The Semantics of Secular Labels

March 3, 2007 | By | 71 Replies More

Ever since I started doubting the existence of God, I have frequently encountered confusion between the numerous labels used to describe non-theistic belief systems. This is most commonly seen between the words “atheist” and “agnostic,” both of which signify the absence of definitive belief in a deity. At first glance, the distinction may seem obvious: an atheist disbelieves the existence of God or gods, while an agnostic believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God and thus refuses to commit to either belief system. However, in reality these two terms tend to overlap to the extent that two people holding exactly the same (non)belief may label it differently, one identifying as an agnostic and the other, an atheist. Further, one’s label of choice is heavily influenced by the public perception of these terms, the word “atheist” being the more pejorative of the two in the eyes of the public. This probably convinces many non-theists to describe themselves as “agnostic,” as this label seems more palatable and less presumptuous than “atheist.” If one carefully examines the definitions of these terms, however, one should become more hesitant at rejecting one label for another.

I will begin my exposition by quoting from Bertrand Russell’s 1947 pamphlet, Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?

[. . .] As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one prove that there is not a God.

On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods. [. . .]

Therefore, in regard to the Olympic gods, speaking to a purely philosophical audience, I would say that I am an Agnostic. But speaking popularly, I think that all of us would say in regard to those gods that we were Atheists. In regard to the Christian God, I should, I think, take exactly the same line.

It seems fair to say that nearly every self-identifying atheist would agree with Russell’s strictly epistemological stance regarding the impossibility of ultimate proof. However, the word “atheist” by itself should not imply complete certainty in the nonexistence of God, although it is commonly misconstrued to do so. Indeed, this term would fall out of use if it had to imply absolute certainty, and “agnostic” would take its place. In response to people who believe they are obligated to call themselves agnostics unless they are 100% sure about what they believe, Richard Dawkins points out:

“There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can’t prove that there aren’t any, so shouldn’t we be agnostic with respect to fairies?”

Well, alright; you get the point. But this begs the question: exactly how improbable do you need to perceive God’s existence to be in order to call yourself an atheist, instead of agnostic? In other words, where do you draw the line? There seems to be no definitive answer to that, and it’s entirely subjective. However, on page 50 of his book The God Delusion, Dawkins suggests a probability spectrum of individual human judgment about the existence of God (mind the British spelling):

  1. Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C. G. Jung, ‘I do not believe, I know.’
  2. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. De facto theist. ‘I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.’
  3. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. Technically agnostic but leaning towards theism. ‘I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.’
  4. Exactly 50 per cent. Completely impartial agnostic. ‘God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.’
  5. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. Technically agnostic but leaning towards atheism. ‘I don’t know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be sceptical.’
  6. Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. ‘I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”
  7. Strong atheist. ‘I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung “knows” there is one.’

Note that this spectrum is continuous and the seven categories represent milestones along the way. Dawkins considers himself to be “in category 6, but leaning towards 7” (51). He also mentions that he would be surprised to meet many people in category 7 because “Atheists do not have faith; and reason alone could not propel one to total conviction that anything definitely does not exist” (51).* He mainly includes this category for symmetry with category 1, which has a substantial number of members.

Still, there’s a lot more to the definition of “atheism.” Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Atheism is commonly defined as the positive belief that deities do not exist, or as the deliberate rejection of theism. However, others—including most atheistic philosophers and groups—define atheism as the simple absence of belief in deities (cf. nontheism), thereby designating many agnostics, and people who have never heard of gods, such as newborn children, as atheists as well. In recent years, some atheists have adopted the terms strong and weak atheism to clarify whether they consider their stance one of positive belief (strong atheism) or the mere absence of belief (weak atheism).

