The Dangers of the Word “Belief”

Nov 20, 2011 Comments Off by

The more one delves into the discussions around religion, the more one gets used to certain items of terminology being thrown around. Over time, all words take on a very specific, and often subtle meaning, depending on who uses them and how. This seems to be the case for the word “belief”, which since the advent of scepticism of religion, has become somewhat of a dirty word.

The word “belief” is more often used on the side of the religious, simply because it flows rather harmoniously as the phrase “belief in god”. As such it seems to have become one of the token words of anyone who makes rather grand claims. But in everyday speech, the word is frequently used interchangeably with the word “think”, such as in the phrase “I believe so.” There appear to be two definitions of the word, but what are they?

When used in a religious context, many might suggest that to believe is to think that something is true regardless of whatever evidence there is. Those sceptical of religious claims tend to refrain from using the word simply because of its connotations. But in normal speech the word means to simply think that something is true. As definitions go these two are not wildly dissimilar.

There’s something dangerous about using the word “belief” in debates and discussions about religion, particularly for atheists. It suggests that rather than looking at the evidence and coming to a rational conclusion, the evidence has been ignored and a conclusion has been chosen for whatever reason a person might have.

Perhaps this should be the everyday definition of the word, and instead of using it synonymously with the word “think”, we should just say “think” or “reckon”.

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About the author

I am the founder of Atheism Network.
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