Seán Fitzpatrick grendel.jjf at VERIZON.NET
Tue Dec 22 20:11:58 UTC 2009

It seems to me that your hypothetical man-in-the-street's "God" is a subset
of the little "g" (or little "t") of "atheist", so his answer is not at all
problematic.  Perhaps the puzzle is influenced by political considerations,
viz., the conflict between the universalist and eternal claims of the
soi-disant Abrahamic faiths and the equally universalist and eternal claims
of various atheistic -isms.

As a counter-example, is there a school or tradition or example of atheism
that denies the existence of superior non-material powers but does not
exclude a spirit realm?

Sean Fitzpatrick
Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?
I blame Global Warming.

 -----Original Message-----
From: Laurence Horn [mailto:laurence.horn at YALE.EDU]
Sent: Monday, December 21, 2009 11:25 AM
Subject: Re: atheist

At 10:30 PM -0500 12/20/09, Baker, John wrote:
>Why is it paradoxical to refer to the three major monotheist
>traditions as Abrahamic?
>John Baker

It certainly works better than, say, "Isaacic".


>From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Victor Steinbok
>Sent: Sat 12/19/2009 10:17 PM
>Subject: Re: atheist
>There is so much debate on this point--and AFAIK has been over the
>years--that making a clear-cut definition may be difficult. There is, of
>course, the question of the usage among different groups including 1)
>those who self-identify as atheists, 2) those who identify atheists as a
>rival class, 3) general undifferentiated usage.
>If you ask an average American on the street, whether in the heathen
>haven like NYC or in the Bible Belt, what s/he thinks makes an atheist,
>the response, most likely, will be that it is one who does not believe
>in God. This is a deeply unsatisfying and vague "definition". In
>particular, it presents a problem with polytheists and animists--and,
>basically, anyone who does not share the faith of the three major
>monotheist traditions that occasionally are (paradoxically, in my view)
>referred to as "Abrahamic"...

The American Dialect Society -

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