Posts tagged ‘agnostic’
Much ink has been spilled in the skeptical community over the issue of labels. What should we call ourselves: atheists, or agnostics? Which term is more “justified”? Here, I toss my own hat into the ring on this question… and then I will argue that this issue is unimportant, distracting, and, potentially, divisive.
There is at least a small upside to this issue, which is why I’m including my own reasoning. The only potentially serious function it has, in my view, is that it provides a convenient arena in which to explore some epistemology. “Epistemology” is that branch of philosophy that deals with knowledge – how do we know what we know? Hashing out the atheist vs. agnostic question can be an entry way into how we approach questions of knowledge. We can sharpen our critical thinking skills and learn some philosophy to boot. To the degree that they serve that purpose, such debates can be informative, maybe even useful. There’s a serious downside, though, but I’ll save that for the end. So, for what intellectual exercise it’s worth, here’s my take on this question:
I start by defining terms: theism, of course, refers to belief in god(s). Atheism, then, obviously refers to a lack of belief in god(s). Agnosticism is the assertion that it is not possible to know the answer, and thus a refusal to opine (with any confidence) on the existence of god(s).
Now, some atheists define atheism broadly. They suggest it can mean one who asserts, “there is no god”, but also one who simply lacks (by choice or happenstance) any belief in god. This is a rather fine distinction, but real enough, I think. The former position is sometimes called “hard” atheism, the latter, “soft” atheism. However, since a “soft” atheist (a) does not assert “there is no god”, and also (b) does not assert “there is a god”, for my part I do not see any difference between this position, and agnosticism. So, for my usage of these terms below, I will restrict the word “atheism” to the “hard” variety: an atheist is one who asserts “there is no god.”…
I like to think of myself as an easygoing person for the most part. I like to live and let live. Although I do not ascribe to any religion, nor do I believe in any god, I do understand why some people need spirituality in their lives.
However, I have to say that I am so very tired of having other people’s religious beliefs shoved in my face. I do not behave in that manner about my agnostic view and think it arrogant for Christians to think I care about their belief system.
For example, I wonder what Christians would think if Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris got on television on a continual basis to make emotional pleas for money to finance the spread of their atheism?
As for those Christians who gather outside concerts to pass out tracts to get me saved, I wonder what they would think if I stood outside their churches and pass out literature on atheism to those leaving the building?
The other day I was driving in my car past a very crowded intersection when I noticed a group of young people with signs. Since it caught my attention, I looked closer and noticed the signs had pictures of mutilated foetuses – and me on the way to lunch…
I was in line at my local mega-chain bookstore last night when I realized the person paying at the register in front of me was a man, wearing a long wig, make-up, long painted fingernails, a number of flashy rings, earrings, and a diamond-ique nose ring. It is not the first time I have run into a person who was cross-dressing, but my immediate reaction was pity. Oh no, the poor guy, so uncomfortable in his skin that he feels the need to walk around in public assuming another identity.
And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. How was I any different?
I stumbled upon, and was drawn to, this particular community because it’s been hard for me to “come out” as an agnostic to my family and to some of my friends. Many hours of my life are spent dressed up as a good Christian by implication and in the absence of evidence to the contrary. I simply have not been able to face them all with the, “I’m sorry, I don’t believe what you believe anymore” line.
What makes it so difficult to truthfully acknowledge a new agnostic view to Christians around you? Obviously there must be a strong fear of judgement that is all-consuming…
Lostgirlfound, Karen, DaGoodS and a few others around the internet have written stories and comments about de-Conversion from Christianity and how it has affected their marriages. I would like to write an article with a dual authorship. Me – HeIsSailing, and my wife, oh… let’s call her RoseMary. We are going to write this article together, maybe each writing a paragraph or two, and asking each other questions as we go. Maybe this will give us all an insight into how to communicate when one person in a marriage leaves Christianity, and another continues in the faith.
HeIsSailing: RoseMary is a little nervous about what to write, so I will lead off with a couple of questions. How would you describe my Christianity when we got married? How do you describe my beliefs now? How are our beliefs different?
RoseMary: You were very by the book. You always quoted the Bible, and sometimes I did not know what you were saying, because I did not grow up with the Bible. I grew up being part of the Catholic Faith, so we did physical things like join the choir, gathering supplies for the people in jail, collecting canned goods and other similar items for the slum areas.…
April 13, 2003.
Why are we born so far from home? Why is it so hard to travel on that narrow path and enter that tiny gate?… Sometimes the path is covered by so much debris that it is impossible to decipher where we are to go. I just want to see a little bit of the road. Why do my feet lead me down another path? Have I turned away the light beneath my feet? Am I looking too far ahead rather than the imminent path?… Deliver me from my own shadows… Open my eyes…
April 30, 2003.
Is it only me, God?… Why the distance? How does such a finite being come to “know” you? You know I do not like to speak in the “unreal” and the abstract… Is “knowing” you nothing but a cliche?… People say they are close to You at certain times in their lives, but do they really know what they mean by what they say? Are they not just in a heightened or, dare I say, “enlightened” state?… Are Christians just a special case in which they have certain special knowledge of what they are close to when going through a certain type of mindset? What about unbelievers?…
Earlier this week on The Today Show, Robert Robertson, a pilot who survived a plane crash by landing his plane a few feet away from I-95 in Florida said he was no longer an agnostic. His survival was truly a miracle since his plane literally disintegrated around him and he was left sitting in his seat dazed but ok.
In cases like this, it’s easy to conclude “divine intervention.”
Psalms 91 is a beautiful Psalm talking about the God’s protection for those who “dwell in the secret place of the Most High.”
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you…
While most good Christian believers are spending this Sunday morning in their various churches, temples and other places of worship, I thought I would place a sermonette here for the benefit of us heathen Christian apostates. Actually, my heretical brand of theology ought to make easy pickings for Christians and athiests alike.
My favorite Christian blogsite is Carol Howard Merritt’s Tribal Church. She is a Presbyterian minister, author, and wife of Brian Merritt, aka PastorOfDisaster. I find both Christian sites thoughtful, thought-provoking, meaningful, and bring out the best attributes of a liberal branch of Christianity. Even though I am no longer a Christian, they are a breath of fresh air compared to my rigid and unthinking fundamentalist background. Last week, Tribal Church published an article on spiritual experience that I replied to. Can a non-believer in a personal God, or any god for that matter, have a spiritual experience? I think so. I would like to reprint her article and my reply here – and I sure hope that is okay with the original author:…