concerned. My own interpretation of “agnostic” is that expounded by T.H.Huxley - the view that “I prefer to leave the question open, until more convincing evidence is shown to me”.
I am very happy to live in agreement with, or in disagreement with (as the case may be), the members of this forum, who exhibit a degree of enlightenment all too rarely encountered, alas, in today’s world (in any day’s world, actually).

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Posted: 08 March 2014 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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LH writes:

I disagree about both facts and interpretations, but we have different experiences and assumptions and will probably not come to agreement.

What he said.

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