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Discussion 1 to Meditation 796
An alternate hypothesis

by: Will Petillo

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I completely agree with the focus of your article, but let me propose an alternate hypothesis regarding the tendency to broaden the definition of atheism--not to say that yours is wrong, just to suggest that it may not apply to all or most cases.

Consider those who sees religion as a bad thing and the idea of God as rather absurd. At the same time, however, they recognize that they don't have any ironclad "disproof" of God. This puts them in a bit of a grey area because they have a negative belief in God, but are not absolutely sure about the matter.

Now imagine the frustration of those who decide to take on the atheist label when they are accused by religious people of being essentially the same as fundamentalists in their "certainty" about God's nonexistence. They want to be opposed to religion, but that darn shred of doubt required by intellectual respectability forces them to take one of several paths, including:

  1. Share the agnostic label with people they see as overly wishy-washy or otherwise giving religion too much credit--and, in my opinion, broadening the definition of agnostic so that it includes so many people that it becomes meaningless.
  2. Broaden the definition of atheist...which is basically the same as #1, but gives precedence to opposing religion over general skepticism.
  3. Quibble over definitions, levels of certainty, etc.
  4. Forget about the whole thing, call themselves whatever they like, and not worry about what terms other people use.

Personally, I used to be a 3, but lately find myself moving towards option 4.