Atheist: I'm an atheist.

Closeted Atheist: Oh, well, I think you're going a bit too far. I mean, you can't conclusively prove that gods don't exist.

Atheist: So, you are a theist?

Closeted Atheist: Of course not! I'm agnostic; I don't claim that gods don't exist because that's a non-falsifiable claim. It's not possible to prove a negative.

Atheist: I agree and take the same position. So, why do you call yourself agnostic but not an atheist?

Closeted Atheist: Agnostic refers to a lack of certitude with regard to some question. It means, "without knowledge."

Atheist: So, your agnosticism addresses the question of knowledge: you don't know whether gods exist. Is that correct?

Closeted Atheist: Yes. What's your point?

Atheist: Well, I don't know whether gods exist either.

Closeted Atheist: There. That settles it. You really should be calling yourself an agnostic instead of an atheist.

Atheist: Oh, but I do call myself an agnostic.

Closeted Atheist: Didn't you say you were an atheist?

Atheist: I didn't realize the two distinctions were mutually exclusive.

Closeted Atheist: What do you mean?

Atheist: Well, we already established that our agnosticism addresses the question of knowledge. But what about belief? Does agnosticism really say anything about what one believes?

Closeted Atheist: Of course it does! An agnostic person does not believe one way or the other!

Atheist: I thought you said an agnostic person does not know one way or the other.

Closeted Atheist: It's the same thing!

Atheist: Really? Interesting! Does a theist know that gods exist?

Closeted Atheist: I suppose not...

Atheist: So a theist is really just agnostic--someone who doesn't know one way or the other!

Closeted Atheist: But a theist believes that gods exist!

Atheist: And yet the theist does not know that gods exist. So what distinguishes you from the theist? Do you share the belief of the theist as well as his/her ignorance?

Closeted Atheist: Of course not! I'm not a theist, I'm an...

Atheist: Atheist--without belief in gods--"not a theist." Am I right?

Closeted Atheist: Oh, I suppose you are. I never thought of it that way. I'm an a-theist...huh, sounds terrible.

Atheist: That's okay, you'll get over the taboo.

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Comment by Casey Wollberg on June 2, 2009 at 7:14pm
"Back off?" "Avowed agnostics?" "We?" What does all of this mean, Rosemary? I distinctly remember answering the question, "Are you an atheist?" when I signed up. That's what I was referring to. Has this been modified, or what?
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on June 2, 2009 at 6:11pm
Casey, we accept avowed agnostics on this site. Back off.
Comment by Casey Wollberg on June 2, 2009 at 4:01pm
You're welcome. Now are you going to man-up and answer my question about why you are here, or would that be too much of a power drain for you? Now you can accuse me of being mean, but that's what you ask for when you come around trolling atheist web sites and leaving snide comments out of the blue on blog posts you didn't bother to comprehend properly in the first place.
Comment by Alt5 on June 2, 2009 at 8:41am
I see. Thank you for correcting my misconception regarding the intent of this post.


Alt5
Comment by Casey Wollberg on June 2, 2009 at 6:11am
By the way, this had nothing to do with my "wish to have an open dialogue with people about their beliefs." This was a hypothetical dialogue invented to make a point (which you failed to address), not an indication of how I would talk to people if I "wished to have an open dialogue...about their beliefs."
Comment by Casey Wollberg on June 2, 2009 at 6:05am
Alt5.

Most of what you are droning on about here is completely off-topic, and seems a lot like sophistry to me. You still haven't presented an argument. You say I am correct, but mean. That's ad hominem, nothing more--regardless of how much unsolicited personal advice you attach to it. Are you sure you agree with me? I notice you still call yourself "an agnostic." You don't say what you believe, apparently because you are afraid of giving me "power." This is irrelevant nonsense. And do you realize that Atheist nexus is for atheists? What are you doing on here if you are not an atheist? When the site asked the question of you, "Are you an atheist?" did you lie because you wished to retain the power to impose where you don't belong?

As to your accusation that I take pleasure in ridiculing others, I suggest you get your head out of your ass and notice the facts. There is a popular misconception going around about the definition of agnosticism; those who call themselves "agnostics" (like you, for example), along with their theist counterparts, seem intent on propagating this confusion in order to mask the true definition of the word. My purpose here, in the post and in the comments, has been to make clear why the popular definition of "agnosticism" is incorrect, illogical, and convenient to those who wish to shift the burden of proof. I have not once said anything toward any person, and I find it interesting that you, who have done nothing but make ad hominem attacks against my person, feel "ridiculed" by actual arguments that you cannot refute. How is that my problem?
Comment by Alt5 on June 2, 2009 at 12:30am
Believe it or not I did actually have a point with my other post.

If you turned to me in a casual conversation right now and asked me if I am a theist, just as in the script above, I'd smile and say I am an agnostic. I'd do so knowing full well that I had not answered your question.

I've read through all the posts in this thread until this point. I respect your intellect, concur with you on the definition of many things, and have yet to find fault with your logical constructions... but I don't really like you that much. You sound mean. As though half the fun of being right is grinding it in the faces of the wrong, and rolling your eye when that's done.

