1. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    A modest proposal

    Discussion in 'Support & Feedback' started by Lemex, Jun 28, 2010.

    Everyone, I would like to make a proposition on a certain little thing that has been nagging me for some time on this forum: the ‘Religion’ section of member’s profile pages. While for the most part there is very little wrong with this – it names all of the major faiths, and with respect to small, or fringe groups has a selectable ‘Other’ status too - there are two titles on there that I find to be misused: The words Atheist and Agnostic.

    My problem is that the two words have two different interpretations, depending on who you ask. Let us look at the word ‘Atheism’ for example. Some people claim the word Atheism means the decree, or idea that a god or a group of gods do not exist; others claim it is the rejection of the assertion that a god or gods do exist. While these two definitions are very similar, they are NOT the same; and this is sometimes a source of conflicting opinion when a lengthy debate arises on a site like, say, YouTube – and might have even been either debated about or hinted at here on this sight in the past.

    Bizarrely, if you look up the word Atheist in the Merriam-Webster website it contains the following definition: one who believes that there is no deity; while it defines the word Atheism as following:

    And it is the same story when it comes to the word Agnostic; to use the Merriam-Webster websites definition again, it states that the word Agnostic means either:

    Again, these two definitions are in a very real sense completely contradictory. Also, in a very real way everyone is an Agnostic, as ultimate truth is at present, and possibly always will be, beyond our grasp.

    And so I propose the following: that we replace the entry ATHEIST to WITHOUT BELIEF, or alternatively GODLESS; because - as I have pointed out - the word Atheist is really a 'broken' word.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I would personally find that very objectionable. I am an atheist, and I have very strong beliefs. And although GODLESS may be technically accurate, it has strong negative connotations I would not like to be associated with.

    Dictionary definition are limited in scope, and not always accurate, especially in subjective matters such as religion and its classification.

    Anyone who doesn't like the categories offered can choose Unspecified or Other.

    I really can't see this as a priority issue, with all the other change requests for Daniel to consider putting his time into. The decision, however, is his.
     
  3. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    It's not a priority issue; it's why I called this thread 'A modest proposal'. I was just raising the question because it's been on my mind for some time. On the other hand, I really don't see why the word 'Godless' has "strong negative connotations", but I might be missing something.
     
  4. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I think it's a vbulletin feature, and I'm not sure how editable it is.

    Personally, I'm not a fan of the political options: "liberal" could mean bloody anything. It's just one of those things you have to live with, I think.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In common useless, godless is often used perjoratively, to indicate someone with no moral character or scruples.
     
  6. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I understand that. WITHOUT FAITH would work well I think, because as I was pointing out, Atheism is like what Banzai said with the word 'Liberal' - very open to interpretation, where most of the others on the Religion section are not.
     
  7. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I think it's worth having a look at, Lemex, if it can be changed (and it probably can, with some level of effort). The issue would be finding a replacement. I doubt you'd find something that didn't upset someone.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Rather than replacement, adding options would be wiser. I chose Atheist, and would prefer it be left as such.

    From a technical standpoint, I am sure adding options is easy, although retaining them after software upgrades could be a problem.
     
  9. Switch
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    Switch Member

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    Well isn;t there an easy, obvious solotuion to this?
    Whyd on't we have an option for the person, whoever it is, to write their religious beliefs rather than choosing it from a list?
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    being a somewhat agnostic atheist myself, i agree with all cog has to say on the subject...

    my objections to suggested substitutions for 'atheist':

    'godless' is so often used as a derogatory term and never have i seen it used in any other way, lemex... i find it hard to believe you could not have ever noticed that... since you've checked out other designations in the dictionary, why didn't you check that one?... had you done so, you'd have found this: "2. Wicked, impious, or immoral." ...would you not consider that "strong negative connotations"?

    'without belief/faith' are too general and can encompass belief in things other than gods and religion... for instance, i believe humans can and should choose between right and wrong; to act in good, rather than evil ways; to help, not harm any fellow creature... that is not a belief in any mankind-designed god or religion, but it is a 'belief'...
     
