Why am I an agnostic atheist?

March 6, 2007 at 5:43 am 18 comments

aA

Why am I an agnostic atheist? Well, I’ve journeyed from fundamentalism to atheism. However, I have issues with both of these extremes.

I remember wondering as a child how we could be so sure there is a God we could not see. As the son of a preacher, I learned the protocol of my role and followed it. However, the doubts lived on. In Christianity, we were taught that doubting is wrong. This caused me to question the definition of faith itself. Isn’t faith choosing to believe in something we cannot really prove? If we have to make this choice, isn’t it because there is a level of doubt involved? If we were so sure, why did we need faith?

On the other side of my journey, I’ve encountered atheists who are so sure there is no God. They are every bit as dogmatic about their beliefs as the fundamentalist. I sit and wonder how can they be so sure there is no God. There are many unexplained aspects of this universe. Of course, considering that there could possibly be a God is not really an option for many atheists. If that’s the case, what makes them any different than the fundamentalists?

Hence I’ve arrived at this place – agnostic atheism. I choose to believe that there is no God even though I do not deny the possibility, no matter how small, that there is something out there that we could label “God.”

– By Agnostic Atheist

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Entry filed under: agnostic, agnostic atheism, agnostic atheist, atheism, atheist, christian, christianity, faith, Religion, skeptic, skepticism, spirituality.

Why not agnostic theism?

18 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Elentari1  |  March 6, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    I understand where both of these extremes are coming from. After all, if you believe there is a god, then you are responsible to serve him/her and get others to serve him/her as well.

    On the other hand, if you believe there is absolutely no way a god exists, then you would view the religious constructs in society as being extremely harmful to humanity – and with good reason.

    I agree that we cannot know for certain whether a creator does in fact exist – or does not exist. We simply do not have that capacity at this point of our evolution.

    Reply
  • 2. Dan  |  March 6, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    Great thoughts as always. I’m not sure where I stand on this. I think I’m probably closest to a more generic pdeudo-zen mindset of trying to understand my own filters and paradigm, and as such trying to view the world with clarity and without prejudice. It’s REALLY hard, and I see my own pre-conceived notions and worldview clogging my vision every day.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I definitely believe that something connects us all, but I’m not sure if that “something” is a personal deity (not leaning in that direction right now) or an impersonal force.

    -Dan

    Reply
  • 3. mysteryofiniquity  |  March 6, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    Just curious.. why do you not take the other tack: acknowledging there is a God, but that the possibility exists that there is nothing out there and that we can’t know for sure there isn’t? How did you pick which side you took? I’m wondering because I’m borderline atheist myself.

    Reply
  • 4. billphillips  |  March 6, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    I think that we can know for sure there is a creator. Where did all of the matter in the universe come from? What really are the odds of even a very simple cell forming by chance? If there is a building, it’s obvious that there was a builder. The building isn’t the result of an explosion in a brick factory. Creation is perfect proof that there was a creator.

    When people say you need faith, they mean for salvation, or to believe God’s promises in the Bible. Not that you need faith to know there is a creator.

    Bill

    Reply
  • 5. Simen  |  March 6, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    I think you may have gotten the wrong impression of some atheists. I know of no atheists who wouldn’t consider the possibility that there is a god if evidence turned up. I know I would. However, I don’t label myself “agnostic”. I’m as sure that there is no God as I am that there are no, say, ghosts or leprechauns and all other prepositions for which there is no evidence.

    billphillips, your argument is called the teleological argument. Google it and find refutations. Anyway, we know that humans are evolved, so we know that some things that look designed aren’t.

    Reply
  • 6. agnosticatheist  |  March 6, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    MOI,

    Good question. I’ll respond to it in my next blog.

