Wednesday, March 14, 2012

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Agnostic or Atheist? Both!

For this week's Godlesss Wednesday this helpful diagram (see above) from Atheist Revolution explains the differences between being atheist and being agnostic, which very many people confuse (and conflate).

Using the above chart I would describe myself as as an Agnostic Atheist, which I usually just shorten to "atheist" since that is what most people understand. I most definitely do not believe any god exists, but I don't claim to know that no god exists. However, I think the preponderance of the evidence (i.e. there is no credible evidence that god exists) and simple logic (Occam's Razor) should suffice to allow one to come to the conclusion that god does not exist.

What do you think?


mikeb302000 said...

I prefer Pascal to Occam. I'm an Agnostic Theist.

Cuttlefish said...

It is a good and proper analysis of the terms, but it also points out a problem with using those terms. A gnostic stance, by your chart, only applies with regard to a particular god. Believing vs. not believing is not symmetrical; one can "not believe" in all gods at once, but actively believing requires an object of belief. "Active disbelief" is a construct of language, like "I remember not doing that"; you don't actively not do something, you actively do something else.

Disbelief is a privative, a "none of the above" category of belief, and as such, "strong atheism" is an attempt to treat it the same as a positively-defined category. When it doesn't quite fit (and it doesn't), critics may then point out some illogic or another and claim it makes no sense to be an atheist.

This is why I, as good a job as you have done in explaining the "belief and knowledge" aspect of theism and gnosticism, I do not like to use that analysis; it seems to imply (I don't know that it necessarily does) a symmetry between belief and disbelief, between knowledge and lack thereof, and I do not see a symmetry there.

I wrote a bit more on it here:


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