Please Stop Arguing Definitions, Thanks

Ok, everyone. Lend me your ears!

Many atheists want to define atheism as “lack of belief in god(s)” and faith as “believing without evidence”.
Many theists want to define atheism as “the belief that god does not exist” and faith as “confident trust based on knowledge”.


… aaaand the conversation starts and stops there.

The goal of a conversations is NOT to strong-arm the other person into accepting your definition of a word. The goal of conversations is to discuss the issues reasonably and ultimately… discover the truth.

Stop it.
Stop this senseless bickering over definitions.

I can’t imagine someone thinking, “faith is belief without evidence? Christianity is a lie!” or “atheism is the belief that god doesn’t exist? Christianity must be true!”

If someone says they have faith, ask, “what do you mean by faith?”
If someone says they’re an atheist, ask “what do you mean by atheist?”

Accept their definition and move forward.

In this particular instance, suspend your inner analytic philosopher and channel your inner pragmatist.

This is a plea to everyone.
Let’s all work to move the conversation forward. Stop getting stuck arguing definitions. And stop defining your opponents position into irrationality.

– ElijiahT

Ps. This is not some kind of post-modern “words don’t have definitions” appeal. Words do have meaning. But we want to continue the conversation, not stop it because we can’t agree on the basics.


3 thoughts on “Please Stop Arguing Definitions, Thanks

  1. Stan Adermann

    “Accept their definition and move forward.” — If only.
    The problem I face as an atheist is that Christians approach this discussion apparently with a common playbook that tells them what I believe and why I believe it, and they are horribly wrong.
    “You hate god.”
    “You are an atheist so you can sin.”
    “You worship Satan.”
    To have to have at least some common frame of reference to have a discussion, but when you are presented with such a barrage of horrible misconceptions at the outset, you don’t have that. So if 90% of our conversations begin with an attempt to clear misconceptions, it shouldn’t be surprising that these conversations become repetitive and tedious.

    1. ElijiahT Post author

      I agree with you. I’ve encountered people (religious and otherwise) who approach issues from an incredibly ignorant and unteachable perspective.
      Once I figure our how to cure ignorance… I’ll let you know!

      Sometimes a conversation doesn’t move past clarifications. The plea I was making in this post is to accept the definition of a word given by the person who believes it.

      You say that you’re an atheist? I’d probably ask you what you mean by atheist.
      Not everyone would do that, but I think it is important.

  2. Pingback: Atheist TV | HashtagApologetics

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