I’ve seen some decent atheism analogies like bald isn’t a hair color or not playing football isn’t a sport. I recently saw an interesting one on Twitter saying you’re either pregnant or you’re not. I really like this one because I can use it to better explain the agnostic viewpoint.
I guess we assume some couple had sex and there’s a question of it resulting in a pregnancy or not. Theism is the pregnancy belief and atheism is the not pregnant belief. This is a perfectly understandable state of being something compared to the lack of being something.
Agnosticism says our knowledge is limited. It’s the first day of a possible pregnancy and there’s no test available for it. In time, perhaps our knowledge can expand to really know what’s going on in there but right now we know nothing about the nature of a possible pregnancy. Theists would tell you they know the sex, hair color, and personality of the baby. Atheists deny a baby is there and anti-theists claim a baby isn’t possible.
Agnostics are coming from the viewpoint of saying we shouldn’t assume there’s a pregnancy at the present but we honestly don’t know. There could be something more going on than just the sex with the “big bang” (pun intended). Not knowing isn’t proof there is or isn’t a pregnancy so all we can really say is we don’t know.
We should be able to agree that our collective human knowledge is very young and very incomplete. There is most likely so much we don’t and can’t know about the universe and the specifics of our existence. Theism, atheism, and agnosticism say some different things about the mystery of existence and if anything supernatural could exist outside the natural universe. Even if there is something supernatural, it may not have any relationship with or cause for natural existence.
The theological “gnosis” would have us believe that the world is a conjurer’s house; the anti-theological “gnosis” talks as if it were a “dirt-pie” made by the two blind children, Law and Force. Agnosticism simply says that we know nothing of what may be beyond phenomena.
– Thomas Henry Huxley
My mind wanders to a different look at it. Let’s say Law and Force have sex. We’d have to assume they’re capable of producing offspring to question if the union of Law and Force results in a pregnancy. What that pregnancy creates might not be done growing into what it’s really supposed to be. We could still be in the early stages of pregnancy and the universe is forming into something else where we’re just some microbial anomaly growing inside the true offspring.
Is it possible the offspring of Law and Force is a God and our intellect is a small part of a greater intelligence? I have to admit it’s possible even though I think it’s unlikely. It’s more likely the offspring of Law and Force is just the messy universe we can see and observe where we’ve naturally grown. It’s the only thing we can see and test for at this point. Our knowledge is limited and it’s all we truly know.
Albert Einstein was one of the most intelligent people to ever exist on this planet and he described himself as an agnostic. Here are his own words on the subject of God, atheism, and agnosticism:
I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and our own being.
Well, I’ve started a new website. There are several Agnostic websites and resources already available on the Internet, but none of them totally feel like home. Also, none of them contain the content that I feel presents my beliefs 100% accurately. So I’ve decided to make an Agnostic site and here it is.
I’ve put up a few quick things to start it up. The FAQ only has 3 questions and answers, so that is definitely a work in progress. The Library only has what I’ve written as my Agnostic Bible and it will be a continuous work in progress for a good while to come. Finally, I installed this blog program real quick. I haven’t even figured out how to change the links on it yet. Like I said, it’s a definite work in progress.
I plan on spouting off in this blog from time to time about such things as this category, which is about the site itself. I’ll also post my musings about other topics in whatever categories I need to add. So check back in from time to time and there should be at least a little something fresh here.
This site is just one person’s hobby. I’m most proud of providing the Library page. I haven’t seen a good collection of agnostic writings anywhere else so it’s a good reason to keep this site up. I’m also proud of the Answers/FAQ page which hopefully serves as an honest primer of agnosticism based on Huxley’s development of the term. It includes some good answers to various questions from Bertrand Russell. People try to steer the meaning of agnosticism in various directions so I like going back to the original intent. The original intent is to acknowledge the limits of human knowledge and our ability to understand our origins. I’m not sure there’s another agnostic website out there trying to showcase the founders of this agnostic viewpoint.
The blog part of this doesn’t get much readership and few comments, but I honestly write these posts for myself and don’t care how many or few people read them. I do thank everyone coming by and commenting since many of you get me thinking a little more. This blog is a way for me to talk out loud in a personal discussion of my viewpoints. Throwing it out there for the world to see makes me think a little more critically with some much needed structure. I know I ramble here and it’s just how I think sometimes.
I mentioned an Agnostic Bible in my first post. Agnostic.org is a parked domain now but it was a site with content and a posted “bible” of agnostic beliefs. I liked the idea of having my own reference book and started writing my own since their bible wasn’t a good read to me. After a while I took mine off this site because I didn’t like the idea of it being a bible. I’ve continued hacking at a body of text I’m now calling an agnostic guide. It’s built from bits and pieces of this blog as I try to mold my thoughts into a coherent ebook. Maybe I’ll publish it someday or it might just die off as my own personal guide.
