It’s OK To Use the Word ‘Atheist’ May 13, 2012

It’s OK To Use the Word ‘Atheist’

Hey, check it out: I’m not the only person calling out Neil deGrasse Tyson on his video about why he doesn’t call himself an “atheist.”

ZOMGitsCriss doesn’t approve of it either:

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  • We gather to talk about love, life, beauty, science. Things that transcend time and space. Things that transcend religion. Atheist is a fine word accept it, take it, and embrace it.  Most people believe in God therefore they are theist. Atheist means not a theist to say that this name is bad or wrong or unnecessary is a ridiculous idea. It is what we are if we do not believe in god. embrace it!

  • Arclight

    Yep. Okay. She’s great.

  • CallMeTim

    “When people assume you’re a chicken, just fly and show them you’re and eagle”…

    To say she is one of the good ones is an understatement.

  • Stephen Ikudaisi

    nailed it.

  • Much respect to you Hemant for calling out Tyson for afraid of the “A” word.

  • Bobby

    Labels are limiting. Full stop.

  • mikespeir

    I vote for choice.

  • Len

    “Terminally stupid” – excellent phrase (that i will steal). Because it’s people being stupid about a term.

  • I think I was blinded by Tyson-love.  Still love the guy, but:

    Choosing agnostic over atheist is cool.  Promoting negative stereotypes of the word ‘atheist’ is not.

  • I take a slightly different take on this whole Neil deGrasse Tyson debacle:

    He’s definitely not doing the atheist community any favors with this video, and I hope he someday comes out publicly as an atheist, but at the same time, he’s done a lot to expose the dangers of religious doctrine and promote the scientific method. Nobody’s perfect.

  • Guest

    What’s with the animosity towards agnosticism? I’m sorry, but either you’re agnostic or you’re doing it wrong. Atheism by default means a belief that there is no god. It is by default gnostic, no matter how people attempt to rebrand it. Even Richard Dawkins acknowledges this by saying that there is a spectrum of theistic probability and that he himself is a six (6.9 later clarified on the Daily Show) on a scale of seven, seven being a gnostic-atheist, atheism’s true form (As how it was originally defined). “6. De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. ‘I
    don’t 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.'” Who defines themselves as this? Really? This is no better than theists. The atheist movement may have decided to champion science, and that’s a good thing, but that also means never saying “I know” with 100% certainty. This is agnosticism. Agnosticism is never saying “I believe,” never saying “I know.” Sure, agnosticism can range on the scale from #4-6, but for most, especially those that align themselves with the atheist movement, it’s #6 on the theistic probability scale, and just because someone identifies themselves as agnostic before atheist doesn’t mean anything. Most of the agnostics are just as atheist as you, they just prefer one label over the other, most probably because it defines them better.

    I define myself as agnostic because I choose not to believe, not because I’m scared that they might be right and I might be wrong. I’m not “atheist-lite,” I was an agnostic well before the atheist movement took hold, and I’m not going to relabel myself because of rebranding in an attempt to modify a word’s original connotation, or ride out its heavy impact as a buzz word. You don’t like that? Then you’re alienating like-minded people because you’ve got a hard-on for a word. Neil deGrasse Tyson being one of them.

  •  no, you are wrong.

  • Kozmic_tulip

    Nicely said Ben. I found your comment concise and to the point, expressed in an inspiring way. Thanks 🙂

  • Rodney

    The question is if you believe, not if you know. Those who do not believe are atheists. I’m so tired of this.

  • Kodie

    I can understand him not wanting to have all the baggage, it really sounds like he is protesting too much, but she is right. The problem people have using the word atheist upon themselves is one of public image, and then they do nothing to correct that image by choosing a different word as they feel like it. It shouldn’t be an issue but it is. He is using the word “agnostic” to mean, not “I don’t really know either way,” but “I don’t want to talk about it.” Being an atheist should also be valid – “this is how I see it” and nothing more needs to be said, but then it does become the focus. It’s not the baggage of atheism, it’s the baggage of people who will take focus away from what he’d rather talk about and make him talk about that instead, making him one of the kind of atheists he’d rather not associate himself as, that baggage. Those who would make a big deal out of it and make him talk about it, in the video she called them “terminally stupid.” If he were free of that kind of distraction, he would, and everyone else would, freely call themselves an atheist (if they were) instead of hedging.

