Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Wikipedia editors argue over calling an Atheist who doesn't believe in God


Not listed as atheist - Julia Gillard

Why resist listing her as an atheist? Here at 6:24 she clearly answers "Do you believe in God? No, I don't Jon, I'm not a religious person" from a 2010 interview.Here she is questioned by members of the public about being an atheist, and she doesn't correct them or state she isn't an atheist. "Atheist" is a description and Julia Gillard meets that description - she does not believe in god. -- Brian Westley (talk) 22:14, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
We've had this discussion in the past, and the consensus was that she needs to use the words "I am an atheist" in order to meet the biographies of living people requirements. In the past she has described herself as an agnostic, and said many times that she doesn't believe in God, but as far as anyone has been able to find out, she hasn't specifically described herself as an atheist. The bar for describing someone's religious affiliations on Wikipedia is set very high. - Bilby (talk) 23:05, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
Here she is quoted as saying "Try being an atheist, childless, single woman as prime minister"Brian Westley (talk) 01:02, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
It's not the same as "I am an atheist". And there are sources where she either self describes or is described as agnostic. While the atheist sources are probably more numerous, it's not a clean sweep. The final paragraph of the Personal life section explains her religious position, and leaves it up to readers to draw further conclusions. Oh, and if you're seeking an entry in the Infobox saying Religion: Atheist, it won't happen. Atheism isn't a religion. HiLo48 (talk) 01:19, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
She's clearly referring to herself as an atheist in that quote. And I KNOW atheism isn't a religion, but it also isn't a "religious affiliation" as Bilby wrote earlier; it's a description, meaning someone who doesn't believe in a god, which she has stated. Plus, most atheists ARE ALSO agnostics, since these positions are not mutually exclusive, so places where she refers to herself as agnostic do nothing to discount her as an atheist. Do you think Richard Dawkins should not be described as an atheist since he has stated he's also an agnostic? Your standard of "I am an atheist" is totally unreasonable in the face of her quote "Try being an atheist, childless, single woman as prime minister" How can that NOT mean she's an atheist? --Brian Westley (talk) 01:40, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
Have a read of WP:OR. It says that, while the kind of logic you've just applied looks pretty good, we aren't allowed to do it. Go and find that statement where she says "I am an atheist" and your argument will be much stronger. But my question is, what do you want to do with it? It cannot go in the Infobox. What's wrong with the text I've already pointed you at in the Personal life section? HiLo48 (talk) 02:40, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
There are other people identified as atheists who haven't said "I am an atheist". I know of no place where Pete Stark (former member of congress) has publicly stated "I am an atheist", for example, yet his bio states he's an atheist. And the information that Gillard is an atheist could be in the text just like Stark's is now. -Brian Westley (talk) 04:05, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
Atheism and agnosticism are mutually exclusive - one says that there is no god, and one says that there may, or may not, be a god. You can't hold both positions simultaneously, although there is no reason why someone can't move between the two over time. - Bilby (talk) 02:55, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
"Atheism and agnosticism are mutually exclusive" -- that's flatly wrong. "one says that there is no god, and one says that there may, or may not, be a god." Wrong again. This wiki doesn't even agree with you. How do you explain Richard Dawkins stating he's an atheist and an agnostic in that previous link? -Brian Westley (talk) 04:05, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
I'm not quite sure why this is such a big deal, but while some people take atheism to be a range of beliefs, it is more broadly seen as a rejection of a belief in god/s, especially when contrasted with agnosticism. It is why we have two separate lists - one for atheists, and one for agnostics. While some people may wish to say they are atheist, and take that to mean something closer to agnostic, and others say that they are agnostic, but mean something more like atheism, I'm not comfortable with treating the two terms as interchangeable. -Bilby (talk) 05:07, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
But you are treating them like they are mutually exclusive, when there are lots of atheists like Dawkins who clearly state they are both. And I'm not saying they are interchangable, they mean two different things, but they aren't mutually exclusive so you can't claim that a person stating they are agnostic means they can't be an atheist; they can be both. It's like saying someone who says they're Jewish can't be an atheist - there are people who are both Jewish and atheist, because these terms aren't exclusive. Brian Westley (talk) 13:47, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