Thus, the term weak atheism is a very broad category encompassing a whole slew of nontheistic belief systems, including:

  • Apatheism (a.k.a. apathetic agnosticism)—neither believing nor disbelieving in God because one doesn’t care enough about the issue to make a decision
  • Ignosticism—believing that the question of God’s existence is meaningless because it doesn’t have any verifiable consequences
  • Implicit atheism—lacking belief in God because one has never been introduced to such a concept or has no way of comprehending it; this is the category that includes infants and young children, individuals with severe mental disabilities, animals, etc.
  • Many agnostics—people who believe that they personally have no way of knowing whether or not God exists

Looking at the etymology of the word “atheist” (Greek, a-theos) supports the notion that it shouldn’t imply anything other than a lack of belief in deities. In that sense, it should be synonymous with the word “nontheist” because they both share a prefix of negation and the same root word; however, there are certain connotations that have become associated with the word “atheist” that make many people reluctant to use it, most of which stem from a common misunderstanding of that term and cultural intolerance towards people who use it to describe their beliefs. To avoid sounding arrogant or absolutely certain whether or not God exists, many people who regard God’s existence to be considerably improbable choose to use the word “agnostic,” or a similar term, to describe what they believe. To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this; perhaps one wants to put emphasis on a certain aspect of non-theistic philosophy that is best captured by that particular word, thus conveying a more desirable or accurate image of themselves to the public. However, it is important to realize that most of these terms are completely compatible with atheism, so one can very easily be both an agnostic and an atheist.

Now, I would like to elaborate on the various nuances of the word agnosticism, which has its own share of misunderstandings. In its broadest sense, this term refers to the philosophical view that certain claims—especially metaphysical ones about God and the afterlife—are unknown and possibly unknowable. But there’s a problem with a strict interpretation of that idea, because even many theists do not claim to be completely certain that God exists; they simply believe that he does and openly admit that their belief is based on faith. Thus, there is nothing distinctive in being an agnostic because the vast majority of the population wouldn’t seriously expound the existence of God with the same epistemological certainly as Descartes’ statement, “I think, therefore I am,” if they even consider that statement to be 100% certain. As a result, many found the need to qualify the term “agnostic” further by dividing it into different categories that each stress different things. These include, but are not limited to, strong agnosticism (the view that the existence of God or gods is unknowable by nature or that humans are not equipped to judge it), weak agnosticism (the view that the existence of God or gods is currently unknown but is not necessarily unknowable, so one would have to withhold judgment until more evidence comes in), apathetic agnosticism, model agnosticism, ignosticism, agnostic theism, agnostic spiritualism, and agnostic atheism. I won’t elaborate on each of these terms, but the reader is invited to research them further.

Then there’s the issue of being agnostic towards some ideas more than others, like the different conceptions of God. Most people, for instance, would consider Zeus less likely to exist than the God whose general characteristics are defined by the major monotheistic religions. Some people may also find the God of the deists more likely than a personal God who answers people’s prayers and concerns himself with daily human affairs. It should therefore be relevant to assign different probability values to each of those beliefs, rather than brushing them off as equally likely and equally improvable. Recall that Richard Dawkins argues that the existence of God (any type of God) should have probability values associated with it; he also assigns a term to those who do not commit to either theism or atheism but are willing to evaluate the evidence for God’s existence and subject it to a probability spectrum, calling their belief Temporary Agnosticism in Practice (TAP). This contrasts with Permanent Agnosticism in Principle (PAP), which is appropriate for questions that can never be answered and for which the very idea of evidence is not applicable. To demonstrate an example of the type of question that would fall into the PAP category, Dawkins cites the idea that others see red the same way he does, instead of seeing, say, the color green but calling it red. The existence of God, he argues, should not be classified into that same category but instead be open to examination with whatever evidence is available. In fact, the whole idea of a probability spectrum does not apply to PAP because it is beyond the reach of any type of evidence, so it would be incorrect even to place God’s existence at the 50/50 mark if one classifies that question into this category.