    In my opinion, there is more than one way to be an agnostic, and one of them is merely convenient to avoid controversy and upheaval (real or imagined) in their lives. I recently spoke in a small group of friends sharing what our beliefs were and, when asked, I always say that I’m an atheist. One guy said, wait – you “KNOW”? How can you know? Another one corrected me and told me I was agnostic. This was not really a new group to me, not full friends yet, and the conversation arose around the first guy saying something that I took offense to and rather than keep quiet, I said what I could. It was kind of awkward because I could have said nothing, and I’m not usually prepared to argue with people about what they believe, and then the topic changed so quickly, I didn’t have to. I don’t think I lost them, so it didn’t turn for the worst, but I didn’t really get a chance to affirm myself after the 2nd guy corrected me, either.

  • Atheism means not believing in a god. That is not the same as believing there is no god.

    The biggest mistake people make is treating agnosticism as if it existed on some sort of scale between theism and atheism. It doesn’t. It means something else completely. Using the examples in the video, agnosticism is the same as evolutionist or humanist or skeptic. It tells you nothing about whether the person is a theist or an atheist.

    An atheist may be a humanist, or not. She may be an evolutionist, or not. She may be a skeptic, or not. She may be an agnostic, or not. And the same applies to theists.

  • Yukimi

    There’s not. Many, if not most, atheist are agnostics too. I’m an agnostic atheist (a 6.sth). You can be an agnostic and not being atheist or you can even be an agnostic theist and those two options are great but what’s it’s not great it’s being an atheist and attack the word or riddiculise it or at least so I think.

  • You can both think the word “atheist” is silly, and believe it is useful and necessary. I have no problem calling myself an atheist (sometimes I say “not a theist”, because it can make whomever I’m addressing think a little harder). I certainly don’t advocate replacing it with another word meaning the same thing (let alone something like “skeptic” or “humanist”, which already have different, useful meanings).

    I simply think it’s unfortunate we need the word. I’d feel the same way if superstitions shifted and we suddenly needed to coin “aunicornist” or “aleprechaunist”. But if such a shift occurred, we would need those words, and they would be useful… even if they were also a bit silly.

  • JD929

    Thanks for your thorough clarification.

  •  It is odd that we have a word for people who don’t believe in a god. It’s just that that oddity helps us to understand the difference between this topic and playing golf, etc.

  • newavocation

    I think the great agnostic Ingersoll probably said it best:
     “Love was the first to dream of immortality, — not Religion, not
    Revelation. We love, therefore we wish to live. The hope of
    immortality is the great oak ’round which have climbed the poisonous
    vines of superstition. The vines have not supported the oak, the oak
    has supported the vines. As long as men live and love and die, this
    hope will blossom in the human heart.”

  • Yeah, we should just eliminate all those pesky nouns from the English language. Think how much freer we could be in expressing ourselves without their limits.

  • FreedToChoose

    Since there are only three labels–theist, atheist, agnostic–in common usage, none of which carry explicit meaning, I opt for non-theist, meaning the idea of deity is inconsequential.

  • Nic

    I’m not an Asupermanist because I don’t think Superman exists.  To publicly define myself as an Asupermanist would, of course, be silly, as others have pointed out. 

    The other, bigger, reason that it’s silly is that there is quite simply no end of things I can choose to define myself as being against or opposed to, irrespective of how dominant the alternate perspective is.  I find it embarrassing and more than a little demeaning to use a label that defines me as being “not in the majority,” to say nothing of the fact that it is fundamentally idiotic to define oneself as against something that doesn’t exist in the first place.

    And while I’m on the topic, can we please dispense with the awful notion that absolute belief is the same as absolute disbelief?  We should all be firm 7s on the Dawkins scale, period.  I get very annoyed when people equivocate on this–yes, absolutism is ugly, but the god notion is beyond the need to refute.  To use Sagan’s analogy, there is no floating, incorporeal, heatless-fire breathing dragon in the garage, so let’s stop pretending that to allow for the possibility of its existence out of some requisite scientific humily is appropriate.  It’s not.  Let’s move on.

