Weak vs. Strong Atheism

I have seen these terms expressed in other threads, and I’m having a hard time getting my head around them.
IMHO Atheism is like pregnancy; you are or aren’t.
The difference as I understand it is that in weak atheism, a God(s) could present itself, and the atheist would convert. This sounds suspiciously like agnosticism, (the possibility of God(s) exists).
From these terms I would conclude that I am a Strong Atheist; God(s) cannot exist.
As an aside; My definition of God(s) would be any Order or Intelligence as the cause of creation, not just the popular divinities of established religions.

So could someone explain to me what Weak Atheism is?

Strong Atheism: I am certain that God does not exist.

Weak Athiesm: God probably does not exist, but there’s no way to be certain.

Agnosticism: There is no way to determine if God does or does not exist, so I refuse to form an opinion either way.

Maybe it is my lack of understanding terms, but if you say that God “probably” doesn’t exist, then you allow for the possibility, (no matter how small), that God does exist. This isn’t atheism.
Let’s reverse this for a second; If a Christian said ‘God probably does exist, but there is no way to be certain.’ Would you still consider this person a Christian?

Certainly. Any honest Christian should admit that their belief in God is a matter of faith, and that as a logical possibility, God may not exist–they just don’t believe that to be the case, and since their belief is a matter of faith, the logical possibility of God’s non-existence is irrelevant.

Likewise, a weak athiest’s belief that God may exist doesn’t impair her belief that God doesn’t exist. She’s simply admitting that she could be wrong. The weak athiest’s belief is conditional on not being proven wrong; that doesn’t mean she doesn’t believe in God’s non-existence.

I don’t think you can compare atheism to a belief in a religion.

A Christian who believes in god is not interested in certainty. The belief is based on faith, and their faith on belief. Certainty in an objective, empirical sense doesn’t enter into it.

An atheist has been unconvinced by the “evidence”. I don’t think I agree with your statement:

Can’t someone say: “I don’t believe in god because I am unconvinced by the evidence, but should new, more conclusive evidence emerge I will re-evaluate my stance on the issue”?

Why wouldn’t this be considered atheism?
My apologies in advance if I don’t return here. Lately I’ve been so busy I’ve become quite the drive-by poster, though unintentionally.

Strong Atheism = the certitude that God does not exist

Weak Atheism = the logical conclusion that there is no or inadequate evidence for the existence of a god (so far, =agnosticism) and the consequent conclusion that no god exists. Moe appears to have it in one.

Atheists tend to be more scientifically minded than Christians (not trying to overgenarallize here, but this is what I have experienced). Scientifically, nothing can be proven to exist. Everything is just varying levels of probability.

Sure it is. Atheism isn’t about mindless denial of a deity. Any athesit who would deny the existance of God in the face of undeniable evidence to the contrary is as much of a whacko as fundamentalist Christians who deny anything in reality which deviates from scripture.

Atheism is simply lack of belief in a deity. The difference between strong and week atheism is whether the lack of belief is positive or neutral:

Strong: I believe that God does not exist.

Weak: I do not believe that God exists.

The difference is subtle, but important.

Of course. There is no way to be certain of most things in this world, much less the existance of deities. Such a Christian would rank fairly highly in my book for being so honest.

Weak atheism : “I don’t believe that God exists.”
Strong atheism : “I believe that God doesn’t exist.”

I think people aren’t being at all careful what they are talking about. Once you’ve gone off talking about what an atheist, or, for that matter, a theist, does or feels, or what they’d “probably” do, what they’re “certain” about etc., you’ve started dumping in unecessary detail, confusing all sorts of different distinctions, and generally just talking about some people, rather than useful philosophical distinctions.

X = the proposition that a god exists
B = believes
~= not/negation

Theist = a god believer, is willing to grant the truth of X
atheist = not a god believer, is not willing to grant the truth of X

Or, BX vs. ~BX (Note that B~X is NOT the logical negation of BX, but it is an assumed subset of ~BX: that is, is you believe that there is no god, it is also pretty likely that you don’t believe in one)

So, I have to disagree with Moe and Polycarp here. Atheism need not be because of a logical conclusion about anything. Polycarp goes too far when he purports to draw a conclusion about God’s existence from the lack of evidence. No such conclusion is necessary for atheism. It is the lack of the theist conclusion that defines atheism.

