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Is the definition of atheism “a lack of belief in God”?

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

First, let’s see check with the Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.

Stanford University is one of the top 5 universities in the United States, so that’s a solid definition. To be an atheist is to be a person who makes the claim that, as a matter of FACT, there is no intelligent agent who created the universe. Atheists think that there is no God, and theists think that there is a God. Both claims are objective claims about the way the world is out there, and so both sides must furnish forth arguments and evidence as to how they are able to know what they are each claiming.

Philosopher William Lane Craig has some thoughts on atheism, atheists and lacking belief in God in this reply to a questioner.


In my discussions with atheists, they  are using the term that they “lack belief in God”. They claim that this is different from not believing in God or from saying that God does not exist. I’m not sure how to respond to this. It seems to me that its a silly word-play and is logically the same as saying that you do not believe in God.
What would be a good response to this?
Thank you for your time,


And here is Dr. Craig’s full response:

Your atheist friends are right that there is an important logical difference between believing that there is no God and not believing that there is a God.  Compare my saying, “I believe that there is no gold on Mars” with my saying “I do not believe that there is gold on Mars.”   If I have no opinion on the matter, then I do not believe that there is gold on Mars, and I do not believe that there is no gold on Mars.  There’s a difference between saying, “I do not believe (p)” and “I believe (not-p).”   Logically where you place the negation makes a world of difference.

But where your atheist friends err is in claiming that atheism involves only not believing that there is a God rather than believing that there is no God.

There’s a history behind this.  Certain atheists in the mid-twentieth century were promoting the so-called “presumption of atheism.” At face value, this would appear to be the claim that in the absence of evidence for the existence of God, we should presume that God does not exist.  Atheism is a sort of default position, and the theist bears a special burden of proof with regard to his belief that God exists.

So understood, such an alleged presumption is clearly mistaken.  For the assertion that “There is no God” is just as much a claim to knowledge as is the assertion that “There is a God.”  Therefore, the former assertion requires justification just as the latter does.  It is the agnostic who makes no knowledge claim at all with respect to God’s existence.  He confesses that he doesn’t know whether there is a God or whether there is no God.

But when you look more closely at how protagonists of the presumption of atheism used the term “atheist,” you discover that they were defining the word in a non-standard way, synonymous with “non-theist.”  So understood the term would encompass agnostics and traditional atheists, along with those who think the question meaningless (verificationists).  As Antony Flew confesses,

the word ‘atheist’ has in the present context to be construed in an unusual way.  Nowadays it is normally taken to mean someone who explicitly denies the existence . . . of God . . . But here it has to be understood not positively but negatively, with the originally Greek prefix ‘a-’ being read in this same way in ‘atheist’ as it customarily is in . . . words as ‘amoral’ . . . . In this interpretation an atheist becomes not someone who positively asserts the non-existence of God, but someone who is simply not a theist. (A Companion to Philosophy of Religion, ed. Philip Quinn and Charles Taliaferro [Oxford:  Blackwell, 1997], s.v. “The Presumption of Atheism,” by Antony Flew)

Such a re-definition of the word “atheist” trivializes the claim of the presumption of atheism, for on this definition, atheism ceases to be a view.  It is merely a psychological state which is shared by people who hold various views or no view at all.  On this re-definition, even babies, who hold no opinion at all on the matter, count as atheists!  In fact, our cat Muff counts as an atheist on this definition, since she has (to my knowledge) no belief in God.

One would still require justification in order to know either that God exists or that He does not exist, which is the question we’re really interested in.

So why, you might wonder, would atheists be anxious to so trivialize their position?  Here I agree with you that a deceptive game is being played by many atheists.  If atheism is taken to be a view, namely the view that there is no God, then atheists must shoulder their share of the burden of proof to support this view.  But many atheists admit freely that they cannot sustain such a burden of proof.  So they try to shirk their epistemic responsibility by re-defining atheism so that it is no longer a view but just a psychological condition which as such makes no assertions.  They are really closet agnostics who want to claim the mantle of atheism without shouldering its responsibilities.

This is disingenuous and still leaves us asking, “So is there a God or not?”

