Re: irrational atheists

Nick Bostrom (
Wed, 13 Jan 1999 00:18:28 +0000

Max More wrote:

> At 06:37 PM 1/11/99 +0000, Nick wrote:
> >God, or divinity. If you regard the "a-" as attaching not to
> >"theism", but to "theo", then you get "no-god". And then you
> >attach "ism" and you get "the doctrine that there is no-god".
> >Creative ethymology :-)
> Okay, I think that's fine. If you take "atheism" as an ism, then it
> requires a positive belief. My main concern was to note that it's just as
> legitimate to define "atheism" as simply "lack of belief in a god". Can we
> agree that it can be reasonably defined both ways?

Both definitions are "reasonable", in the sense that there is a lexicographically legitimate usage of the word in both senses.

> You might define "communism" as "the belief that all property should be
> owned in common and not individually". Would that mean that communism was
> all about belief?

In the sense I was referring to, yes. -- In contrast to "despotism", or "autism", which are not dogmas or belief systems, but other kinds of objects.

> Okay, so I don't we disagree about very much! Probably just the issue of
> whether agnosticism is about knowledge or belief.

We are basically in agreement about agnosticism. Our only point of disagreement seems to be that I think the most appropriate definition of atheism is: "The belief that there is no god." You seem to prefer to define it as: "The absence of belief in a god." I think the former definition is the one that corresponds more closely to general usage among laypersons as well as theologians. But it's just a matter of words. Let's move on to debate something more substantial!

Nick Bostrom Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method London School of Economics