And yet it also goes on to explain there are many examples where it is defined otherwise, such as how I did above. It doesn’t really matter though, as long as when we are communicating, we are mindful of how we are both using these terms. Neither philosophers nor dictionaries actually dictate usage, they merely describe it.
There are and have been historical developments on this question, and they are of course still on-going. Like organisms, languages and the meanings of words change over time. Suffice it to say that as I’ve become introduced to the subject of theism and atheism over the last decade and a half, in almost every instance where I’ve used the word and seen other atheists use it, they have used it in the sense I described above.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we all extended this basic courtesy to each other: to refrain from describing what others believe? Christians, for example, are all over the map on all sorts of questions. When someone says “I’m a Christian” they are telling you just a bit about what they believe, and they often surprise me with descriptions that lie outside many definitions of the term. I think I am obligated to allow them to call themselves ‘Christian’ and to then determine what they believe by… I know this sounds crazy to some people… asking them.
@Giltil is wrong about the meaning of the word ‘atheist’, but the real problem here is the projection of beliefs onto another person. The former is merely annoying; the latter is unacceptably disrespectful. (Such acts of disrespect, BTW, can be addressed with an apology. I recognize that the error is not uncommon and it’s easy for anyone to make.)
The idea that the Christian God is a necessary being which is identified with the God of classical theism has very old historical roots - it stretches far back to Calvin (and all the other Reformers), Aquinas, Anselm, Augustine, and even before that. You can disagree with this long tradition and insist that the Bible, properly interpreted, doesn’t agree with it, but you can’t just pretend it doesn’t exist. It would also be primarily an argument about hermeneutics or Christian tradition, not philosophy or science.
Ugh, this seems a really distorted description of the conversation. The existence of those entities is not why they were brought up, at least not by me (and again, you all are ignoring the Morrígan, in open disrespect to her and her followers). In fact, some or all of them “exist” in certain ways, and in at least one case (Nessie) it remains technically “reasonable” to speculate about her existence without any reference to the supernatural. The point is about the logic applied to anyone’s skepticism about the Morrígan or Loki or Yahweh. This should be obvious, but to make it even more obvious, let’s just assert that the Morrígan is the uber-god that we keep hearing about, this “necessary being.” Of course I can equivocate and say that the whole “necessary being” thing is really a post hoc solution to a manufactured problem, but I can also say “yay, not only is the Morrígan fierce and brave and worthy of devotion, not only is she a trinity of women instead of the lame dudes of Christianity, she is now the [checks notes] necessary being that [checks notes] must exist. HAIL THE Morrígan!!!”
I agree it’s inappropriate to use that term to describe Denton who is not AFAIK a believer. It’s fine to use it to describe Behe as long as it’s used to describe what he is known to believe. In general I think it is basic respect to avoid using labels like that one when the people have disclaimed the label, but I think that’s different from what I wrote, which is “describing what others believe.”
In other words, I think there’s a difference between using labels (Christian, believer, atheist, creationist) and making assertions about what another believes. Many times, I’ll grant, the first entails the second. But often this is not the case, and so people apparently feel empowered to write things like “Matheson is an atheist, so therefore he believes X and Y.” Anyway. Sorry about rambling, glad you agree with my feeble attempt to call PS posters to a pretty minimal standard of respect.
But it’s not fine if the person using the label “creationist” is imputing to Behe doctrines that he is known not to believe. For example, if the person means by the word “creationism” that “science must must conform to the account in Genesis, taken literally as history,” Behe does not believe that, and it’s misleading to use the term to describe what he believes.
Of course, if all the person means by “creationist” is that Behe thinks that God created the world, then the term would be fine, as long as the same person describes Francis Collins, Ken Miller, and all other leading EC/TE proponents as “creationists”, and describes Joshua Swamidass as a “creationist”, and describes all Christians, Jews and Muslims as “creationists.” But it is rarely the case that critics of Behe mean “creationist” in that broader sense; almost always they mean to suggest “creationism” of the populist American variety, despite Behe’s disavowal of such a position.
Ha, well, maybe I didn’t go far enough! Some labels are useful, I guess, though even “Christian” is squishy enough that it’s usually best to go straight to asking someone about their ideas and beliefs. But “creationist” is not useful anymore. It’s freighted with condescension and IMO is so rarely used as a descriptor (vs. an insult) that it doesn’t belong in a higher-level discussion like the ones we seek here. I’ll gladly join you in avoiding and denouncing the term.