Atheist: I'm an atheist.

Closeted Atheist: Oh, well, I think you're going a bit too far. I mean, you can't conclusively prove that gods don't exist.

Atheist: So, you are a theist?

Closeted Atheist: Of course not! I'm agnostic; I don't claim that gods don't exist because that's a non-falsifiable claim. It's not possible to prove a negative.

Atheist: I agree and take the same position. So, why do you call yourself agnostic but not an atheist?

Closeted Atheist: Agnostic refers to a lack of certitude with regard to some question. It means, "without knowledge."

Atheist: So, your agnosticism addresses the question of knowledge: you don't know whether gods exist. Is that correct?

Closeted Atheist: Yes. What's your point?

Atheist: Well, I don't know whether gods exist either.

Closeted Atheist: There. That settles it. You really should be calling yourself an agnostic instead of an atheist.

Atheist: Oh, but I do call myself an agnostic.

Closeted Atheist: Didn't you say you were an atheist?

Atheist: I didn't realize the two distinctions were mutually exclusive.

Closeted Atheist: What do you mean?

Atheist: Well, we already established that our agnosticism addresses the question of knowledge. But what about belief? Does agnosticism really say anything about what one believes?

Closeted Atheist: Of course it does! An agnostic person does not believe one way or the other!

Atheist: I thought you said an agnostic person does not know one way or the other.

Closeted Atheist: It's the same thing!

Atheist: Really? Interesting! Does a theist know that gods exist?

Closeted Atheist: I suppose not...

Atheist: So a theist is really just agnostic--someone who doesn't know one way or the other!

Closeted Atheist: But a theist believes that gods exist!

Atheist: And yet the theist does not know that gods exist. So what distinguishes you from the theist? Do you share the belief of the theist as well as his/her ignorance?

Closeted Atheist: Of course not! I'm not a theist, I'm an...

Atheist: Atheist--without belief in gods--"not a theist." Am I right?

Closeted Atheist: Oh, I suppose you are. I never thought of it that way. I'm an a-theist...huh, sounds terrible.

Atheist: That's okay, you'll get over the taboo.

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Comment by Casey Wollberg on June 1, 2009 at 9:21pm
Knaight Babbitt.

You didn't bother to read anything, did you? Look up "agnostic" in a proper encyclopedia (and Wikipedia will do just fine--or look up what our very own "Chariots of Iron" folks have to say about it) before you presume to spread the same kind of "sloppy language" you are talking about. Sloppy language goes hand-in-hand with sloppy reasoning, and in this case, it leads specifically to the easing of theist's efforts at shifting the burden of proof. Also, I would really appreciate it if you would read my post first *before* responding--this will better prepare you for responding directly to what I am actually saying, rather than just spouting off some random opinion you think might be related to the title.
Comment by Casey Wollberg on June 1, 2009 at 9:08pm
Haha. I'm sure you'd call it that (so would I); but your less liberal former pastors might like my first description better! ;)
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on June 1, 2009 at 1:37pm
Actually, Casey, a better description would be "evolving faith". It liberalized considerably before being abandoned completely.
Comment by Casey Wollberg on June 1, 2009 at 7:19am
Right. This state (what I call "wavering faith") could not exist if religious indoctrination were not so prevalent in our culture. But because it is so prevalent, few seem to realize that non-belief is actually the default position, from a rational perspective. This is why so-called "agnostics" can pretend they have a defensible "position," when all they're really doing is aiding theists in the shifting of the burden of proof for their unfounded but culturally endorsed claim. They've been duped by societal conditioning into faulty reasoning, arguing from the mistaken standpoint that "god exists" is a claim that must be disproved before it is rejected.
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on June 1, 2009 at 3:10am
I believe that there is a state somewhere between belief in a god and atheism. On my way "out" I went through a phase where I was ambivalant about the existence of a god and uncertain about what or whether I believed in a whole range of other doctrinal issues. I didn't believe that I could not know (agnosticism) or that I did not have enough proof to know (some version of atheism?) but that I was confused and uncertain. During that time I did not participate in religious practices very much, but I did not give them up entirely.

According to your arguments, there is no word for this state. I called it agnosticism at the time. I call it religious uncertainty now.
Comment by Casey Wollberg on May 30, 2009 at 2:04pm
"I don't not [sic] believe any of them."