  • Lambert Heenan

    Well, strictly speaking, that would be “terminologically stupid”. 🙂

  • WayneD

    Thank you Tyson!!!  A theist believes that a god or creator exists.  An Atheist believes that a god or creator does not exist.  The Theists cannot show evidence that a creator produced matter from nothing which then expanded into a finely tuned universe required for life of any kind to exist, and the atheist cannot show evidence that it all came about by chance.  An Agnostic admits he doesn’t know the answer.  Makes sense to me.

  • WayneD

     I disagree.  The dictionary clearly defines Theist as one believing in a god, atheist as one believing there is no god and agnostic as one who does not know.  What could be clear than that?   Pretty explicit.  Now if you want to get cute, you can say you are an agnostic, because you don’t know whether or not there is a god and have no evidence either way, but you have a leaning toward either atheism or theism, but this leaning is base on reasoning alone. 

  • WayneD

     “He’s definitely not doing the atheist community any favors with this video”

    I think it is about time someone of his powerful scientific background says it like it is.  Since atheists have no evidence for how our finely tuned universe started, I have gotten a lot of flack in the past from atheists when I suggested that, since both atheists and theists have no evidence to support their view, both are basing their beliefs on faith.  Until one or the other view comes up with evidence to support their claim, it makes sense to be an agnostic.

  • WayneD

     Then anyone could make up any meaning they want for a word.  that isn’t freedom, it’s chaos.  That’s why we have dictionaries so everyone knows what the other is talking about.

  • Bobby

     I think it’s admirable that the intellectually challenged are allowed to participate here. How proud you must be stand amongst the big kids.

  • FreedToChoose

     That would depend on which reference you use. states that an atheist is “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings”  which I take to mean a disbelieves in all theisms, mono and poly.

    My point is that there is not only insufficient evidence to confirm or deny theism–which would be the agnostic’s view–but that the idea of god is inconsequential, hence my position of non-theism.  It’s how I see it.  To agree with you would be to abandon an honest personal view which would be a lie.

    You right to disagree is intact.  As Socrates said (if I recall) “to debate with me, you must define your terms.”  I will accept your stated definition of atheism as a disbelief in monotheism.  As for me, the concept of god/deity is trivial, hence my claim of non-theism.  As for agnosticism, that’s another matter.  The SEP has an interesting paper on the difference between atheism and agnosticism based on the promis that atheism is the disbelief in monotheism.  It’s at

  •  Actually, there is objective evidence which helps us understand how the Universe came about and developed (and most especially, how life came about and developed) without any need for design (what you call “chance”, although that is an inaccurate characterization). The case for a creator is unsupported by any evidence at all.

    An agnostic is not somebody who doesn’t know the answer. We already have a word for that: skeptic. An agnostic is a person who believes the question is unanswerable. That’s not an entirely unreasonable position, but it has nothing to do with whether somebody is an atheist or a theist. Either one can be agnostic, or not.

    Atheism is the position any rational person must take. A properly skeptical atheist doesn’t know if their position is correct, but they have good objective reasons to believe so. There can’t be many properly skeptical theists, of course, because skepticism will turn one into an atheist.

    Tyson was either waffling, or he doesn’t understand what an agnostic is. Either way, his statement wasn’t very respectable. He either should have answered the question and said he was an atheist (almost certainly the case) or not, or he should have said it was personal and declined to answer at all.

  • All three carry very clear meaning. A theist believes in some sort of deity; an atheist does not. An agnostic (who may be either an theist or an atheist) believes that the question can never be answered, which doesn’t stop him from having a degree of belief one way or the other.

  • Words evolve.

  •  Exactly.

  • You must be jolly fun at a party.

  • Bobby

     You mean those gatherings where people get together and get plastered so they can pretend they’re having fun?

  • Bobby

     Not exactly. Defining a word and labeling an idea are two entirely different things. I was referring to the latter. Either he lacked the comprehension ability to recognize that or he was intentionally misinterpreting my words. Either way it demonstrates the main problem with language, words do not promote clarity much of the time. Witness the ongoing debate here about what the word atheism means. Fuck the dictionary, to me an atheist is a person who recognizes that there is not one shred of evidence that any god or gods exist. It’s not a “belief” or a “non-belief”. Belief needed come into it.