I know I don’t post here often but I also don’t see a reason for completely stopping this either. Maybe I’m more apathetic than The Universal Church Triumphant of the Apathetic Agnostic. Check them out for more frequent agnosticism. Otherwise, check back here every now and then to possibly see something… or not!
According to the American Humanist Association, Humanism is a progressive lifestance that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives capable of adding to the greater good of humanity. The Humanist Manifesto III (2003) expands on this statement:
The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.
This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:
Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.
Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.
Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.
Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.
Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.
Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.
Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.
Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.
I’m not the type of person who needs a defined structure for philosophy and morality provided to me by an organization. I don’t want to simply follow any organization without question. I need my own deeper understanding for what I do. Freethinkers shouldn’t advocate for following an organized philosophy since following the whims of a group is counter to the ideals of being an independent freethinker.
However, humanism is unique with their manifesto stating humanism isn’t what we must believe, but is an attempt to reach a consensus of what we do believe. Just as humans are evolving beings, humanism appears to be an evolving philosophy. This is a good approach as long as it never reaches a final stage of dogma with rigid or absolute views of what humanism and morality must be.
I wouldn’t consider myself a humanist no matter how much I may personally support what they’re trying to achieve. This isn’t necessarily done as a criticism of humanism, but the definition of a humanist is to be a proponent or practitioner of humanism. This puts the humanist in the same category as any other -ists I avoid.
The -ist suffix means a person follows a principle or system of beliefs. In general, it isn’t a good idea to be a devoted follower of anything or anyone. It doesn’t mean I think we should avoid associating with compatible groups similar to our own principles and beliefs. I just think we shouldn’t blindly follow any of these groups when we participate in them.
I can’t imagine being a person that would embrace the humanist label to describe myself because I want to avoid the pitfall of automatically assuming my associated group is right in everything the group says and does. It tends to go that way when you adopt the label of a group with strong identity and start following a herd. I don’t want to be just one of the sheep in any flock.
Agnosticism isn’t a middle ground between theism and atheism. Theism is the umbrella term for faith-based belief systems such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, deism, and pantheism. Atheism is lacking belief in those belief systems. Agnosticism is concerned with our lack of knowledge about gods and supernatural causes for this universe.
I often feel like I’m stuck in the middle of belief and disbelief even though I’m on the side of disbelief as a de facto atheist. I’m criticized by both sides since I primarily define myself by our collective knowledge instead of what I believe today. I just don’t think anyone’s belief position is as important as our views of knowledge.
Sure, agnosticism means holding the creation question open to a certain extent. I have no problem doing that while rejecting the current set of theisms. We should continuously judge available information for anything that rises to the standards of knowledge as verifiable truths. In practical terms, an agnostic should come to an atheist conclusion on a daily basis even though we may not view atheism as the final answer.
Theism isn’t a final set of described beliefs so how can atheism be a final answer? One day we may finally understand some grand truth not currently dreamt of in our philosophies. Applying ignosticism to a scientifically researched variation of pantheism might give us a universal truth about some sort of universal intelligence. I don’t think it’s very likely, but the truth for me in agnosticism tells me it’s still a possibility.
If the universe itself is our creator then it could have used an intellect flowing through energy in a way we may never understand. I’m just a simple human but it’s the kind of idea where I say “sure, maybe there’s something to The Force in Star Wars and George Lucas might be a true prophet.” I’m mostly joking about The Force, but there’s something about the idea that just feels right even though it’s probably an illusion of my simple human senses. I know I don’t have faith enough to become a Jedi.
I don’t have the intellect or senses to know how all of existence simply came to be if it didn’t always exist. There’s new evidence that points to existence without a beginning. See No Big Bang? Quantum equation predicts universe has no beginning at phys.org. If this can be proven then hopefully the whole theism/atheism scale disappears in a puff of logic. Atheism isn’t needed without theism. We could still have agnosticism as long as humanity isn’t omniscient.
Back on topic, I still feel stuck in the middle because other people try to tell me I’m not believing or disbelieving correctly. People criticize agnosticism despite the evidence that we’re all just making it all up in the absence of verifiable truths. I can understand theist criticisms since they rarely deal in verifiable truths but atheist criticisms are confusing since there isn’t atheist dogma for me to violate.
Some theists argue with me that they know things about god or an intelligent creator through their faith and I should accept this unproven knowledge they’ve gained. They think I’m more open-minded than self-identified atheists even though I don’t share in their theism either. I’m still an unbeliever, infidel, and heretic but they sometimes get surprised and upset when I won’t see their truth.
On the other side, some atheists try to argue agnosticism is useless so I should fully embrace atheism. They push atheism as an obvious final answer since the current major theism of their focus is unproven. They insist we should define ourselves based on our rejection of other people’s specific beliefs. They say nobody can justifiably call themselves agnostic and sometimes get upset when I won’t see their truth. Would this be an atheist attempt at dogma?
