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Subject:  Re: Atheist Babies Date:  6/13/2014  4:42 PM
Author:  albaby1 Number:  438534 of 522452

But this is where they go wrong.
Atheists do not "believe" yada yada pertaining to God.
Atheists have a LACK of belief when it comes to God.
There is a big difference.
I know it sounds like semantics - but it isn't.
There is a difference between believing something - whatever that something might be - and a lack of belief in that something.

It is semantics - but that doesn't mean the distinction isn't important. That's why I said this comes down to definitions. The difference between Dawkins and the author of the article is not over what babies believe, but what the definition of atheist is. Dawkins is using the term the way you are, and the author is using it to mean the affirmative existence of a belief that god does not exist.

To be fair to the author, there's some support for that. Colloquially, the term "atheist" is used in both senses. For example, the wikipedia entry for "atheism" begins:

"Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist."

I'm not citing the wikipedia as evidence that any of these definitions is "right" to the exclusion of the others - rather, that the word "atheist" is sometimes used to mean different things, and apparent differences of opinion in these discussions sometimes are just people using the terms differently.

Of course, there's another sense in which the author is correct that babies can't be atheists, under either definition. After all, "atheist" is a term we reserve for people (or collections of people). We would never say that an endtable or a sidewalk or an ammonia molecule is atheist. Those objects don't have any beliefs about god, either. Clearly the capacity to form a belief about god(s) is integral to what we mean by the term "atheist."

Babies don't have the mental capacity to form such notions, any more than an eggplant does. They lack the ability to engage in that type of abstract thinking, to form beliefs in the existence or nonexistence of things. That's usually a precondition to whether something can be "atheist" or not.

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