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Ask the Patriarch 204
Yes? or No?

from: Dan

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I'm sure the answer to my question is already on your site, so I apologize if I am wasting your time.

When asked the question "Do you believe in god?" where a yes or no answer is demanded, and one answers "no," AND this person is an apathetic agnostic, wouldn't that make them an atheist?

The Patriarch replies:

You are quite right that I have addressed this before - in Ask the Patriarch 86 and the following discussion. An avowed atheist posed the same question and insisted I answer yes or no. Eventually, after he made several accusations of evasiveness, I made one more attempt to demonstrate what was wrong with his question. I asked him "Do I own a red bicycle, answer me, yes or no." And that ended the exchange. He had no information on which to base a valid answer.

Look - anyone who insists on only a "yes" or "no" and absolutely nothing more to the question "Do you believe in god?" is playing games. They are not interested in what you believe or don't believe. They are only trying to trap you and impose their opinion about what the answer means.

Answering "No" to "Do you believe in god?" does not in itself make you an atheist - even though some ill-informed believers and atheists think it does. All it means is that you do not believe in god. Yes, all atheists can be expected to answer "No" to the question, but that does not mean that only atheists would answer "No." Something more than that is required to distinguish atheists from the others who answer "No."

To be an atheist, you would also "believe there is no God."

The difference between "not believing in God" and "believing there is no God" may be too subtle for some to grasp, but it is an important distinction which agnostics understand.