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Strong vs. Weak July 13, 2007

Posted by Joe in agnosticism, atheism, belief, evidence, freethought, god, psychology, skepticism, theism.
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Some atheists often separate themselves into two subtly distinct groups; the “weak” atheists and the “strong” atheists.

Weak atheism is defined as a lack of belief in any god or gods. They haven’t seen compelling evidence that a god exists so their default stance is not to form any god belief.

Strong atheism is a positive belief that there is no god. They have an actual belief that no god exists

It is a common thought and often expressed that weak atheism is the more defensible of the two. In conversations with theists I often see atheists claiming that most atheists are weak atheists and that strong atheism is mostly a popular misunderstanding of atheism. Strong atheists are rare, they say. The extreme end of the spectrum where most of us reasonable folks don’t go.

However, I protest. I can’t see how strong atheism isn’t a simple logical consequence of weak atheism. (I suppose this makes me a strong atheist.)

If I don’t believe in the existence of the Nessie, visiting extra-terrestrials, or ghosts, I don’t go around walking a fine line by stressing that I don’t disbelieve in ghosts I just lack a belief in ghosts. What nonsense. There is no evidence that the spirits of dead folks manifest themselves in anyway. Therefore I believe that there are no ghosts. Period.

Likewise, there is no evidence of any god existing so I believe that there is no god. Evidence could change my mind, but I won’t bother tip toeing around this question any more than I would any other supernatural claim. I believe there is no such thing as the supernatural. I believe the concept itself is nonsensical.

Can someone explain to me what keeps the weak atheists from going strong?

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Comments»

1. all4love - July 13, 2007

Me a once- upon- a- time- weak- atheist can tell u y I personally didnt get to the strong atheist level… instead got to being crazy in love wid God! The reason is… I lost my EGO!!!!! The realisation that people including scientists, my friends, my family and ME can go wrong!

Do u see radiowaves passing thru the air? Yet if u tune in a radio or television, u will have to believe its true… Well I understand there can be a “might” to the Logical explanation of the existence of God… But unless u tune in u will never know…. i tuned in n I tell u its true. There is a God… He is awesome to know!

A small kid will do good if he listens to his parents rebuke n not even try put his hand in that plug-hole… else he is doomed to die… he mightnot see electricity or even know wat that is! But the “faith” in knowing that he mighnot know and understand everything… and that the parents does… that takes humility…. which we people lack so often… especially the atheist 😉

But well try tuning in and find the truth … else ur playing wid ur etenity! not jus life…

2. Joe - July 13, 2007

Hi all4love,
Thanks for posting! While your comment seems to be a bit off topic. I still wish to respond.

“Me a once- upon- a- time- weak- atheist can tell u y I personally didnt get to the strong atheist level… instead got to being crazy in love wid God! The reason is… I lost my EGO!!!!! The realisation that people including scientists, my friends, my family and ME can go wrong!”

You will not find me proclaiming that people cannot go wrong. People are often wrong. No doubt I am wrong about many things. This is why I have respect for the method and philosophy of science. The key idea is that all belief should be backed by evidence. Reproducible, observable hard evidence. I seek to have no beliefs that aren’t based on such a standard. This is why I don’t believe there is a god. There is no evidence to support it.

“Do u see radiowaves passing thru the air? Yet if u tune in a radio or television, u will have to believe its true”
The evidence is in the tuning. There is no such evidence for any god.

“A small kid will do good if he listens to his parents rebuke n not even try put his hand in that plug-hole… else he is doomed to die… he mightnot see electricity or even know wat that is! But the “faith” in knowing that he mighnot know and understand everything…”
Children have a tendency to believe what their parents tell them. It is a survival mechanism because they do not know enough to protect themselves. But as they grow up and learn to think for themselves they naturally question what they have been taught to believe. (Hence teen “rebellion”.) This is the process where I questioned the existence of god and saw no evidence that there was one. I still haven’t seen any.

I don’t have anything against the belief of others. I just have no reason to believe myself.

