Do you understand that lacking a belief is not the same as believing that that belief is untrue?

Refer to this question:

The conversation on Gommers opinion involves this distinction. It's one many people seem to be confused by.

Consider a ceratin belief, let's call it A.

Now you either posses that belief or you don't. If you lack belief A then you may posses the belief that A is false, or again you may lack that belief too.

Lacking the belief does not mean that you believe it to be false, or posses the belief that it's false.

Who understands this?

  • I understand. Not believing A does not mean that I necessarily believe that A is false.
    Vote A
  • I don't understand.
    Vote B
  • I think I understand but disagree with the first poll option.
    Vote C
  • See answers
    Vote D
Select age and gender to cast your vote:
I'm a GirlI'm a Guy
If you're voting B or C leave an opinion and try to explain the issue.
Any girls have a view on this? Or any other guys?


Most Helpful Girl

  • yeah makes perfect sense. isn't that basically the agnostic approach?

    • only in religion i mean.

      but i get ur talking about it more broadly.

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    • Agnostic means without knowledge, or admitting that you don't know.

    • lol these people...

Most Helpful Guy

  • I understand but i prefer to identify as agnostic since its less likely people will get confused. To me identifying as agnostic is like saying "I doubt there's a god but I don't know for sure and am open to the possibility"

    -Some people who identify as atheist believe/claim to know that god is false/doesn't exist
    -Other atheists are like what you described, they lack belief in god, but they don't believe/claim to know for a fact that he doesn't exist.

    Unfortunately if you identify as an atheist many will assume you're the first type.


Have an opinion?

What Girls Said 15

  • I understand, but I am an Atheist because I thinks that God does not exist. Therefore I believe that religious ideas are wrong and nonsense

    • Sure, I'm not saying anyone's beliefs regarding a certain thing ought to be anything in particular, I'm just saying in principle you needn't posses a contrary belief to a certain belief you lack.

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    • I know, I know. I just thought you might have a sense of humor. :)

    • @tinyclit oh i doooo, it's just this topic that ruffles my feathers :-D I didn't pick up on the sarcasm, sorry!

  • Sure, I do.

    I guess the people who voted B don't understand the difference between a strong belief for the opposite of A and being unconvinced of A.

    I guess the people who voted C disagree, because they have only met people who had a strong belief for the opposite and aren't just unconvinced.

    • It really is startling to me how many people strongly dispute what to me seems completely obvious.

    • Well, it doesn't help the case when people self-identify as Atheists, when they really are Anti-theists.

  • I don't believe in the idea of a God, but I'm not saying it's 100% not true.

    However, in reference to atheism, most people, myself included feel a certain statement on if Gods are real or not vs simply not having any particular belief.

    However, a quick google search leads to this from the American Atheists website. "Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods. Older dictionaries define atheism as "a belief that there is no God."

    See, everything is resolved now. There are people who identify as atheists defining what their stance is. And as a non-asshole, I have to accept that or, put on the asshole hate, and purposefully spread lies.

    • So if Westboro Baptist church says they are all about the love of Christ you just have to accept that? You can't point out any of their hateful actions? What about radical feminists? If they put on a nice smile and claim to be for equality can we just ignore all their sexism? I guess the KKK is all about dressing up as ghosts around a campfire and has nothing to do with racism also. This is my problem with atheists, they are quick to attack religious people for the actions of a few but then want to pretend no atheist has ever been anti-religion when in fact most of them are openly insulting us religious people on a daily basis.

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    • Atheists just piss me off, they are assholes. Like Ronan or coyotes. They will sit there and call you and over half the world stupid then act like you're the bad person for calling them an asshole. :/

    • Dude, you are so terrible for stereotyping people. I know kind compassionate atheists who give two shits about religious people's beliefs.

  • Yep, I understand it just fine but it's a concept some people just can't seem to grasp.

    • I replied to your comment on the anon's opinion, but good to see someone else gets it.

  • There's a distinction here: I don't believe in something, so it's not true *for me*. My personal beliefs don't need to influence anyone else's. Like, I don't believe in Santa Claus but I'm not about to spoil Christmas for my younger cousins who do.

