Matthew Turnbull, On 06/06/2010 02:26:
> what is the definition of the word atheism, and does it have a
> dialect boundray somewhere in the us, or between the US and the rest
> of the world?

I too have wondered if there is a US--RoW difference.

Most people I know (1) take the epistemological default view that in a situation in which (a) if X existed, there would be evidence of X's existence, and (b) there is no evidence of X's existence, it is rational to assume X does not exist, and (2) know no evidence for god (qua empirically investigable entity), so, as with mermaids and leprechauns, assume it doesn't exist. These people are Europeans and describe their view as "atheist". And the term "agnostic" is generally used to mean "lacking an opinion on X", "neutral as to whether X is the case". But some very thoughtful Americans have to me espoused that same belief yet described it as "agnostic". That led me to wonder whether there is a terminological Atlantic divide, and why it exists (if it does). I have wondered whether the much higher levels of religiosity in the US have led to "atheism" being given some very extreme and reviled definition such that a European atheist terminologically corresponds instead to an Ameri
can agnostic. Perhaps another part of the story is that on this side of the Atlantic, "agnostic" has undergone semantic drift, perhaps because in a generally nonreligious society, the niceties of Huxleyan "agnosticism" do not seem significantly different from ordinary atheism.

Sai posted some definitions he uses:
> * atheism, unspecified: lack of theism, which could be any of:
> - strong atheism: belief that probably or certainly no gods exist
> - weak atheism: lack of either strong atheism or theism, i.e. lack of
> belief either way
> -- strong agnosticism: belief that (non)existence of gods is
> inherently unknowable
> -- weak agnosticism: mere lack of belief either way proper

These don't make sense to me, and don't correspond to ordinary usages I'm familiar with. If they do make sense to Americans, and correspond to ordinary usages in America, then I think this Atlantic divide must exist, both in the definitions of the terms and the way the discourse is framed.