It would be more proper and accurate to say, "I don't believe any of them." (I am in the same position, incidentally, although some explanations are more compelling than others.) A belief is an operating assumption or position of certitude; to say that you do not not take a particular position of certitude or that you do not not operate upon a particular assumption is to say absolutely nothing (since to "not not" believe can either mean that you do believe or that you don't believe but wish to obfuscate)--the question still remains: do you believe? Obviously, you don't, but you are afraid to openly admit it, for some reason--and so you torture yourself and others with confused reasoning and poor syntax like "not not" in a strained attempt to avoid the horrible truth that you simply lack belief.

Following on from that we have "I'd be just as likely to believe in a creator as not." I presume you mean that, although you in fact don't believe in a creator, currently, you nevertheless could, should there be found compelling evidence for one. On the other hand, perhaps you earnestly desire to believe and yet cannot, for some deeply psychological (as opposed to rational) reason. Either way, you are currently an atheist. Why are you afraid of this word, which just means that you lack belief in gods? Also, this insinuation that all possibilities are equally plausible just doesn't pass muster, and you seem to be smart enough to know better.
Comment by Casey Wollberg on May 30, 2009 at 1:55pm
"I don't not [sic] believe any of them."

It would be more proper and accurate to say, "I don't believe any of them." (I am in the same position, incidentally, although some explanations are more compelling than others.) A belief is an operating assumption or position of certitude; to say you do not not take a particular position is to say absolutely nothing--the question still remains: do you believe? Obviously, you don't, but you are afraid to openly admit it, for some reason--and so you torture yourself and others with confused reasoning and poor syntax like "not not" in a strained attempt to avoid the horrible truth that you simply lack belief.

Following on from that we have "I'd be just as likely to believe in a creator as not." I presume you mean that, although you in fact don't believe in a creator, currently, you nevertheless could, should there be found compelling evidence for one. On the other hand, perhaps you earnestly desire to believe and yet cannot, for some deeply psychological (as opposed to rational) reason. Either way, you are currently an atheist. Why are you afraid of this word, which just means that you lack belief in gods? Also, this insinuation that all possibilities are equally plausible just doesn't pass muster, and you seem to be smart enough to know better.
Comment by katkatkat on May 30, 2009 at 12:45pm
I dunno, the analogy feels pretty accurate to me. A bit simplistic but accurate. There are infinite possibilities of what created the universe just like there is an infinite amount of numbers. That we were created by something intelligent is one possibility just as my choosing the number 8 was a possibility. I think that the big bang having been intentionally designed by something is just as possible as the big bang having been set off by a particular set of weird physics in another universe. In fact, in said other universe life or intelligence could be defined differently. There are so many possibilities and I don't not believe any of them. I guess that what I really mean is that there are an infinite number of scenarios in which our universe was created and an infinite number in which it was made in another way and probably an infinite number in which the line is blurred. In that sense, it's just as likely that there is some intelligent alien creator using us for a science experiment. I'd be just as likely to believe in a creator as not. I'm not saying that you're wrong and I'm right, I'm just explaining why I think the way I do.
Comment by Casey Wollberg on May 30, 2009 at 6:16am
Furthermore, not believing because you don't care or feel the claim is irrelevant doesn't make you "agnostic," it makes you an apatheist. Agnostic, as I've said before, is a philosophical position about the limits of knowledge, specifically with regard to supernatural claims like "god exists." It is not a declaration of theological fence-sitting, as you are making it out to be. This is why there can be agnostic theists, agnostic atheists, agnostic ignostics, agnostic tennis players, etc.
Comment by Casey Wollberg on May 30, 2009 at 6:08am
@ kat

That's a false analogy, and this kind of reasoning is probably why "everyone" gives "agnostic people" so much flak. It's not a matter of "choosing a side." It's a question of whether a person making a claim has the burden of proof. Did you even read what I wrote? It explains that an atheist doesn't claim no gods exist, but rather *rejects* the claim that gods exist, pending the presentation of some evidence to support the claim--which is exactly what you are doing. Not believing "one way or the other," is the same thing as not believing gods exist. And not believing gods exist is what makes you an atheist--something you are supposed to be to have an account on this network. Did you lie?

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