3. mjackson75 - July 13, 2007

I don’t want to commit the error of “you can’t prove a negative,” but when you stated that there is no proof of God, there is also no proof that there isn’t a God. (I know, I committed the error, I just don’t know how to say what I mean without going there). What I’m trying to say, is that if Evolution is 100% true, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some sort of creator.
Overall, this is a subject where there is no way to know either way. Christians and others of faith will say that they “know” because of their faith and personal relationship. Personally, I spent years as a Christian and dove into the relationship part, but never got anything out of it resembling proof.
I am no longer a Christian, I am a Deist. I think it’s beyond faith, it’s also a matter of perspective. I don’t have faith in the creator, to me, nature and and life’s complexities scream creation. To you, it doesn’t. It’s perspective. Who knows who’s is right and who is wrong? That is why I’ve embraced Deism, it’s about the here and now.
Thanks for your thoughtful post.

Regards.

4. Joe - July 13, 2007

“I don’t want to commit the error of “you can’t prove a negative,” but when you stated that there is no proof of God, there is also no proof that there isn’t a God. (I know, I committed the error, I just don’t know how to say what I mean without going there). What I’m trying to say, is that if Evolution is 100% true, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some sort of creator.”
Certainly. Many people believe in god and still do not deny the validity of the theory of evolution. Furthermore, I cannot demonstrate or prove that there is no god.

“Overall, this is a subject where there is no way to know either way.”
I agree that one can’t be certain. But in the absence of evidence do you believe that there may be a Loch Ness monster, but it just might not wish to meddle in the affairs of humans. 😉

I can’t argue too much with deism. It seems a simple matter of personal preference. I am an atheist because it appears that most things in this universe have constructed themselves from the bottom up. Little things get together and following simple laws that govern their interactions create a larger structure that is much more than they are alone. This appears to be much different from the top-down view of theism.

Could I be wrong? Certainly!

Thanks for the comment.

5. cragar - July 19, 2007

Joe–sorry I didn’t make it over sooner, I saw you had commented over at my place.

As far as weak vs. strong atheists, I think bottom line is we all want to believe. So we kind of keep that hope out there. Hey if anyone ever gets me some even remotely verifiable evidence I am there.

But, your point has merit also. All of the physical evidence points to no god, so why do we weakly support it?

6. cragar - July 19, 2007

@all4love–
Do u see radiowaves passing thru the air? Yet if u tune in a radio or television, u will have to believe its true… Well I understand there can be a “might” to the Logical explanation of the existence of God… But unless u tune in u will never know…. i tuned in n I tell u its true. There is a God… He is awesome to know!

Your comparison is lacking. We can prove radiowaves exist. Therefore they are real. One cannot prove any deity exists. You can say that “God has helped me” or “spoken to me” but that is still not provable.

And why does an atheist not have humility?

7. cragar - July 19, 2007

@mjackson–like I stated to Joe, I would like to believe there is something out there. But I don’t think there is, and I know that the Bible is full of errors so I don’t think that is the God that is out there if there is one.

Yet I would delve into deism also if I thought there was something there, and so far it seems more hope than an actuality.

8. all4love - July 20, 2007

@ Joe: Parden me for taking the comments off the topic.

“You will not find me proclaiming that people cannot go wrong. People are often wrong. No doubt I am wrong about many things. This is why I have respect for the method and philosophy of science.”

What I am tring to say is, even science could be wrong! The theories could be wrong! As long as science is an attempt to understand the creation of God, i have much respect for it… If its to prove God wrong or prove, it’s just a waste of time and money according to me!

“The key idea is that all belief should be backed by evidence. Reproducible, observable hard evidence. I seek to have no beliefs that aren’t based on such a standard. This is why I don’t believe there is a god. There is no evidence to support it.”

For such a response is the reason why I mentioned the story of the small kid… to show that just like a small kid might find it hard to comprehend terms like electricity etc and might doubt its existence because the kid cannot see it, So also, we humns mightnot be able to comprehend all things and put it on a paper and explain or prove it! So to believe in God, and His ways, a matter of “faith” is required… similar to the blind faith a child has in his/her parents!

“The evidence is in the tuning. There is no such evidence for any god.”

Tuning to receive a radiowave and translate it will take an amount of expectation to get something. When one refuses to even try, or get frustrated with a few attempts, one fails to tune in. I gave god a try, and I can prove He is true because of the miracles and healings and mainly the transformation He did in my life. But that proof might mean foolishness to one who has a hardened heart towards God. So to get the proof, there is no other way but to open heartedly TRY JESUS!