I don't tend to give gifts to people I don't like, and I don't prefer to give power to those I don't trust. The gift of power is what the answering of your question, are you a theist, entails.

What one believes, if interpreted correctly, can be a strong indicator of how they perceive the world, and might react to its stimulation. That kind of knowledge can be devastating if used for the personal satisfaction of an outside party.

Cliché to be sure, but knowledge is power.

When I say to you that I am an agnostic, I'm implying that I'd be happy to have a stimulating conversation with you about our views regarding knowledge of a deity. When I refuse to be drawn any further on the subject of theism, I'm hoping you'll have the good grace to infer that I do not feel comfortable discussing my beliefs with you.

You might assume it's cowardice borne of an ill-examined position, or even fear of being embarrassed somehow in the argument itself. In some it probably is. I, however, love to argue and LOVE to be wrong. When someone proves me wrong it means I get to learn something new, or see the world in a slightly new way! Those are truly some of the days I live for.

However, given what little I know of you from the writings in this thread, to you I'm just an agnostic. Most wouldn't tell a college professor what happened at the previous nights' party, and many of the rest wouldn't tell a boss what happened in Vegas. To do so would be to surrender some power in an adversarial relationship. I don't know if this is the first time someone has told you this, but I found your tone to the others off-putting and infuriating. The more I read, the more I felt resentful that I was agreeing with you. I had no desire to be like you. I don't mean these, or the statements above, as attacks. Purely personal attacks would do nothing to improve my argument, and are therefore useless. I'm telling you how I felt, in the most non-threatening language i have, so you can better understand my position.

If you truly wish to have an open dialog with people about their beliefs, you might be amazed how far courtesy and grace can take you. Along with whatever else I am, I'm a pragmatist. To me the useful is valuable. If it were not so, I would not have wasted my resources typing this. You seem to have a proficient intellect, and impressive exposition and argumentation skills. This world needs you.

Now more than ever we need clear, intelligent voices correcting our mental course and preventing us from lying to ourselves. But being right won't make a difference if no one wants to listen. I'm not saying you should soften your logic or your arguments one single bit. However, if you didn't seem to take such pleasure in the ridicule of others, you'd probably have a much different experience with the agnostics you meet.

So now I'm back to my original notion of standing with no shame having 'agnostic' pinned to my chest. To those I don't care for, I am an agnostic. To the real teachers and friends in my life, I'm something more.


Alt5
Comment by Casey Wollberg on June 1, 2009 at 10:15pm
@ Alex Donovan:

Exactly the definition I've been endorsing here. I think I even pointed out that precise quote from Huxley in one of my comments. I found it on Wikipedia, if I remember correctly. Like I said, this isn't rocket science. Click, read, comprehend. Click, read, comprehend. Etc. Eventually, if you think you've really got it, then you might be prepared to make an argument. It seems a lot of people go straight to arguing first, with nothing but their whims and opinions in back of them. I guess they are some real gnostics!
Comment by Casey Wollberg on June 1, 2009 at 10:02pm
So, to conclude--and I don't mean to sound boastful, because that isn't the point--I've done my homework on this. If you wish to challenge my position, show some respect and do your homework too. Then, before rushing in, it would be wise to read what I have said in order to respond directly to it. Thor knows I've been wrong before (I used to be a devout Christian), so I'm definitely open to clarification; to a more informed perspective than what I have presented here. But so far, I haven't seen it. I have seen posts that have agreed with the points I've made, and those were encouraging. Honestly it gets tiresome correcting the same popular misconceptions over and over again. I can't recommend enough the development of reading comprehension and research skills. This stuff really isn't rocket science, folks.
Comment by Casey Wollberg on June 1, 2009 at 9:51pm
P.S. The "frequently used" definition you give for "somewhat agnostic" is actually that of what is called weak or agnostic atheism. It is the position that some god concept is unknowable (agnosticism) and unbelievable (atheism). (By the way, if you think the existence of some god is "highly unlikely" then you can't be said to believe the claim, not by any stretch of the imagination. Thus, this is a form of non-belief--of atheism: agnostic atheism.) A different kind of atheism (strong or gnostic) would posit that some specific god concept is knowable and therefore falsifiable.

Purporting to be agnostic says nothing about one's *belief* (or lack thereof) in a particular god-claim, only whether one thinks a particular god-claim is knowable, falsifiable. I personally know many agnostic theists, for example. I also know some apatheists--and this state of non-belief is popular and often confused with agnosticism, but it isn't agnosticism. It is a lack of belief that stems from a feeling of apathy towards one or more god-claims. They don't care and they don't believe--they likely haven't even considered the position of agnosticism, although one who has may conceivably be considered an agnostic apatheist (it's not possible to know god, so why bother believing in one?). There's also the term ignostic. These interesting characters take the position that it doesn't even make sense to claim "god exists." They would require an infinite amount of description of the being in question before beginning to consider whether they believe the claim--and so, they are non-believers as well, strictly speaking (and is there any other way?).

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