I’m an Atheist. I don’t mind writing those shocking words because I’m comfortable with my position. I’m not evangelical. I don’t need you to be an Atheist. I won’t come knocking on your door handing out tracts. I’m not militant. Even though in God I don’t trust I don’t mind touching money. When some little old lady “blesses” me, I don’t feel the need to blast her. I know she’s just wishing me well in language she understands and I can live with that. I’ve even been known to return the sentiment, as a well wish I know she’ll appreciate.
I confess, I wasn’t always like that. Back in high school, I used to seek out religious people for a good debate. I thought I was helping them to see the folly of their silly beliefs. I realized at some point it was more like kicking the crutches out from under a disabled person. So, I stopped. I still hold that organized religion has done more harm than good for/to humankind and I can still defend my position should someone feel the need but I don’t need to seek them out…
It’s funny, though. It’s quite common, when people hear me say I’m an Atheist, to try to “save my soul”. Commonly, this takes on one of two tacks. Sometimes, they’ll take the “just in case” position. You know the one. “Shouldn’t you just SAY you believe in case you’re wrong?”
Um, the story is that your god is omniscient. That means he knows everything, right? That means he would know I was fibbing, one of the BIG no-no’s of religion. Even if he didn’t have that extra “know everything” edge, any god that could be so easily fooled…probably isn’t worthy of worship, you know? I’m pretty sure I’d need my gods to be, at the very least, smarter than me. It’s not THAT high a bar – a god should be able to manage it…
The other common tactic people use is to try to “move” me off of atheism toward agnosticism. Sometimes people will call atheism a religion. By definition, it isn’t and I find those people the most obnoxious on the subject. I think they’re trying to be, too. They’re the same kind of obnoxious I was back in high school when I was trolling for believers…
Sometimes, they’ll simply deny atheism even exists. As the argument goes, if I can’t absolutely state with 100% certainty that no god exists, I’m not atheist, I’m agnostic and since I can’t prove god doesn’t exist, the very best (worst?) I could be is agnostic. It’s a silly position, really. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof and I hold that the existence of an invisible cloud being that bestows and denies requests on whims is the extraordinary claim. The burden of “proof” falls to the believer.
I was recently in one such exchange with a person who tried to sprinkle in a bit of science. Physics, he suggested, currently holds there are as many as twenty-two different dimensions and since I couldn’t possibly prove that no gods exist in any of those dimensions…BAM! I’m agnostic. (His words…) I replied that my position is, basically, that I’ve never seen anything that would cause me to take the story seriously in this dimension or any other so…BAM! Still atheist…
The exchange, though, put me on a thought path I hadn’t actually considered before. Atheism exists, even if theists don’t like it. But agnosticism? Hmmm. ‘Agnostic’ means one who doesn’t know; the opposite of Gnostic, one who knows. For all the talk of “proof” and “knowing” that’s not what religion is about. The best summation on the topic I know comes from Archie Bunker. Yes, the 1970’s television show blue-collar bigot, THAT Archie Bunker. “Faith means believing in something you’d have to be crazy to believe in!”
He’s right, right? Faith doesn’t demand proof but it requires belief. A person who says they “don’t know” is saying they don’t automatically believe; that they’d like a bit of evidence to help sway their opinion. But faith doesn’t allow for that. With faith, you either do or you don’t. You’re either in or your out. The question, “Do you believe?” only has two possible answers, yes or no. A hand shoots up at the back of the class. “But what if I don’t know?” Well, then you have to check ‘no’. The only people who get to check the ‘yes’ box are the people who are certain they believe. If you’re ‘not sure’, you’re a ‘no’.
I’ll tell you this: I was a bit surprised by the epiphany. Theists and Gnostics exist. Atheists exist. But there’s no such thing as an agnostic! “Not sure” and “just in case” equate to “no”, like it or not…
2 thoughts on “Agnostic or Atheist?”
What? You’re one of those “I’ll believe it when I see it” people? Not “I see it because I believe it?” 🙂 Personally, I’ll believe Jeff is praying for you when I see it . . .
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I’ll pray to Jehovah, or Allah, or Buddha, or all of the above to save your damned soul my friend.
Jeff Meldahl 707-327-8107
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