Friday, July 24, 2009

What’s Behind Christian Inventiveness with Word Definition?

Some time ago I posted an article on “Christian Speak”, the translation into English of crazy things Christians say. I also did one on how Christians try to give words in the Bible new meanings so as to better defend the absurd, contradictory, incongruent and irrational words of their God.

On a related note, and to round out the subject of Christians’ propensity toward playing fast and loose with incongruent linguistics, I offer the following observation and analysis. I guess you could call it the third element in a trinity of religious language perversion.

A rather innocuous and inoffensive Christian fellow recently proffered that "atheism is a religion." That activist atheists / anti-theists, such as myself, Dawkins, Hutchins, Harris, Meyers, et al, are “the most religious” people he knows. Evidently the basis for this is our out spoken opposition to religious ignorance; our distain for its negative effects on society both historically and currently; and the agenda that the religious have to force their beliefs on others and intrude on our lives and freedoms. But to call atheism a religion, or atheists religious is just moronic.

I tossed him the canard about how "atheism is a religion like baldness is a hair color" and how "calling atheism a religion is to akin to calling not collecting stamps a hobby." As I feared, the analogies were lost on him.

I referred him to to look up the definitions of “religion” and “atheism”. By definition, atheism cannot be a religion. Any educated person who can read and has the desire to use language properly knows this. I also explained that if not believing in something is a religion…then anyone who disbelieves in Bigfoot is part of the “non belief in Bigfoot religion.” [His will be done!]. Wham! It went right over his head.

This theist is confusing a “position” with a religion. I have any number of positions on things. Here are a very few among hundreds, perhaps thousands of positions I embrace:

  • I tend toward liberal social politics, but conservative fiscal politics and I make that position known to my congressional representatives. [the religion of “Moderatism”?]

  • I have a position on my right to own firearms, and am vocal on that as well. [the religion of “Pro-Gunism”?]

  • I have a position on the stupidity of conspiracy theorists, and frequently write letters to the editor deriding and exposing their idiocy. [the religion of “Dismissal of Whack-o-ism”?]

  • I have a position on the non-reality of vampires, werewolves, faeries, fortune tellers, space alien visitors, etc., etc. albeit, I don’t feel the need to espouse it to most thinking people. [the religion of “Non-Boogie-Manism”?]

  • I have a position on the use of camel’s for food. [the religion of “Non-Camel Cannibalism”?]

Unfortunately, there are a few atheists who through their own stupidity feed theist misconceptions of atheism. Some of them, the most unthinking and vapid, call for an "atheist church," or at least see no conflict with the oxymoronic term. They typically have lower IQ's than the average atheist, and don't like to look up word meanings like "church" to understand why it's as absurd as a "Muslim Synogogue." These atheists are the Uncle Toms, the embarrassing mentally deficient relatives, of the activist atheist movement.

So what causes this peculiar need for religionists to redefine words from their clearly defined meanings? What can’t they understand the simple concepts that have been codified in the English language for centuries without reprocessing them to fit their personal agenda? In a word: ignorance. It’s their lack of thirst for knowledge, a disregard for learning, a limited intellect.

I’m not convinced religion causes believers’ this peculiar mental impairment and language perversion propensity. I think the people who are attracted to religion are predisposed toward it and that their religious training and fervor, externally imposed or self taught, simply reinforces it. That they are oblivious to it is just one more justification for my anti-religious position. I guess that makes me a congregant of the “First Church of Our Lady of No Patience for Stupidity.”


NewEnglandBob said...

You hit is exactly, IMHO:

"In a word: ignorance. It’s their lack of thirst for knowledge, a disregard for learning, a limited intellect."

This is also the explanation for the "Uncle Tom" atheists you talked about in the previous paragraph.

No one group has any exclusivity on this. It is widespread, everywhere.

As far as being a congregant of the “First Church of Our Lady of No Patience for Stupidity.”, I think I was a founding member and donated the land (as you and I briefly discussed about your hairdresser).

NewEnglandBob said...

I forget to check off Email follow-ups (sigh). Too many windows going at once - focus, Bob, focus.

Dromedary Hump said...

Bob said: "This is also the explanation for the "Uncle Tom" atheists you talked about in the previous paragraph.

You're correct of course. But I have come to expect more thought from freethinkers, more respect for the language and word meanings, if only based on previous experiences.

