Friday, May 16, 2008

I Did Not Choose

One of the co-authors of this blog and I had a conversation one day about the definitions of the words, “atheist” and “agnostic”. Up until that conversation, I had always felt that claiming to be agnostic was the innocent way of saying, “I just don’t know whether there is a god or not.” And that being an atheist was a more militant way of stating you are opposed to god. However, after examining the definitions of the two words, I felt differently.
Agnostic means ‘the absence of knowledge’, so I was correct in stating that, “I just don’t know…”, and I still claim that. Atheist means ‘the absence of belief’, which by definition, we all are until we make a conscious decision to ‘believe’ in something. I learned that you can combine the words to come up with four possible scenarios. 1. An agnostic atheist would be one who doesn’t believe in god, and doesn’t have enough evidence to say there IS NO god. 2. A gnostic atheist is someone that doesn’t believe in god and knows there IS NO god. 3. An agnostic theist would be someone that believes in god, but is willing to admit that there is not enough evidence to say for sure. Finally, in my opinion, the worst and scariest of all: 4. The Gnostic theist believes in a god and knows it to be true.
I differ from the gnostic atheist because, although I am a non-believer, I don’t think that you can prove that a god does NOT exist. You can’t prove a negative. Read: Carl Sagan’s ‘Dragon in my Garage’. It is more my intention to find evidence that will support the existence of a supreme being. Sadly no compelling evidence has been brought forth. Remember, I am talking about empirical, repeatable, peer reviewed evidence, not some coincidence or testimonial. I want to believe, but I don’t want to place my faith in falsehoods. Until such evidence, we must start with the assumption that god does not exist.
I am really getting fed up with the accusations from Christians saying that, “Atheists hate god” or “They only love their lust.” Those statements are hateful and show their ignorance of the definitions of the words as well. They seem to think that I chose atheism over god, when in fact, I haven’t made any choice at all. I am still waiting on the evidence to come in.
Evidence – Yes, evidence. I cannot take that leap of faith and ‘decide’ to believe in a god, or anything for that matter, without any proof. What if some stranger told you that the only way to salvation is to eat snails on whole-wheat? That would be lunacy. The world is full of hundreds of major religions and untold numbers of off-the-wall sects and cults. Each one claims to be the correct religion, and the only way to seek eternal life. Even if I were concerned with living forever, I would have a very difficult time choosing.
I did not choose to be an atheist; it’s just what I am by definition.

1 comment:

Saber said...

Sam Harris makes a good point about how the term atheist is really kind of meaningless. Calling me an atheist doesn't tell anyone anything about my positive beliefs, it only serves to alienate me from religionists. After all, no one bothers to call anyone an a-tooth fairyist, because believing in a tooth fairy or not believing in a tooth fairy has no real bearing on what values you actually hold dear. For example, you can't say anything about my position on woman suffrage based solely on my not believing in leprechauns. Likewise it's absurd to think you could know something about my politics on whether or not I accept the "giant invisible man-in-the-sky" hypothesis.
It's also worth pointing out that in truth, everyone is an atheist with regard to most of the gods that people have worshiped or are worshiping. So why do we need a special term for folks who's "list of gods I don't believe in" is exactly ONE entry longer than most folks?