By Tolure


2019-03-11 18:15:55 8 Comments

Oversimplification of definitions:

  • atheist: Believes in no god.

  • agnostic: that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable.

Is there a term for someone who just does not care, who has no opinion about the existence or inexistence of god?

They have simply not looked into it. They have not yet formed an opinion and because of this both terms atheist and agnostic don't seem to fit.

Question: What do I call someone who has not formulated an opinion about god? I'm looking for a word other than "atheist" or "agnostic".

11 comments

@Evargalo 2019-03-14 13:19:46

areligious

From UrbanDictionnary:

Having an aversion for or a lack of interest in all religion and religious beliefs.

An areligious person is one who has become frustrated listening to proponents of one religion or another and finds the labels athiest and agnostic inadequate.

From Merriam-Webster (spelled "a-religious"):

noncommittal or professedly neutral concerning religious matters

@Tatarize 2019-03-13 21:37:16

Along with Apatheism there's also ignorstic.

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=ignorstic

--

In a purely philosophical point of view atheism is about a lack of belief and such a person would ascribe to weak atheism. But, this is English Stack so maybe you actually need one of various words people have coined.

@Alexan 2019-03-13 17:35:21

maybe nihilist?

See Nihilism:

Nihilism (/ˈnaɪ(h)ɪlɪzəm, ˈniː-/; from Latin nihil, meaning 'nothing') is the philosophical viewpoint that suggests the denial or lack of belief towards the reputedly meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.1 Moral nihilists assert that there is no inherent morality, and that accepted moral values are abstractly contrived. Nihilism may also take epistemological, ontological, or metaphysical forms, meaning respectively that, in some aspect, knowledge is not possible, or reality does not actually exist.

So nihilist just doesn't care about anything, including god.

@Tyler S. Loeper 2019-03-13 17:04:46

Maybe pantheism.

There are a variety of definitions of pantheism. Some consider it a theological and philosophical position concerning God.[9]:p.8 Pantheism is the view that everything is part of an all-encompassing, immanent God.[10]

All forms of reality may then be considered either modes of that Being, or identical with it.[11] Some hold that pantheism is a non-religious philosophical position. To them, pantheism is the view that the Universe (in the sense of the totality of all existence) and God are identical (implying a denial of the personality and transcendence of God).

So reality is "god", or reality is "divine". Since there is no god to look for, there is just existence.

@k0pernikus 2019-03-12 18:12:14

Ignoring the common dictionary definition of an

  • atheist: Believes in no god.

you could also define it broader as:

  • atheist: someone who does not believe in the existence of a god or other divine beings and thereby makes no positive claim to their existence

The latter definition would include all your use-cases (but would not be specific for them alone).

In fact, it includes:

  • agnostics (as in Dawkin's sense of the de-facto-atheist in his book "The God Delusion"), even if they do not claim "god does not exist". All it takes it that they do not make the positive claim that "this god exists".
  • people not knowing of a god-concept
  • people not caring about a god-concept
  • people rejecting the god-concept

The broader definition I brought up here is often used by atheists themselves, and you may have heard the definition of "atheism" as a "lack of belief".

A common rebuttal to this definition is the statement that it would make rocks atheistic, yet that is countered if we include being able to either be a theist or an atheist as a necessary requirement.

@user340032 2019-03-13 15:55:19

Atheophoric

A - without

theo - God

phorizow - to be concerned

@Ian 2019-03-14 07:24:27

Hey, thanks for your answer! Could you provide a source and a definition to make your answer more useful?

@Chappo 2019-03-16 11:06:51

If this is a word you've invented, you should edit your answer to make this explicit. If it's a known word, please provide more information - e.g., a published definition (linked to the source) or published example of its use. NB: the system has flagged your answer as "low-quality because of its length and content." An answer on EL&U is expected to be authoritative, detailed, and explain why it is correct. For further guidance, see How to Answer and take the EL&U Tour :-)

@DerBen 2019-03-13 03:20:02

neutralists have no opinion either way :)

Why the negative vote? To be neutral is not to be swayed in either direction. I myself am neutral on the topic, either of the god or sans god scenario could be true.

@Lightness Races in Orbit 2019-03-12 18:09:27

Technically, that's exactly what atheism is: lack of a theistic belief.

However, the term has been co-opted to mean the slightly corrupted definition that you presented (holding a non-theistic belief), to the extent that dictionaries tend to report the modern definition.

