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Why Atheism over Agnosticism?

Discussion in 'Atheism DIR' started by Snowber, Feb 26, 2010.

  1. Snowber

    Snowber Active Member

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    Greetings,

    I have always wondered what brings many people to the point of saying they are "Atheist". I mean even at the most misinformed part of my life I would only be able to say I was Agnostic. This is not a debate, just honestly asking what makes it Atheist cross that gap (if any) going straight into Atheism rather in the belief that we cannot know?
     
  2. Copernicus

    Copernicus Godless Hierophant

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    I believe that we cannot know for certain that God or gods do not exist, but I also am strongly convinced that they do not exist. If they did exist, then I would expect my experiences of the world to be very different from what they are. So it is appropriate for me to call myself an atheist.

    Let me put it to you this way. Like me, you probably do not believe in the existence of Santa Claus. In fact, you have some pretty good reasons to believe that he does not exist, but you cannot really know that he does not exist. After all, like God, he just may be very good at keeping himself hidden from us. If there a word for non-believers in Santa Claus--say, "a-clausists"--then I would have no trouble calling myself an a-clausist. Would you?

    Now, why call myself an atheist rather than an agnostic? I do not. I think that atheism is perfectly compatible with agnosticism. What I dislike about the term "agnostic" is that people equate it with the position that belief in the existence of gods is equally as plausible as disbelief in their existence. I am not neutral about the existence of gods, even though I cannot claim absolute knowledge on the matter. So I usually avoid calling myself an "agnostic" in order not to give that false impression.
     
    #2 Copernicus, Feb 26, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2010
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  3. Smoke

    Smoke Done here.

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    Why theism over agnosticism? Pretty much what Copernicus already said.

    You're pretty sure there's a god. I'm pretty sure there's not. I don't call myself an agnostic because the existence of god seems as unlikely to me as the existence of Santa Claus. I wouldn't say I'm not sure whether Santa Claus exists or not, even though there's always the outside chance that he does.
     
    #3 Smoke, Feb 26, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2010
  4. Smoke

    Smoke Done here.

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    This.
     
  5. Caladan

    Caladan Agnostic Pantheist

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    Starting from the time when I was a kid I was more atheist than a believer. atheist was the natural position, and it also gave me a sense of liberation.
    today this sense of liberation manifests in many current events. for example in the creation-evolution controversy, position of the GLBT community, etc.
    my position is at odds with that of much of the organized religion around the world, whether if it is in my support of the TOE, or equal status in all walks of life for same sex couples. and while different scriptures offer a lot, whether academically, or otherwise, scriptures do not represent a 'Word of God' for me. I may have an ambitious hypothetical aim to get an image of the stream of religious experience through out history or parts of it, and I may also experience and witness the passions behind many religious phenomena, I still aspire to maintain a position of an observer, I'm interested in getting insights into the phenomena, but not the zeal.
    Atheism is a natural position for me in a sense and on many levels, it keeps me opened to scientific insights which otherwise might have undermined religious sentiments, it also keeps me opened to historiography of ancient periods, and helps me to observe the passions and conflicts around the debates of the Iron Age in the Levant for example, and of course studying other hot periods such as first century Palestine and the first centuries of Christianity.
    your idea of 'claiming that we don't know', is viewed differently by me. perhaps because of the reason that you uphold the Qur'an as a Word of God. while Islam is one of the major world religions, and one of the 'legit' religions of the world, and while the Qur'an is interesting and relevant for study in many ways, it cannot be considered as a Word of God for me. therefore there is no gap of 'not knowing' here. however, I do find the poetry about the divine by Rumi the Persian Muslim poet to be inspiring and it does enable me to connect to something bigger than myself. so while I acknowledge the intensity and fascination of the universe, I accept that trying to understand different phenomena in the universe is a huge quest in itself, before even going into contemplations of whether there is a God, a God or divinity that many people on this very forum have very different ideas about. most of these ideas do not resonate with me, however they ARE interesting to me, and relevant for me to explore.
    my position in part is that we still have much to explore about our universe, and just our solar system and our planet, this in itself renders a quest to find divine 'truths' as futile in many ways. and certainly many of the religious stances out there simply do not sit well with objective research and exploration.
    However I do believe that religion, mythology and theology can elevate themselves beyond the need for absolute truths. and manifest in personal or cultural journeys. where the need for conversion is meaningless, but the goal of personal and collective growth is a driving force.
     
    #5 Caladan, Feb 26, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2010
  6. Kilgore Trout

    Kilgore Trout Misanthropic Humanist

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    I am both an atheist and agnostic. I generally choose the label "atheist" over "agnostic," because although both of these words are widely misunderstood, most people's misunderstanding of the word "atheist" is still more applicable to me, than their misunderstanding of the word "agnostic."
     
  7. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    Philosophically, I recognize that all knowledge is tentative and subject to some uncertainty (and it seems like you do too, even though you have no problem calling yourself a Muslim, apparently with certainty). Practically, though, I treat the non-existence of all gods as an effective certainty, so I think "atheist" is a better description of my position than "agnostic"

    Anyhow, what do you think "atheist" means? To me, it means one of two things:

    - a lack of belief in any gods
    - a belief that no gods exist

    Either way, it's not a claim of certain knowledge.

    For another way of looking at it, have you heard of Dawkins' belief scale? I'm probably somewhere around 6.5 to 6.9 (generally - for some specific gods, I'm actually a full 7). Now... is it more reasonable to round this off to 7 (strong atheist) or 4 (agnostic)?
     
