Author Topic: Atheist and Agnostic  (Read 14926 times)

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Offline Intrepyd

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Atheist and Agnostic
« on: January 15, 2008, 11:28:23 AM »
Steve talked about the difference between atheism and agnosticism in his interview with the Reason Driven Podcast.  His argument was that agnosticism is the default skeptical position -- "The question of God is unknowable and ultimately irrelevant."  He distinguished it from atheism -- "I believe in the non-existence of God."  

Do you wear the "atheist" designation when it implies a conclusion about something unobservable?

Offline triumphene

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Atheist and Agnostic
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2008, 11:44:44 AM »
I tell people I'm atheist because when I say agnostic, people think I don't care or that I'm siding with them.  I'm agnostic towards the christian god the same way that I'm agnostic towards the hindu gods, or the greek gods, or viking gods, or fairies, which apparently means the same thing as atheist to them.
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Offline Cesar

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Atheist and Agnostic
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2008, 11:48:33 AM »
I wouldn't define atheism as "the belief in the non-existence of God." I don't have the need of believing that God does not exist; I simply do not believe in God (nor any other deities) because I find no proof for his/her/its existence.

In my case, I prefer to wear the "atheist" designation when it comes to question the unobservable, yes. If I kept an "agnostic" point of view, I would have to be agnostic when it comes to Zeus, Odin, Ra, Alah, and any other gods found in the different world cultures. They're supposed to be supernatural, just as the God of the christians; so they would have to be measured with the same tools people use to measure "God."

It's interesting, but I've met agnostics that totally refuse the idea of roman and greek gods, and even Alah, just like an atheist; but they step back a bit when it comes to this so called "God." What's the difference?
enny: "Well, I'm a Sagittarius, which probably tells you way more than you need to know."
Sheldon: "Yes, it tells us that you participate in the mass cultural delusion that the sun's apparent position relative to arbitrarily defined constellations at the time of your birth somehow affects your pers

Offline cerveauxfrits

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Atheist and Agnostic
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2008, 11:49:15 AM »
I'm a theist.  I worship hairline semantic distinctions.

Offline paceetrate

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Atheist and Agnostic
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2008, 11:50:21 AM »
I use the term atheist, because agnostic seems to imply an equal 50-50 chance of a god existing.  I do think it's -possible- there is some kind of non-interventionist god out there, but I don't think it's nearly as likely as 50% and I'm quite certain it's not an interventionist god like the god(s) of Christianity/Judaism/Islam/Hinduism/etc. etc.

Quote

It's interesting, but I've met agnostics that totally refuse the idea of roman and greek gods, and even Alah, just like an atheist; but they step back a bit when it comes to this so called "God." What's the difference?


That too. :)

Offline Apeiron

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Atheist and Agnostic
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2008, 11:51:58 AM »
Technically almost all of us are indeed agnostics. However, as others have pointed out, there is a distinction to be made within agnosticism. One group is on the "don't care" tour, another group says "I'm sure there's something, just not completely sure", whereas yet another group says "I'm pretty god damn sure there isn't any divine being".

This last group is technically agnostic too of course, since they can not be fully certain - lacking any complete evidence against the existence of God (which is of course impossible to have). However, since this group does not want to be lumped together with the other groups, they often refer to themselves as atheists.

In that sense I call myself an atheist: I am almost completely certain there is no God, and I live my life in that persuasion. However, I can not prove this position and therefore am technically agnostic while I call myself an atheist.

Offline triumphene

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Atheist and Agnostic
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2008, 11:54:44 AM »
Quote from: "Apeiron"

This last group is technically agnostic too of course, since they can not be fully certain - lacking any complete evidence against the existence of God (which is of course impossible to have). However, since this group does not want to be lumped together with the other groups, they often refer to themselves as atheists.

In that sense I call myself an atheist: I am almost completely certain there is no God, and I live my life in that persuasion. However, I can not prove this position and therefore am technically agnostic while I call myself an atheist.


Nobody truly scientific/logical could yet be a 10 on the Dawkins scale of agnosticism.  Not even Dawkins.
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Offline Intrepyd

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« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2008, 11:56:47 AM »
The difference between atheism and agnosticism is definitely not hairline.  Steve put it, "it's actually quite an important intellectual distinction."  (I guess that's my fallacious appeal to authority).  But I agree 100% that atheism is understood by most to mean non-belief, as opposed to belief in non-existence.  

If I kept an "agnostic" point of view, I would have to be agnostic when it comes to Zeus, Odin, Ra, Alah, and any other gods found in the different world cultures. They're supposed to be supernatural, just as the God of the christians; so they would have to be measured with the same tools people use to measure "God."

I think you can be agnostic when it comes to deism without all that baggage.

Offline flyboy

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« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2008, 11:57:21 AM »
I'm an Apatheist. I believe religion is personal. I don't care what you believe and I really Really don't want to hear about it!

Offline jblumenfeld

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« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2008, 11:59:02 AM »
Why should I believe anything - or be agnostic about anything - for which there is no positive evidence?  I realize there's a probability of the existence of God, but for me its in the same category as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy (someone else mentioned Zeus, etc...).  I'm not 'agnostic' about that stuff.