Anyway here’s some examples of “Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you” starting with one of the most polite exchanges I’ve had on Twitter with a believer:
@lcorbo13 Being in a pitch black room does not mean it is empty. It means U simply can’t see anything. #Catholic #Christian #atheist #agnostic
@AgnosticU “Being in a pitch black room does not mean it is empty. It means U simply can’t see anything” or know it’s empty or not #agnostic
@lcorbo13 Thats why you walk around and search the room rather sit in a corner and keep asking yourself if it is empty or not..
@AgnosticU Very true, but what if simple us lack the right senses to experience what could be? We may not be equipped to ever understand…
@lcorbo13 U are trying to come up with any solution that eliminates the OPTION of God.
@AgnosticU God is a specific concept requiring great leaps of imagination and faith. Universe as creator is possible but intellect unknowable
@lcorbo13 U R making assumptions…. If U say God is imagination and that is a fact U share a burden of proof too.
@AgnosticU I didn’t invent human definitions of “God” so I don’t share in a burden of proof for the unlikely beings described by others
@lcorbo13 I deflect…have a good day..Peace to you
@AgnosticU have a good life and peace to you as well
Here’s a recent exchange with an atheist claiming people shouldn’t call themselves agnostic. It wasn’t directed specifically at me but I answered the general criticism:
@Zohso Stop calling yourself agnostic. Everyone’s #agnostic. The question becomes, “What do you believe?” #atheism #Christianity
@AgnosticU Everyone isn’t #agnostic. Believers make knowledge claims of gods & say their faith is proof. #agnosticism says knowledge > belief
@Zohso the guy in the asylum also talks to elves. Just because someone CLAIMS something doesn’t make it so. Default: Christian=agnostic
@AgnosticU We know they don’t know, but they seldom identify as agnostic which is often a first step for switching to knowledge to find truth.
@Zohso but see, agnosticism is NOT a middle ground somewhere between belief and disbelief. It’s a position of knowledge. #epistemology
@AgnosticU Agree agnosticism isn’t middle ground. Truth about knowledge is much more important than beliefs/disbeliefs so I emphasize agnostic
@Zohso Let’s first establish we’re both using the same definition of “agnostic.” Is this definition the same? http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/agnostic
@AgnosticU Our definition of agnostic (noun) is same. Most religious people don’t claim to be agnostic and believe ancient books are knowledge.
@AgnosticU atheism helps very few people see truth about knowledge, #agnosticism helps show the folly of blind faith beliefs
@Zohso again, everyone is agnostic. Someone’s belief can either be theistic or atheistic. There is no middle ground. It’s binary.
@AgnosticU Not everyone describes themselves as agnostic. Religious don’t care about knowledge. Atheistic agnostic with emphasis on agnosticism.
@Zohso I think @pennjillette gives one of the best descriptions in the first couple of minutes in this interview. http://youtu.be/4_WKlttKRDw
@AgnosticU non-theists are both we don’t know/we don’t believe. Both are fine if using one to be short, why deny agnostics can be?
@Zohso That’s completely fine… Just answer the question, “As an agnostic, what do you believe?”
@AgnosticU I don’t believe in any religions, but what we know is the better question. atheistic agnostic
This is a recent conversation so it may continue but I doubt anything more meaningful will be said. Penn Jillette is right that we’re both agnostic and atheist depending on the question but we differ in which question we think is more important. @Zohso says we shouldn’t call ourselves agnostic because he thinks we’re better defined in terms of what other people believe. For me, that gives more legitimacy to those human defined beliefs to only define ourselves as a rejection of them.
The same logic that we shouldn’t call ourselves agnostic could be used against humanists. Humanists put their own focus and emphasis on humanism even though they’re also de facto atheists. I’m a bit of a humanist so maybe I’m an agnostic atheist humanist. It’s too many terms so I pick the one that means the most to me.
You could go even further and say human defined theisms are unproven and false so everyone is atheist. Saying there are no true theists means they should just admit the truth and call themselves atheist. See how silly it can get when you try to force definitions on other people?
This is what happens when you concern yourself a bit too much with what other people believe and call themselves. I could see an issue if I tried to redefine the terms but I used the commonly agreed upon definitions. I just try to focus on agnosticism as my core viewpoint, but for some reason there are people that just won’t let agnostics self-identify as such based on historical agnosticism. Please just let agnostics exist if that’s what we feel like using as our label. It doesn’t impact your viewpoint.
Both religious and disbelief viewpoints are capable of being stupid and unreasonable in the areas where we lack specific knowledge to support our views. It’s yet another thing that makes me see agnosticism as the right fit for me. We just don’t KNOW and what’s so bad about proclaiming that viewpoint?