  8. The Voice of Reason

    The Voice of Reason Doctor of Thinkology

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    I had never seen Dawkins' scale. I like it, but I'd make it a ten point scale, and add a couple of other nuances.

    As it is, I would say that I'm a 6 on his scale (based on his description), but I don't agree that that is the position of a De Facto Atheist (although I understand why he uses that term).
     
  9. Copernicus

    Copernicus Godless Hierophant

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    I like Dawkins' scale, too, but I think he mischaracterizes "strong atheism". You rarely find atheists who claim to be "100% sure" that there is no God. Most of those that I consider strong atheists claim gods to be in the same category of being as other mythical and imaginary beings. On the other hand, you can easily find lots of "strong theists" who categorically assert the existence of God. That has more to do with their fervent desire to believe, I think, rather than it being the case that they harbor no doubts. That is, denial of doubt is a method of suppressing their doubts. Atheists are seldom similarly motivated to engage in the suppression of belief. If God did exist, it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, especially if it were to lead to an eternal existence of comfort and joy, as many theists claim.
     
  10. Willamena

    Willamena Just be there, doing that
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    Why does he use it?
     
  11. Copernicus

    Copernicus Godless Hierophant

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    Because Dawkins is frequently accused of harboring faith that there is no God--the mirror image of someone who claims to be 100% certain of the existence of God. His scale is an attempt to show the lack of symmetry between himself and those kinds of theists.
     
  12. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    Yeah, I've got issues with his terminology, too... for example, his use of "agnostic" as a sort of midpoint between extreme theism and extreme atheism.

    I agree with you about defining "strong atheism". I take it to mean an active disbelief in gods, as opposed to a simple lack of belief.

    Yeah. I also think that many religious communities tend to exert a lot of social pressure on their members that would make them reluctant to speak about uncertainties publicly. For the most part, the arguments that I hear theists making for why all atheists should call themselves "agnostic" apply just as well the other way, but it's very, very rare to find any church-going God-believer who would call self-apply the label "agnostic".

    Yes and no. I think there's less pressure to suppress doubts, but I think there is a danger that atheists can fall prey to: any time we publicly state our position on anything, if we then retreat from that position, we risk losing face for our perceived lack of consistency.
     
  13. Atheist Waddle Dee

    Atheist Waddle Dee A Simple Waddle Dee

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    I agree with this. I'd like to add that agnosticism deals with knowledge of gods and not belief of gods. People commonly get confused by that distinction.
    ”A” means “without” and “gnosis” means “knowledge.” Agnostic means without knowledge, but it tends to deals with knowledge of gods. Atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive. I'm an agnostic atheist for example. People can be agnostic theists as well.
     
  14. The Voice of Reason

    The Voice of Reason Doctor of Thinkology

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    Copernicus has (in my opinion) a valid answer.

    I would add that I think Dawkins is saying that if one lives their life as though God does not exist, then they are de facto, an atheist. In other words, he is saying that if you live as an atheist, you are (effectively) an atheist.

    At least, that is why I think he uses that term for a "6" on his scale.
     
  15. Snowber

    Snowber Active Member

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    Thank you all for your replies, very insightful.

    I don't blame you for assuming this because I did not give any other information as for why I call myself a Muslim, and though this may be better suited in the Debate section I just want to point out that the reason I call myself a Muslim (aka Submitter) NOT believer, is because I submit to what I believe is factual according to scientific/mathematical evidence in the Koran as well as in the purest form of previous Scriptures (though it may be more difficult to verify that today of course). I believe that the "chances" of "coincidences" in Scripture may be less amazing if it was one or two coincidences but as that number grows constantly the chances of it being incorrect decline. Again this is not the place for debate but if anyone is interested I can post the argument in the debate section for the sake of healthy discussion.

    Thanks again for your replies.
     
  16. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    Based on the bit in bold, I think this is a distinction without difference.
     
  17. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    Another thought occurs to me: the question of the OP, along with all the "you can't prove a negative"-type arguments would apply just as strongly to monotheists who are certain of the existence of no other deities.

    Pick a god, any god, and you can find theists who don't believe in him/her/it. Should they consider themselves "agnostic" as well? Should we call all monotheists "polytheist agnostics"?
     
  18. Snowber

    Snowber Active Member

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    My use of "believe" must've thrown people off, sorry about that. I think people use "believe" in a couple different ways. There are those who say they believe as in the "follow" something. Then there are those who "believe" which is defined as a state in which someone has no doubt about a certain thing. This is the state very few people on earth, throughout history, have achieved.


    Many theists, though they may not admit it, are not really certain of GOD's existence, that is the different, in the Koran, between a submitter and a believer.

     
    #18 Snowber, Feb 26, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2010
  19. dust1n

    dust1n Zindīq

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    I'm an 'atheist', because I am actually 'Dustin', and I reject any 'God theory'. I will be more than glad to convert to 'theism' when I am proven wrong. I however, not concerned with proving the dis-existence of God.
     
  20. Rio Sabinas

    Rio Sabinas Old Geezer

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    Copernicus, reference post #2...

    I'll see if I can prove the exsistance of Santa Claus verbally.
    "Santa Claus" is not a "He" but an idea. Anyone can become the embodiment of this
    idea if they so choose. I'm not talking about flying Reindeer & popping down the
    Chimney, but creating the illusion of magic for Children. Therefore Santa Claus "can"
    be real.

    The idea of God is not in the same class. You cannot become the embodiment of this
    idea. Nor to my knowledge can God be proved or dis-proved. So.....I'm "walking beside"
    dust1n on this one, "not concerned with proving" as I could only express my beliefs without
    offering any proof.
     
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