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Words Of Belief And Scepticism



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Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution is True had a competition to:


Provide a snappy, one-word name for those atheists who are nonetheless soft on faith (i.e., atheist accommodationists). You know them — the kind of people, like Michael Ruse, who say, “I am an atheist, but . . .”. In other words, the folks who, says Daniel Dennett, have “belief in belief.” That’s a snappy phrase, but it ain’t one word.


I missed the competition and didn't post an entry, but reading about it later I set my mind to the task of seeing if I could come up with a better word than the winner: faitheist.


Eventually I mangled my fascination with Chinese to produce 3 words which I hope express the issues reasonably well:


For someone who believes in believe how about using the word aixinian pronounced as ai-shin-ian(ai 爱 is the Chinese character for love, while xin 信 which is pronounced approximately as shin is the character for belief, or trust)


For someone who is a “knee jerk” atheist how about henxinian – pronounced hen-shin-ian. In this case hen 恨 is the Chinese character for hate, while xin is as before belief.


Following on again, for a person who is doubtful about the merits of belief you could use yixinian – pronounced yi-shin-ian. Where yi 疑 is the Chinese character for doubt, and xin is as before belief.


I fully admit these words look odd on the page and people may get confused over the pronounciation for xin.


There may be merit in abandoning the exact Chinese pinyin spelling and using aishinian, henshinian and yishinian, but that breaks the explicit link with the Mandarin characters and has an additional problem in people merging the sounds into a single syllable aish, yish and hensh rather than the two strong syllables ai-xin, hen-xin and yi-xin.


But even with these difficulties, I do think they are reasonably simple words which seem to encompass the debate and do not need too much explanation.


Anyway, when you try to coin a new word you just have to hope people will pick it up.


These words are a bit unwieldy in the spelling department, and have to be explained, but then again so does faitheist.


The major advantage, in my opinion, is that you gain three words which can encompass the debate while faitheist only sums up on one extreme.


Critique as you wish! More than likely my suggestion will die a death, but I thought I’d put these words out into the public domain to see what others think!


Are you an aixinian, a henxinian or a yixinian?


I'm to the middle of the spectrum - I'm definitely not an aixinian: theocratic belief is too ridgid and brittle. And I think most of what is good in it comes from the humanitarianism it contains independently of the dogma.


I think I'm at risk of being accused of being more henxinian, but that is I think over harsh - I'm doubtful of the advantages of belief. Definitely I do aspire to a more sceptical, less dogmatic world - but not to the extreme of hating belief. A quiet faith, as my granny had, did her and those around her little harm and added to her humanity, but belief and dogma go hand in hand which gives me my doubt over any of faith's purported advantages. So I am definitely yixinian!


Thoughts anyone?


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Well, your terms are certainly a lot better than the blatantly charged 'accomodationalists', which combined with the idea of this being "soft on faith", starts to resemble soviet style stigma through nomenclature!


I wonder why it is usually biologists of a certain age that get so publicly het up about atheism/theism.

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Alot of this at the moment centers around the various American National academies and such like, where their evolution outreach material is full of statements saying that evolutionary science is not incompatable with Christianity. The main point the atheistic scientists are making is that it is NOT the place of these academies to have any position concerning the compatability or incompatability of science to religion. They should just present the evidence.


I'm not unsympathetic to that - the outreach material I've seen doesn't even acknowledge that it is a very contested area - its presenting a very skewed picture where the only scientists given any publicity are the aixinian examples Coyne lists above - the atheists don't want equal time, or anything like that, they just want it acknowledged that the scientific bodies should champion science and not take a position in the culture wars. That seems reasonable if you ask me!

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Sure, and I agree largely with that, but I do get the feeling that it's gone beyond now. I mean Dawkins for instance is a full participant in the culture wars now, and a lot of the discussion, such as that which appears on blogs by the likes of Meyrs and Coyns is beginning to go beyond a mere defence of science and turn into a fully fledged attack on religion in general including other scientists and those who don't toe the official line of atheism's new gods.

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