Since ancient times, India has known atheists, but I have not heard of any agnostic person tlll in recent past. The idea of
agnosticism seems to have come to India from the west. This word therefore puzzles me. A theist afirms that yes, there
is a god in whom he believes. An atheist says that no, there is no god. Both of these are firm statements and each
person making these has something to say that is specific. However, the statement that "There is probably no god "
sounds hollow. It is as good as saying "There is probably some god." In either case, someone who says this, does not
appear to have much to say. If you have a 10% doubt that god may exist, you are an agnostic. It is the same if
you have 20% , 50% or 90% doubt. So where does agnosticism stand? Does it really mean anything? If an agnostic is
so much in un-resolvable doubt, should he declare himself as an agnostic, that is, a person not capable of resolving his
The usual excuse for such a doubt is that no one can be 100% sure of anything, but we are so sure of many things in life.
If we have doubt on any subject, we take pains to resolve our doubt. Is it so difficult to resolve a doubt on the existance
of god that it can never be resolved and so force a person to remain an agnostic for all his life? If this were so, there would
be no atheists in the world. Does the agnostic lack something that an atheist has? Or, does an atheist overstep a
limit of sound judgement?
Are you really going here again?
Do You Believe In God?
Absolute certainty is truth-dependent = requires evidence, whether a positive or contrapositive.
"Agnostic" was a term coined by Charles Darwin's greatest champion, T. H. Huxley, also known as "Darwin's Bulldog". This is what the word means (no, there is no % involved, it is a dichotomy).
"Agnosticism is not a creed but a method, the essence of which lies in the vigorous application of a single principle... Positively the principle may be expressed as in matters of intellect, do not pretend conclusions are certain that are not demonstrated or demonstrable."
~ T. H. Huxley
"Since ancient times, India has known atheists, but I have not heard of any agnostic person tlll in recent past."
Prior to the word being coined in the late 1800's, the concept of agnosticism has arisen in many cultures and places, including India. See: The 129th hymn of the 10th Mandala of the Rigveda; The Nasadiya Sukta - Progress of Atheism in India: A Historical Perspective
I don't have a philosophical frame of mind. This is not a brag or a complaint, it just is. I think in terms of experience. That may be a gender thing, and maybe that explains why men and women often cannot hear or understand each other. In any event, I like reading each one of you who responded to Madhukar's question and gain by the discussion. I don't intend to stop thinking as I do; I pay attention to those who approach questions differently than I and come out with better decision making tools.
The educated atheist can only (truly) be described as the ultimate agnostic (or, as a sixth level atheist, using the scale suggested by Dawkins, I think.)
The idea is that the ultimate atheist (seventh level) can only believe that there is no god(s) since there is no evidence to support the assertion. The sixth level atheist reconciles this by accepting that while there is no evidence for the supernatural, we cannot disprove its existence either. This is the only logical conclusion that we can make based on the evidence we have to date.
Evidence can be challenged and refuted; therefore we must (logically) be prepared to accept that we may be wrong.
A typical example is obesity. Until recently it was thought that fat people were lazy, food addicts, etc., but science has discovered two hormones that turn the idea on its head. One tells our brains we are "full" the other tells us that we need to eat.
Overweight people have lower levels of both of these chemical messengers causing them to eat when they don't need to. The easy availability of high-calorie foods (fast food in particular) but via supermarkets too, has given them the ability to eat easily and cheaply creating an obesity epidemic.
This gave me the idea for a sardonic joke with a sign on the door of a MacDonald's - "You must be this thin before you can order here."
It's not complicated. Once contaminated by faith we are in a state of uncertainty, until we aren't. Either we choose, or we avoid choosing. There is enough evidence to say that a god is not necessary to explain events, all the way back to the Big Bang. The evidence also says that what we know about God is probably made up.
What do atheists have? Either they are a virgin to faith, or they have reached a conclusion based on evidence. No, there's no hard evidence that "God" doesn't exist, but plenty of circumstantial evidence.
Many avoid deciding out of fear, of their family, cultural isolation, or the unknown. Pascal's wager is one of fear, a cop out. Others avoid choosing because they like believing in myth, such as reincarnation, karma, angels, spirits, souls, or father figures in the sky. These beliefs can be fun. They include traditions and celebrations. Agnostics are patient; they are satisfied with life as they know it and don't need to take sides.