So there you have it. We are interested in what both sides know and what reasons and evidence they have to justify their claim to know. We are interested in talking to people who make claims about objective reality, not about themselves, and who then go on to give reasons and evidence to support their claims about objective reality. There are atheists out there that do make an objective claim that God does not exist, and then support that claim with arguments and evidence. Those are good atheists, and we should engage in rational conversations with them. But clearly there are some atheists who are not like that. How should we deal with these “subjective atheists”?

Dealing with subjective atheists

How should theists respond to people who just want to talk about their psychological state? Well, my advice is to avoid them. They are approaching religion irrationally and non-cognitively – like the person who enters a physics class and says “I lack a belief in the gravitational force!”.  When you engage in serious discussions with people about God’s existence, you only care about what people know and what they can show to be true. We don’t care about a person’s psychology.

Dealing with persistent subjective atheists

What happens when you explain all of that to a subjective atheist who continues to insist that you listen to them repeat over and over “I lack a belief in God, I lack a belief in God”? What if you tell them to make the claim that God does not exist, and then support it with arguments and evidence, but instead they keep leaving comments on your blog telling you again and again about their subjective state of mind: “I lack a belief in cupcakes! I lack a belief in icebergs!” What if they keep e-mailing you and threatening to expose you on Twitter for refusing to listen to them, or denounce you via skywriting: “Wintery Knight won’t listen to me! I lack a belief in crickets!”. I think at this point you have to give up and stop talking to such a person.

And that’s why I moderate and filter comments on this blog. There are uneducated people out there with access to the Internet who want attention, but I am not obligated to give it to them. And neither are you. We are not obligated to listen to abusive people who don’t know what they are talking about. I do post comments from objective atheists who make factual claims about the objective world, and who support those claims with arguments and evidence. I am not obligated to post comments from people who refuse to make objective claims or who refuse to support objective claims with arguments and evidence. And I’m not obligated to engage in discussions with them, either.

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Trump ends taxpayer-funded indoctrination in anti-American critical race theory in federal agencies

She's saying that her decision to be a whale is your fault, and you must pay her money
Her poor choices were caused by your racism, so you must pay her reparations

Good news, everyone! I think most people who are following the election closely know that there is almost no overlap between the Republican party and the Democrat party. It’s common sense that we not use taxpayer money to spread hatred and division. The Democrats have been using taxpayer money to do that in federal agencies. But Trump has put an end to it.

Here’s the story from Daily Wire:

The Trump administration announced late on Friday that it was cracking down on “critical race theory,” a far-left anti-American ideology that promotes racial division, from being taught in federal agencies and paid for by federal money.

The memo released by Russell Vought, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, called critical race theory “divisive” and “anti-American propaganda,” adding that the far-left ideology falsely promotes the notion that “there is racism embedded in the belief that America is the land of opportunity or the belief that the most qualified person should receive a job.”

The memo states:

These types of “trainings” not only run counter to the fundamental beliefs for which our Nation has stood since its inception, but they also engender division and resentment within the Federal workforce. We can be proud that as an employer, the Federal government has employees of all races, ethnicities, and religions. We can be proud that Americans from all over the country seek to join our workforce and dedicate themselves to public service. We can be proud of our continued efforts to welcome all individuals who seek to serve their fellow Americans as Federal employees. However, we cannot accept our employees receiving training that seeks to undercut our core values as Americans and drive division within our workforce.

“The President has directed me to ensure that Federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions,” Vought wrote.

Now, I don’t know about you, but my impression of the Republican party is that they were mostly fine with letting the Democrats warp the culture towards anarchy. Not just passively with Hollywood , Big Tech and professional sports, but actively, by subsidizing the universities, public schools, and public sector unions with taxpayer dollars. So this move comes as a big surprise to me. I would expect this from Jim Jordan or Mark Meadows, but not Donald Trump.

Critical Race Theory is nothing more than an attempt to remove responsibility from certain underperforming groups for the low results that are caused by their own poor decision-making. Not just their poor decision making with education, career, finances, but also with premarital sex, drugs, marriage and children.

White people are doing a bad job of keeping non-whites down
White people are doing a bad job of keeping non-whites down

We should be telling everyone, regardless of race, to act like East Indians and Asians and Africans in order to have success. Date like East Indians and Asians and Africans, Marry like East Indians and Asians and Africans. Educate yourself like East Indians and Asians and Africans. Work like East Indians and Asians and Africans. Follow the law and don’t antagonize the police. This is not “acting white”. This is taking responsibility to make good decisions and be disciplined. We need to teach people of all races to work backwards from the results that other non-white races are achieving, to the decision-making that produces those results. Critical race theory is teaching people the wrong message – don’t make good decisions, cry racism when you fail to achieve good results. Awful.

