No Selfish Requests
To Avoid The Hard Work
David Mitchell

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "David Mitchell"
Subject: Re: New reader
Date: March 12, 2002 6:42 AM

Thank you for your kind sentiments! We only recently accepted this understanding of the term "positive atheism." We did change our ways, however, and are now more than thrilled that so many people think similarly to how you described when they encounter the title of our magazine!

Originally, with us, "Positive Atheism" is the very first godless expression of Gandhi's Satyagraha, that is, an ethical system which places truthfulness and integrity as most important. This system was developed in India by Gora during the early to mid twentieth century, and was eventually accepted as valid by Gandhi himself. We have been Westernizing and modernizing the core elements of this outlook in the hope that atheists would use these ethics to rid our class of the vicious stigma which we endure from all sides.

There is another sense, a purely philosophical sense, where the letter sequence "positive atheism" is sometimes used. We at Positive Atheism Magazine (PAM) distinguish between "weak" atheism ("I have yet to encounter a god-claim worthy of my assent" or "Gods? What are gods?" or "Goo! Goo! Ga! Ga!") and "strong" atheism ("There are no gods, I tell you! All gods are make-believe!"). In other words, even an infant, who lacks a god belief because she lacks the ability to understand god claims is an atheist, according to the "weak" definition, which definition we advocate. The noncognitivist, who says all god claims are absurd and can neither be affirmed nor denied is basically saying that the adult is no better off in this respect than the infant; "weak" atheism says that whatever a "god belief" is or is not, the noncognitivist lacks one and is thus an atheist!

Ah, but I digress: Another way to describe this dichotomy is to use the terms "negative atheism" (philosophically negative, meaning "falling short of flat-out denial; simply not granting assent") and "positive atheism" (philosophically positive, meaning "asserting the belief that gods do not exist"). There's much more to it than this, but my goal here is merely to point out that "positive atheism" has several different established meanings, one of which we happen not to advocate here!

Thus you can see why we deliberately avoid the "negative" and "positive" atheism language and stick with "weak" and "strong" when we discuss these topics (in fact, the link above is to our FAQ piece discussing this whole matter: we advocate using "weak" atheism to describe atheism mainly because it presents a more reasonable picture of the atheist, and our main goal as an activistic organ is to reduce the stigma against the atheist.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six-and-a-half years of service
    to people with no reason to believe

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