'Strong' And 'Weak'
A Personal View
I read the article called "The Atheist's Certainty" after I read the Tom Cat poem.
I'm confused now. It sounds like he is calling "agnostic" is what I have heard you call "weak atheism". And he is calling all "atheism" what I have heard you call "strong atheism". Do the terms vary so much from person to person that there is not a solid example of what either of them mean? Would I be a weak atheist or agnostic if I don't believe any of the god-claims, but I don't want to go so far to say the I strongly "believe" that there is no god?
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Craig Wilkins"
Subject: Re: The Atheist's Certainty
Date: October 22, 2001 8:15 PM
We go along with the trends that were very popular in Europe in the nineteenth century when atheism and freethought were first allowed to speak, when many thinkers were doing a lot of thinking on the subject. (I don't know that I blame them, it was the first time you could discuss this subject and still live!) During the twentieth century, there was a bit of a split, and that split continues today, although the angle we advocate seems to be gaining a little ground in the past few years.
I merely recommend that we popularize the "weak" definition when using it to describe atheism as a whole. At no time have I pretended to influence how individuals express their atheism. My advocacy of using the "weak" definition applies only to describing the overall big picture of atheism as a whole. In other words, I suggest that we tell theists that atheism is, at minimum, the absence of a theistic belief: many atheists go so far as to assert that no gods exist, and other atheists are barely aware that it's even a question. The vast majority of us don't pay attention to either religion or atheism.
True, I'll take a few potshots at the "strong" position now and again, but I see its place and I am a "strong" atheist (in at least one sense). But there's nothing even remotely resembling a consensus. If there were, we wouldn't have to spend so much energy discussing the definition and trying to explain it in so much detail (or even arguing as to why one is preferable in a certain situation over another).
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