When I objected to this "poll" that a rather large and well known atheist forum psted about "atheist church", I was blasted for being intolerant of alternate views.

They didn't understand that the word church actually has a theist meaning, specifically Christian. Some of them were genuinely annoyed with my for saying that the concept disgusts me, and is counter productive to activist atheism by promoting an erroneous image of atheism.

Yep, theists don'thave a corner on stupidity. They are just the major share holders.


Engineer of Knowledge said...

Hello Hump,
One of my favorite humorist questions is:
“What is the difference between Ignorance and Apathy?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Dromedary Hump said...


I'd prefer them to be apathetic. They are less dangerous.

No Guy in the Sky said...

Hump - I like unbelief. I heard it was "Unbelief would be untenable without the moral and metaphysical capital created and banked by the belief it displaced.”

Now that is funny.

Bob - Don't feel bad I forget all the time :)

Dromedary Hump said...

No Guy...
Oooo that's good.
I'm gonna use that some day.

Tracey said...

Don't mess with Sasquatch.

Dromedary Hump said...

Damn! thats the second time youve had to chastise me for dissing your friend Bigfoot.

I'll try not to let it happen again.

Henry said...

There are several "atheist churches" already -- meetings of the American Atheist Association and the American Humanist Association provide the benefits of "church" in many communities. Same with Ethical Culture and, at least in the West, Unitarian Universalism.

Personally, I attend a UU church that is 15-20% atheist, and I'm very open about being one, especially when I help lead services. Interest in the Big Questions, a desire to connect with a community, and the knowledge that our perceptions are not a full picture of reality mean that there will always be a need for something "church like."

I'm excited to see the atheist movement gaining strength and confidence, and I think "church like" or "church lite" communities have an important role to play in helping believers transition to "spiritual but not religious" or even deist or agnostic as a stopover of doubt on their way to full nonbelief. I understand the political necessity of attacks on "liberal religion" by the Four Horsemen, but your contribution to the attack is a one dimensional cartoon.

Your experience of church-going atheists seems limited. You might want to take a field trip some Sunday and meet a broader selection of us.

Dromedary Hump said...

"spiritual"? Please. This need to use religoinist terminolgy and infuse it with atheism is inane.

as for the concept of "atheist Church", do yourself a favor: go to, look up the word church, and tell me atheist Church still makes sense.

Do you take "atheist communion"? Do you conduct "atheist worship"?
If not..then why "atheist church"?
Sorry, but this is a nonsequiter an oxymoron that just doesnt sit with me.

Call yourselves a Union, or a fraternity, or a guild or a foundation, or a group, or a brotherhood of atheists.. church is patently absurd, a nonsequiter.
But to each ones own.


Henry said...

Of course "church" is not the right word for a community of atheists, which is why I put it inside quote marks and used it as a simile, not a definition. In my particular case, I attend UU church meetings rather than an explicitly non-religious group's meetings because I am married to an evangelical and it makes it possible to have our kids exposed to "think for yourself" religious education in addition to the "think what we tell you" Sunday School they get at her church.

Dromedary Hump said...

Fair enough...makes sense in that context.

You must be quite a guy being married to an evangelical, and being a skeptic. More power to ya.


Angel said...

I've been wrestling with something I hope you can help me out with, Hump.

Would it be fair to say that atheists have a "non-theist belief system?"

The reason why I ask is because in trying to beef up on my atheist-speak I ran into an english language conundrum in :

Main Entry: atheism
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: belief that no God exists
disbelief, doubt, freethinking, godlessness, heresy, iconoclasm, impiety, infidelity, irreligion, irreverence, nihilism, nonbelief, paganism, skepticism, unbelief
belief, godliness, piety, religion

Main Entry: disbelief
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: doubt, skepticism
atheism, distrust, dubiety, incredulity, mistrust, nihilism, rejection, repudiation, spurning, unbelief, unbelievingness, unfaith
belief, trust

Look at the contrasting and similar definitions and antonyms. Atheists DISbelieve in god but... GAH!! The word "belief" is spread around so easily and is so widely used in the english language that to form a sentence using the word atheist and belief in them at the same time is either going to annoy or amuse an atheist. Or they'd understand it to be a situation where "belief system" is simply the only other way to sociologically speak about a subculture's.... beliefs. *slaps self* You see what I mean?

Very confusing. Help me out here.