Because agnosticism is such a vague term with so many possible meanings, and because I consider God’s existence to be very unlikely, I have decided that it makes the most sense to refer to myself as an atheist, rather than an agnostic. Right now, I would even put myself in category 6 of Dawkins’ probability spectrum, though I probably wouldn’t lean towards 7 quite as much as Dawkins himself. Before I self-identified as an atheist, I was probably in category 5, leaning towards 6, but I thought I would always identify as an agnostic because I didn’t have absolute proof of God’s existence and considered it impossible to obtain. In that sense, I am still an agnostic, but only in the same way that I am towards Zeus or Thor. After reevaluating all the evidence for God and gaining a better understanding of the terms atheist and agnostic, I had finally decided to change my label—something I never thought I would do. But there really wasn’t much significance in that: it was all a matter of semantics. In fact, one can argue that I was an atheist for years before I called myself by that term, since the very definition of atheism can encompass most agnostics.

Aside from the terms atheist and agnostic, which relate directly to belief in God, there are other labels out there with which nontheists often identify. Because the rejection of religion usually results from reason and a factual analysis of the world (the perspective of rationalism and freethought), most nontheists tend to be skeptics and hold a naturalistic worldview, dismissing supernatural claims due to a lack of evidence to support them. Of course, there are always exceptions, since there are people out there who lack a belief in God but still hold on to superstitious beliefs such as astrology or luck, and some who even believe in spiritual entities such as ghosts or follow nontheistic religions like Buddhism or Taoism. Likewise, one can hold a skeptical or even naturalistic worldview without necessarily rejecting the idea that there might be a God out there, as long as this God does not interfere with the laws of physics and allows everything to be tested with the scientific method. However, people who do not reject this type of god are either agnostics, who are uncertain about his existence, or deists, who are very few in number these days because science has eliminated the need to invoke supernatural explanations for any phenomena (particularly human origins) and thus dismissed the God of the deists as a superfluous hypothesis. This is why most rationalists were deists a couple centuries ago but tend to be atheists or agnostics today. Recently, a new movement has emerged to unite everyone who holds a naturalistic worldview by assigning them a more positive-sounding name: the Brights. Given that there are already so many labels describing these freethinkers, one may think that this movement is unnecessary and excessive, but a closer look reveals that there really isn’t a sufficient umbrella term that fits everyone with this view. The word “naturalist” is ambiguous and often associated with scientists, and words such as “atheist” and “agnostic” tend to stress one’s position on God and do not apply exclusively to those with a naturalistic philosophy.

Most nontheists also feel the need to subscribe to an ethical philosophy instead of rejecting all morals simply because there is no Supreme Being to dictate them for everyone. Thus, they tend to be humanists, affirming the dignity and worth of all people and appealing to universal human qualities to determine right from wrong. They often use the term secular humanism to distinguish themselves from religious humanists, who also base their moral decisions on human values.

It is very unfortunate that people who lack a belief in God are so misunderstood by our society and have to deal with such a large variety of labels simply to describe their common-sense skepticism. Why is it that calling oneself an atheist, which is the easiest, most direct way of conveying one’s lack of belief in God, considered so taboo? Simply calling oneself an agnostic is more palatable, but it’s not very informative and directly avoids a clear rejection of theism. If we lived in a society in which the majority of the population worshipped the Flying Spaghetti Monster, perhaps a-spaghettimonsterism would face just as much opposition as a-theism does in our culture. I’ve decided that I will no longer give in to social pressure against proclaiming my disbelief in God in a direct fashion, and proudly call myself an atheist. However, I will not go as far as to demand every other nontheist to do this as well, because they may be facing different social circumstances that would make it more difficult for them. Besides, we’re just dealing with words.

* I anticipate objections to Dawkins’ statement from some theists and agnostics, so I will try to clarify what I think he means. Simply making a probability judgment about the existence of some entity has nothing to do with faith; it is perfectly reasonable to withhold belief in something for which there is no evidence, and even more so if the entity in question has extremely unlikely—even contradictory—qualities. To illustrate this, consider the statement, “I believe that fairies don’t exist.” Someone might object and say, “Well, you can’t prove that fairies don’t exist, so your statement is based on faith, in the same way that belief in fairies is based on faith.” What’s important to realize here is that it takes a much greater “leap of faith” to arrive at a conclusion that lacks evidence than one to which most of the evidence points. And if you admit that what you don’t believe in still has an extremely small chance of existing, you avoid this “leap of faith” altogether. The problem is that it’s simply impractical to go on stating things like, “I think the existence of the Invisible Pink Unicorn is extremely improbable,” when you can get the same point across simply by saying, “I believe the IPU doesn’t exist.” Now, if some atheists claim to be literally 100% certain that God doesn’t exist, perhaps it’s accurate to say that they took a small leap of faith, but then again, you can make the same claim about people who are literally 100% sure there’s no orbiting teapot between Earth and Mars too small to be detected by our most powerful telescopes.

