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"I believe God doesn't exist" is not Atheism

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/11/2015 Category: Religion
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 467 times Debate No: 71505
Debate Rounds (3)
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I would like to assert that the statement, "I believe that God does not exist", is simply not an Atheistic statement.

Definition from the Oxford Dictionary:
Atheism [Noun] : Disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

If anyone is willing to debate this, please use Round #1 for acceptance only. I shall present my argument in Round #2 and the structure of the rest of the debate shall be undefined. This debate should be held in a friendly spirit.


I accept your challenge.
Debate Round No. 1


First of all, thank you for accepting this debate.

I shall begin by explaining that the question of God's existence is a dichotomy, meaning that there are only two possible resolutions: either God exists, or God does not exist. There are no other possibilities, and only one of these possibilities can be true, being mutually exclusive of one another.

This establishes that there are two opposite sides to this argument: God exists vs. God does not exist. To hold either side true, one must have a belief that it is the truth. The former *believes* that God exists while the latter *believes* that God does not exist. Since these are both positive claims, two entirely separate "sub-arguments" are created.

In regards to the "God exists" side, there are two possible positions based on the arguer's state of belief:

I believe that God exists -or- I do not believe that God exists

The former position is Theism, which *believes* that God exists. The latter is Atheism which is *absent of the belief* that God exists, as Atheism is defined. Theism asserts that God exists while Atheism merely rejects that assertion. Nowhere in this sub-argument exists the position of "God does not exist"; that argument belongs on the opposite side of the dichotomy, which I will describe later.

An example of this can be found in the US legal court system. "Innocent until proven guilty". The court is charged with determining whether the defendant is either Guilty or Not Guilty; NOT Guilty or Innocent. The court systems are not designed to prove one's innocence. When one is deemed Not Guilty, it indicates that there is insufficient evidence to prove the defendant Guilty; this verdict, in of itself, doesn't necessarily mean that he did not actually commit the crime. It only means that the prosecutor could not prove that he did beyond a reasonable doubt.

We almost always hear the sub-argument between God exists and God does not exist, so the other side of this may seem alien. While the former side pertains to Theism, this opposite side pertains to "Antitheism" (I don't know if that's the right term, but it is irrelevant to my point). The positions for this are:

I believe that God does not exists -or- I do not believe that God does not exists

The former position is Antitheism, which *believes* that God does not exists. The latter could be called A-antitheism which is *absent of the belief* that God does not exists. This mirrors the other sub-argument. Note that saying "I don't believe that God doesn't exists" does not mean "I believe that God exists".

Based on these four positions among the two sub-arguments, there are three overall stances that may be held by an individual that are defines by the positions he holds in each of the sub-arguments.

1. Theist/A-antitheist.
This person believes that God exists, so he thus is absent of the belief that God doesn't exist.

2. Antitheist/Atheist.
This person believes that God does not exists, so he thus absent of the belief that God exist.

3. Atheist/A-Antitheist
A truly agnostic person would lack belief in either positive claim.

In conclusion, when a person states "I believe that God does not exist", his statement is a positive claim stemming from the stance of Antitheism, NOT Atheism, despite the fact that he is also an Atheist.


Firstly, I'd like to thank you for providing me with my first online debate.

I will argue that your assertion that one cannot qualify as an Atheist if you take the position that God does not exist is erroneous, as there is no universally accepted definition, classification and/or consensus of Atheism, either from a legal or an academic standpoint. Atheism in a broad sense is simply someone who disbelieves in and/or opposes the existence of supernatural entities. In its broadest sense, the term Atheism has been attributed to opposers/rejecters of supernaturalism in general, such as transcendental ideologies, spirituality etc.

The classification and/or definition of Atheism has been the subject of debate and philosophy since its general recognition in the 18th century, during this time many ideas and sub-categories have been proposed and discussed. Non of these have remained in prominence to this day, so one must look at the general/popular idea of Atheism which exists today for at least an ambiguous definition.

For this one must explore the Atheist culture which has formed and propagated around the lectures, books, and interviews by the most recognised, popular, credible and respected Atheists that are accessible via the internet. Namely, Carl Sagan, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye, and Sam Harris, and in a different sense, certain songs by Tim Minchin. It is clear by the work of these individuals that the most generally accepted view of Atheism is the strident opposition and rejection of the Abrahamic religions. Most people who fall within this culture consider themselves Atheists, and their reason for being so is the lack of empirical evidence and/or logic in the arguments/claims of Abrahamic theists.

In conclusion, I would argue that the premise of your argument is groundless given the ambiguity surrounding the term Atheism.
Debate Round No. 2


This is but my second debate in general, so I'm still wet behind the ears. Thank you for contesting me on this issue, I enter this debate in hopes of learning and taking away information to better myself and my understanding.