“Children have a tendency to believe what their parents tell them. It is a survival mechanism because they do not know enough to protect themselves. But as they grow up and learn to think for themselves they naturally question what they have been taught to believe. (Hence teen “rebellion”.) This is the process where I questioned the existence of god and saw no evidence that there was one. I still haven’t seen any.I don’t have anything against the belief of others. I just have no reason to believe myself.”

The Bible says that unless you be like a child, you canot enter heaven! And this is the reason why! Blind faith is essential to enter. But after you enter, God is willing to reveal Himself to us humans!

9. all4love - July 20, 2007

@ mjackson 75 :
“Personally, I spent years as a Christian and dove into the relationship part, but never got anything out of it resembling proof.”

You say you dove into the relationship part! There has to be an amount of trust to be in a relationship. If you never trusted the existence of God before He could prove it to u, then it just means u were a pretended christian. I wonder what made you think you were a christian in the first place if you never believed. Its sad you never saw the truth! But I hope you do find the truth some day!

10. all4love - July 20, 2007

@ Im sorry about the comparison if it wasn’t satisfactory! What I was tring to say was, to a man who doesnot undertsand the theories of radiowaves, it is an issue lacking proof. It is like in the olden days, people believed that earth was in the centre and sun revolved around it! The first man who said the otherwise might have had big trouble to prove himself. It wasn’t practical to take a snap of the universe to prove it. So science is a history of scientists stating and re-stating theories. Consider the structure of atom… I have studies so may theories that are quite different… latest being quantum theory i guess. Theories are so often wrong. They keep changing. So depending on science alone… and proof alone to believe in God… we all might be dead and gone by the time science copes up with God’s truth.

And I said athiests lack humility because they actually think they ” just a creation of God” can understand and prove God Himself! yet another comparison I can think of (parden me again if its lacing significance- just attempting to reveal the truth here) is that I make crafts with paper. That would be my creation. And that creation which is some folded piece of paper, expects to understand and prove that I, a human being, a complex biological being exist. Don’t u think that sounds like EGO! God made us out of dust… and this dust-being starts questioning and demanding proof to figure it all about the Almighty God who created the whole universe. Its just too much faith and pride in the human brains. But the beautiful part is that God is still willing to reveal Himself to us meer humans. But first believe and then we get to see.. Not see and then believe! Thats just how God works!

11. mjackson75 - July 20, 2007

Hi all4love,

Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, in a comment post, I really wasn’t able to get into all I mean when I talked about “diving into the relationship part.” For more on that, please see my blog at:
Why I am a Deist

I never said that I didn’t believe in the existence of God. In fact, I very much do, however, my particular struggle was concerning Christianity and other organized religions. I don’t think at all I was pretending to be a Christian, that would’ve happened had I not decided to leave. I was pretty fundamental for about 10 years.

12. Joe - July 20, 2007

all4love:
“What I am tring to say is, even science could be wrong! The theories could be wrong! As long as science is an attempt to understand the creation of God, i have much respect for it… If its to

prove God wrong or prove, it’s just a waste of time and money according to me!”
I agree that science can be wrong, but the beauty of science is the processes that are self correcting. When science is mistaken it is other scientists who figure it out adjusting theories to more acurately explain and match the evidence. I can say with great confidence that it is the best method we have for discerning the details of reality. Science is an attempt to understand the world; god or no.

“For such a response is the reason why I mentioned the story of the small kid… to show that just like a small kid might find it hard to comprehend terms like electricity etc and might doubt its existence because the kid cannot see it, So also, we humns mightnot be able to comprehend all things and put it on a paper and explain or prove it! So to believe in God, and His ways, a matter of “faith” is required… similar to the blind faith a child has in his/her parents!”
Children believe their parents because they are unable to understand. When they grow up and learn to think for themselves they find that much of what their parents taught them may be wrong. We have evidence for electricity that we do understand. When the child becomes an adult he can see that what his parents explained about it were true. (assuming they did represent it correctly.) But when he looks for evidence to support what they taught him about god he will find none.

Your analogy fails because there is no parent to have faith in. First you have to demonstrate that there is a god before I would decide whether or not to put faith in its teachings. The child sees much evidence that his parents exist.

