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: 154

Replies to This Discussion

The bullies and thugs reveal themselves, just as the compassionate and caring ones.

Ain't that the truth. Which is why I only tend to be myself here - among friends, honest opinions and some remarkable intellects.

Thanks for sharing that - it's fascinating how nasty little facts get airbrushed out or otherwise edited. Perhaps our generation will see the end of that. I certainly hope so...
What a nice image and response you make. Yes, writing provides information to future generations and is something one can do.
. So, 100 years from now, you and I will know if there is a god and if the only way to "him", as some believe, is through Christ

That's assuming there is an afterlife that would clarify that position, and that position we have no reason to hold. There could just as easily be an afterlife that doesn't clarify if there are any gods or which religions are correct as there could be an afterlife that tells us everything.

Don't give the theists that false dichotomy they want so very much. Make them fight. For. Every. Inch.
Point taken! Make them fight for every inch.
None of those terms are mutually exclusive, and I would call myself any of them (well, I'm not 100% clear on all the things brights entail, but I think I fall in that category).

But I think it is silly to cede the term atheist or any other term we use to describe ourselves to theist jackasses. They'll always re-define any term we use to their advantage, so our only option is to insist on proper definitions and stand our ground.

That's my 2 cents at least.
I have another comment about this question, "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".

When Galileo came under fire from the church, did he look for a word that adequately described his theories? Or Copernicus? or Newton? I suppose they did, because their lives and reputations depended on it. I know they used devious means to conceal their true thoughts, recanting and then re-recanting their theories. My point is, do we spend time trying to find language that fits in with the status quo, or do we think, reason, analyze, explore alternatives, arrive at hypotheses to be tested and then speak frankly, openly, and honestly about what we find?
In my opinion in addition to being scientific and rational we have to overtly stand for good. If we do not the church will have its way with us as it has for thousands of years by scapegoating us as malign. There are those of us it can point to in order to do this (Joseph Stalin et al). In standing for good we should 'prove the negative' because our stand will be weak if we do not.

We can rationally prove the negative to refute Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The approach is to suppose the positive is true and show it to be ridiculous leaving only that the negative is true:

1.) God is good - by definition of god.
2.) God wants to be worshiped - by definition of god.
3.) Good beings don't want to be worshiped - by definition of good.
4.) Therefore, god both does and does not want to be worshiped - necessary conclusion.

Since the positive is rationally tantamount to the ridiculous the negative (that no such god exists) must be true.

Nonetheless, as previously mentioned, in my opinion science and rationality alone will not be enough to overcome theism. It currently has the high road as the result of having cleverly convinced the vast majority that it represents good and that we are malign. The vast majority does not under any circumstances (scientific, rational nor otherwise) want to associate with something that is not perceived as good much less with something perceived as malign. Accordingly, in order to overcome theism we must remove the stigma that we are malign and become perceived by the majority as good. This may only be done if we overtly stand for good.

In the interest of overtly standing for good I call myself a Secular Humanist.
A little off-topic, but since we're discussing terms - I'd invite you all to look at this:

I've recently complained to the BBC about its confusion (conflation) of religion and morals and received the following response.

I understand you have concerns with regards to the use of the term ‘Religion and Ethics’ and I note your reference to today’s secular society and that “morals (ethics) are entirely divorced of any requirement for faith”.

As you haven’t provided examples of how you feel we haven’t recognised this, it’s difficult to be specific in response.

However, the BBC does not seek to denigrate any view, nor to promote any view, but seeks rather to identify all significant views, and to test them rigorously and fairly on behalf of the audience.

Audience reaction is crucial to the BBC as it helps inform our decisions in the future. We use a number of methods to provide feedback to programme makers, commissioning executives and senior management.


Now this is our national UK broadcaster and everyone pays a TV tax (called a licence fee) even if we never use their channels. The BBC mixes morals, ethics and religion in one big pot and I argued (and continue to) that this should not be the case. The specific example that the replies author wanted was right before her eyes! The WHOLE bloody department deals in that.

I will continue with this - picking away at the BBC, but if anyone else here is a UK resident (or not?) the address to write to is available at http://complaints.bbc.co.uk

Have a look around the site and you'll see that religion and ethics has its own section!
You might get somewhere with it because they left the door open. My experience has been that, although difficult, patience 'spoon feeding' is necessary in situations like that. If you at all fly off the handle they will have an excuse to not deal with you.
I'll be honest, that after 8 months dealing with the BBC I'm only at stage 2 (of 3) in and still waiting for a reply on that one. I've similarly followed this one up but they claim they have had a mysterious fault... rather a long-lived one. Funny how the replies suddenly started to filter through after I sent a polite, if strongly worded, letter to my contact at the BBC Trust.

This is a minor issue for me and one that I'm just going to pick at - but the whole BBC needs a radical overhaul and this is just one area - albeit a large one.
My hunch is, one letter from one individual will produce a nice "thank you for writing" response, but to get their attention, many letters on the same subject will precipitate thinking about the issue. Wan't to start a campaign?
Non-Freethinking, theistic people have huge blind spots, when it comes to their beliefs and any alternatives to them. There are people, here in America, who are expressing their "christian love" by protesting at mosques, with signs about Muhammad being a devil, and muslims burning in hell, and so on. Today, a workman who is doing some carpentry for me, asked if I knew jeezus chryst as my personal saviour. I replied that I do not, and I don't suppose he really "knows" any more about god, if such a thing is possible, than I do. He said he'll be praying for me.

I recommend watching the BBC channels for a day, or for an hour a day for a week, and log the specific times and shows that present content that confuse or collapse the distinction between morality/ethics and religious precepts. Send them the log, and remind them that this may be offensive to non-believing persons in the viewing audience. A Guardian/ICM poll in 2006 found that only 33% of British people describe themselves as "a religious person" while 82% see religion as a cause of division and tension between people. The UK has a large and growing non-religious population with 13,626,000 (23.2% of the UK population) either claiming no religion (15.1%) or not answering the question on religion at the 2001 census.

Then You could tell them that perpetuating the false belief, among religious people, that the root of morality and ethics is in religious belief, and non-believers must be amoral and unethical, is not only absurd, but nasty, as well. It would be similarly nasty, if secular programming stated that religion is stupid and detrimental to Peace. We understand that religion actually is stupid and detrimental, but it is still impolite to say so.

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