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Are people confused on the definition of "atheist"?

Posted: Wed Aug 19, 2009 4:57 pm
by HylandPaddy
I just finished registering for UCD and had to fill out a survey. One question was "religion", and I was presented with a scroll down menu. I was a bit irritated that they put "Atheist" as one of the choices of religions, but clicked on it in a begrudgingly-I-Know-what-you-mean type of thing :roll: , then another choice caught my eye; "none". I was a bit confused for a moment as I decided what "none" meant, taking into context that there was a choice for "atheist". :?

I decided to go for "Atheist" as it was a more accurate description of my view and I was distrustful of their "none" choice.
Has anything like this happened to any of you? and also which one would you have chosen?
:?:

Re: Are people confused on the definition of "atheist"?

Posted: Wed Aug 19, 2009 6:46 pm
by Tulip1
They sound confused alright, I think I would have gone for none just out of principal that atheism is not a religion. I probaly would feel the need to bring this to attention of the makers of the survey.

Re: Are people confused on the definition of "atheist"?

Posted: Thu Aug 20, 2009 12:24 am
by Dev
I completely agree about the confusion. Perhaps they meant "none" to mean "none of the above" i.e. some minority religion that wasn't listed. It does make you wonder though what was going through the persons head when they wrote it, surely a survey like this was probably proof read by a number of people.

I recall I primary teacher of mine when I was young I enquired as to what a person who didn't believe in God was called. The reply she supplied was "pagan or heretic". Only now do I actually see how ignorant she really was, not wrong, just ignorant. Big difference.

I guess many people are confused.

Re: Are people confused on the definition of "atheist"?

Posted: Thu Aug 20, 2009 7:12 am
by anadub25
How come they were asking anyway, i thought that wasnt allowed on applications and stuff anymore?
I would have chosen 'atheist' just because 'none' could have been intended to represent those who say they are not religious but 'spiritual'.

Re: Are people confused on the definition of "atheist"?

Posted: Thu Aug 20, 2009 8:03 am
by Tulip1
anadub25 wrote: I would have chosen 'atheist' just because 'none' could have been intended to represent those who say they are not religious but 'spiritual'.
good one, I think you are right. I changed my opinion to atheist. Thanks for that one, this is why I love this forum.

Re: Are people confused on the definition of "atheist"?

Posted: Thu Aug 20, 2009 10:03 am
by Beebub
anadub25 wrote:I would have chosen 'atheist' just because 'none' could have been intended to represent those who say they are not religious but 'spiritual'.
I doubt that very much. I can't imagine that much thought went into it. It's far more likely that whoever put it together doesn't really understand what atheist means and included it seperately in the list because they think it's deemed to be a religion. The inclusion of 'none' I suspect was the same person trying not to cause offence to anyone in case there are those who don't believe in god and don't consider themselves atheists. Obviously I'm not suggesting that this is possible, because if you don't beleive in god you are an atheist. I'm suggesting that the inclusion of 'none' is further evidence that the person who compiled it feels that atheism is some sort of religion or belief system.
Dev wrote:The reply she supplied was "pagan or heretic".
I've come accross this too. I think it's a very Irish thing. The pagans were here before the christians. In fact aren't St. Patrick's snakes supposed to represent the pagans? i.e. St. Patrick converted us to catholicism and thereby effectively banished the pagans from the land. I've heard this a few times from people and find it funny. It's like saying someone who isn't a Catholic is a believer in Cosmology. I also wouldn't mind too much being called a heretic. It's official definition is quite neutral (from OED):
1 belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine.
It's christian doctrine that has come to give the word a negative slant, but that's really only amongst believers I suppose. I still wouldn't call myself a heretic, but to many there would be little difference in the connotations of the words Atheist and Heretic.

Re: Are people confused on the definition of "atheist"?

Posted: Thu Aug 20, 2009 2:59 pm
by lostexpectation
oh wait till bipedal gets here....:p

the correct answer is none, as atheism ain't a religion and they should get rid of the atheist option

Re: Are people confused on the definition of "atheist"?

Posted: Thu Aug 20, 2009 6:17 pm
by nozzferrahhtoo
I wonder if the option is on there to split the numbers down and make it look on paper like two smaller groups rather than one big group, thus reducing their onus to pander to either.

Re: Are people confused on the definition of "atheist"?

Posted: Fri Aug 21, 2009 1:08 pm
by bipedalhumanoid
Of course you don't need to be an atheist to have no religion. Deists are not atheists. Theists who have become cynical of organised religion are not atheists. Agnostics who are too ignorant to realise they are atheists would not consider themselves to be atheists either.

It's still stupid to have both options though.

It's sort of like asking what is your occupation:
Biologist
Phsycist
Scientist
...

Re: Are people confused on the definition of "atheist"?

Posted: Sun Aug 23, 2009 3:40 am
by HylandPaddy
Beebub wrote:
The inclusion of 'none' I suspect was the same person trying not to cause offence to anyone in case there are those who don't believe in god and don't consider themselves atheists.
I think this is the most likely reason.

Maybe it was just a badly labelled question, it just said "Religion:" . I suppose it's just a matter of semantics, they could of said "belief system".

anadub25 wrote:How come they were asking anyway, i thought that wasnt allowed on applications and stuff anymore?
I think it was a genuine survey to find out what socio-economic background your from, so they can have a good balance of people from disadvantaged areas and groups in 3rd level. They also had a disclaimer saying that the information will not be used in a discriminatory way.

Pagan, heretics...what about "infidel", originally meaning non-christian but could also mean "one without belief".
Because my family don't go to mass I usually tell my friends that "we're a crowd of heathans", it always got a strange look!