Wikipedia hedges its bets and describes the whole situation:

Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities.[1][2][3][4] Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist.[5][6] In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[1][2][7][8] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[9][10] which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.[10][11][12]

So, although I wouldn't recommend using it because you are likely to be misunderstood, technically you already have the proper word.

As covered by the older answers, newer terms have sprung up to plug the gap (like apatheism).

@tchrist 2019-03-13 01:49:10

Funny how we can't come up with some ungodly word without turning to Greek.

@Lightness Races in Orbit 2019-03-13 02:06:42

@tchrist I see what you did there..

@ElmoVanKielmo 2019-03-14 14:09:10

Wasn't he jchrist instead of @tchrist?

@UKMonkey 2019-03-14 15:32:44

I believe that it was the theists who corrupted the definition so that people who didn't believe but wouldn't go so far as to say "there is no god" had no label; it makes convincing people to remain a theist just that little bit easier

@Lightness Races in Orbit 2019-03-15 01:44:53

@UKMonkey I can't say I know the history, but that does sound plausible

@ashes2ashes 2019-03-12 17:16:07

A nontheist can be considered apathetic to questions of religion and the lack thereof - it is somewhat of a broader term. See Wikipedia:

Nontheism or non-theism is a range of both religious1 and nonreligious[2] attitudes characterized by the absence of espoused belief in a God or gods. Nontheism has generally been used to describe apathy or silence towards the subject of God and differs from an antithetical, explicit atheism. Nontheism does not necessarily describe atheism or disbelief in God; it has been used as an umbrella term for summarizing various distinct and even mutually exclusive positions, such as agnosticism, ignosticism, ietsism, skepticism, pantheism, atheism, strong or positive atheism, implicit atheism, and apatheism.

I have occasionally seen the term "nontheist" being applied to athiests that don't really care that they're an atheist, especially opposed to say, the more recent trend of New Athiests that believe religion is a blight upon humanity.

@K.A 2019-03-12 23:00:43

I thought I had invented that word!

@Jason Bassford 2019-03-11 19:41:47

Your definition of agnostic is incomplete:

[Merriam-Webster]

1 : a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (such as God) is unknown and probably unknowable
broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god
2 : a person who is unwilling to commit to an opinion about something
// political agnostics

In all but the strict first sense, an agnostic is simply someone who doesn't believe one way or the other. They think it might be true—or it might not. In other words, they're not committed to any particular viewpoint.

Unless going by that strict first sense of the word, that doesn't mean that they believe something is actually unknowable. In the second sense of the word, and the casual first sense, an agnostic may also have simply not looked into it much or not really care.

Based on that, you have people who are theists, who believe in the existence of something, people who are atheists, who believe in its nonexistence, and people who are agnostics, who don't (or won't) say one way or the other—for whatever reason.

While there's nothing wrong with apatheism in the other answer, people who are agnostics can also be apatheists. And people who are apatheists may well have looked into it carefully and come to a reasoned conclusion (formed an opinion) that the answer doesn't matter. In fact, I'd say that somebody who claims to be an apatheist must already be aware of what that word means, and so would have formed an opinion about God: that it doesn't matter.

In general, somebody who has not formed an opinion at all is simply undecided. And somebody who has never considered something at all is either wilfully or unintentionally ignorant about that thing.

@David Richerby 2019-03-12 09:49:48

I think it's worth mentioning the terms "hard agnostic" (somebody who says it's impossible to know) and "soft agnostic" (somebody who says they don't know).

@DoctorPenguin 2019-03-13 09:25:06

I'd argue that even this definition is not properly sufficient to make it a good answer for OP. There is definitely a difference between unwilling to commit to an opinion and simply not having one. I think your combination of "undecided" and "ignorant" is probably the best we have so far IMO. If you asked me to choose which fruit is better:a mulberry or a durian, I wouldn't be able to give you an opinion. That's not agnosticism, as that actually assumes that I've ever given them consideration (I haven't eaten either), I simply can't give an opinion on something I know nothing about.

@Michael W. 2019-03-13 19:56:35

Unfortunately, I think that this is simultaneously the best word and not a good word to use. 2nd definition is absolutely the best-case for OP's question. But most people will assume the 1st, or even claim that the user of the word is really an atheist, as there has definitely been a push by some atheists to obliterate this use of agnostic as actually being "weak-willed atheism."

@Nobody 2019-03-14 09:08:45

@DavidRicherby I'm thought it was weak and strong, not hard and soft.

