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A Threaded Conversation with the Diety of Atheism, Austin Cline

Cline's column: 9.12.08

"Atheism is only the absence of belief in gods, so there is nothing self-
contradictory if atheists believe in astrology, alien abductions, Bigfoot, psychic
powers, and a host of other mystical, supernatural, and paranormal things. Being
an atheist doesn't mean being a skeptic, and vice-versa. However, paranormal
claims aren't very different from religious ones and a relevant atheism is one
based upon a consistently and broadly applied skepticism, not one focused solely
on religion or theism. Austin Cline

Me: 9.12.08
"Atheism is NOT “only the absence of belief in gods.” As an atheist blogger, I can
tell you it’s about “faith” versus “reason.” Atheists do not have faith, and rely
on reason. An atheist who has supernatural beliefs like astrology is a
contradiction in terms. My blog today is about
“reductive monism” vs. “non-reductive” monism, and why “reductive monism” cannot
win arguments with theists.

"If you go back in your archives begining August 7, thread #41223 re: “strong”
atheism vs. “weak” atheism, you will see the silly arguments made by atheists
against my black-and-white statement that gods don’t exist. One person asked me
if, since I didn’t believe gods exist, did I believe Alexander the Great had been
real, since he had been deified?

OMG! The reductionists even argue with other atheists!

Curtis Edward Clark

Cline: 9.12.08
"'Atheism is NOT “only the absence of belief in gods.'”

"Yes, it is. That’s the definition.

"'As an atheist blogger, I can tell you it’s about “faith” versus “reason.'”

"You’re mistaken. There is nothing about atheism that prevents a person from
having “faith” or believing in any manner of nonsense. Being an atheist doesn’t
mean a person is necessarily rational, reasonable, intelligent, moral, civil, or
anything else.

"'An atheist who has supernatural beliefs like astrology is a contradiction in


"That would only be true if the definition of atheism were “absence of belief in
the supernatural.” That, however, is not the definition of atheism. The definition
of atheism is “absence of belief in gods.”

"It’s true that most atheist in the West today don’t believe in the supernatural
and don’t have “faith” in things in a manner analogous to how theists have “faith”
in gods, but that is simply a function of contemporary culture and environment.
Not all atheists even in the West are like that, and not all atheists in all other
places and at all other times are like that.

"You should be careful not to assume that every position you happen to hold is one
that all atheists must therefore also hold. That would be arrogant.
"The definition of atheism is as simple and broad as theism. Defining atheism as
you have is a bit like trying to define mere theism as the same as Christianity.

"'If you go back in your archives begining August 7, thread #41223 re: “strong”
atheism vs. “weak” atheism

"First, you’re talking about a forum thread.

"Second, I am quite familiar with that forum thread and I noticed that you fail to
support your arguments. I’ve linked to that thread above so others can see. You
have commented on things I have written here, but only on the basis of appalling
misrepresentations. You are long on unsupported claims, but short on credible
arguments and facts." [italics added by me, Clark, because they become relevant

Me: 9/12/08
"I wrote a long reply, using “facts” garnered from Dr. Quentin Smith, Tom Clark,
and Tibor Machan. I’ve met Smith, argued with Clark, and was informed by Machan
about Clark’s reductionism, which led me to the subject of monism, which you did
not address.
Then when I sent it, I was told my email address was incorrect, go back. In going
back, I lost the entire reply. I hope it got through. If it did get through, I
hope the “facts” I presented, including why theists ought to be made the skeptics
to the naturalist position, rather than making us their skeptics, were acceptable
to you.
If it didn’t get through, please fix your system so that in the future, such
losses do not occur.
Curtis Edward Clark

Cline: 9.13.08
"'the subject of monism, which you did not address. '"

"When it comes to the definition of atheism, it’s irrelevant. The subject of

“consulting a dictionary” is usually quite sufficient. [italics added]

"If it didn’t get through, please fix your system so that in the future, such
losses do not occur.'
"I’m not responsible for the software on this site any more than you are
responsible for the blogging software you use."

Me: 9.13.08

"Ok. So reductionism has nothing to do with the subject. I'll bite.

"But when you say I fail to support my arguments, and that I write on the 'basis
of appalling misrepresentations [ ] long on unsupported claims, but short on
credible arguments and facts,' did you notice that in each of my blogs I use
other, more accomplished thinkers than myself and I attribute them all?

"No, of course not. You didn't bother looking. Are all my authorities incorect, or
are they merely authorities you find 'short on credible arguments and facts?'