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  1. Vicki says:

    I don't think I have anything more to say on this subject, really, but I have an offer and a challenge.

    Here's the offer:: If any of you want to run for school board with a pledge to oppose teaching of Intelligent Design or Creation Science, I will contribute to your campaign. Or if you know of a war chest fund for such candidates, I will make a donation.

    The challenge: read Karen Armstrong's "The Battle for God" and see if it doesn't help you understand fundamentalism as a primarily political/historical rather than religious phenomenon.

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    Ben: If you'd care to assign numerical values to each of the separate ways of viewing God that I presented (each of which may be a separate dimension of understanding), plus any other ways that we can come up with, then I'd be happy to apply a multi-dimensional Pythagorean formula to get a scalar answer.

    But it would be as meaningless as a value of "three" in answer to "Where are you?" Three what? Miles away? Feet in the air? Blocks east plus blocks south plus stories up plus days ago plus classes behind? The RMS of those axes?

    Vicki: I'm happy to have you here. After all, I did send you the link. I'd vote for giving you Author access, but Erich is our benevolent monarch.

  3. Yana Kanarski says:

    I can see how assigning a probability scale to belief in God is meaningless if we do not first agree on what we mean by the word "God," so I will attempt to come up with a good working definition before we proceed in answering Ben's question. In fact, it seems that most, if not all, of our disputes in this post originated from a simple failure to agree about the definitions of the words "God" and "religion." Vicki views religion in very broad terms, but when Dawkins refers to the word "religion," he has a much narrower definition in mind. On page 12 of The God Delusion, he actually says, "I hear myself often described as a deeply religious man." He also quotes Steven Weinberg:

    Some people have views of God that are so broad and flexible that it is inevitable that they will find God wherever they look for him. One hears it said that 'God is the ultimate' or 'God is our better nature' or 'God is the universe.' Of course, like any other word, the word 'God' can be given any meaning we like. If you want to say that 'God is energy,' then you can find God in a lump of coal.

    To clarify some of these misunderstandings, Dawkins tries to distinguish between what he calls "Einsteinian religion" and "supernatural religion." The former got its name from Albert Einstein's habit of using the word "God" to describe the awe-inspiring nature of the universe which the mind cannot grasp. That is exactly what Erich was referring to when he pondered his position in Ben's 1-100 scale: "If 'God' means only the apparent order in the universe that appears to be beyond my understanding, which makes me feel humble and largely ignorant, then 5." The idea of "God" as a "semantic construct" that exists only in people's minds would also fall into this category. And, to me, it seems that this is what Vicki has in mind when she hears the word, "God." Now, to be fair, Dawkins by no means opposes people who are "religious" in that sense of the term. What he does have a problem with is the belief in God as a sentient creator of the universe that is "appropriate for us to worship," and when he uses the word "religion," he refers exclusively to the second category (supernatural religion).

    In Chapter 2, Dawkins introduces his readers to what he calls the "God Hypothesis," which he clearly defines as the following:

    "There exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us."