The whole atheist church thing made me laugh. How idiotic. What an oxymoron.

NewEnglandBob said...

Get a new thesaurus, Angel.

Atheism is the LACK of belief in any gods, it is NOT the belief that there is no god. There is a huge difference between those two.

Angel said...

I'm pretty sure doesn't have an edit feature like Wiki does, NEBob. Sorry. I thought they were a trusted site.

The reason why I am asking is because of confusion with how to properly use the term atheist in various types of sentences and references. I'm asking for education here, not a bitch slap.

"Atheism is the LACK of belief in any gods, it is NOT the belief that there is no god."

I have stared at your ... explanation... for a while now and the only thing I can garner from it so far is that you hate the term "belief." Would "opinion" be acceptable? You are of the opinion that there are no gods? But wait. You said that atheism is NOT the belief that there is no god. So that can't be right. If you LACK belief in any gods that still means that you have 0 belief in god or gods. Yes?

How then would you define "belief system"?

Would "stance" be a good word to use in place of "belief"

I'm honestly not trying to be a jackass about this. I'm simply trying to learn about atheism. If isn't acceptable can you give me links to any other good sources for information?

NewEnglandBob said...

Angel, I was not trying to bitch slap anyone.

We may have a language problem here.

I have no reason to believe in any gods. Just like I have no reason to believe in fairies or unicorns or goblins or Zeus or Apollo or Santa Claus.

There is no evidence of any of these. That is what the lack of belief means.

I do not say there is no god because I can not know there is none. Just like I can not know if there is a automobile orbiting around the star Proxima Centauri.

Evidence is gained by observation and deduction. Belief comes in two forms. One of those forms is faith and that form does not involve evidence but is in lieu of evidence.

The other form of belief is things like "I believe my mother loves me". This is sometimes generated by observation with either deduction or induction.

Angel said...

That language problem is EXACTLY what I've been wrestling with in my brain all afternoon. You've sorted it out quite nicely.

The word "belief" is thrown about so often that I thought there must be other synonyms(hence my visit to which could be used in lieu of it when referring to an atheist's thoughts on deities. See, when I said "thoughts" I was about to say "beliefs concerning deities" and this would be incorrect verbiage by the definitions and explanations you given me.

Bob: "Evidence is gained by observation and deduction. Belief comes in two forms. One of those forms is faith and that form does not involve evidence but is in lieu of evidence. ------ The other form of belief is things like "I believe my mother loves me". This is sometimes generated by observation with either deduction or induction."

I can most certainly agree to these ideas. In gnosticism we have the same language barrier because faith has become such an ugly word and it really has nothing to do with the philosophy at all.

We've come to use phrases like, "I feel that..." and "I think that..." as appropriate substitutes for "belief."

Would an atheist philosophy or an atheist stance be acceptible phrases to describe your unbelief system?

Thanks for the help, Bob.

Dromedary Hump said...


I tthink NEBob pretty mush mirrors my perspective, and the perspective of most people who understand that atheism isn't a belief system in any way.

A belief system can refer to:
a life stance
a religion.
a world view
a philosophy
an ideology

A system of belief thus goes beyond a simple "having no belief in God/gods". It must include some basic precepts that define one of the above.

Now, many atheists share other world views, but they are also shared by many theists as well (i.e. evolution as fact, respect for science, morderate or liberal political and social perspective, acceptence of the golden rule aka rule of reciprocity, lots of others). But simple denial of the supernaural as real does not a "belief system" make. It does not define ones personal philosophy, world view, etc.

Dromedary Hump said...

Ps: to put it more definitively:
if one does not believe in werewolves, I doubt anyone would call that a "werewolf philosophy" or "Werewolf belief system"

simple as that.

Angel said...


Deities, Hump! I finally get it!

A-theism is to Ag-nosticism as Theism is to Gnosticism.

And atheism isn't a religion OR philosophy so it isn't a belief system.

Do you know I had to look up the definitions to each one of those words after I wrote that to make sure I wasn't losing my mind?! Maybe I shouldn't have admitted that but too late. It just LOOKS contrary to how the words are so commonly used in modern vernacular. I finally had to stop thinking so gosh darn hard about the language problem with "belief" and instead concentrate on "atheism" and what it breaks down to into Latin.

Ugh. My brain hurts. Thanks for the workout, guys!!

Dromedary Hump said...

Heheheh...glad to help.