My first counter-argument is that the point I was making has been misconstrued, somewhat. I am not asserting that one that takes a position against the existence of God is not an Atheist. In fact, I did say they there are Atheist in addition to being Anti-theist. All Anti-theists are Atheists, but not all Atheists are Anti-theists. My argument is that the statement in question is not one that qualifies as an Atheistic statement, but rather an Anti-theistic statement. Atheism is specifically the lack of belief, and therefore does not address the issue of a belief against.
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Secondly, I have looked up definitions and referenced websites, and have found that nearly all support the definition that I provided in Round #1. Here is a short list of sources. I would ask that if you are aware of documented, official instances of conflicting definitions, please cite some of them; I'd be interested to see.
- Oxford Dictionary
- -
- American Atheists -
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary*
- Religious Tolerance* -
- Creation Ministries ( - (this is addressed at the end of my argument)

*The Merriam-Webster dictionary does include two definitions for "Atheism":
a : a disbelief in the existence of a deity
b : the doctrine that there is no deity

However, it defines "Atheist" as:

: one who believes that there is not deity.

They completely left out definition 'a' from their own definition of Atheism! This definition of Atheist was referenced by the Religious Tolerance site. I shall further address this issue later (at **).
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Thirdly, the source of the confusion comes from the generalization of the word "Atheist". Pretty much no one uses the term anti-theist, and the term a-anti-theist is one that I made up for lack of an appropriate word. If we were to omit these words from the three stances that I described in my original argument...

#1 Theist / A-antitheist - Belief that God exists
#2 Antitheist / Atheist - Belief that God does not exist
#3 Atheist / A-antitheist - Absence of belief that God exists and of belief that God does not exist

...then we would get the exact over-generalization and simplification that we so often see.

#1 Theist - Belief that God exists
#2 Atheist - Belief that God does not exist
#3 Atheist - Absence of belief that God exists and of belief that God does not exist
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Fourthly, I will also make note of the word's structure. "Atheism" is derived from the Greek language. The prefix "a-" specifically means "without". Its use in the word in question means just that; that the subject being described as such is without, or absent of, or is lacking belief. The use of this prefix can also be seen in other English words. For instance, the Oxford Dictionary defines "amoral" as:

amoral [adjective]: lacking a moral sense. unconcerned with the rightness or wrongness of something;

Notice that "amoral" does not indicate *against* morals; it just means to be without them. The prefix "anti-", on the other hand, specifically mean opposite, against, or opposed to. We should all be familiar enough with the usage of this prefix. This clearly indicates that someone that holds beliefs against, or opposite to, Theism would be an "Anti-Theist".

**I will make another point, here, regarding the Merriam-Webster definition. Although they include a definition that indicates a belief that there is no deity, they also define amoral as:

amoral [adjective]: having or showing no concern about whether behavior is morally right of wrong

They demonstrated proper usage of the prefix "-a" in this definition, which means that they understand it. Their first definition of Atheism appears correct, but the second definition was likely added *because* of the widespread disagreement of the meaning of the word.
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Finally, you mentioned numerous "power-atheists". I would argue that, despite the fact that there are Atheists, they are Anti-theist. Their strong belief that God does not exist does not represent all Atheists; specifically, those who are not *opposed to* the matter of God's existence. There are numerous reasons why they might embrace the title, "Atheist". Perhaps having a title with "anti-" in it automatically infers a negativity, or they can appear to speak on behalf of more people, thus, appearing to be a large group. In any case, a few popular people can't redefine a word. I believe these claims are just reinforcing the misconception.
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Just for an extra bit, I look up Atheism on the Theist website, Creation Ministries ( They have a broad, complex definition of Atheism.

They have an argument that disputes the use of "a-" always meaning "without". They use the examples "Amusement" and "Agnostic". Using the word "Amusement" is absurd just because it begins with an "A". As for their other example, there IS a word "Gnostic". Oxford Dictionary:

Gnostic [Adjective]: of or relating to knowledge, especially esoteric mystical knowledge.

Later, they describe different variations of Atheism (i.e. Strong Atheism, Weak Atheism). This means that they DO recognize a difference between the two. They just use an adjective to differentiate instead of using a different word. Weak Atheism = Atheism, while Strong Atheism = Antitheism. Yes, they still refer to it all as Atheism, but their sub-categorization matches my description - it is much simpler and easier to understand to just refer to it all as Atheism.
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In conclusion, I assert that the word "Atheism" does have a solid definition, and that expanding the definition of this word from "without" to "against" is erroneous. I believe the misuse of it is merely the result of over-generalization and the need for simplicity.


MrCrago forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Chaosism 1 year ago
D'oh! Minor typo in my Round #2 argument:

"Based on these four positions among the two sub-arguments, there are three overall stances that may be held by an individual that are *defines by the positions he holds in each of the sub-arguments."


~slapping forehead~
Posted by Chaosism 1 year ago
That question is thoroughly addressed on a daily basis around these parts, it seems. For the purposes of this debate in particular, the answer to that question in ultimately irrelevant. :)

I instigated this debate because of the massive misconception of what Atheism actually is, and I want to be more certain that *I* have it right.
Posted by Mokshadah 1 year ago
does god really exist? :/
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Wylted 1 year ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit