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Re: I Am an Atheist? - A response to Jack

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Published on Aug 23, 2010

Dear Jack.

I'm gonna go ahead and break down what you've told us so far.
You've told us that a bald man lacks hair. Now I'm pretty sure that you don't mean that as a value statement. You don't mean that hair is in any way needed, or intrinsically good. And you don't mean that every bald man has less hair than he wants to have. You simply mean that a bald man has no hair. So you've told us that the word lack can mean simply that one has nothing of that which he lacks. This, by your demonstration, can be said to be common usage.
Now, this can be formalized as follows:

Lacking X = Not having X

If we substitute X for "a belief in god" we get:

Lacking a belief in god equals not having a belief in god.

You go on to state:
"When I say that you lack hair, I'm not saying that you don't believe in hair."
So, we can also conclude that:

Lacking X =/= Not believing in X

If we substitute X for "a belief in god" here, we get:

Lacking a belief in god is not equal to not having a belief in believing in god.

Here we begin to see the problem in your reasoning. Clearly, no one is claiming that atheism means "not having a belief in believing in god". Thus your comparison completely misses the point.

I contend that having a belief ABOUT something, is not the same as having a belief IN something, and I would very much like to know if you disagree with this. Having a belief in something should be understood as having a belief that a specific claim is true, no? As an example, the statement, "I believe in god", is commonly understood as meaning "I believe that god exists". I can have the belief that the claim "god exists" is false. This means that I have a belief ABOUT the concept of god, but it does not mean that I have a belief IN god. Quite the opposite in fact. It means I don't believe in god. Otherwise we end up with the apparent contradiction that all who do not believe in god, believe in god. And I don't think that's what you're trying to claim here.

I've never heard anyone, who isn't specifically a theological noncognitivist, claim that they lack a belief about god. Have you? If you have, then I think that you'd be justified in calling them on it, but as it stands I'm just not sure what you're trying to do. The video you've made concludes, in your reasoning, that we're justified in assuming that lacking a belief in god means that one doesn't believe in god, which is exactly what we've been saying all along. At 6:29 into your video you even state in plain english that you understand what we mean. Yet you apparently still felt compelled to make a video saying, again, that that which you, by your own admission, understand, doesn't make sense. And that doesn't make a whole lot of sense...

So to sum up, here's the manner in which the word lack is used, as it relates to the word belief:
It's used in the same manner as it relates to the word hair, when saying that a bald man lacks hair. It's used to mean that one has no belief in god. This should not be understood as meaning that one has no belief ABOUT god, simply that one has no belief IN god. It also shouldn't be understood to mean that one believes that there is no god. I hope that's clear enough for you.

I'd be delighted if you decide to make a video response to me, and I'd also be up for discussing this issue with you live, if you'd want that. If you do want a discussion, but not with me, I nominate AHughman08, if he's interested, as I noticed that he commented on your last video.

Thank you for your time.

/K

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