In America, your success is largely determined by your decision-making, not by how other people treat you. We have non-white populations who are able to achieve far above whites, because they work harder, study harder, obey the law better, marry earlier, etc. than white people do, on average. The problem of failure to succeed cannot be caused by skin color when so many non-white groups are achieving far above native-born whites.

There is no path to stability and success that involves making decisions like the woman in the photo above. If a woman watches TV all the time, doesn’t study in school, is overweight and makes babies with bad boys in order to go on welfare, then the solution to her problems won’t be found in critical race theory. She’ll have to start to control herself and make better decisions if she wants different results.

Instead of having taxpayer funded indoctrination to blame others for poor decision-making, we should remove all taxpayer-funding for failure, including student loans for non-STEM degrees and single mother welfare, and just pay people who try hard in school, who marry, and who have children after they are married. We should penalize people for divorce and drug use. We are getting failure in this country because we make excuses for people who make poor decisions. It’s nice to see Trump at least stopping the flow of money from successful workers who pay taxes to irresponsible, reckless losers who think that teaching racism is a real job.

Can a man marry a woman who thinks that all male leadership is “sexist”?

These days, many people of both sexes graduate college with a lot of student loan debt and no marketable skills at all. What do they learn? Well, they don’t learn anything, but they are brainwashed to believe in secular leftist dogma. And they’re also brainwashed to dismiss all opposition to secular leftist dogma by labeling it as “sexist”, “racist”, “homophobic”, “xenophobic”, etc.

I wrote previously about how men don’t like to marry non-virgins. I argued that women with a lot of sexual experience have proven that they prefer men who have “no-commitment” abilities. And those women also avoid men who have commitment abilities. I argued that if a man marries a woman with a lot of experience of giving no-commitment men sex, then she probably wouldn’t respect and admire his marriage-oriented skills enough to let him lead the home.

I believe that the brainwashing that women get when they do non-STEM degrees in liberal arts programs in college is the cause of their resistance to the leadership of marriage-minded men.

How does a marriage happen? Basically, a marriage-minded man prepares himself for marriage by denying himself “fun” in order to position himself to be a husband and father. He studies hard STEM subjects in order to get good jobs. His resume is gap-free. He started working early, and didn’t take summers off. He saves his money. He understands beliefs that are incompatible with marriage, such as pro-abortion, pro-divorce, etc. and he is able to argue against them. When he meets a woman, he presents his preparations to her, and tries to get her to focus on behaviors that will put her on a path to becoming a wife and mother. If she follows his lead, then she becomes safe for him to marry. He is able to see how she listens to his marriage plan, and adjusts her behavior in order to help him to execute the plan.

So what does this leadership look like? Well, in my case, I’ve tried to get women to switch from non-STEM to STEM degrees. To quit easy jobs like waitress and teacher and get hard jobs like IT Project Manager or Software Engineer. To stop wasting money on thrill-seeking and instead pay off loans, then invest. To stop watching TV and movies, and start reading good non-fiction books about marriage, parenting, apologetics, economics, etc. And to inform themselves about marriage related topics, e.g. – divorce, infertility, child development, homeschooling, daycare, school choice. Basically, getting them to drop childish anti-marriage and anti-family behaviors, and take up mature pro-marriage and pro-family behaviors, so that they become useful partners for a marriage enterprise.

But what about non-STEM college programs? What does college teach young women about this marriage-focused leadership from marriage-minded men? It depends on what she studies. If she does a STEM degree, she’ll have been forced to be accountable to reality in her assignments and exams. She’ll get a decent job and pay off student loans, allowing her husband to quickly buy her a house and give her children to raise while she’s still young. But, if she does a non-STEM degree, then not only will she probably have student loan debt and a useless degree and low-pay jobs, but she’ll also have been brainwashed with all sorts of anti-marriage and anti-family beliefs and behaviors. That’s because non-STEM programs are nothing more than brainwashing in secular leftist dogma. And I have an example of how this works in real life.