"For example, in my piece about reductionism,

I quoted Tom Clark (Naturalism.Org), Raul Corazzon, Ayn Rand, Boethius, The
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, B.A.G. Fuller, and Wikipedia.

"Please don't say I'm short on facts. I never write a word without excessively,
compulsively, doing background on it. I rarely see you attribute anyone but
"And as I stated in the previous comment, I've argued with Tom Clark, who,
frankly, was close-mouthed with any anwer to my questions at all, let alone with a
credible answer. I've discussed that discussion with Tibor Machan who agreed with
me. (Talk about using authorities!)

"And Dr. Quentin Smith, whom I've met, wrote: "Naturalist philosophers need to
rethink their goals. In part this involves clearly distinguishing between
philosophical goals and cultural consequences of the attainment or pursuit of
these goals.

"'One of the four goals of informed naturalists,' Smith writes, is to, 'Reclassify
the philosophy of religion as a subfield of naturalism, viz. skepticism about
naturalism, so that the position in the various fields of philosophy formerly
occupied by 'the philosophy of religion' is replaced by the field 'the philosophy
of naturalism.'

"'The fourth goal is to justifiably reformulate, and answer, the two basic
ontological why-questions that medieval philosophers took over from the Greco-
Roman naturalists, and which have (for the most part) remained ever since
'questions asked in the field of the philosophy of religion.' The successful
accomplishments of these four tasks will restore academia to the mainstream
secularization it possessed before the post-1967 breakdown in the field of

"This means overcoming theism with non-reductionism. This means not playing the
skeptic, as opposed to 'a relevant atheism [ ] based upon a consistently and
broadly applied skepticism.' We need to make the theists the skeptics, according
to Smith.

"It would seem that in 'distinguishing between philosophical goals and cultural
consequences,' you are the cultural expert, whereas I focus on the philosophy,
backed by world renowned experts. [I should have stated "even if they back my
argument against their position."]

"I was interested in your blog because I thought I could use it philosophically.
[But] I seem to be arguing against you. We seem we have different goals, so please
lets keep this civil betwen us:

"You say I wrote you on the 'basis of appalling misrepresentations. You are long
on unsupported claims, but short on credible arguments and facts.'

"I think you cannot now claim I misrepresent all the people I attribute in my
blog; nor can you say I am short on credibility, unless you wish to claim all of
my attributions have no credibility.

"Let me apologize for making it sound as if the posting snafu was your fault. I
meant for it to be applied to About.Com, and I can see how you would have taken my
words. I am sorry. It was frustrating to click my email address from the drop-
down, only to have About.Com claim it was not a valid email, and then to destroy
my comment.

"You stick with your 'culture.' I'll stick with my ontology, metaphysics, and
epistemic principles. You continue to write as the diety of atheist culture your
fans take you to be; I will continue to write like the expert I someday hope to be
credibly accepted as.

"As I said in one of those older threads, this is why I hate getting into threads.
I did not attack you personally in my first comment, only commenting on what you

"You on the other hand, attacked my credibility and facts, which I have now proven
are not all my own opinion; and I've proved that I have authorities upon whom I
can rely for straight answers and help when I need it. I guess you are not one of

"This is the last time I will reply. I hate threads.

Curtis Edward Clark

Closing comments to this thread, not sent to Cline: In an attempt not to be

"arrogant," which Cline alluded to, I referenced a dictionary:

"Atheism: (Gr. a, no; theos, god) Two uses of the term:

1. The belief that there is no God.

2. Some philosophers have been called "atheistic" because they have not held to a
belief in a personal God. Atheism in this sense means "not theistic."
The former meaning of the term is a literal rendering. The latter meaning is a
less rigorous use of the term although widely current in the history of thought."
"Dictionary of Philosophy"; Runes

Now, Mr. Cline, I interpret the belief that there is no god to be different from
"the absence of belief in gods," because as you yourself stated, people who merely
have an absence of belief in gods can still find themselves involved in all sorts
of supernatural enterprises, like astrology, hand reading, tea reading, ghost
hunting, etc.

But somone one with a belief that there is no god may be presumed to also believe
there is nothing supernatural; or I would hope it could be presumed, otherwise
there is not an iota of distinction in the definitions:

"[M]an's ethical values, compulsions, activities, and restraints can be justified

by non-reductive monism, [
reductive-monism.html ] without recourse to supernatural sanctions, and his
highest good pursued and attained under natural conditions, without expectation of
a supernatural destiny."(amended from B.A.G.Fuller see Naturalism)

That, Mr. Cline, is my definition of "atheism," taken from two, not one, source.
Have a good day, sir!

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