    • "I don't believe in something" But by that you mean that you actually believe it's untrue (or doesn't exist), when I say lack a belief, I just mean you can happen to lack a belief without necessarily considering it false. Whether or not the belief is actually correct is irrelevant to what I'm getting at.

    • That doesn't make any sense.

  • So basically you can believe something and still have an open enough mind to not discount other's views as well?

    That's how I think everyone should be lol

    • While I don't disagree with what you're saying it's not quite what I meant.

      I'm just saying that one can lack a belief without possessing a contrary belief. I lack the belief that you own a cat, but that doesn't mean that I believe you don't own a cat.

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    • Sure :) I didn't even click on it honestly, didn't want to be tainted lol

    • I just take issue with anyone telling someone else they "have" to think a certain way just because they label themselves something.

  • That depends on how you define "belief." If it is defined as relative, then your argument is null

    • Can you clarify what you mean? By relative are you suggesting belief can be partial?

      What I'm saying is if it's not the case that you believe something, then you lack that belief and perhaps (or perhaps not) consider it false.

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    • I'm not suggesting it's not the opposite - just that you needn't posses either belief. You can be unsure if I'm eating (or looking at) the/an avocado.

      If a shirt isn't black that doesn't mean it's white.

    • the point i was making went over your head

  • Sure. Those are my thoughts exactly when it comes to religion topics. I surelly understand that. There are things that I don't believe, but there are other that I'm not sure.

  • Sure. Isn't that the definition of an agnostic, though?

    • I mean this in general though, an atheist or a christian should be able to still agree on this.

    • Oh, sure. Of course.

  • Yes... So people shouldn't say atheist anyway. I got labelled by this cocky teen because I don't believed in human organised religions and how they secretly practice behind doors by doing rape, pedophilia, telling people to get married asap etc.

    • I was meaning this specifically just in terms belief in god/s.

  • I can understand your theory. There's lots of things I believe in but don't believe in

  • i guess i didn't fully get a grasp on it untill i met someone like that

  • I voted A. I'm agnostic. I don't claim to know whether or not there is a god but I have found that I cannot prove his existence for myself so I can't believe he exists. But just because I can't make it true for me doesn't mean that it's a fact.

    • Okay, thanks for answering.

      I meant this in general, not just for belief in God. I think someone could agree with option A regardless of their belief in God.

  • You sound like an idiot that wants to think he is better or knows more than other people. Not course unfounded belief is a thing just like faith is a thing, believing in ghosts is a thing. I believe in the Easter Bunny so I know it's a thing.

    • While this question was prompted by a religious discussion I don't mean for it to be seen as a religious question, this applies in general for any belief.

      For instance, do you believe I have a cat? (Presumably you lack the belief that I have a cat, and also lack the belief that I don't have a cat.)

      I'm not trying to make a religious point with this question.

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    • The cat example works for what I'm trying to convey, people's beliefs can change once they learn something new, or see new evidence. I just meant it as an example that it's possible to neither have a particular belief nor have the belief that it's false.

    • If you have empirical evidence you don't need belief. Belief is for matters of faith and the heart.

  • yes i understand.

    • Thanks for answering. Have you read any of the other comments?

What Guys Said 20

  • I guess I have to ask, WTF is wrong with you, that you post this, and pursue it, on GAG? Find a 'Religious' site for your, uh, 'argument'.
    Call this belief 'A'? Really? Call it SOMETHING!!!
    I propose that the entire planet, Earth, all people, all creatures, and plants, bugs, even viruses, are an AMAZING SUPER-ORGANISM!!!
    Some call it the 'Gaia Hypothesis!' Everything that is LIVING, is part of a GRAND ORNATE PLAN, to calculate, or resolve, or decide, something!! WHAT IS THAT QUESTION?
    No offense, to you, but in reality, THINK BIGGER!!! :) :)

    • This is just meant to be in general, not specifically regarding belief in the existence of god/s.

      That's why I used A, it can be any arbitrary belief.

  • What you say is true.

    But it's not a universal truth, as some may be atheist
    for the reasons that they refuse the existence of any deity.

    While others may be by choice (think agnostic)

    I'm not a follower of any religion, the deities I "believe" in
    are concepts of cosmic forces (time, energy, matter etc..)