Offline Cesar

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Atheist and Agnostic
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2008, 12:06:05 PM »
Quote from: "jblumenfeld"
Why should I believe anything - or be agnostic about anything - for which there is no positive evidence?  I realize there's a probability of the existence of God, but for me its in the same category as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy (someone else mentioned Zeus, etc...).  I'm not 'agnostic' about that stuff.


That's my point.
enny: "Well, I'm a Sagittarius, which probably tells you way more than you need to know."
Sheldon: "Yes, it tells us that you participate in the mass cultural delusion that the sun's apparent position relative to arbitrarily defined constellations at the time of your birth somehow affects your pers

Offline triumphene

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Atheist and Agnostic
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2008, 12:08:50 PM »
Quote from: "jblumenfeld"
Why should I believe anything - or be agnostic about anything - for which there is no positive evidence?  I realize there's a probability of the existence of God, but for me its in the same category as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy (someone else mentioned Zeus, etc...).  I'm not 'agnostic' about that stuff.


But Santa Claus - you KNOW it's your parents.

Or if you don't by now, you have a bit of a problem.  But i guess it's an interesting parallel:

Santa Claus: gives good presents to rich kids; crap presents to poor kids
God: answers prayers of people with non-serious problems (ie please let me find a boyfriend) more than prayers of people with serious problems (as opposed to please let me have my arm back).

Santa Claus: lives at the north pole
God: lives at, presumably, the celestial north pole

Santa Claus: knows when you're sleeping, knows when you're awake, knows when you've been bad or good (so be good or you won't get presents)
God: ditto (so be good or you won't go to heaven)
emain cool to suggestions.  Smile enigmatic smiles.  No longer answer questions.

Offline lumberjohn

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Atheist and Agnostic
« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2008, 12:10:54 PM »
We are talking about two different things: belief and knowledge.  Atheism is a statement about one’s belief.  A theist believes in a god.  An atheist does not.  An atheist has weighed the evidence and found the atheist case more compelling than that of the theist.  In legal terms, the atheist finds it more probable than not that gods do not exist, while a theist takes the opposite position.  There are really only two positions possible here.

Agnosticism is a statement about knowledge.  In fact, knowledge is the root of the word.  It describes someone who does not know whether there is a god or not and most people attach to the knowledge the requirement of complete certainty.  This is not a very useful descriptor since if you think about it, no one really knows whether a god exists, because the existence of gods, which are by their nature beyond time and space and not subject to our physical laws, is not provable or disprovable to that level of certainty.  So all atheists are really agnostic atheists and all theists are really agnostic theists, even if they don’t admit to it.  

The term agnostic became popular, I believe, as a result of the stigma associated with “atheist.”  It was a way of throwing one’s hands up in the air and saying “I just don’t know, so I’m not going to take a side,” allowing one to live as an atheist without calling oneself an atheist, no doubt for practical reasons.  But knowing and believing are different things.  We all decide not to believe in things even though we can’t affirmatively disprove them.  So any distinction between atheist and agnostic on these grounds is really of no value.

It does make sense to think about strong atheists and weak atheists, though.  The strength of one’s atheism would appear to be based upon how far the person believes the scales of evidence are tipped against the existence of gods (or, when addressing a particular religion, the specific god associated with that religion).  The weakest possible atheist would be the one who sees the scales as balanced, with the evidence exactly equal on both sides, but concludes that theists have the burden of proof to tip the scales, and thus comes down on the side of atheism.  But if they conclude from this process that there is no god, and live their lives accordingly, then they are atheists.

Offline Cesar

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« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2008, 12:12:09 PM »
Quote from: "triumphene"
Quote from: "jblumenfeld"
Why should I believe anything - or be agnostic about anything - for which there is no positive evidence?  I realize there's a probability of the existence of God, but for me its in the same category as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy (someone else mentioned Zeus, etc...).  I'm not 'agnostic' about that stuff.


But Santa Claus - you KNOW it's your parents.



And God you should know it's your parents' parents' parents'... you know the drill. :wink:
enny: "Well, I'm a Sagittarius, which probably tells you way more than you need to know."
Sheldon: "Yes, it tells us that you participate in the mass cultural delusion that the sun's apparent position relative to arbitrarily defined constellations at the time of your birth somehow affects your pers

Offline Intrepyd

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Atheist and Agnostic
« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2008, 12:13:23 PM »
Quote from: "jblumenfeld"
Why should I believe anything - or be agnostic about anything - for which there is no positive evidence?  I realize there's a probability of the existence of God, but for me its in the same category as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy (someone else mentioned Zeus, etc...).  I'm not 'agnostic' about that stuff.


There is a distinction.  Santa Claus allegedly exists in the observable universe and is reportedly testable.  A deity allegedly exists beyond the observable universe, as something completely separate.  So, declaring you believe in the non-existence of Santa is not intellectually identical to believing in the non-existence of God.

 

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