I strikes me from time to time that, as thinkers, we can't also be atheists.

Literal atheism is untenable because we're assuming that we can prove a negative - which is clearly impossible.

That leaves us as agnostics a word I feels is associated with some rather "fence sitting" or woolly ideals.

So are we tied in knots here? Or is there a word which adequately describes us while at the same time demonstrates that we're not subject to the fallacy of "trying to prove a negative".

Tags: agnostic, agnostitism, atheism, english

Views: 152

Replies to This Discussion

Atheism doesn't try to prove a negative. We aren't saying we KNOW gods don't exist. We are saying that based on evidence we do not BELIEVE that gods exist.
I wholeheartedly agree, Susan. I don't believe anything, and I even have doubts about not believing anything. The power is in the question, and none of the answers really matter.
I agree, and I'm surprised that that Marc would miss this fundamental point.
What?

A-the-ist

Not-god-believer


Nowhere does proof come into this. Those are gnostic atheists.

Not to be confused with Gnosticism, the dualistic, sycretistic religious cult of Ancient times. I still prefer 'freethinker.'
I do not think there are gods.

I'm not trying to prove anything with that statement; I'm stating a position. Folks are welcome to agree, disagree, argue, attempt to disprove, whatever they want.

I also don't think there is a Santa Claus, an Easter Bunny, Russell's Teacup, faeries at the bottom of the garden, or a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Others are welcome to try to prove to me that any of those things exist but the track record has not been very encouraging. But I'm not going to waste much time trying to 'prove' that I'm right unless they are willing to actually listen to what may be support (not necessarily proof) for my position.

And I'll start with my religious version of Occam's Razor: "For what question is God the answer?" An actual answer that is not equally, or better, explained by other reasons might be a reason to consider the necessity of 'multiplying entities'.
William of Ockham's celebrated razor, entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, is sharp enough to cut the notion of deity out of any conversation. It's funny that he didn't think so.
And sad. The world would be a better place if he had.
William of Ockham was a 14th Century Franciscan friar. He probably would have been burned, and we never would have heard of him or his Razor.
I prefer the terms 'Freethinker' and 'Freethinking.' These are 19th Century terms, and they cover the whole territory of freethought. I agree that 'Atheist,' is untenable, 'Agnostic' carries a lot of baggage, 'Skeptic' is too vague, and 'Libertine' just sounds like fun.

Richard Dawkins postulates a scale:
1 Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C. G. Jung, ‘I do not believe, I know.’
2 Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. De facto theist. ‘I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.’
3 Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. Technically agnostic but leaning towards theism. ‘I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.’
4 Exactly 50 per cent. Completely impartial agnostic. ‘God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.’
5 Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. Technically agnostic but leaning towards atheism. ‘I don’t know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be sceptical.’
6 Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. ‘I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.’
7 Strong atheist. ‘I know there is no God, with the same
conviction as Jung "knows" there is one.’

I'm solidly a six on his scale of belief/disbelief.
I've heard of this scale but don't remember it in my reading of Dawkins (probably because this isn't a very big issue for me.) It seems to me that if one is not able to be a #7 (and most people using this scale seem to not), then it is also not possible for anyone to be a #1.
I think a lot of people, especially in the USA, claim to be at level #1, and they "witness" to me, and probably to You as well, that "You CAN know there is a god, and have a "personal relationship" with it. I wonder if they aren't faced with doubts that make them sit bolt upright in their beds, in the middle of dark and stormy nights. In any case, they are probably at #2. As observable phenomena, ones and twos would be nearly indistinguishable from each other, and sixes and sevens would be, also.

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