Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Godless Wednesday: Should Agnostics Pick A Side?

Watch this video of Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, discussing his views on agnosticism. Basically, Hemant says that people who say that they are agnostic are really just being "wishy-washy" because they have already concluded that there is not enough evidence to determine whether God exists. (They also have concluded that there is not enough evidence to determine whether God does not exist.) But he makes the point that in place of the word "God" in the two previous sentences one could use the words "flying unicorn" and people generally take the default position that flying unicorns don't exist. I used to describe myself as agnostic myself and so I agree with Hemant that many people who are actually pretty convinced God does not exist shy away from using the word "atheist" to describe themselves even though that is probably a more accurate term.

I think the "agnostic/atheist" situation is somewhat similar to the reluctance of women (and men) who believe in complete equal rights based on gender (or sex) but refuse to call themselves "feminist." If you believe in equal rights based on gender (or sex) then you are a feminist! Similarly, if you really think that it is unlikely that God exists, you might as well as call yourself an atheist.

The one aspect of the agnostic/atheist debate which I think Hemant misses is that I think that if you really believe in religious freedom you also have to support people's right to call themselves whatever they want. So if someone wants to call themselves an agnostic they have every right to do so, but it also does not stop other people from pointing out that agnostics are oftentimes really atheists who are just reluctant or afraid or ashamed to claim the word atheist.

And what agnostics often don't understand (and this is what caused me to move over to the atheist side myself) was that the religious side views everyone who doesn't believe in their religion as equally wrong anyway, because in their minds atheism and agnosticism is a distinction without a difference. (One could make the argument that it shouldn't matter what other people think when one is choosing one's own self-definition, but for a lot of people other people's views definitely affects their decision-making.

Regardless of whether you are agnostic or atheist you are still a "Godless heathen" and in my book, that's a good thing!

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