Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Atheist or Agnostic or Neither or Both?


a·the·ist - a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods. 

ag·nos·tic - a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

Atheism answers the question, “Do you believe god/s exist?” This should be distinguished from the common misconception that atheism answers the question, "Does god/s exist?" It does not. 

The evidence for the existence of all 4000 of the gods and goddesses people have worshiped from the beginning of recorded time is identical:

  1. Personal, spiritual experiences that have led to an intuitive sense or "gut feeling" that the god/s or goddess/es in question are real.
  2. Many other people within a given culture, especially respected people in positions of authority (parents, ministers, educators, political officials), share a belief in said god/s.
  3. Stories passed on through the spoken or written word stating the existence of the god/s in question.

Since Christian God, Muslim God, the Greek gods, the Roman gods, the Nordic gods, the gods from shamanistic cultures, and so on are all validated subjectively, they each have an equal likelihood of existing.

One could easily make up stories of a newly invented god and convince others to believe them. And, this would result in the same spiritual “feelings” that validate the existence of established gods (think Scientology or Moonies). Therefore, any absurdity conjured up by the human mind has the same likelihood of existing as any of the gods and goddesses worshiped by humans.

So, based on the unimaginably low probability that established or newly invented gods are real, the atheist makes the claim, “I don’t believe god/s exist.”

Agnosticism answers a different question, “Can we know if god/s exist?” Agnostic is also a term that needs some clarification. Many consider the agnostic a fence sitter who thinks that god/s' existence is as likely as not.

In a universe of infinite time and space, anything is possible. We truly cannot know for certain that god/s do not exist. We cannot know for certain that fairies, smurfs, and leprechauns do not exist. It is possible that invisible horses with Snoopy heads exist in a place called Woowoo. The probability that this scenario is true is astronomically low. However, it is the exact same likelihood that Thor and Odin exist in a place called Valhalla or that the Christian and Muslim gods exist in a place called Heaven.

So, the agnostic states that he/she cannot know if god/s exist, but does not necessarily consider the likelihood of existence equal to that of non-existence. And, the atheist states that, based on the available evidence, he/she does not believe god/s exist.

4 comments:

  1. There are absence-of-belief-in-god(s) and belief-in-the-absence-of-god(s) versions of atheism. Many assume only the latter definition applies: the 'strong' or 'positive' atheism which actively believes there is no such thing as a god. There are those who hold that position, and I think it's likely to be true in the case of any god(s) dreamed up by people, but they're necessarily a subset of the greater "I am not convinced" crowd. For someone to actively believe there is no god, they must also lack belief in god(s), and the simple 'unconvinced' position is easier to argue from, since you don't have to go into logically-contradictive details while a theist tries to perform semantical gymnastics.

    I think we should just promote the use of the term 'atheist' in its wider lack-of-belief form, and adopt 'negatheist' as the term for the active "there is no god" position.

    For those who don't believe, and don't even care about the topic enough to discuss it, I'd suggest 'apatheist'. I recognize that's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but really I'd love for the topic of religion to become so irrelevant that we could all go back to being apatheists.

    ~Kevin

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  2. Hehehe... Well said! Thanks for the comments, Kevin!

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  3. I think it is important to not make unnecessary or unintended concessions.

    We can be certain that the Aztec gods are myth because of the specific ideas about the sun not rising if the priests did not cut the heart of out of someone now and then at the top of their pyramid. Last I checked the sun rises and I think tourists would have reported on priests cutting peoples hearts out if it was still on going. Now if someone wants to hold out hope for the Aztec gods based on some updated interpretation of their writing is it not their job to at least offer us their interpretation and fight just as hard us nonbelievers to obsolete the old interpretation?

    Like wise we can rule out Yahweh because of the talking snake and six day creation.
    And honestly it is Yahwaha we fight, is it not? Not some hypothetical yet to be found god?

    Never make a mistaken concession that allows for the plausibility of Yahweh.

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    Replies
    1. True enough, Forrest! Even if one were to stick with only New Testament doctrine, the absurdities and inconsistencies render it impossible.

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