J Thomas wrote:J L wrote:J Thomas wrote:Atheists claim there is no god, which does involve a belief.Monika wrote:I feel there is no significant difference between "I do not believe there is a god" and "I believe there is no god". I am an atheist and for me this means I believe there is no god.
You never have to prove a negative. My lack of belief is not a belief in itself. The moment you claim something exists, you have to prove it ... any other approach makes no sense, cf. flying spaghetti monster et al.
I think it would be possible to construct valid definitions along Monika's lines. You can say "I don't know X but I believe X" and have them be two distinct things.
But to me there is a difference between "I don't know whether or not the Higgs boson exists" versus "I know there is no such thing as a Higgs boson". To me those two statements do not say the same thing at all.
There is a big difference between "I do not claim there is a god" versus "I claim there is no god".
If you want to claim something does not exist then you have as much obligation to prove it as you do if you claim it does exist. So for example I would argue that vegetarian cats are rare because we know most cats cannot make their own taurine but must get it from animal sources. So a vegetarian cat would get sick fairly fast, unless it was an unknown mutant cat which could make its own taurine.
I have reason to believe though I cannot prove that there are no nymphomaniacs. The concept of "nymphomaniac" was invented as a wish-fulfillment fantasy and there is no reason to believe in them any more than Santa Claus's elves.
Some negatives can be proven by sleight-of-language. There cannot be any such thing as an electron with a positive electric charge, because if you show me such a thing it will be a positron. If your uncle was a woman she would be your aunt. Etc.
Again, there is a big difference in general between "I do not claim X is true" versus "I claim X is false". It is not a matter of opinion whether these are different. They are different.
Obviously I cannot prove that their is absolutely no god, but I choose to call myself an atheist because I give significantly more weight to the proposal that their is no god than the proposal that their is. I do not claim to be able to disprove the existence of something which has no observable effect on the universe (Deist God, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Invisible Intangible Inaudible Unicorn, etc.), but I say that these are very poor theories because they say nothing meaningful about the universe. From a positivist perspective, any theory which is not testable is a foolish one, and it is simpler to cut out the unnecessary. As for the god as posited by many religions, he would have observable consequences, and as these have not been observed, I say that he does not exist.
As for your example with cats, I agree: vegetarian cats don't exist. However, I cannot prove that by the same standard as you demand disproof of God. What if there's a vegetarian cat that gets its taurine by magic? I do not believe this. I cannot prove that it is impossible, but I can say that it highly unlikely, just like God. It simplifies everything to simply say "I don't believe in magical vegetarian cats" or "I don't believe in God."
I consider these ideas atheism, as I think agnosticism to gives undue weight to the belief that god exists as opposed to the alternative non-existence, and because I disbelieve in the god as described by any religion. It seems that you have very similar beliefs, but choose to call it agnosticism, which is fine. However, I think at this point the argument has been reduced to one of semantics, and has strayed far from the original topic of discussion (Haha! The Bible implies incest!).