  11. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    But that is not what I'm getting at. It's not the fact that the words are derogatory, or vague in the first place, because as Banzai pointed out, a lot of things on those lists, and on the political section, are pretty vague aswell. What I was pointing out was that the word Atheist is operationally unusable, when it's two definitions are in a very real sense contraditory.
     
  12. Tamsin
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    Tamsin Senior Member

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    I could see the point of changing it if this was a religious forum, but it's not. I think just putting Other is fine if you don't want to put Atheist or just don't put anything. Call yourself a Free Thinker or Faithless or whatever, it isn't really relevant to this forum anyway is it?
     
  13. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless you yourself had no choice but atheist or are attempting to discriminate on the basis of religion, I don't see why you feel the need to make an issue of this... :confused:
     
  14. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I'm a Christian so this doesn't really affect me. I'd like to chime in though and say I agree with Cog and Mia. Godless does imply that someone is evil or without any scruples. In fact I've heard it used in that manner many times. While some people may not take offense to that I think the majority of people would.
     
  15. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    I don't understand why you want to change words with the correct connotations and definitions, to ones without?

    I'm an atheist & though godless is a technically correct title, as others have said the connotations are completely negative.
     
  16. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I don't nessiserily want to make a change, I was just putting foreward a proposal. I don't really care if it does get changed or not, and it is in no way an issue.
     
  17. Evil Flamingo
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    Evil Flamingo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lemex, I agree with you on your modest proposal, but I wouldn't put it high on a priority list. The only real reason I'm commenting on this is the fact that you're getting plastered by the community for a modest inquiry. What the Hell is up with that?

    Oh the irritations of misinterpretations.
     
  18. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I wasn't "plastering". I was just pointing out that it could be taken to be offensive to some. :/
     
  19. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Where is anyone getting plastered? :(
     
  20. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I'm not honestly sure, Etan... I thought it was all fairly civil and respectful.
     
  21. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    So did I, to be honest.

    I think people have misread my intentions with this thread though.
     
  22. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    As I understand it, your intention was to point out a non-vital problem, with the vagueness of wording in religion aspect of the profile. It's interesting to consider and discuss, but not an urgent problem, and certainly nothing to get worked up about.
     
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  23. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    Semantics & pendantry much? I want some!

    It appears Lemex may be grouping what is called "hard" & "soft atheism" under the single term "atheism", which by itself is contradictory in the sense that soft atheism refers to one's own belief that there is no god (aka agnostic-atheism) while hard refers to the claim that there is no god. The 1st is merely a rejection of a belief (as definition 1 of your source says) while the 2nd is making a positive assertion (a "doctrine" as it's put).
    Seperately, they are not remotely paradoxal, but when grouped under a single umbrella term.. I can understand the confusion i guess.
    The meaning of the etymology of "atheism" is as simple as "without God", which meshes nicely with the softer variant, & also accounts for about 90% of atheists or something like that. Just use that definition.

    As for agnosticism, I'm pretty sure your 1st definition (unknowability & all) is the more esoteric original, 'true' definition. The 2nd sounds like crap to me, personally. I'll have ta check out ur dictionary. From what I know, the difference is that of "it can't be known" & "I don't know/haven't decided", which again are independantly sound beliefs, but could be percieved as paradoxal if equated.

    So yeah, it's not really contradictory at all. The naunces of the terms "Atheist/agnostic" are just as vague & paradoxal as all the various sects of Christianity are when grouped under the word "Christian". I'm dubious of the value of information gleaned from the religion section of one's bio anyway; the temptation to profile is too great, myself. I've been ripped off & helped out by plenty of Christians & Atheists/agnocists. Not all theists are saints, & not all godless folk are baby eaters, obviously. To what faith one subscribes says little about their true character or convictions. A rather interesting OP, but probably not necessary. :)


    I propose that we add a "Secular Humanist" option in the name of the Aholy Atheist Achurch!!
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd like to know why there should even be a place to note one's 'religion' in the profile... isn't that being more nosy in re personal matters than a writing site needs to or should be?
     
  25. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The member can always leave it at the default "Unspecified," if the member finds the question intrusive.

    But you're right - that and Poilitics could be eliminated from the profile, and the member could mention it in the Biography if he or she cares to.

    And this thread would then be entirely moot. :)
     

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