Here is my list of all the various terms used by nonbelievers to describe themselves. Among these, “atheist” vs “agnostic” are frequently debated. To many, the nuances of “atheist” appear overly certain and the nuances of “agnostic” appear too wishy-washy. To address this dilemma, Mano Singham steps up to the plate. Singham is an atheist blogger & author (here) and a theoretical physicist at Case Western Reserve University. Here is the definition he offers in the new issue of The New Humanist:
Atheist: One for whom god is an unnecessary explanatory concept.
I like this definition — it allows many otherwise wishy-washy folks to call themselves “atheists”. However, I would like to offer a broader definition at the risk of again narrowing the ranks of self-proclaimed atheists.
Atheist: One for whom supernatural entities are unnecessary explanatory concepts.
Of course this puts off the debate into the definition of “supernatural” but I didn’t want to make the definition too long. Nonetheless certainly “supernatural” is helpful because it obviously would include spirits, ghosts, fairies, gods, demons, angels and all those familiar entities. “Supernatural” would also include celestial Boddhisattvas and the Dharmakaya embraced by even the most modern Buddhists, not to mention that demons, ghouls, devas, devis and other formless beings in traditional Buddhism.
Anyway, I thought the notion of “unnecessary explanatory concept” was wonderful. What do you think?