The Names We Give Ourselves

In response to this blog’s creation, a friend of mine queried thus:

what actually convinced you that there isnt such a thing as “god” anyways?

i just don’t see any sufficient evidence for either side anymore, and i want to know how you can call yourself an “athiest” when i can’t leave the viewpoint of an “agnostic”.

i wish i could believe in a “god” like i used to, however i’ve grown too much in the past four years… from someone with blind faith to someone too logical to even know how i feel about the word “faith”.

This is a legitimate question that a lot of agnostics pose and I’m glad she brought it up because I feel it’s worth addressing. First off, I’d like to define Atheism.

Atheist

–noun a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings. (emphasis added)

Many people forget that atheism can mean both active denial or a simple lack of belief. In this second sense, agnostics can also be accurately described as atheists. So to be clear, there is no way to disprove the existence of a supernatural being, making me in the strictest way, an agnostic. I choose to identify as atheist because while we may never be able to say conclusively one way or the other, that does not mean that both are equally probable propositions.

There is no way, in principle, to unequivocally disprove the existence of countless things. We must all be, strictly speaking, agnostic about invisible unicorns, faeries, flying spaghetti monsters and celestial teapots, but we do not take the inability to disprove these things to mean that they are as equally probable to exist as to be fabrications of our human imaginations.

So on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being 100% sure of the existence of a deity and 10 being 100% sure of the nonexistence of anything “supernatural” I must firmly remain a 9.999. I am a naturalist who sees no evidence for any kind of intervening being, benevolent or otherwise. With our present understanding of the universe, the only room for a “creator” is in gaps of knowledge with regard to the “beginning” of the universe, but I find that kind of deism to be wholly unfounded and intellectually dishonest to the methods of science.

On a final note, I would like to add that “atheist” is not my favorite way to describe myself. It’s useful if I don’t have time to engage in a productive conversation because it quickly establishes my position in the minds of most people. However in an ideal situation I much prefer to identify with more positive terms, rather than to be defined in opposition or lacking of something. Humanist, naturalist, secularist, and non-theist are more descriptive and the first three describe active beliefs and morals instead of just describing the beliefs that I lack.

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8 Responses to “The Names We Give Ourselves”

  1. Emil Aragundi Says:

    What I’ve always disliked about agnosticism is that it’s an attempt to be neutral on a subject that isn’t too complicated to grasp if you look at it objectively. The quote from your friend for example suggests that there are two sides to the argument when there’s just one: That theists need to prove what they claim. Period.
    Not that there’s anything wrong with merely believing in God, but if someone establishes that there’s no definite proof of supreme beings and still looks for a “safe stance” then they are just choosing out of mere convenience rather than for a decision that’s honest to oneself.

  2. James Says:

    I am glad that you pointed out that atheists can be agnostics, too. I would even say that some theists can be agnostics as well. While an agnostic atheist doesn’t believe in god because he or she doesn’t know if god exists, one might say that an agnostic theist believes in god despite not knowing if one exists. That is, after all, what many believers mean by having “faith”.

  3. Luke Radl Says:

    Thanks guys, we really appreciate the comments and input.

    I heartily agree with this:

    That theists need to prove what they claim. Period.

    Unfortunately, to do this they would have to begin by adopting the null-hypothesis of the nonexistence of anything “supernatural” which they are totally unwilling to do.

    I would even say that some theists can be agnostics as well.

    While this is true, I have yet to have the fortune of ever meeting one. Most believers I know would say that they “know” god exists “in their hearts.”

    Whatever that means.

  4. Joel Says:

    While this is true, I have yet to have the fortune of ever meeting one.

    *Waves* Over here.

  5. Luke Radl Says:

    Haha. I stand corrected. Hey Joel. Thanks for reading!

  6. Joel Says:

    I don’t really talk about my religious views that much so most people still think of me as the churchgoing good boy from the days of yore. I stopped going to church after moving down here but I stopped thinking of myself as a Christian long before that. I am a good person and have been described as such. I have morals, admittedly most of which I got from my Christian upbringing and I appreciate my upbringing in much the same way Jon described in his post here. I do think there is a higher power of some kind out there, just not the Christian God. I choose to believe in a higher power purely to make myself feel better and to maintain some hope that someone has got my back in all this chaos. I’m a firm believer in logic and as such Pascal’s Wager appeals to me in it’s basic form. I’m a fairly laid back person and I find it difficult to get really worked up over something, which is probably why I didn’t get swept away by “feeling the love of God”. In this vein of thought, I’m not sure why you got upset at people saying that they would keep ‘your friend’ in their prayers (quotes to maintain the anonymity you’ve established, not to appear skeptical) instead of simply accepting their well wishing in the spirit that it was given. To me it’s like being upset that someone said “good afternoon” in a podcast from Australia because it was not afternoon where you were.

    Completely unrelated, but is there a way to get this thing to tell me when there’s a reply after my comment?

  7. Luke Radl Says:

    Personally, I find Pascal’s Wager to be very unconvincing. The reason I was upset was because I knew how it made her feel and the people well-wishing were being, however sincere or unaware, inconsiderate of how saying that made her feel.

    I’m not really sure. Definitely if you have a WordPress account but I’m not sure otherwise.

  8. joelhicks Says:

    I don’t expect the Wager to convince anyone. Nobody else I know bases their theism or atheism on probability. I understand why you would be upset at people making her upset. However I would then have to extend the question to her for the same reasons. I don’t expect an answer here since she is not present, but the question remains.


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