    So when he lays out his 1-7 probability spectrum, he must be referring to "God" as defined by these terms. I hope that's specific enough at least to elicit an answer from everyone about where to place oneself on the scale. Of course, it's possible to be even more specific, but Dawkins doesn't want to pick on the God of just one religion, like Christianity; he wants to pick on the whole concept of a supernatural sentience that exists outside a person's mind.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's another variation of belief/doubt to consider:

    A friend, an intelligent lapsed Jew who observes the Sabbath for reasons of cultural solidarity, describes himself as a Tooth Fairy Agnostic. He will not call himself an atheist because it is in principle impossible to prove a negative. But "agnostic" on its own might suggest that he though God's existence or non-existence equally likely. In fact, though strictly agnostic about god, he considers God's existence no more probable than the Tooth Fairy's.

    http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/quotes/dawkin

  5. Vicki says:

    I don't believe, I KNOW. The Kingdom of Heaven is within you. And me. And you. Also the hell and the Devil. I refuse to collaborate with Dawkins, Harris, the Christian right or anyone else who sets themselves up as the arbiter of what "real" religion or belief is or can be. In one of the links someone put in a comment above Harris actually says "Any true Christian believes.." or words to that effect. Excuse me! Would any "true atheist" be so arrogant?

    I am ready to join with anyone at any time to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I'll stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone who wants to non-violently oppose the diseased power structures of this world. No belief test necessary.

    On a practical level, I'm still standing by with my checkbook to support anyone here who wants to run for school board.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Speaking of beliefs, I just read that there is actually one member of Congress who doesn't actively profess a belief in a Supreme Being:

    Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), a member of Congress since 1973, acknowledged his nontheism in response to an inquiry by the Secular Coalition for America. Rep. Stark is a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and is Chair of the Health Subcommittee.

    Although the Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office, the Coalition's research reveals that Rep. Stark is the first open nontheist in the history of the Congress.

    http://www.secular.org/news/pete_stark_070312.htm

  7. Ben says:

    What direction is your belief in God heading? I think this question may shed some more light on the numbers/results which came up, however cryptic they were. For example, my score of 99 out of 100 would be accompanied by an arrow pointing toward less belief (100). This would indicate that the overall direction of my belief is a decreasing function (on average). What direction would your score be pointing? I think the answers will be quite telling (at least to me), in that nobody here will declare that they have more belief in God than they used to.

  8. Vicki Baker says:

    To be less cryptic, I don't think that belief in god or the sacred is anything other than a byproduct of consciousness. The concept of the sacred co-evolved with the human brain. Religious beliefs are not randomly counter-factual but follow set patterns. Some of the literary motifs in the Bible date to the Paleolithic era and are probably co-incident with the evolution of human language. Their value is not primarily in providing "explanations" of phenomena but to make the experience of life more meaningful on a day to day basis.

    It is true that religious institutions tend to harden spiritual experience into rigid mental structures and ways of behaving. The answers however will not come from merely pointing out the counter-factual nature of these beliefs but by a process of collective, cultural re-imagining of them – the arts will do more to ameloriate the harmful effects of religion than science. As for working out the answers to the moral dilemmas of our day, that will still have to be done the hard way – science can inform but not decide our ethical debates.

  9. Erich Vieth says:

    Back to Yana's post: here's yet another poll that asks people whether they believe in "God" without requiring them to define "God" in any meaningful way. Again, is it the God of the Old Testiment or the Einsteinian version of God? Without doing that extra investigation, such polls seem to be attempts to ostracize thoughtful non-believers.

  10. Ben says:

    91 Percent of Americans believe in God. And I have a feeling it's not the Einsteinian type. Even if the question is seen as an attempt to divide, the numbers still speak volumes about how gullable Americans are to believe in a cult like Christianity. (or how misguided the few atheists are)

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17879317/site/newswee

    Also, I think it is important to note that most people (present company excepted) don't feel that Erich's question is necessary. The term God is automatically defined by the individual being asked, without them having to think or consult texts. This is the "God" I want to know more about.

  11. Erich Vieth says:

    On a bumper sticker: "Militant Agnostic: I Don’t Know and You Don’t Either."

  12. Steve says:

    "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." Hebrews 9:27

    Disbelief is no excuse!

  13. childofGod41058 says:

    This article has nothing to do with Christianity, and I am confused as to why Netscape labled this article, "Are you a True Christian?" In any event, of course there is a God (Creator). Since there is creation, there is a Creator. Besides, we are on this earth for such a short time in comparison with eternity. Wouldn't you rather live your life believing and serving God and die and find out there is no God, rather than living your life not believing in God, dying, and finding out He does exist? Only a fool would believe that he is his own in this world…we all belong to our Creator, the one and only living God.