Everything too hard for her to learn or do is “sexist”

In the example below, a male expert on climate science corrects a female journalist about climate science. She dismisses his correction (not shown) as sexism.

Feminist journalist shames science expert as "sexist"
Feminist journalist shames science expert as “sexist”

Here is the biography of the male PhD in meteorology:

Ryan Maue is a research meteorologist. He has developed and maintained a popular weather maps and climate data service based on the world’s best numerical weather prediction systems. During his graduate studies at Florida State University, he researched extratropical and tropical cyclones, utilizing mesoscale models and large reanalysis datasets, and published multiple peer-reviewed articles. After his PhD in 2010, Maue was awarded a National Research Council postdoctoral associateship at the Naval Research Lab in Monterey, California where he focused on global weather prediction and verification.

And here is the biography of the female journalist with the BA in journalism:

She has a BA in journalism, and knows literally nothing about climate science, and has achieved literally nothing of value in the field of climate science that anyone would be willing to pay her for.

Crying “sexist” is literally everything that her degree in journalism taught her to do. She has one skill: how to dismiss expertise in reality-based practical disciplines as “sexist”, and therefore inferior to her feelings and intuitions.

Should marriage-minded men marry feminists?

So let’s ask and answer one simple question: should a marriage-minded man marry a woman who dismisses leadership from qualified men as “sexist”?

Let’s review the red flags of secular leftist feminist women:

  • she’s pro-abortion, so she thinks murdering an innocent child is how selfish adults escape the consequences of their own reckless actions
  • she’s pro-divorce, and will not hesitate for a second to break a commitment that makes her unhappy
  • she’s an atheist, so she can’t rationally ground the basic requirements of morality: free will, objective moral laws, etc. and therefore cannot be relied on to behave morally against her own self-interest
  • she’s a socialist, so she views money earned by the husband as the property of the secular left government
  • she’s a feminist, so she believes sex is recreational, and need not be reserved for a husband and wife in a covenant marriage, and she thinks that newborns should be tossed into daycare then public schools
  • she believes in same-sex marriage, so she thinks that children can be deprived of a relationship with their biological mother and/or father, for the benefit of selfish adults
  • etc.

Does this sound like she’s ready for a husband and children?

But more than the worldview issues are the practical issues. A woman with a non-STEM degree didn’t want to study subjects that are accountable to reality. She didn’t want to be a pharmacist, a nurse or a software engineer – those jobs would require her to produce work that corresponds to reality, and has value in the real world. People like her who graduate with non-STEM degrees don’t understand anything about how the world really works. People like her aren’t equipped to earn money in a free market by satisfying customers. They don’t understand basic economics, so they’re socialists. They can’t be reasoned with, because their views are determined by what makes them feel good, look good to peers, and what gives them maximum autonomy to pursue pleasure with minimum accountability. When secular leftists feminists crash and burn at self-sufficiency, they blame everyone else instead of themselves. All of these character traits make them really difficult to get along with in a marriage.

Can women like this be fixed up for marriage and motherhood? Well, that would require them to be open to marriage-minded men who would be able to lead them towards marriage and motherhood behaviors. But how did Emily respond to leadership from a male with real-world demonstrated ability in a practical area? She called his attempt to lead her “sexist”. And that is the standard response of secular leftist feminist women to male leadership. If you tell them to study computer science, you’re “sexist”. If you tell them to stop wasting money, you’re “sexist”. If you tell them to stop getting drunk, you’re “sexist”. If you tell them to read a book on economics, you’re “sexist”. If you tell them to watch a William Lane Craig debate, you’re “sexist”. If you tell them to eat healthy and lift weights, you’re “sexist”. If you tell them to get a challenging job, you’re “sexist”. If you tell them to stop having recreational sex with bad boys, you’re “sexist”. Every attempt to focus a secular leftist feminist woman on preparing for marriage and motherhood is called “sexist”.

If women would only listen to what men ask of them as future wives and future mothers, and build themselves up for wife and mother roles, then women would never struggle to find husbands. No man in his right mind can risk marriage to a secular leftist feminist. There is no “secular leftist feminist” path to marriage. No amount of immodesty and premarital sex from a secular leftist feminist is enough to trick a man into marrying her. That might work on some men to get sex, but it’s not going to work to get her to marriage and children.