Batchelor Quote

02011-04-13 | Uncategorized | 11 comments

This is a quote from the book “Confessions of an Atheist-Buddhist” by Stephen Batchelor:

The last quotes I showed were hard to read and so I thought I’d make the letters a little bigger… well, now they are much too big… next time I’ll find a setting in between.

I often wondered about the meaning of the word “atheist”, because it did not make sense to me. Apathy, for example, means without pathos, and not against pathos. Over time a perfectly good word came to mean something completely different. Being against something is very different from having no interest in something. I will let the fervent theists and the equally fervent anti-theists fight their battle (although I hate to experience the fallout from their epic battles) and I’ll be the atheist sitting at the bar sipping an Aperol Spritz…


  1. Adam Solomon

    There’s been a language shift, it seems – atheist and anti-theist, in your reckoning, to agnostic and atheist, respectively. It makes a bit less sense, but then again, the English language would be boring if it did make sense :)

    I agree with you; one of my major gripes with Richard Dawkins (who’s perfectly respectable as a scientist) and the “new atheist” movement is their apparent refusal to recognize the degree to which their view is based on faith just as a theist’s is. In this case, it’s essentially the faith that you can use physics to extrapolate to metaphysics. Very, very sketchy view, certainly not the slam dunk case some would make it out to be!

  2. yumi

    My god, that’s a big quote.

  3. Ottmar

    Adam: Agnostic – a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

    That is not the same as Atheist. At. All.

    Also: gnostic – of or relating to knowledge, esp. esoteric mystical knowledge. So, the word agnostic literally means not for or against knowledge?

    We have to at least strive to be clear, and replacing atheist with agnostic makes no sense.

    Yumi: I take it you are a theist then? :-)

  4. yumi

    Please excuse my spelling error.
    It should have been, “My gods, that’s a big quote.”

    I think it would be far more interesting to be an, “eist”. Feels more NStephenson-eist.

  5. Adam Solomon

    Oh, I agree the modern usage doesn’t make much etymological sense. Unfortunately such is semantics :) But it seems to me that the second of those definitions for agnostic – professing neither faith nor disbelief – is the same as what you called atheism. Without theism, but also not denying it. Maybe I misunderstood you there? In any case, that’s the belief that I usually hear as agnosticism.

    The position that nothing *can* be known about God is a completely different one, so I’m not sure why it got lumped into the same definition. One can certainly claim to not know without claiming that knowing is actually impossible. I’ve heard a few different terms for that belief, that nothing can be known about God, but to be honest I haven’t found a very good one yet. A hole in our lexicon, I think.

  6. Ottmar

    yumi: “eist” is a fabulous new term!

    Adam: well, the position is actually a little different. It’s not professing neither faith nor disbelief, but rather not being interested in the object of that faith or disbelief in the first place. Like observing a discussion about a subject that is of no interest, that does not matter.

    best not to label anything perhaps…

  7. Luz

    “best not to label anything perhaps…” Well said! I like Yumi’s term even better!!

  8. marijose

    Welcome back! Then there is apatheism -

  9. Ottmar

    marijose: Nice! Thanks!

  10. Carol Anderson

    I call myself agnostic. I do believe in God.the ever present beyond our scope presence. This universe, this world, my own bckyard, each unique thing and person is created. And I call that creator God. and the tulips living again after the hard winter, that is a miracle. And all religions and beliefs must feel somewhat the same, whatever or whoever you call god.. That oneness holds us all together, whereas too many religions tear us apart.

  11. Adam Solomon

    Yeah, the labels are an unfortunate shorthand. Much easier to say “I’m an atheist” than to detail the nuances of your views, I guess :) But there are only a few commonly used terms and way more possible views.


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