Atheism or Agnosticism - which is more rational?

Bertrand Russell said:

"I never know whether I should say "Agnostic" or whether I should say "Atheist". It is a very difficult question and I daresay that some of you have been troubled by it. As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods."

Anthony Kenny, philosopher and retired President of the British Academy:

"My reaction to the difficulty of either proving or disproving God's existence is agnosticism: to say that we do not know either way. Often both theist and atheist philosophers, instead of offering arguments, adopt a strategy that might be called grabbing the default position - that is, a tactic of throwing the burden of proof on the opponent."

To most people I'm an atheist. However when pushed in an intellectual discussion I admit to being 95% atheist and 5% agnostic or an agnostic with extreme atheist leanings.

What are you?

Alex
Alex's Heresies - Embracing a Physical Reality

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Comment by Scott on November 4, 2009 at 11:32am
Nate nailed it rather firmly to the cross! LOL! Intellectual honesty does compel one to dismiss the revealed religions due to an overwhelming mountain of evidence to the contrary. Having accomplished that feat you are left with a concept, an idea of a supreme something, but you have no rational foundation to rest these ideas upon. In this sense it is a rather moot point.

It is illogical to make claims of absolute knowledge, in any situation. So, until I have some compelling evidence I will say I am 99.99999999999999999...% atheist
Comment by Alex McCullie on November 3, 2009 at 5:14pm
My question to Christians is what was god doing 200,000 years ago (that is for the first 4+ billion years of Earth or first 14.7 billions years of the known universe) when his playthings weren't around yet? For example, why have all that suffering when there was no human around to benefit from a greater good?

I love chatting to liberal/progressive Christians (those who sort of accept evolution) about Christianity being 2000 years old; humans in roughly currrent form for some 150,000 - 200,000 years; Earth more than 4 billion years. I then have the temerity to suggest that the whole religious story may be a recent human concoction? Ouch!

Alex
Comment by AcesLucky on November 3, 2009 at 4:17pm
militant agnostic
Comment by OutlawGirl on November 3, 2009 at 7:49am
I'm also with Jaume.
Comment by Nate on November 3, 2009 at 7:22am
My view is similar to Jaume's.

I believe one can be atheist with regards to specific gods- Jehovah, Jesus, Allah, etc. It's probably more intellectually honest to be agnostic with regards to an undescribed, unnamed god. If it can't be defined, its existence is not falsifiable. Its existence would also be inconsequential.

It seems that religious apologists always start their arguments in favor of a creator or supreme being with vague assertions about a "something" or a "someone", nothing too specific. But in the end, their real agenda emerges and they can't resist the temptation to tell you about their particualr brand of god, quoting scripture and sharing personal anecdotes.
Comment by Louis Davout on November 3, 2009 at 7:20am
"In practice, I imagine most agnostics probably don't believe in the existence of god but are unwilling to use the word 'atheist' for many reasons (including its pejorative tone)."

I agree.

"One question: based on what you said, can a person simply not know whether he or she believes in god (regardless of knowledge)? Truly undecided?"

Not being a philosopher type, I really couldn't say.
Comment by Jaume on November 3, 2009 at 6:49am
I'm a strong atheist as far as traditional (revealed) religions are concerned. Although there's no more definitive evidence againt them than against Russell's teapot, there's more than enough inference to reject them all as complete fabrications.

I'm an agnostic atheist about deistic claims (existence of an universal creator or prime mover).
Comment by Alex McCullie on November 3, 2009 at 5:42am
Agreed. In theory, agnosticism is about claims of knowledge and atheism about claims of existence. In practice, I imagine most agnostics probably don't believe in the existence of god but are unwilling to use the word 'atheist' for many reasons (including its pejorative tone).

One question: based on what you said, can a person simply not know whether he or she believes in god (regardless of knowledge)? Truly undecided?

Alex
Comment by Louis Davout on November 3, 2009 at 5:23am
Hello,

The tangled web of word definitions and semantics. For most of my life, I considered myself an agnostic. However, after reading and listening, I've come to the conclusion that I'm an agnostic atheist. See I've come to the conclusion that agnosticism is not in the middle between theism and atheism. Rather it's separate attribute on a perpendicular axis - if that makes any sense.

Basically I see it like this: First, either you believe in a god or you don't. This determines whether you're a theist or atheist. Second, is whether you have doubt or unknowing about your belief. This determines whether your an agnostic or not.

For me I don't believe in a god but I don't know with absolute certainty. Maybe is, maybe there isn't. There are some atheist who say they absolutely know their isn't a god - they are sometimes referred to as strong atheists. However, I think most atheist are agnostic atheists.

On the other hand you have theists who have no doubt that god exists and others who believe in god but at least a kernel of doubt.

Just my $0.02

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