I think it just highlights the different way the two words are used by different people at different times, or even by the same people at different times. I dislike the idea of applying simple, simplistic, obviously arguable, one word labels to people for what is often a complex, changing position. And I question the motives of those who are keen to do so. They tend to fall into three camps, simple people, those who want to say "Look, x is an atheist, so x is a bad person", and those who want to say "Look, x is an atheist, AND Prime Minister (or whatever), so atheists are great people". Like a lot of other Australian voters, it's not important to me whether Gillard is agnostic, atheist, or won't tell me. I judge her on entirely different things. HiLo48 (talk) 04:33, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
I question why you're so keen NOT to call her an atheist; she has made a statement as clear as Pete Stark (Stark: "[I am] a Unitarian who does not believe in a Supreme Being.") (Gillard ans: "Do you believe in God?" "No, I don't Jon"). Brian Westley (talk) 13:47, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
It's not clear to me what change is being suggested by Brian Westley. If he wants Atheist in the infobox, that will never happen. If he wants it in article space, well, it's kinda there already in Julia Gillard#Personal life. So what needs to change? What's the big deal about using the "A" word? WWGB (talk) 04:39, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
Who is Pete Stark? HiLo48 (talk) 21:33, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
It's not clear to me you can read what I write. I have already stated it could be similar to Pete Stark's entry, which classifies him as an atheist even though he hasn't said whatever magical phrase people here claim he needs to say first. And yep, she's been removed again from the list of atheist politicians, even though Pete Stark is still there with his picture, who has never stated he's an atheist as far as I can determine. There seems to be no standard at all in whether a person is considered an atheist. Brian Westley(talk) 13:47, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
Who is Pete Stark? (And why do you think it makes sense to mention someone a lot of people writing in this thread are unlikely to have heard of?)HiLo48 (talk) 21:26, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
Brian Westley, it would be helpful if you include links where appropriate. I presume you refer to:
and perhaps
Presumably we should also consider whether to include Gillard in Category:Australian atheists. (Stark is in Category:American atheists.) Mitch Ames (talk) 01:23, 1 January 2013 (UTC)
I'm not really sure if comparisons with Pete Stark are valuable, because either he didn't say he was an atheist, and therefore perhaps shouldn't be listed, or he did, in which case it isn't clear that he is a direct comparison. At any rate, the reason he is counted as one is because he was the only US congressman to complete a survey in which he said he was an atheist that was run by the Secular Coalition for America [10]. The quote by him that is being used isn't as clear as one might like, but I assume it was the survey which was the main issue.
Until now we haven't had a quote by Gillard where she said she was an atheist. The current one is the best we've had, and is "Gillard tells of a joke she shared with Barack Obama: 'I tell him, "You think it's tough being African-American? Try being me. Try being an atheist, childless, single woman as prime minister".'" [11]. I think that's the most direct reference being offered, but by being given in the context of a joke it might not meet BLP requirements. That's where I'm unclear. -Bilby (talk) 01:44, 1 January 2013 (UTC)
────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────if there was a consensus, as bilby suggests, that she has to say the words "I am an atheist", then I would suggest that consensus was wrong and, in particular, contra WP guidelines. We set the bar at verifiability, not truth. As others have pointed out, she has stated she does not believe in god, and accepted the premise of questions that stated she was an atheist. More important to the issue, she has been described as an atheist in reliable sources such as SMH and crikey. Can anyone check the words used in any book length biographies? It would seem inaccurate 'not to call her an atheist. I have no view about the info box issue. hamiltonstone (talk) 01:47, 1 January 2013 (UTC)
Just in case anyone is interested following up the history, the longest discussion I can recall was at BLPN, which resulted in the consensus for self identification, and it was raised again during a rename discussion for Lists of Atheists at [12]. There were a number of other discussions here and there. The general consensus seems to have been that saying "I don't believe in god" is not sufficient to warrant being placed in the atheist category, and that a clearer self identification is required. I should note that there is nothing stopping us from describing someone's religious beliefs, as we do already in the article. The issue only relates to using the specific label "atheist". - Bilby (talk) 02:21, 1 January 2013 (UTC)
I agree with Bilby. She should not be infoboxed or categorised as an Atheist unless she describes herself as such on the record. Her beliefs are adequately described in the article text. --Surturz (talk) 10:59, 1 January 2013 (UTC)
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