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A person who is neither a theist, nor an atheist (nor, for that matter an agnostic).

A nontheist neither believes God exists, nor that God does not exist.

To a notheist, both theism and atheism are a complete waste of mental bandwidth. In other words, to a nontheist the question of the existence or non-existence of God is completely irrelevant.

A nontheist is different from an agnostic: An agnostic generally believes we simply cannot know whether God does or does not exist. A nontheist, on the other hand, generally believes that it is possible to figure it out, but why bother?

The Buddha is the first historically known nontheist. Most Buddhists are nontheist.

The Buddha was often asked whether God existed. Usually, he replied with a complete silence. Once, however, he told the story of the man shot by a poisoned arrow.

When the doctor came and wanted to pull the arrow out of the wound, the man grabbed the doctor's hand and asked:

"Before you start treating me, Doctor, tell me, who was it that shot me? Was he of warrior class or some other class? Was he tall or was he short? Was he young or was he old? Was he dark skinned or light skinned?"

The doctor ignored the questions and pulled the arrow out. Had he answered the questions, the patient would have died.

That is why, said the Buddha, I will not answer your question about God. If I did, you would just spend your time in endless speculation, and never awaken from your current state.

A person without a belief in a God. This term is used to better distinguish between weak atheism and strong atheism. This seems to be a better term than "atheist" for capturing the more general concept of "one who is without a belief in God," for several reasons:

(1) Almost everyone who employs the term "nontheist" already uses it in the given way.

(2) As indicated in dictionaries, most native speakers of English use the term "atheist" for the more definite concept of "one who denies that God exists." It is desirable to abide by common usage and it is foolish, and probably futile, to try to reform people's usage of terms.

(3) It would be more natural to call infants and fetuses "nontheists" than to call them "atheists."

(4) It is desirable to have a system in which the familiar three classes, theists, atheists, and agnostics, are mutually exclusive, and that would not be possible if the term "atheist" were instead used for the more general concept.

Is there a God?

My favourite exponent of non-theism has for a long time been A.J. Ayer, and in fact the other positivists, due to his simple statement of non-theism: To ask whether God exists is simply not meaningful.

In this context it means that no-one can produce evidence one way or the other as to God's existence; there is no test, positive or negative. You cannot formulate a model of the world with God, and the world without God, and then compare the universe as it is to your models. The problem inheres on at least two levels: First, God is seen as being outside the universe; second, you only have one universe.

Concerning anything outside the universe, one can have no statements, for the universe is the entirety of what we can experience, and hence know. The only way god could conceivably "exist outside the universe" is if it were some sort of mathematical theorem. As we only have one universe, we cannot speculate what universes with or without God would be like, and hence no test can be made; as such, to say "God exists", or "God does not exist" is the same as saying "Green is green-coloured".

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