“Tuning to receive a radiowave and translate it will take an amount of expectation to get something. When one refuses to even try, or get frustrated with a few attempts, one fails to tune in. I gave god a try, and I can prove He is true because of the miracles and healings and mainly the transformation He did in my life. But that proof might mean foolishness to one who has a hardened heart towards God. So to get the proof, there is no other way but to open heartedly TRY JESUS!”
Sorry I don’t do believe first and then look for evidence later. That leads to confirmation bias and self delusion. A Muslim will say the same thing about how he “knows” his religion is true, has had his life transformed, experiences or communicates with Allah, how can both of you know conflicting things about the universe. One or both of you must be wrong, yet you both have the same “evidence” to support your belief. There is no difference significant enough to choose between them.

“The Bible says that unless you be like a child, you canot enter heaven! And this is the reason why! Blind faith is essential to enter. But after you enter, God is willing to reveal Himself to us humans!”
Blind faith could be an argument to believe in anything or nothing. Therefore it is useless.

I seek to believe the truth about reality as much as possible. Choosing a religion and deciding to believe in it based on nothing (i.e. blind faith) is very unlikely to lead one to the truth. Although it seems very good at convincing believers that it has lead them to the truth.

13. Joe - July 20, 2007

“And I said athiests lack humility because they actually think they “just a creation of God” can understand and prove God Himself!”
No, atheists do not believe this! They do not believe there is a god, so there is nothing to understand and they are not “just a creation of God”. Most atheists just want to understand the world they live in to the best of their ability.

“yet another comparison I can think of (parden me again if its lacing significance- just attempting to reveal the truth here) is that I make crafts with paper. That would be my creation. And that creation which is some folded piece of paper, expects to understand and prove that I, a human being, a complex biological being exist. Don’t u think that sounds like EGO! God made us out of dust… and this dust-being starts questioning and demanding proof to figure it all about the Almighty God who created the whole universe. Its just too much faith and pride in the human brains. But the beautiful part is that God is still willing to reveal Himself to us meer humans. But first believe and then we get to see.. Not see and then believe! Thats just how God works!”

Christians lack humility because they believe the entire universe with billions of galaxies stretched over billions of lightyears of space each containing billions of stars many with various planetary systems orbiting them were all created for a single species on a small planet orbitting an average star in the outskirts of a rather average galaxy which they just happen to be an individual of, and they believe that the creator of all that a being that has the power to bend space, time energy and matter to his whim cares what they do with their brief lives in a very insiginicant part of his giant creation.

Atheists admit that in the mind boggling enormity of the universe they are but a very tiny piece that has no special place in the grand scheme of things, but was lucky enough to have the ability to think and explore the universe we find ourselves in. We are humble enough to acknowledge our own falibility and admit that our knowledge is tentative and always subject to revision.

Who is humble?

14. cragar - July 20, 2007

excellent rebuttle especially on humility, nothing else need be added I don’t think.

🙂

15. Joe - July 20, 2007

Thanks!

16. Shahrzad - July 20, 2007

I think something wrong about your definition as weak and strong.
In description of atheism, it is generaly a positive belief that there is no god and as what you said the strong atheism has real meaning of atheism.
There is no weak atheism and That’s agnosticism which is defined as a lack of belief in any god or gods. Agnostics haven’t seen compelling evidence that a god exists so their default stance is not to form any god belief.
I think t is true definition as i learnt till now or maybe there is another comments on my words?

17. Joe - July 20, 2007

There really are two camps on the atheist vs. agnostic issue. To me agnosticism is an answer to a different question.

Atheists answer the question “do you believe in god?” with a no. (Strong atheists add “Is there a god?” with a no answer.)

Agnostics (whether they are atheists or not) answer the question “Can man ever have certain knowledge of the existence or non-existence of god?” with a no.

I suppose this makes me a strong atheist and an agnostic.

18. Shahrzad - July 20, 2007

I got your definition now. Thank you for clearification. I had a period of time in my life that i doubted about everything. But you know? I think doubt is very good. I always use it. It is such a bridge. Anyway I passed the bridge and went to other side.
I look for reading yr entries since now..
Stay beautiful..

19. Shahrzad - July 20, 2007

clarification*


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