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?
Doubt is a big topic for theists and many admit it is part of their faith. So in effect many theists are technically agnostic. Joseph's chart is very descriptive. I also like the below spectrum. We fall in varying degress of pretty darn close to the right side and Santorum is very very very close to the left end.
gnostic atheists = Does claim proof exists + Doesn't believe in god(s).
1) Some time before, Alice had posted a discussion on Indian atheism and in my last rely to that discussion, I had quoted the Nasadiya Sukta as the example of most ancient agnosticism. Nasadiya sukta is impersonal as it is not attributed to any person. Every atheist in India thereafter was a complete nonbeliever and not an agnstic.
2} It is understood that the difference between atheism and agnosticism is that of proof. Agnostics want a hard proof and therefore probably are not satisfied with the voluminous proof provided by atheists.
Jaen Paul Sartre says that god's existance has been disproved by science. Stephen Hawking says that starting from the big bang to tody's state of the universe, the universe did not need any god. That is, for 13.7 billion years, god did nothing to contribute to the formation of the universe. Apart from this, several brilliant atheists have also given logical proof for the non-existance of god. If this is not hard evidence, the agnostic must come forward and say why this is not satisfactory for him and what more he needs. I have not heard of any agnostic commenting on atheiststic proof to show that it is inadequate.
The common reasoning of an agnostic is that a) No one can be 100% sure about anything and b) He wants to retain an amount of doubt, in case there is some development in future. These reasons are without any foundaation and are irrational.
"It is understood that the difference between atheism and agnosticism is that of proof."
Incorrect; the main difference is:
"Agnostics want a hard proof …"
"the voluminous proof provided by atheists."
Okay, we'd all like to read the proof, there's probably a Nobel Prize in it for you if you can actually do it. (And, no …appeals to authority are not proof, they are logical fallacy).
"The common reasoning of an agnostic is that a) No one can be 100% sure about anything and b) He wants to retain an amount of doubt, in case there is some development in future. These reasons are without any foundaation and are irrational."
It's also a straw man argument.
A) is incorrect
B) is incorrect
The conclusion, …a non sequitur.
No such thing, if there was proof, there wouldn't be the need for a non-belief in, in the first place.
Here is the difference between believing in and knowing:
Nobody "believes in" evolution, it's an observable fact that can either be accepted or not, …belief/non-belief doesn't enter into to it.
There might be some semantic issues here that depend on the definition of god that is in use.
If you define god as a certain specific god of a given religion, then most people are going to be absolutely atheist. Even theists are relative atheists to other religions as Dawkins likes to point out.
If you define god, as is often done, as something nebulous such as love, or nature, or a life force that connects people to each other and their environment, then more people are willing to say okay, I might believe in something like that. Deists and agnostics can be in this category. With such a definition absolute proof is not required because the term is so vague.
"There might be some semantic issues"
Absolutely, "semantics" in all three of its branches, formal, lexical and contextual. The "god(s)" in question; the ones theists, deists, polytheists, etc; believe on the (+) side of the atheist (-) are creator/designer deities, either personal (moral agent) or not. As a semantic exclusion, "Eric Clapton is God" …does not apply.
So, as for your description, I believe Eric Clapton exists, I don't believe he's a God (not even metaphorical). This has nothing to do with atheism, agnosticism or theism rather; language.
"If you define god, as is often done, as something nebulous such as love, or nature, or a life force that connects people to each other and their environment, then more people are willing to say okay, I might believe in something like that."
See: Equivocation (semantic shift)
Also, if you are a rational skeptic, critical thinker as well as an atheist, "a life force that connects people to each other and their environment", you will insist on a clarification of what is meant by "force", …as force is measurable, there will be evidence of such a force if it actually exists.
Some that insist on the term agnostic rather than atheist are willing to accept the "life force" argument, or personal experience without clarification or evidence. The vague concept of god sidesteps the need for hard proof and leaves room for fuzzy boundaries of reality.
Like many terms, "agnostic" is one often misappropriated by those who wish to obfuscate something in order to serve an agenda, other than that which the term actually serves. -> "do not pretend conclusions are certain that are not demonstrated or demonstrable."
The antithesis of "faith".
Madhukar, I will remember your words as they are much more eloquent than those I have used to say the same thing. Thanks.
Madhukar wrote, "Does the agnostic lack something that an atheist has? Or, does an atheist overstep a limit of sound judgment?'
For me, words like "agnostic" and "atheist", conjured up fear and doubt, even until this past week's discussions with so many people.
Asking myself, "Does god possibly exist?" my answer is clearly no; therefore fear and doubt have no reason for existing. By changing thoughts, feelings dissipated. This feels ... I can't find a better word than good.
"Asking myself, "Does god possibly exist?" my answer is clearly no; therefore fear and doubt have no reason for existing. By changing thoughts, feelings dissipated. This feels ... I can't find a better word than good."
Faith, is like that.
BTW, atheist and agnostic are not at all mutually exclusive positions, they are the only pair of the possible 4, that are logically tenable.