Some interesting language musings

An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in the existence of gods.

Is there a different word for someone who believes gods don’t exist?. Is the term “gnostic atheist” the right term? I don’t think so, because Gnosticism is about knowledge and this is a belief.

I’m going to refer to this position later on, so allow me to call this person an “athesit++”.

The opposite of an atheist is a theist - someone who believes that at least one god exists. Usually a theist has a specific god or gods they believe in, so they have a specific name, such as christian, muslim, hindu, etc.

There doesn’t appear to be a theist equivalent to an atheist++. I think this is because of the peculiarities of language.

There also aren’t names for atheist equivalents to specific religious beliefs. For example, we don’t use the terms a-christian, or a-hindu, or a-muslim. Clearly a christain is an a-hindu, and an a-muslim, but this kind of nomenclature gets unnecessarily complicated very quickly.

Is this something peculiar to English? I don’t think so, and it might actually be worse in other languages. Anyone versed in other language enough to comment?

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I’m not sure if this is relevant to your points, but your issues with language seem to apply to the “ontological argument” for God’s existence.

The ontological argument (and I am over-simplifying) seems to be as follows: "We can imagine a perfect being, which we may define as God. Since non-existence would be a flaw in perfection . . . well . . . God must exist.

"Therefore, the phrase ‘God does not exist’ is self-contradictory, or an oxymoron.

“This means that God must exist.”

My own way of contradicting this bit of wordplay is that I can imagine an ideal gas, a perfect mathematical point, a temperature of absolute zero, or a perfect black body . . . and just because I can imagine such things does not imply existence.

So, your points are interesting if we can get in a discussion about how different languages may define the ontological argument . . . and how this exploration may show subtle differences in peoples’ cultural and linguistic influences in religious thought.

It’s a subcategory of atheism called “antitheism.” They are still 'atheists." Atheists come in several flavors. Anti-theists (Also called ‘Strong Atheists’ and Gnostic atheists, who profess to know a god does not exist.), Agnostic-atheists (who do not believe in gods), Implicit Atheists (People are born atheists and have not been introduced to gods. Everyone is born atheist and in sin according to the Church.) In all these cases, the word ‘Atheist’ fits, however, in a discussion, you should know which sort of atheist you are dealing with.

In my case, I am an agnostic atheist; however, if you try to assert the existence of a god that is self-contradictory or unable to exist, I am an antitheist concerning that god. My position can change depending on the definition of a specific god.

Theism and atheism are not necessarily opposites, as I explained previously. The jellybean jar is a good example of this. I have a jar and it has jellybeans in it. You tell me that the number of jellybeans is even. I tell you that I do not believe you. I have not said the number is odd. I just don’t see how you know the number is even. I am not asserting something opposite. I am looking at the evidence and saying, “I have no good reason to believe you.” This is the position of the Agnostic Atheist. This, I believe, encompasses the majority of atheists. So there is no opposite here.

The equivalent to Atheist ++ is the antitheist. We have dealt with many on this site. They blow in here and make inane assertions about God not existing. The people on this site are primarily skeptics, and overall, very intelligent IMO. The first question tends to be, “How do you know that?” These sorts of Christian-bashing atheists just don’t last long. That’s not to say we don’t do our own brand of bashing. However, it seems that when skeptics bash, they are careful to have some evidence backing up their claims.

I think this explained much of your concerns. If you have more questions, feel free to post. Here is a diagram that may help.

No, since a person holding such a belief must by necessity lack the contrary belief a deity exists.

Correct, an agnostic is someone who believes nothing is known or can be known about the nature or existence of god. Any god concept or claim that is unfalsifiable would necessitate I be agnostic about it, as I would have to be about all unfalsifiable claims, I would also withhold belief from them all, as that is the only rational position.

More peculiar to religions, since we have other words in English that describe the absence of something, asymptomatic, amoral, asexual etc etc…

I would only add as I have many times before, that in the absence of knowledge belief is not objectively justified. We lack belief in every idea or concept we know nothing about, it cannot be otherwise, then when we learn about the concept we are either content that it is sufficiently supported to justify belief or not.

I was born an atheist, and have remained one as no concept of deity presented has been supported by any objective evidence, or rational argument, that would demonstrate a deity exists, or is even possible.

Cog, thanks for posting. I was hoping you would.

Antitheism sounds more like a political position rather than a philosophical one - hence my hesitation in using it.

I have a problem with this. Gnosticism is about knowledge, but antitheism seems to be about opposition. I understand that is not how you’ve defined it in your post, but there seems to be room for confusion - one of the reasons I started this thread.

Further “Strong atheism” also seems misnamed. I can understand how someone can have strong beliefs, but that doesn’t seem to line up with political opposition nor knowledge. Could you expand on this a bit?


Thanks for posting. You are also someone I hoped would reply.

I edited your post in order to make it clear what I think you meant.
I added a comma after the word “Knowledge”. Did I get your meaning correct?

Assuming I did, I think lack of knowledge isn’t tied to belief in any meaningful way. I may be aware of something, but have no knowledge about it, yet still have a belief about it.

That’s also probably why they call themselves “Strong Atheists.” As for me, I am an antitheist concerning some gods, I have no problem with the word when it is used correctly.

“I know there is no god” is in fact the antithesis of the theist position “I know god exists.” Whether it seems that way or not… these are true opposites. God either exists or it does not exist. There is no middle ground. Both propositions need to be supported with evidence. (Back to the jellybean analogy.) You can not tell me the number of jellybeans in the jar without counting them in some way. That is just a fact. And since you have no facts, I have nothing to believe.

Misnamed or not, it is the belief that no god exists (By definition.) If you use another definition we are not talking about the same thing.

If I don’t (or in the case of unfalsifiable claims, can’t) know whether something is true, then I withhold belief. That’s what I meant.

Antitheism can be defined as “opposition to belief in god or gods”, so it can have connotations that a belief no deity exists does not. Though again they clearly can overlap, or if you prefer are not mutually exclusive.