    Reply
  • 7. agnosticatheist  |  March 6, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    Simen,

    Great blog. I’ll have to read it when I have more time and can concentrate πŸ™‚

    Reply
  • 8. miller  |  March 7, 2007 at 7:47 am

    Based on what I usually read, most people who identify as atheists define “atheism” to mean nearly the same thing that you mean with “agnostic atheism.” If asked, I think most atheists would admit to being agnostics as well as atheists. That said, they also usually express a greater degree of certainty of God’s non-existence. Also, many non-atheists define “atheism” to imply 100% certainty. I can definitely understand why you would want to avoid the label.

    I would argue that “fundamentalist” atheism is actually appropriate given certain definitions of gods. For example, the invisible pink unicorn can’t exist because invisible and pink are mutually exclusive descriptions. An omnipotent and omnibenevolent God can also seem impossible, though I think there are several ways around this. My point is that strong atheism with respect to specific gods isn’t completely indefensible.

    Reply
  • 9. skywhale  |  March 8, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    To elentari 1:

    You said, ” . . . if you believe there is a god, then you are responsible to serve him/her and get others to serve him/her as well.”

    What’s your reaction to this formulation: “If your sense of God is accurate, it will include the understanding that it’s in everyone’s best interest, in the most positive sense of that phrase, to align his or her will with Divine purpose.” ?

    Reply
  • 10. billphillips  |  March 8, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    Simen,

    I was unable to find anything that has refuted the teleological argument. Of course some people don’t believe it’s absolute proof, but they’re usually not familiar with the amazing complexity of the universe and life.

    Humans didn’t evolve. I can give plenty of examples of processes where evolutionists haven’t even attempted to explain how they came about. A few examples are blood clotting, eyes, both on a large scale, and on the biochemical scale, and dozens of others.

    People jump at the idea of evolution, despite the lack of evidence, because they hate the idea that they’re ever going to have to stand before God on Judgment Day.

    Bill

    Reply
  • 11. Simen  |  March 8, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    billphillips, if you believe evolution is not grounded in evidence, I fear you’re outside the range of
    reason. I could point you to evidence all day long, you’d never produce any kind of scientific
    refutation anyway. I’ll point you to talk.origins and hope
    you have the sense to see for yourself. I don’t care much to debate evolution, as the evidence is
    so overwhelming. Give me a scientific critique, and I’ll listen.

    However, I do take issue with one statement of yours:

    People jump at the idea of evolution, despite the lack of evidence, because they hate the idea that they’re ever going to have to stand before God on Judgment Day.

    This is pure nonsense. May I remind you that Darwin was a Christian at the time he came up with the
    theory of evolution?

    Reply
  • 12. skywhale  |  March 8, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    I don’t think evolution is “either — or” Some things could proceed by evolution and others not. Evolution could be a mechanism used by God.

    One thing I can’t wrap my brain around, though, is how the process of protein synthesis, with all the messenger RNA, transfer RNA, unique codes for each protein, etc. could have evolved in stages, each having survival value. It’s like a car without a drive train — it’s useless without all the necessary interdependent components. So could all of that evolve in one fell swoop? I doubt it.

    A lot of strict evolution proponents won’t go back this far to the more cellular level, because it gets so murky. Sure, dinosaurs become birds, but that doesn’t address the chemical stuff, in my judgment.

    Reply
  • 13. Anonymous  |  March 12, 2007 at 10:26 pm

    Its hard to say much about atheists argueing Christians:

    1. There is no undeniable evidence of there being a God/ having no God

    2. Us being humans can only make observations/ theories to the best of our ability and the only way to provae anything is cold hard evidence

    3. religion is something included in every culture and cannot be argued.

    4. Both sides can use plauseable points but whatever an atheist says a christian can come back and it would make sense to either

    5. If we lived in an atheist world would it hurt us to have a belief in God?

    Reply
  • 14. Jamel  |  March 17, 2007 at 6:17 am

    Yes it would hurt humanity overall to have Gods. For one it limits the human mind, by using superstition to explain what we do not understand, instead of using science. History proves this to be true. Even though religion can work for individuals that are not strong enough to be independent thinkers, it is no good for humanity as a whole. At least not today’s major religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. May I remind you that these people have fought wars, committed terrorist acts, genocide, and enslaved a race of people, strictly on the premises that their religion commands it or allows it.