Agnosticism defines a different realm of description: that of knowledge, not simply belief. Atheism/Theism asks whether we grant a proposition. Agnosticism/Gnosticism asks whether or not we have grounds to make positive conclusions about God. However, ~BX is not a positive conclusion about God. B~X is.

To the OP:

I agree… but as I explain above, I don’t think that works out the way you think it does. I don’t think the distinction “weak”/“strong” atheism is really a very good one. I think it makes far more sense to define atheism as “lacking belief in a god” period, and be done with it. To convince oneself that there is no god is one reason for not believing in god, but not the only one. When we define “theism” we don’t need to inquire further what particular reasons motivate the belief: so many theists, so many different reasons. Why should we do so for atheism, especially when the “weak” definition, not the strong, is the natural negation.

I would further call “strong atheism” anti-theism, because it doesn’t simply deny the force of the theist claim, it takes up its own claim against the theist claim.

Again, what is all this "a God could present itself " stuff? What does that have to do with the distinction? Are you really arguing that a strong atheist, confronted with evidence of God, wouldn’t have grounds to believe?

Doesn’t Faith=Certainty? Isn’t this the definition of faith; certainty in the face of the unknowable? Ask any Christian whether their faith is certain. If it isn’t, then from the other Christian’s point of view they are not Christian.

My atheism isn’t mindless, It did not come from a resentment, or percieved shortcomings, of religion. I rely upon the evidence in Quantum Physics, Natural Selection and Evolutionary Psychology.

To some degree this is obviously a semantics debate, but I just don’t see catagories of Atheism.

I dont really know who is going around calling themselves weak athiests but I disagree with your characterization of agnosticism at least they way I interpret it. I view ‘god’ as an unknowable idea. If Something were to come present itself to me as ‘god’ I still wouldnt be able to know if that thing was ‘god’ since it would require an infinite amount of evidence to prove an entity was god.

Question: how a weak atheist answer the following question:

“God doesn’t exist: true or false?”

A strong atheist would say true, an agnostic would say we don’t have enough information to answer either way. But what would a weak atheist say?

A weak atheist would say, “Probably true.” As opposed to the strong athiest’s “Definitely true.”

There are different kinds of certainty. The certainty of the faithful is an unconditional will to believe, despite evidence to the contrary; i.e., I will believe in God no matter what is shown to me. The certainty of the atheist is rational certainty based on the absence of evidence to the contrary; i.e., I will believe God does not exist unless something of greater certainty is shown to me.

I’m a “weak atheist”. I do not believe God exists, though I admit the possibility that I may be wrong. This position can be distinguished from agnosticiasm by the most simple of tests:

Question: Does God exist?
[ul][li]Theist Yes.[/li][li]Agnostic I can never know.[/li][li]Weak atheitst No.[/li][li]Strong atheist No.[/li][/ul]

Nonsense. The question asks one to make a definitive statement about God’s existence. To THAT question, even a theist could say “I can’t answer that question.” There is no reason why an atheist couldn’t answer “I dunno” without doing anything so silly as saying “probably.”

Here’s a good example of weak atheism. Everyone is born a weak atheist, i.e. without belief in God. No one is born believing that God exists, and neither is anyone born believing that God doesn’t exist.

The mentality of the weak athiest is “You have failed to provide sufficient evidence that this ‘God’ of which you speak exists, so I still don’t believe in it.”

After thinking about it for a while I think the distinction is as follows:

X- proposition that God exists.

Strong atheist: doesn’t believe in X, believes in (not X)
Weak atheist: doesn’t believe in X, not sure about (not X)
Agnostic: not sure about X, not sure about (not X)

Anyone care to comment?

So in answer to my own question the weak atheist and agnostic have the same belief about “not X” but their belief about X is different.

On preview: I think Apos has the same idea.

The weak atheist believes that it is not possible to make a definitive statement about God’s existance, and thus defaults to “God doesn’t exist”, as non-existance is the base assumption made about all things.

The “probably” is the answer which best defines the weak atheist’s belief. Would it make you feel better if the answer was, “I dunno, but probably not”?


I do not, as a rule, feel it necessary to qualify every statement that I make with the observation that as a human being I am subject to fallibility.