Theism, agnosticism and atheism

March 30, 2007 at 8:05 am 12 comments

I would like to start off this entry with a diagram I made earlier:

THEISM ————————— AGNOSTICISM ————————— ATHEISM

That is the chart of theistic ideas as I see it. This site, of course, represents a view about here:

THEISM ————————— AGNOSTICISM ————————— ATHEISM
————————————————————————–^

Many people have asked me why I don’t simply call myself either an agnostic or an atheist. Why blend these into one? Well, here are the reasons as I see them.

First, let me clarify that by ‘God’ I do not just mean a higher power. I’m more referring to the “loving” Christian God type of being. Now, I’m sure most people would agree that a person on the true path of rationality would not be on the theist end due to the complete lack of hard evidence for God.

Having established that, let’s go to the other extreme – complete out and out atheism. Why isn’t this a completely rational belief? In my opinion, that requires just as much blind belief as theism does. We do not have proof there is no God. There are even many semi-convincing arguments for a higher power, which could lead you into the belief there is a God. However, even if these arguments are not convincing, we must admit there is no proof for the non-existence of God.

FairyLet’s do a quick exercise- put out your hand. Ok, now that you’ve done that, look at your palm. I’m going to suggest there is a little fairy sitting on the edge of your hand with her little pale legs dangling off the side. What? You don’t believe me? Why not? You can’t see her? Well, there is an easy explanation. She is invisible. Can you feel her? If not, maybe you’re just not sensitive enough, but she is there. How can you argue with me? Can you really completely deny the existence of that little fairy sitting on your hand if we’ve agreed that she’s invisible? Of course you can’t. I don’t believe you can say the invisible fairy isn’t there since I’m telling you she is. Also, since we’re having this disagreement, she’s probably an invisible and slightly pissed off fairy by now because you do not believe in her. Wouldn’t you be annoyed if I didn’t believe in you? I would apologise to her if I were you.

So far I’ve explained why I believe it is not rational to be theist or atheist. So, lets go to agnosticism. By agnosticism, I’m referring to the belief that there is roughly a 50% chance God exists. Why isn’t that right either? Well, while you may not have been able to come up with an explanation as to why the fairy isn’t there, you probably still think its highly likely that she doesn’t exist although I hope I’ve convinced there is a possibility of her existence. This is the very reason agnosticism doesn’t work either. If you cannot use sensory perception or logic to prove the existence of something, it is automatically more likely that there isn’t some thing there. If there appears to be nothing, you must prove that there is something. You do not look at what appears to be nothing and assume there is something and equally, if I showed you an apparently empty room, you would not say there is a 50% chance of something being there.

I say all this to say I’m between agnosticism and atheism.

By the way, where’s your hand? You haven’t closed it and crushed the fairy. Have you??

- Mary

Entry filed under: Marymk. Tags: , , , .

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12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. nullifidian  |  March 30, 2007 at 9:12 am

    I’ll quite happily say that I’m an atheist, although, like you, I have conditions on that atheism. That’s precisely why I came up the the list.

    There isn’t just one god concept, there are thousands upon thousands of them, and they have to be considered individually, as they have different amounts of evidence, and the arguments for each of them have to be considered independently.

  • 2. nowoo  |  March 30, 2007 at 9:47 am

    Dawkins criticizes the idea that agnosticism is something halfway between theism and atheism, as if the existence of the deity in question was equally likely to exist or not exist. As your fairy example shows, we can imagine lots of invisible beings, but that doesn’t mean there’s a 50/50 chance that each of them is real. Are you really agnostic about the monsters under your bed? Or do you live your life on the assumption that they don’t exist?

  • 3. Adam  |  March 30, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    I define atheist as simply without belief in a god. So if you’re an agnostic, you’re still either an atheist or a theist.

  • 4. brian t  |  March 30, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    I might call myself an agnostic in an academic, philosophical sense, but the real world demands that I make decisions, take a position and stick to it. I don’t see why the academic possibility of gods – somewhere, sometime – should carry any weight in making such decisions – any more than any other supernatural theories.

    It still comes down to evidence, which is just not there. Even if there was, what use is a “god” who doesn’t DO anything useful?

  • 5. pastorofdisaster  |  March 30, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    Were you trying to make me convert to fairyanity? Because I am afraid that I did crush my fairy. Oh well, at least I kept its pixie dust.

    As always I enjoyed the thoughts.

  • 6. Thinking Ape  |  March 31, 2007 at 12:51 am

    “By agnosticism, I’m referring to the belief that there is roughly a 50% chance God exists.”

    This definition of agnosticism is very foreign to me. I doubt there are many philosophical agnostics (very different than spiritually apathetic people) that would think that agnosticism has anything to do with probability. Thomas Huxley coined the term in the 19th century as an opposition to gnosticism – instead of someone WITH knowledge, it is someone WITHOUT knowledge.

    When we speak of agnosticism, there are several modes of agnostic interpretation. You probably know all about the different sorts of agnosticism – strong, weak, apathetic, ignosticism, model, theistic, and atheistic. None of these have anything to do with the chances of God’s existence. Rather, it is based on the interpretation of first, what “knowledge” is, and second, what your personal “belief” is. I am somewhat of a Kantian in my epistemological stance, and so I must reject any notion of “knowledge” of God, since it is a philosophic impossiblity for a finite being to “know” an infinite being. Philosophical Agnostics are simply those that recognize this distinction.

    The problem with atheists and theiest, I biasly suggest, is that both believe they have “knowledge” when they really don’t. They may have knowledge concerning their own belief systems, but they don’t have “knowledge” of the subject (God).

    How do you like them bananas?

  • 7. mysteryofiniquity  |  March 31, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Thinking Age,
    I like them bananas. Great answer!

  • 8. Wolterkabolter  |  April 3, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    A funny quote from Life of Pi by Yann Martel:

    It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the gardem of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.”

    To think about…

  • 9. Doris Tracey  |  April 4, 2007 at 7:51 am

    Theists, Agnostics and Atheists are all embrionic Gods in the making and do not have full enlightenment . Jesus and all the saints who are no longer in this earth plain are full blown Christians. They have their full annointing of the light (Christ).

  • 10. Richard T Scott  |  April 12, 2007 at 8:43 am

    Perhaps it’s possible to calculate a relative probability of the existence of God. Obviously the 50% calculation is rather arbitrary. But there are obvious hurdle in finding definate quantities with which to ascertain this probability… for instance, where do we start?
    The difficulty lies in the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. The conclusion of which lead to a revolutionary view in science that because no quantity can be absolutely and precisely measured all things: laws, occurances, etc… may most accurately be described in terms of probability.
    So, where to start? Well, there is a similar formula already in use to calculate the probability of extra-terrestrial life in the universe namely the Drake equation. Obviously there are more concrete means of calculation for “E.T’s” than for the elusive “God”, but I could see this a starting point for forming such an equation.
    Also, you might find it interesting to read THE SCIENCE OF GOD by Gerard L. Schroeder. He explores this terrain both from the scientific perspective and the faith-based perspective. So, given that he states an obvious bias at the beginning (as we all have being subjective by nature), I find his argument interesting and compelling.

  • 11. nullifidian  |  April 21, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    Theists, Agnostics and Atheists are all embrionic Gods in the making and do not have full enlightenment . Jesus and all the saints who are no longer in this earth plain are full blown Christians. They have their full annointing of the light (Christ).

    And the woo will set you free?

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Attention Christian Readers

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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