@David Richerby 2019-03-14 09:47:10

@Nobody It turns out that there are multiple terms. I only knew hard/soft but Wikipedia gives closed/open, strict/empirical and permanent/temporal as well as hard/soft and strong/weak, and seems to prefer strong/weak. I didn't try all the combinations but "weak agnostic" and "soft agnostic" get about the same number of Google hits. Wikipedia also gives "apathetic agnosticism" as the belief that we can't tell if there are any gods and if there are any gods, they don't seem to care about us, so why should we care about them?

@Keep these mind 2019-03-11 18:24:16

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apatheism

An apatheist is someone who is not interested in accepting or rejecting any claims that gods exist or do not exist. The existence of god(s) is not rejected, but may be designated irrelevant.

@Sven Yargs 2019-03-11 22:18:20

It may be worth noting that "apatheism" and "apatheist" are relatively recent coinages. Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (2010) attributes the word to Jonathan Rauch's article "Let It Be" in the May 2003 Atlantic Monthly (cited also in the Wikipedia article you link to. ...

@Sven Yargs 2019-03-11 22:18:25

... Thomas Molnar, Theists and Atheists: A Typology of Non-belief (1980) has no such term as "apatheism," although it he does suggest that pantheism, taken literally, amounts to a kind of "God is irrelevant" atheism because equating God with everything that exists is equivalent to taking God out out of the mix of factors that differentiate one thing from another.

@მამუკა ჯიბლაძე 2019-03-12 20:23:42

Slightly unpleasant term, associates with apathy...

@Drew 2019-03-13 02:35:48

I was just about to hit Enter with a kidding comment to the question, coining the word apatheist. Imagine my surprise to find here that the word exists.

@Birjolaxew 2019-03-13 15:08:53

@მამუკაჯიბლაძე Isn't not caring/being interested in whether god exists by definition an apathetic approach? It seems very accurate to name it after apathy

@მამუკა ჯიბლაძე 2019-03-13 19:58:15

@Birjolaxew Well but one can be also actively rejecting importance of the question. For example, because of the opinion that controversy around it has caused lots of violence.

@James Random 2019-03-13 21:47:02

@მამუკაჯიბლაძე Why does the obvious association with apathy make it unpleasant? Apathy is an accurate description: "Apathy 2 : lack of interest or concern : INDIFFERENCE" merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apathy

@მამუკა ჯიბლაძე 2019-03-13 21:48:34

@JamesRandom Because of Apathy 1 there

@James Random 2019-03-14 14:52:36

@მამუკაჯიბლაძე Sense 1 is less relevant (but not completely irrelevant). But, again, why is it unpleasant?

@UKMonkey 2019-03-14 15:10:45

This definition doesn't define anything about the persons belief. It just states how willing they are to argue about it.

@Keep these mind 2019-03-14 15:25:36

@UKMonkey "It is more of an attitude rather than a belief, claim, or belief system." (See link in answer.) This matches the question, which is about lack of opinion, quite nicely.

@UKMonkey 2019-03-14 15:29:36

@Keepthesemind opinion is not attitude; and visa versa was exactly my point. Someone might think the earth is round, but not care to argue with someone who thinks it's flat. That doesn't change that they think it's round.

@Keep these mind 2019-03-14 15:32:13

@UKMonkey Opinions and attitudes: macmillandictionary.com/thesaurus-category/british/…

@UKMonkey 2019-03-14 15:38:26

@Keepthesemind we're using different definitions of attitude... the joy of words having multiple meanings.

@მამუკა ჯიბლაძე 2019-03-14 18:35:21

@JamesRandom Well it is probably subjective but for me it feels unpleasant because it introduces inherently negative connotation for something at worst neutral

@James Random 2019-03-14 22:46:57

@მამუკაჯიბლაძე It must be subjective because I can't see anything negative at all!

@მამუკა ჯიბლაძე 2019-03-15 05:03:53

@JamesRandom Probably. Still - say, from Wikipedia: The apathetic may lack a sense of purpose, worth, or meaning in their life. An apathetic person may also exhibit insensibility or sluggishness. In positive psychology, apathy is described as a result of the individuals feeling they do not possess the level of skill required to confront a challenge

@მამუკა ჯიბლაძე 2019-03-15 05:04:01

... It may also be a result of perceiving no challenge at all (e.g. the challenge is irrelevant to them, or conversely, they have learned helplessness). Apathy may be a sign of more specific mental problems such as schizophrenia or dementia.

@მამუკა ჯიბლაძე 2019-03-15 05:07:12

All this is somehow almost opposite to the conscious unwillingness to participate in religious-antireligious ideological warfare. It is similar to calling pacifists cowards.

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