Monday, January 4, 2010

What does the word "Belief" mean?

To say that you believe something has meaning. I find it fascinating when some of those who embrace this "new atheism" define their position as a "lack of belief."  This posting addresses the meaning of this word, "belief."

Belief: The fundamental positive cognitive attitude that commonly takes a proposition as its object. Most philosophers hold that propositional beliefs can be occurrent, in which case there is conscious assent to the proposition, or nonoccurrent, in which case a person has a disposition to assent to a proposition (such as 2+3=5) even though the person is not consciously thinking of that proposition. Theologians distinguish belief that something is the case from belief in a person or ideal, as when a person believes in God or democracy. The latter seems closer to the biblical concept of faith. It seems clear, however that belief in God is not possible without some propositional beliefs as well, since one could hardly believe in God if one did not believe that God existed or believe anything about God's character. (Source: C. Stephen Evans. Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002, s.v. "belief".)

Concluding thought: I find it interesting in talking to some "atheists" that they believe that atheism is not an absolute denial of God, but the belief in a lack of evidence for God's existence (hard agnosticism). They make an assent that to this proposition that is contradictory to the definition of the position that they embrace. This is self-defeating.

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