    But it'd be foolish of me, claiming knowledge of the truth
    complete knowledge, is not for mankind to understand.

    Since "the one truth" remains a mystery
    preaching the existence or nonexistence
    of some greater consciousness, is for oneself to decide
    and should not be forced upon the ears of others.

    • "But it's not a universal truth, as some may be atheist
      for the reasons that they refuse the existence of any deity."

      What do you mean not a universal truth? I'm saying it's possible to lack a belief without considering it false. That doesn't mean that needs to be the case for any particular person regarding any particular belief.

    • In simple terms.

      Atheists refuse the existence of deities.
      Agnostics are unsure, of their existence.

      In other words, It's the agnostic people
      who doesn't believe religious deities to
      necessarily be false. ^.^

  • "Now you either posses that belief or you don't." Ok. I don't.

    "If you lack belief A" yes, I don't.

    "then you may posses the belief that A is false," A probably implies there's a magical sky daddy. Many people believe that. I assume the notion to be false, yes, hence the reason I believe that A is false.

    • ""If you lack belief A" yes, I don't."

      Yes, you don't posses belief A? (Sorry, just checking what you mean by "yes, I don't.")

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    • How is that disagreeing then? If I flip a coin ten times without looking and then tell you it came up heads each time, it's possible that that is true, but it's certainly not 50/50.

    • "Simple logic dictates that you assume there IS a chance that A exists."

      A can be any statement. It could be "1 + 1 = 3"

  • Normally I would vote A), but in the case of religions, you choose to not be part of a religion because you don't think it's valid (aka you think it's untrue).

    I'm irreligious, but I deny the validity of Christianity / Islam / Judaism. If I didn't, I'd probably end up in one of them.

    • I think it's reasonable to reject belief in god/s even though I can't prove they don't exist - there's no reason to believe that they (or he) do exist so even though I can't rule out god/s existing I can claim that belief in them is ungrounded.

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    • @weegin

      "You're essentially saying that believing in it is illogical and unintelligent in your opinion, but it's possible it exists. Which makes no sense, because if it was possible it existed, believing in it would have to have some merit, wouldn't it?"

      No. If a paranoid person was firmly of the view that everyone was secretly watching them yet had no evidence nor reason to suspect that, then they're definitely paranoid, regardless of the truth of their views.

    • @weegin you can just not possess a belief in something because you don't know about that thing you are supposed to believe in

      But you can also know about said thing and still not believe in it because you think it is wrong

      I guess that is the key difference here. I personally don't think these religions have any chance of being valid, so you're right with the last paragraph: that would make no sense.

  • So basically that @Gommers guy is an agnostic, just that he has given a fancy word for it , confuses you?
    Tell you what , all agnostics are in fact hidden atheists who either don't have balls to stand up to their opinions or are just plain hack diplomats.

    Either you believe in something or you don't. Saying something like , you don't think about believing in something or not is a waste of time is well... stupid. Well, okay, you don't have time to think about it, but you sure are talking about it. So, do you usually talk without thinking? Most of the people in the mental institutions do that and perhaps that's the reason they are there.

    • There's nothing confusing about the idea of agnosticism. His claim was that he didn't lack a belief nor posses it, that's not agnosticism. Agnosticism is being unsure about whether or not god/s exist, not denying that you aren't a believer.

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    • I got better things to do than argue with internet atheists.

    • Then, you must have better things to do than posting about atheism in the first place , then why the fuck bother posting in the first place. Not only that makes you sound like an idiot but also a hypocrite :)

  • There are so many definitions out there, who cares? There is a word for someone who thinks the sheer thought of thinking about whether a god exists is absurd. Google it I'm too lazy for it.

    I don't believe in god, but it doesn't mean I can prove that there is none. It's just my belief that there is no god and the whole concept is wrong. I still call myself an atheist even if you claim the definition is wrong. Scientific definitions do not always correlate with their real world counterparts and basically how people use language differs from context. As long as everyone understands what is meant, there is no problem and you are just trying to sound smart ;)

    • I'm asking this in general, not just in relation to belief in God/s. I actually agree with your definition for atheist - some one who doesn't believe in god/s or rejects belief in god/s.