  • FreedToChoose

     If they are that clearly defined, why the dispute amongst scholars?  A theist believes in a deity or deities, but the characterization of deity is open to clarification.

    When Karl Jaspers writes, “God is transcendence.”  Your response would be? 

    When Joseph Campbell writes, “God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It’s as simple as that.”  Your response would be?
    For me, the issue of what constitutes a deity (god) is so poorly defined as to defy a specific acceptance or rejection of same, leaving each of us to consider its meaning.  For me, it’s an inconsequential concept worthy of disregard.

  • I don’t think there is much dispute amongst scholars at all.

    To Jaspers I’d say, simply stringing together some words to make a grammatically correct sentence does not mean that sentence has any meaning, and “God is transcendence” is typical of so much of the rubbish that comes from philosophers. It is empty of content. If that’s the best he can do, he’s not worth further study.

    To Campbell I’d say, wrong. He can arbitrarily create such a definition, but it certainly isn’t how the overwhelming majority of theists interpret the word. He’s playing word games to try and escape the absurdity of an actual super being.

    I don’t think there’s anything complex in defining a deity at all. It’s an entity capable of manipulating the Universe outside the laws of nature.

  •  I see very little debate about what atheism means, except from a handful of theists who go out of their way to be deliberately obfuscating.

    An atheist is an atheist. That is, a person who does not believe in any gods. Within the ranks of atheists one finds a wide range of viewpoints, but those views do not depend on the definition of atheism itself.

  • Gordon Hill

     That would be your definition.  I would say Jaspers and Campbell were both non-theists.  It’s an interesting situation which demands one think through their personal view of what is beyond knowing unless they think everything is within knowing which I do not, neither individually nor collectively.

  • They probably were atheists, and they were being intellectually dishonest by playing word games in order to avoid calling themselves that. Pretending god is some abstract concept doesn’t magically make you a theist.

    It’s not my definition of a deity. It’s the common definition, used by virtually everyone since the concept of a deity was invented.

  • WayneD

     Yes we have evidence that matter came from nothing and expanded into our universe in the big bang, but we don’t have evidence of how this matter came from nothing by itself and then expanded into a universe finely tuned for life.  According to the anthropic principle, there are a number of parameters which must be finely tuned.  For example, if gravity had been 1% stronger, the big bang would have collapsed on itself.  If it had been 1% weaker, no stars nor planets could have formed, i.e., we would have ended up with cosmic dust.  If the nuclear weak force had been a hair stronger, atoms would have been held to tightly to form compounds and if a hair weaker, and those atoms would  not hold together for long and would fall apart.  This is only two, and both have to be within this very fine range or life of any kind could not have formed.  And there are more parameters than this.  I argue then that this leaves open the possibility that a creator was necessary.

    And the definition of an agnostic  is someone who admits he doesn’t know the answer. Since neither the theist nor the atheist can prove their position for lack of evidence, being an agnostic is the only rational position to take. 

  • WayneD

     “As Socrates said (if I recall)” to debate with me, you must define your terms”.  Which is what I did.  I got my definitions from well respected dictionary, Merriam Webster.

    You say you are a non theist, which is another way of saying you are an atheist, one who doesn’t believe in a god.  I’m an agnostic because I admit there is no evidence for either side and, therefore, I say I do not know.

  • Kodie

    I argue then that this leaves open the possibility that a creator was necessary.

    No it doesn’t. If whatever was 1% more or less, that would have been equally unlikely, but if it happened, then that’s what would have happened. In a range of possible outcomes, only one could happen, and one did, and they are all as unlikely. You are choosing one outcome because it’s the only outcome you can see as more unlikely than any other, if only because you can see it. Since your logical conclusion is based on a false premise, it’s not as rational to be an agnostic.

  • FreedToChoose

     No, I’m not an atheist.  My use of the term god is for the mystery, a belief that the impenetrable exists, that which is beyond knowing.

    Call me whatever you choose.  For me the god word is, in the main meaningless, but in a specific sense meaningful.  When my daughter says George Clooney is a god I know exactly what she means.

  • T-Rex

    Leave Tyson alone and appreciate him for what he is, one of the leading scientific minds in the world today. Does it fucking matter one iota if he labels himself an atheist or not? Jesus H. Christ on a popsicle stick.

