And I quote:

“You’re trying to separate belief from assertion where I don’t think any meaningful distinction exists.”

NO. That is NOT what I’m doing or trying to do. I’ve actually spelled it out, so I don’t know why you would use this watered-down version except to water-down my claim. Here’s what I said (and I quote):

“It’s the difference between an objective claim of knowledge and an subjective claim of belief.”

Semantics are getting in your way. Since you’re clearly not comprehending me, let’s start from the beginning. I’ll be referring to this graphic a lot . . .

Notice the text in all four quadrants. They each contain two descriptions: the first (belief) is subjective; the second (knowledge) is objective.

Some words are strictly subjective. Some words are strictly objective. Some words are more ambiguous and might be applied either way.

For instance, these words are strictly subjective: belief, opinion, judgment, feeling. These words are strictly objective: knowledge, fact, evidence, proof, certainty. These words are ambiguous and need context to determine if they’re being used subjectively or objectively: deny, reject, negate.

When you mix and match the objective with the subjective in assumptions, concepts and words, you WILL get confused. I see it all the time. Atheists want to avoid bald claims that gods don’t exist, so they think they need to be careful not to say that ‘I believe gods do not exist.’ Completely missing the fact that it’s a statement of belief, not fact. THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH IT.

Conflating the subjective with the objective is a common mistake often stemming from sloppy semantics. People often mix and match words and meanings. Take, for instance, Craig Good’s claim that, “atheism isn’t always a belief that there are no gods“. After repeated requests for clarification, he finally provided this explanation:

Guy A says, “I believe there are no gods.”

Guy B says, “I have no belief in any gods.”

Both guys are atheists. One of them doesn’t have a belief that there are no gods. You guess which one. I give up.

How is ‘belief there are no gods’ any different from ‘no belief in any gods’? If you believe there are no gods then you don’t believe in any gods. And vice versa. There is no substantive or qualitative difference in either version. If you can’t see that, I’m afraid your level of discernment isn’t sufficient enough to understand how conflating the objective with the subjective leads to confusion.

The confusion, in Craig’s case, manifests in his desire to avoid saying there are no gods. But saying ‘I believe there are no gods’ is NOT the same as saying ‘There are no gods’. The first is a TRUE claim of subjective belief, the second is a FALSE claim of objective knowledge. The unqualified claim that there are no gods is a claim to knowledge or fact that one can’t possibly possess. This is what Craig wants to avoid, but he fails to do so because he’s conflating the subjective with the objective.

Craig, in his Atheism FAQ, makes several erroneous assertions. But he does, however, agree with the graphic above. And I quote:

“Since atheism and agnosticism are orthogonal, it’s possible to be an agnostic atheist (no knowledge, no belief), a gnostic atheist (claim to knowledge, no belief), an agnostic theist (no knowledge, but believes in god(s), or a gnostic theist (claim to knowledge, and believes in deities.) This doesn’t mean that all four are equally likely. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which of the aforementioned can ever possibly be rational.”

Craig claims to be an agnostic atheist. In doing so, he’s claiming to distinguish between the subjective (atheism) and the objective (agnosticism). However, he’s not consistent.

And in your case, you’re making the same mistake as Craig. And I quote:

“If you hold a belief that no gods exist, then it’s not really a lack of belief, is it?”

Do you see what you did? You truncated your comparison by cutting off your sentence at “lack of belief”: you’re missing the “that gods exist” part. I think you did that subconsciously because, if you had completed the sentence, you’d see how silly your claim is.

If I hold a belief that no gods exist, that also means I lack belief that gods exist. It’s merely a rephrasing by shifting the negative from one side to the other. If you believe leprechauns don’t exist, you don’t believe leprechauns exist. If you believe Santa Claus is not real, you don’t believe Santa Claus is real.

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