    • This is getting really complicated, but I understand what you mean now :D

  • I think in terms of Atheism, this is not accurate. If you do not hold the belief that God exists, you therefore must believe he does not exist. The reason for this is that existence is binary: God must either exist or not exist, there is no in-between, and you must hold one or the other belief.

    In other cases, this argument would make more sense.

    • "If you do not hold the belief that God exists, you therefore must believe he does not exist."

      So those from tribes who had never heard of God must have possessed the belief he didn't exist? Every agnostic is actually lying?

      How is existence being binary an argument against what I'm saying? I'm not suggesting people believe God 1/2 exists or 3/4 exists. "you must hold one or the other belief." Why?

      I just tossed a coin, the outcome is binary. What was the result? You must believe firmly that it was either heads or tails. Which was it?

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    • What you've just said in no way fits with this: "If you do not hold the belief that God exists, you therefore must believe he does not exist."

      If you do not hold the belief that God exists you may simply lack belief in God but not posses the belief that the statement "God exists" is false.

    • "If you do not hold the belief that God exists you may simply lack belief in God but not posses the belief that the statement "God exists" is false."

      Correct, that is what I just said. It's difficult to explain what I'm trying to say besides that, but here goes round two.

      If one does not hold the belief that God exists, that means that they do not believe in God. They may, at the same time, not hold the belief that God does NOT exist, but they still do not believe in God, they are just being indecisive or unsure, not wanting to side with or against something they cannot prove or disprove decisively.

      You may find this to be a pointless distinction, but understand that the Bible states that it is worse to be 'lukewarm' in your beliefs than to disbelieve entirely. This is most likely why you are finding people, Christians specifically I would assume, to be rubbed the wrong way by what you're saying on this issue, even though you are technically right.

  • Nobody understands it because it is nonsense, an oxymoron.
    You cannot not believe and believe in something at the same time.
    You can accept that others believe in it yes but you don't accept that it is true, after all if you did you would believe in it.

    That is just not how it works.

    • "You cannot not believe and believe in something at the same time."

      That is really not what I'm saying. Where do you think I implied that?

      I'm saying you can lack a belief without necessarily possessing the belief that that particular belief you lack is false.

      I lack the belief that you have a sister, but that doesn't mean I believe the statement "you have a sister" is false.

  • I can understand what you're saying, isn't that the core idea of atheism?

  • I think that I shouldn't believe stories that can't be proven. That's not a belief, that logic.

    • I wasn't meaning this specifically about religious/supernatural beliefs, that's just what prompted the question.

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    • :D :D
      Religious people really want to classify *every stance (or lack of it) as a belief
      just to justify their opinion that a belief (religion!) is a must. They'd even give it to animals and why not to stones...
      When you're just as atheist as I am... concerning some 3000 invented deities :D

    • I'm atheist but I don't think that's particularly relevant to this. My point is that you don't necessarily need to posses either belief. (The belief or the counter belief.)

  • The answer that "I do not know " is perfectly valid. It's the basis of scientific inquiry.

    • It seems surprisingly controversial to some here... I've had several (they all seem to be guys so far) insist that you must either believe something or else believe that it's false.

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    • "That doesn't mean that you are not in one of those places, just that I do not know.'

      Exactly, but even when given examples which should make it plainly obvious the don't change their minds.

    • I think that part of tge problem is when you bring religion into the equation. For whatever reason, religion turns off logical thought. I think part pf it maybe the black and white thinking of Judao/Islamic/Christian thinking. This idea of if you don't believe this, then you are wrong. That style of ideology leads itself to right/wrong debate. The ideology doesn't allow for grey, so when you say I don't know, the assumption is that you are on one side or the other.

      What's interesting to me is the confusion of metaphor and statement, this argument that "no one can live in a whale, therefore the bible is wrong, therefore all religion is wrong" That's an awful lot of logical jumps for one story, that was intended as a metaphorical lesson. But that's the nature of these religious debates. I don't know, not saying that I do not want to, but I don't know.

  • You know my position.

    • I don't mean this just in the context of belief in god/s.