  • Kodie

    His reasons and protestations matter more than what he considers himself. The fact that someone had to direct to him this question and watch him squirm around making excuses to be, in other words, “anything but an atheist” is a little disappointing and insulting.  If he doesn’t wish to identify himself as an atheist, he could have put it a better way.

  • It doesn’t matter if we can’t explain the original “cause” of the Big Bang. Whatever explanation exists, it must be simpler and more likely than the original cause of an intelligent creator. And the Anthropic principle changes nothing.

    The bottom line is that nothing exists for which the existence of a creator provides a better explanation than natural processes. And nearly everything we observe can be explained very well without resorting to supernatural explanations or intelligent creators.

    You do not understand what an agnostic is. It is not somebody who does not know the answer. It is somebody who believes that the question of the existence of a deity is inherently unknowable. Either a theist or an atheist may take that position. It’s not unreasonable- we could posit, for instance, that the Universe was created by a deity, and that deity set up the rules so its existence could never be confirmed. But neither is it unreasonable to not be agnostic, since one could believe that we might ultimately demonstrate how the Universe came into existence, or might actually find a creator (making the answer knowable).

    A skeptic admits that we don’t know. But not knowing does not mean that the likelihood of either choice being correct is the same. The evidence (and lack of evidence) very strongly supports the atheist position. A rational person will always be an atheist, whether or not they happen to be agnostic.

  • But that alone does not make your daughter a theist.

  • WayneD

     Sounds pretty much what I’ve been saying.  The agnostic believes that the question cannot be answered, but that doesn’t stop the agnostic from using reason, in spite of no evidence, for one view or the other. Being an agnostic, admitting that you don’t know, makes more sense for the very reason that neither side can show the evidence to prove their stance.

  • WayneD

     Not in this case.  Check Merrian Webster dictionary and you will see that the definitions of these words are still the same.  The only evolution I see is made up by the atheist in order to serve their purpose. That doesn’t count.  The definitions are still the same.

  • WayneD

     ” Fuck the dictionary, to me an atheist is a person who recognizes that
    there is not one shred of evidence that any god or gods exist.”

    You are completely ignoring one important thing, and that is that neither does the atheist have evidence of matter coming from nothing by it self and expanding into a finely tuned universe capable of supporting life of any kind.  Agnosticism makes more sense because it admits that we can’t know for sure.

    Sorry, you can screw the dictionary all you want, but that still does not allow you to make up your own definition.  Like I said earlier, if anyone can simply make up their own definitions, we would be left with chaos.  The dictionary prevents this chaos from happening.

  • WayneD

     Check out Merrian Webster.  The definitions are indeed very clear.  What is  Campbell basing “God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought” on?  He has no evidence.  Unlike whether or not there is a god, scholars have successfully shown that religions are simply man’s belief that there is a god and an attempt to explain what this god is like.  However, there is no evidence for this god.  It is a man made invention, no different than the Egyptians believing that the sun was due the god Ra dragging a flaming chariot across the sky and ending up in Hades for the night.  If there is indeed a god, it is far beyond anything we could imagine.

  • Being skeptical is admitting you don’t know. Being agnostic is admitting you can’t know. An agnostic who is predisposed to the rational analysis of evidence will almost certainly be an atheist (meaning he thinks it likely there are no gods). An agnostic who is predisposed to favoring internal feelings over evidence may be a theist.

  • The “does not know” definition is a sloppy one, reflecting popular usage. It is not the definition you’ll generally find used in a critical discussion.

    “Do not know” is really not a valid position for most people to make. There are all sorts of objective reasons out there that should serve to push most people’s opinions one way or the other. And either way, that still leaves room for a skeptic to acknowledge that there is no absolute certainty in either viewpoint.

    Neither is there any absolute certainty in the choice of a person to be agnostic or not.

  • There is evidence of matter coming from nothing. Not proof, but evidence, for sure.

  • WayneD

     Everything you have said is right on the money.

  • WayneD

     There are many of these parameters which have extremely low tolerances and make it very unlikely to have happened by chance.  Therefore, it opens the door to the possibility that a creator was necessary.

  • WayneD

     When you call yourself a nontheist, that means the same thing as atheist.  If you are not an atheist, than you have to find a better word for it.

