Scania wrote:An Atheist believes that God does not exist, spinning it will not remove the fact that is a belief in a particular position.
funkyderek wrote:If thinking that to the best of my knowledge, a certain proposition does not have enough evidence for me to consider it true is a belief, then sure, I believe that there is no God, but it's certainly not the same kind of thing as a belief that there is a god. This difference is important and it's no good simply stretching the definitions to cover both and then pretending we're talking about the same thing.
I believe that that Scania is partly correct, once you add in FunkyDerek’s important clarification.
As a general rule, not believing that X exists means the same thing as believing that X does not exist. There are some exceptions where a middle ground exists: for example, if you believe that you have absolutely no information to tip the balance either way, or you believe there is exactly a 50-50 chance of it existing or not. You could also believe that the concept of X is meaningless, and therefore the question of whether or not it exists does not arise. All of these are beliefs.
The word “atheism” has traditionally been used as the word for the belief that gods do not exist. In relatively recent times (out of curiosity, I will have to research when this happened), some atheists have started to use the word “atheism” to mean “lack of belief in gods” or “absence of belief in gods”. Most reputable dictionaries still use some variation of the traditional definition (“belief that gods do not exist”) and some use variations of both definitions.
I believe that this recent attempt to redefine the word “atheism” as “lack of belief” or “absence of belief” is a mistake. I believe that it probably arose as an attempt to avoid atheism being seen as the same type of belief as a typical religious belief. It can also be useful in debates to emphasise that the burden of proof lies with the theist. However, it requires also redefining the idea of “belief” to something close to its typical usage by theists, conflating belief with claims of certainty or knowledge or faith.
Personally, I think both of the reasons for this attempted redefinition are better served by explaining why believing that no gods exist is a more reasonable position than believing that one or more gods do exist, because one is a belief supported by the available evidence and the other is a belief unsupported by any reliable evidence. That said, I am happy to work alongside people who use either definition of atheism, in the interests of furthering the practical impact of having more people adopting either position.