A fourth kind of Atheism?

I have often said that there are three kinds of Atheism; namely, strong Atheism, which entails commitment to the proposition “God does not exist” being true (or alternatively a commitment to the proposition “God exists” being false), Positivism, which is the position that the phrase “God exists” is not a proposition, and Agnosticism which is the position that, though the sentence “God exists” is meaningful (such that it could be true, or false) its truth value is either in principle inscrutable  or else just hasn’t yet been determined to the agnostic’s satisfaction. Sometimes it is said that agnostics simply lack a belief that God exists, and they are not committed to the proposition that “God does not exist.”

However, clearly there is a difference between somebody who apprehends that “God exists” is meaningful, and who simply isn’t yet ready to assign it a truth-value either way, and somebody who simply strictly lacks a belief in God’s existence. Rocks, trees, cats, dogs and babes all lack a belief that God exists, but we wouldn’t want to call them Agnostics, because an Agnostic is one who apprehends that the phrase “God exists” is meaningful, but isn’t as of yet ready to assign it a truth-value. A Babe (Baby) is not an agnostic, whether weak or strong (weak being the kind who has said that they themselves haven’t determined whether God exists or not, and strong being an agnostic who believes that nobody else can determine the truth-value of the proposition “God exists” either). So, perhaps we should say that some things/persons qualify as Atheists simply because they lack any beliefs at all. We can imagine that Babies, along with perhaps the mentally handicapped, would by default be ‘Atheists’.

Alternatively, maybe we ought just to exclude those things/persons which lack any beliefs at all as candidates for Atheism/Theism. That would bring Atheism back down to three kinds rather than four.


About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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3 Responses to A fourth kind of Atheism?

  1. Grundy says:

    I agree that we should exclude those things/persons which lack any beliefs at all as candidates for Atheism/Theism, considering those terms are defined by belief. I’d also say that one can be both agnostic and a atheist or a theist. An agnostic atheist is often considered a “weak atheist,” and should be considered one of your kinds of atheism since you list a strong atheist.

    • Welcome back Grundy, I thought perhaps that the rude lateness of my previous reply to your comment had repelled you from the blog. I’m glad to see you’re still around.

      Right, which is why I did number Agnosticism among the forms of Atheism in the above post and elsewhere. I also agree that we should just exclude those persons/things which aren’t belief-bearing entities, or else which at least aren’t even potential belief-bearing entities with respect to the existence of God (to avoid the question of whether animals, babies, etc, in any sense have any beliefs).

      • Grundy says:

        A lot of atheists claim we are born atheists. I disagree with them as you do. You need a concept of God to belief or disbelieve in. Ignostic is more lacking a concept of God.

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