    It is not the belief in God alone that is the problem. It is the religions (the bureaucracy between a man made deity and man himself) themselves that are the problem. It is time for man to face the fact that all and I mean all of the personal deities of the world are false and do not exist as is. Many of these religions, including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism can be proven as untrue. The fact that we are having this discussion on the internet is a sign of the future. As humanity has outgrown so many other superstitious beliefs, man will outgrow religion, because of science and technology. By the end of the next century there will likely only be atheists and mystics.

    I am an Agnostic Atheist. I consider myself an agnostic because as of now and probably for the rest of human history it cannot be proven, that there is something beyond this universe that created this universe, however there is no question it is not God as we traditionally think of it, and it is not omnipotent. I am an Atheist because I feel that the same lack of evidence that makes me disbelieve in mother goose makes me disbelieve in the traditional idea of a God.

    Reply
  • 15. Mother Goose and God « Agnostic Atheism  |  March 17, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    […] 17th, 2007 Here’s a comment by Jamel on Why am I an agnostic atheist? Yes it would hurt humanity overall to have Gods. For one it limits the human mind, by using […]

    Reply
  • 16. agnosticatheist  |  March 17, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    Jamel,

    Great thoughts. I featured it on the blog here

    aA

    Reply
  • 17. Mark  |  April 16, 2008 at 8:52 am

    This blog is brilliant! πŸ˜€

    I agree with you, that we can never be 100% certain that here is nothing in this universe that could be the equivalent of God. It is impossible to prove non-existence with scientific evidence. Even so, I’m relatively certain that such a God would not be, exclusively, that described by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. If anything, I’d say the Torah, Bible, Quran etc are valuable historical records of various culture’s everchanging interpretations of God, throughout the past few thousand years of human, cultural evolution.

    Strictly speaking, I guess I’m a secular Humanist, or Agnostic Atheist. However, in practice I’m a firm Atheist; as yet, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that a God exists and therefore no rational reason to behave as though (s)he does, regardless of how much literature there is describing him/her. Presently, I think it is wise for us to behave as though their is not a God and instead put our faith in the good of humanity, the examples set by real human beings such as the Dalai Lama, Jesus, Mohandas Ghandi and billions of others. We should show compassion and love for the sake of making the world a better place, treat people with respect and diginity because it is their human right.

    To me, the evolution of our consciousnes – in the west, atleast – from disorganised and sacrificial quasi-religions; through the organised, but often authoritarian, religions of Chrisianity, Judaism and Islam and now onward – into modern secular ethics, animal rights, human rights, moral philosophy, democracy and much much more – represents humanity’s coming of age.

    I believe, albeit subjectively, that biological evolution can only take us so far, and that conscious or cultural evolution must now carry us forward, towards maturity. I – and many others far more intelligent and eloquent than I am – would suggest the Gods have served their valuable purpose in human, cultural evolution; it is now time for humanity to take responsibility for it’s own actions, to give (our tiny corner of) the universe meaning and treat the unique beauty, as revealed by Science, of the Earth, and of all sentient creatures, with love, compassion and respect.

    Thanks for writing this blog, it makes very good reading. It’s also really refreshing to see another ‘nonbeliever’ that is confident enough in his beliefs to open mindedly consider the existence of God and the legitimacy of religion. I think it says an awful lot about one’s mental clarity, and rationality, to be well acquainted with religious beliefs and still choose to lead a secular life! πŸ˜€

    Reply
  • 18. Mark  |  April 16, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Good idea, using the word ‘creator’ instead of God btw πŸ™‚

    Reply

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Agnostic Atheism Wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God, you will be judged on your merits and not just on whether or not you ignored the lack of evidence of his/her existence and blindly believed.

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