It would be unfair to say that agnostics have less integrity or passion than atheists. Those of us who have come away from faith know that we're all on a path, personal and unique. We need to respect that.
Here's one of the best explanations of the difference that I've seen. It even has some nice charts.
The very notion or idea of gods or deities is as wrong as the idea that there were fire breathing dragons or that there were unicorns. Think about that, Since the first person blamed a deity for anything there has never been proof of that deity. The certainty that there is no god can be said with the same certainty that there were no fire breathing dragons in the middle ages. IMO agnostics simply don't want to go to the effort of taking a side. There is enough lack of evidence to make the decision. When they say that they can't know for certain that there is no god they give credence to those who claim there is one instead of simply saying there has never been ANY evidence of a god or gods that cannot now be explained by the natural world.
Agnosticism about gods is the same as agnosticism about fire breathing dragons or invisible pink unicorns or teapots orbiting the Sun.
"The certainty that there is no god can be said with the same certainty that there were no fire breathing dragons in the middle ages."
Correct, same burden of proof, less than that of the positive claim, but not zero. The only "zero burden of proof" position is the negative belief/no absolute certainty.
"IMO agnostics simply don't want to go to the effort of taking a side."
Nonsense, it's not a linear middle-ground between two propositions.
"There is enough lack of evidence to make the decision"
There is enough lack of evidence to not believe, however, absolute certainty is not a "decision" to make; it's an evidence based piece of data, a "truth".
Further, to claim, as a gnostic atheist does, that there is 100% certainty that there are no god(s), puts the burden of proof on them, being that it is a contrapositive claim.
As well, it leans (just as) heavily on the same argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy as the theist argument that "Because we don't know, god did it"; gnostic atheism is the obverse of that same fallacy.
"When they say that they can't know for certain that there is no god they give credence to those who claim there is one instead of simply saying there has never been ANY evidence of a god or gods that cannot now be explained by the natural world."
Not at all, they're just acknowledging logic (…not the batshit crazy Ayn Rand variety), reason, critical thinking and rational skepticism, and holding the only position with zero burden of proof.
"Agnosticism about gods is the same as agnosticism about fire breathing dragons or invisible pink unicorns or teapots orbiting the Sun."
And, most importantly, it is the same as the built-in agnosticism in all scientific methodology.
Agnosticism, to me, means that, given proof of something counter to what I already know, I would be willing to change my mind. To say something is a fact without evidence goes against the scientific method itself. You can't prove a negative, therefore, anyone who believes in the scientific method MUST have that slight percentage that says they could be wrong. That small percentage does NOT come from doubt, but rather from the knowledge that humans make mistakes. Again, I'm just speaking for myself here, but I've heard lots of other non-believers who say the same thing. If someone asks why I'm an atheist, I say: "Given the direct and indirect evidence, I have come to the conclusion that the probability that a god exists is near 0." Beyond that, the only thing left to argue about is the evidence, which is not debatable. End of story.
Agreed, I don't believe in any omniscient beings, ...even self-proclaimed ones, strike that, ...especially self-proclaimed ones.
Absolutely! Thanks for amending me! :)
The atheist/agnostic question tantalized me much as the question pregnant/not pregnant tantalizes many couples. The uncertainty stirs up stress that can be resolved by giving up on knowing, now, the answer. Some questions just do not have a definite yes or no answer, now. This is a simplistic answer, but it is the best way I can describe the cognitive dissonance that this kind of question stirs in me.
In the run of things, what does it really matter if one knows for certain there is no god, until one perceives evidence that god does exist, and then one can change positions. Further compounding these questions, what if god or allah or yahweh or hundreds of other deities show up, then one can change beliefs. Is it likely? No.
Until then, I do not see evidence of god, therefore I am an atheist. Oh! Oh! here comes the cousins I love dearly who say why not accept jesus as lord and savior now and the bargain is completed. Obviously, my answer to that is the bargain is a lousy deal from the beginning. I take a stand because I might end up burning for eternity in hell? No, that is not a good enough reason for me.
"what does it really matter"
Because, misrepresentation of what atheism and agnostic mean is one of the most used fallacies by fundies, …why feed their fallacies?