  14. Bruce Ramsey says:

    I use to consider myself a "Christian agnostic", but, since it's a given that agnostic means "you can't know if there is a God or not", that, to me, seems as presumptious as saying there IS a God, or, there is NO God. I mean, how can you presume that you can't know whether or not there is a God? I now consider myself a Christian whose reason battles with his faith.

  15. Michael says:

    thought! Nietzsche said that "God is " and most people categorize him as an atheist (as I believe he did as well). Still, if he believes that God "is " that would imply that at one time Nietzsche allowed for the idea that God was "once alive". That would suggest that he believed in a deity but now feels the deity to be . An aetheist would be of the opinion that there is nor never was a God.

    As I am not a practiced Philosopher I am curious if this suggests that Nietzsche should be classified differently and is there a category of people that believed in a God but that he no longer existst. A person who believes in God, whether he is or not, shouldnt be considered an atheist. Or…should they. Just a random, curious thought.

  16. saranga says:

    what does your study say about Islam , hiduism, buddhism?

  17. Erika Price says:

    Bruce: Someone jump in and correct me if I have it wrong, but agnosticism does not mean you "can't" know the existence of God. It means you "don't" know, at present, or that you have no evidence. Ignosticism holds that you "can't" know God under any circumstances, and hence discussing the reality of a god or the nature of a god seems akin to them with discussing whether Humpty-Dumpty had a brown shell or a white shell. See Wiki's entry on Ignosticism here .

  18. grumpypilgrim says:

    An ignostic doesn't say you can't know "God" under any circumstances, he says that he doesn't know what you mean when you say "God exists;" hence, it is pointless to debate whether or not "God exists."

  19. Dan Klarmann says:

    It is a toolmaker mentality to assume that anything that exists must have been created by some agent. Most things that exist are a simple result of the effects of the Laws of Nature running their course. Arguably everything, including our own creations, are manifestly the result of the infinitely complex interactions of these laws.

    It doesn't matter if those laws were created or just happened. They simply are, and apparently always have been. At least, they have over the several billion years that we can directly observe. They may not be constant, but they are continuous. That is, if the 6 fundamental constants upon which all physical observations depend have ever changed, they did so slowly and eventually we may be able to detect that change.

    These laws certainly don't change to suit our perception of them, or our beliefs. There are periodic attempts to popularize philosophies that claim that belief can upset causality. (Affirmations, Richard Bach, Nihilism, etc). But this has never been demonstrated under controlled circumstances. The Randi prize is still waiting.

  20. Erich Vieth says:

    What is an atheist? The following is an excerpt of an interview with Robert Solomon found in the April/May 2007 issue of Free Inquiry:

    I wouldn't call myself just an atheist . . . people who call themselves atheists are just denying a very specific conception of God. And, even though I also deny that conception of God–I find it unintelligible, ethnocentric, and confined to the Judeo-Christian Muslim tradition–the most interesting questions about religion and spirituality are global, not just western. Buddhists don't believe in that God but are they atheists? That question doesn't make much sense. It isn't enough to say, "I don't believe in what most Christians believe." That is not enough.

    [fi: What more is necessary?]

    I think a commitment not to just reject the beliefs of others but to decide what you do believe in. There is nothing in atheism that is a positive philosophy. That's why a much prefer talking about secular humanism. Atheism is kind of provincial naysaying–I don't believe in the God you believe in." But secular humanism does promote a set of values: human freedom, creativity, responsibility, living passionately, mutual understanding . . .

    http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=

  21. Erich Vieth says:

    I received an email from "David" from Indiana today on this topic. He writes at his blog titled "Free Thoughts."

    I don't believe in a god in any sort of traditional sense, but I reject the label of Atheist. I think the word, besides having a negative connotation, does not convey what I really believe. I consider myself a Humanist in a broad and general sense, since I feel that the label more properly conveys what I believe, rather than what I don't believe. Atheism is only the belief in no god, and has no other intrinsic beliefs.

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