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Discussion 8 on Meditation 185
Definitions of Agnosticism & Atheism

by Pete Summers

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More on definitions of atheism:

Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition

Here is how the OED defines atheism:

atheism Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a god.

disbelieve 1. trans. Not to believe or credit; to refuse credence to: a. a statement or (alleged) fact: To reject the truth or reality of.

deny

  1. To contradict or gainsay (anything stated or alleged); to declare to be untrue or untenable, or not what it is stated to be.
  2. Logic. The opposite of affirm; to assert the contradictory of (a proposition).
  3. To refuse to admit the truth of (a doctrine or tenet); to reject as untrue or unfounded; the opposite of assert or maintain.
  4. To refuse to recognize or acknowledge (a person or thing) as having a certain character or certain claims; to disown, disavow, repudiate, renounce.

Note that the OED definition covers the whole spectrum of atheist belief, from weak atheism (those who do not believe in or credit the existence of one or more gods) to strong atheism (those who assert the contrary position, that a god does not exist).

Here is the OED's definition of 'agnostic':

agnostic A. sb. One who holds that the existence of anything beyond and behind material phenomena is unknown and (so far as can be judged) unknowable, and especially that a First Cause and an unseen world are subjects of which we know nothing.

It is interesting to compare this to Huxley's definition.

Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary Unabridged

Here is Webster's definition of atheism:

atheism n 1 a: disbelief in the existence of God or any other deity b: the doctrine that there is neither god nor any other deity--compare AGNOSTICISM 2: godlessness esp. in conduct

disbelief n: the act of disbelieving : mental refusal to accept (as a statement or proposition) as true

disbelieve vb vt : to hold not to be true or real : reject or withold belief in vi : to withold or reject belief

Note that again, both strong (1b) and weak (1a) atheism are included in the definition.