  • Dictionaries don’t dictate the meaning of a word, they document it, and thus will trail the usage of words that are changing.

    Being an agnostic, admitting that you don’t know, makes more sense for the very reason that neither side can show the evidence to prove their stance.

    Amazing how stupid all those atheists are, thinking they can disprove all gods.  Good thing you chose the label that makes the most sense.  Someday I’m sure we’ll all follow, and we can scratch atheist from books for anything but historical reasons.

  • Living Catholic

    Let me understand A-theist. May I ask some questions?
    1. How did we get here?
    2. Who started the Universe?
    3. If there is a book (Bible), let’s say 5000 years old, how come there is not some other writings?
    4. Evolution interests me. How come the dinosaurs, who lived for millions of years, didn’t evolve into something else, they just died out with a meteor or something?
    5.  What happens when you die, and if we just die, what’s the point? You mean all this “evolution” for 50, 70, 90 years of life?

  • Bobby

    All of those questions are ego generated and, like the rest of this, is merely mental masterbation. 

  • 2) Why ‘who’?  And who made who?
    3) Like the Mahabharata?
    4) Some did evolve, others did not.  Just think of a human family tree starting with a single pair of humans.  Some lines of descent die out because people have no children who survive to have children.  Other branches do continue.  The DNA in all life on this planet shows beyond a doubt that we are distant cousins.  Chimps are more closely related to humans than to Gorillas.
    5) Why must there be any point other than the one we give it?  What is the point of a universe that is larger than we can detect?  What’s the point of any star we’ll never see?

  • It only happened once. With a sample of one, it is meaningless to say how likely or unlikely it is. All we know is that given any other parameters, we’d not be here to question things. So really, the chance is 100%. No creator required.

  • I’m an atheist. I sometimes like to say to people who ask that I’m “not a theist”. I find that this more unusual way of saying it forces them to stop and think a little harder about what I said.

  • Kodie

     It’s just as likely as any other outcome.

  • Oh, and of course, “The Book of Ruth” 🙂

    which I like to refer to as ‘semi-canon’.  And there are tons of non-canonical works as well.  But, they include such blasphemy as Ashara.

    Egyptian book of the dead?

  • WayneD

     “It doesn’t matter if we can’t explain the original “cause” of the Big
    Bang. Whatever explanation exists, it must be simpler and more likely
    than the original cause of an intelligent creator.”

    I’m quite aware of the usual atheist argument that simple is better, but that doesn’t necessarily eliminate the possible requirement for a creator,  however, that said, physicist Paul Davies addresses the belief that multiple universes explain how we are able to end up with a finally tuned universe by chance.  He concludes that the many-universe can at best explain only a limited range of features, and then only if one appends some metaphysical assumptions that seem no less extravagant than design.  In the end, Occam’s razor compels him to put his money on design.

    “You do not understand what an agnostic is. It is not somebody who does
    not know the answer. It is somebody who believes that the question of
    the existence of a deity is inherently unknowable.”

    Are you sure this is what you wanted to say, because you appear to have contradicted yourself.  You say agnostic is somebody who believes that the question of the existence of a deity is inherently unknowable.  If this is true than he also does not know the answer as to whether not a deity exists.  It’s the same thing.

    “. The evidence (and
    lack of evidence) very strongly supports the atheist position”The problem is that neither side has evidence for their position.  The theist has no evidence that a creator started everything and the atheist has no evidence that it happened by chance by itself with no guidance.Therefore, a reasonable person would admit this and realize that they do not know the answer and therefore should label himself an agnostic. 

  • WayneD

    Skeptic : an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object.This definition from Merriam Webster clearly does not meant that a skeptic is one who admits to not know.  On the contrary it is a person who has doubt that a particlar position is true, i.e., the belief in a theist.  But at the same time it doesn’t mean that the person’s skepticism is directed to the belief that a that god does not exist.  In fact, atheism is the belief that a god does not exist.I disagree with you saying that an atheist thinks it likely there are no gods.  An atheist believes there is no gods, period.  An agnostic is neither a theist nor an atheist because he does not know whether or not a god exists and admits there is no evidence either way.  An agnostic can reason that god may or may not exist, but is still an agnostic and is only stating that he has leanings one way or the other, but based on speculation alone without any evidence.