      For instance I lack the belief that you're 6'0", but I also lack the belief that you're not 6'0".

    • The overlying premise of the topic at hand is "Do you believe that there the validity of a question can be nullified by a belief needed to be held in the hierarchy of the conversation." For example, if you do not believe in the [cosmic] relevance of asking "Why" then you're not going to open doors that get you to the question of "Do I believe in god"; whereas if you answer yes to validate the question of "Why" then you're going to open a great many doors more that get you a hell of a lot more places. Just to clarify, I have answered yes to the question of whether or not "Why?" is a relevant question but got far enough down that decision tree that I hit a question I said no to which was subconsciously something like "Is there relevance in searching for answers to questions that we don't have the capability to answer?" However I do have a love for philosophy which is just the answering of questions that have no answers but for the joy of thinking. If that makes sense.

    • I just wanted to use this in the context of god because that's the easiest way I've found to explain this to people myself. What you're talking about is a lack of relevance on the answer as well as we will never meet and I may not even exist in an existentialist belief system in your mind. The core of this question is such a conundrum in the way that we think that people are far too embarrassed to just up and say that they don't get it. You have to understand, I'm literally 3 points away from being a legal genius and I barely understand the topic enough to explain it poorly. Men far smarter than myself have pondered their lives away trying to find an answer to this question and a way to clearly explain it to people so that they may understand it. It's a tough concept to grasp, it's one that really takes quite a bit of attention to even get to pop into your mind; and to top it off, it sounds like retardedly easy question and answer.

  • The person asking that question you are refering to is correct.

    • The person who asked if you'd date an an atheist?

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    • The whole point of A as an arbitrary belief was to make it obvious that I was talking about belief in general, the other question is just what prompted it.

    • If that's the case I understand your point completely. However it wasn't very clear what you meant at all..

  • This is why everybody hates atheists including other atheists. Annoying twats.

    • I was asking this in general, not just in relation to belief in god/s.

  • That's hard

    • I've heard that before.

      Can you be more specific? What doesn't make sense?

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    • Are you talking about conviction? Like how strongly you believe in that?

    • You could look at it that way, you may consider it possible for something to be true, but you're not sure that it is, so you lack the belief that it's true (and also lack the belief that it's false).

  • If A isn't false, why don't you believe in it though?

    • I just tossed a coin. Do you believe it came up heads?

      Saying that I don't posses the belief it's false doesn't mean I think that it's not false.

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    • I think I've made it clear enough that I was asking this about belief in general. That was the whole point of A representing some arbitrary belief.

    • "If I lack the belief, it's because I don't see a reason to believe, if there was a reason to, I would believe, wouldn't I?"

      You can lack a reason to believe something without possessing a reason to believe that thing is false.

      You see no reason to believe I tossed heads, that doesn't mean you see a reason for it to be tails.

  • Yes, but for all intents and purposes you don't believe it is true. Upon further introspection you'll realize that's a cop out.

    • I wasn't meaning this just in relation to belief in god/s. For what it's worth I believe God (s) doesn't exist.

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    • This is an example of what I meant when I asked this though:

      While I acknowledge that I can't prove gods don't exist it would be dishonest to admit I believe that they don't exist.

    • Fair enough. Honestly is profoundly absent on both sides of the coin. I'd suggest you research the occult. That's how I came to my conclusion

  • One of my best friends just tried to date an atheist, he's not one himself, it didn't work out, so they ended it

  • I picked A and see lots of religious arguments pertaining to this subject in an abstract way.

  • This is simple logic. Either you believe something exists or you don't. That means if you don't believe in a God you believe there is no God. Saying "I lack a belief in God" is the exact same thing as saying "I believe there is no God."

    • No it isn't. Do you believe there is a 57 year old woman living in the apartment next door to me?

      Assuming you acknowledge that you lack such a belief, do you think that means that you must therefore believe that it is false that a 57 year old woman lives there?

      You can lack a belief and also lack the belief that it is false. Do you believe that my age is 22? If your answer's no, same question for every other non zero integer. No to all of those as well?

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    • And there it is: the rage quit. Put some ice on that ego.

    • You just ignore anything which contradicts your claims, there's no point arguing with a brick wall.

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