  • WayneD

     “”Do not know” is really not a valid position for most people to make”

    I don’t understand why you say this.  If you have no evidence one way or another, then saying you do not know makes sense.

  • WayneD

    “There is evidence of matter coming from nothing. Not proof, but evidence, for sure.”

    I am familiar with the findings of a single particle and antiparticle  appearing from nothing and then disappearing, but this is at the quantum level and  within our universe.  It does not mean you can extrapolate this to something larger than the quantum level in a situation before the universe was formed.

  • How do you figure? The definition you give (disposition to incredulity) EXACTLY means saying you don’t know.

    And certainly, there is no credible definition for atheism that means a belief that gods don’t exist.

    And also certainly, an agnostic can be either a theist or an atheist; in fact, an agnostic MUST be one or the other, because every person must be one or the other.

  • Okay, I’ll admit that “do not know” is a valid response for an uninformed person. But with respect to a discussion of atheism, there is solid evidence to consider. So “I don not know” is not a valid response for anybody who has examined the evidence.

  • Terminally means it’s at the very end, the very extreme. Terminally stupid then means that they are at the very end of the stupidity scale. I.e. they are the stupidest people there are.

  • Mukk Rakker

    Whoever defines themselves by what they are not? If you know evolution to be the truth, then you are a scientist. Belief, or non-belief, in the supernatural is therefore necessarily excluded from any further examination. Why are we still debating this? Combining reality and make believe is no longer an evolutionary necessity, we have “progressed” – so we leave certain peoples behind (the US and other fundamentalist religious nations) to squabble about who’s god has the bigger dick… “but at the length truth will out!!”

  •  An agnostic believes the question is unknowable. And yes, that means he does not know the answer as to whether a deity exists. Nobody does. That doesn’t stop an agnostic from believing that there’s a very high probability of a deity either existing or not, and operating based on that assumption.

    I don’t know that the Universe was created in the Big Bang, and it’s possible that we can never know that for sure. But it doesn’t stop me from considering the Big Bang to be the best and most likely explanation for the creation of the Universe, and to operate as if it were truth.

    I don’t know if the Universe was created by a god, and maybe we can never know for sure. But that doesn’t stop me from observing that there is no evidence of such a god, and nothing that appears to require one, so I rationally consider the existence of gods to be unlikely, and operate as if there are none.

  • WayneD

     Likewise, physicists have no evidence how  our universe came about by chance.  I rationally consider that it is most likely that an intelligent being caused matter to come from nothing and expand into a universe with all the many parameters within the required extremely narrow parameters required for life of any kind.  So long as neither one of us have evidence, we must remain at an impasse.

  • WayneD

     That is only if it happened by chance, which you have no evidence.  Since you have no evidence, you need to consider the probability.  With numerous constants which, if they are off by only 1%, means the probability that it came about by chance is close to impossible.  Therefore, that increases the odds considerably that a creator was necessary.

  • WayneD

     The definition of disposition to incredulity does not mean saying you don’t know.  It means that you don’t believe it.  That is quite a different matter. 

    “in fact, an agnostic MUST be one or the other, because every person must be one or the other.”

    Not so.  Go back to the Merrian Webster definition of agnostic.  It is a person who states that they do not know whether or not a god exists.   It means what it says.  It does not mean that they must be either an theist or an atheist.  That simply is not true. 

  • WayneD

     So long as the atheist has no evidence then they should be honest and say “I don’t know” .  What is left?  Speculation.  That is not evidence, and certainly not valid scientific evidence.

  • WayneD

     It’s just another way of saying the same thing. 

  • WayneD

     “Atheism means not believing in a god. That is not the same as believing there is no god.”

    Yes it is the same thing. 

    “The biggest mistake people make is treating agnosticism as if it existed
    on some sort of scale between theism and atheism. It doesn’t.”

    Not a mistake at all.  An agnostic states that they do not know whether or not a god exists, why, because there is no evidence one way or another.  There are agnostics who stop here, but there are other agnostics who, in spite of not knowing, can use reason why a god or some natural means caused our universe to begin, but this is based on speculation, not evidence, which does not negate their belief that they don’t know the answer, and it certainly does not make these agnostics atheists or theists.

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