The argument of Atheism versus Agnosticism can really boil down to root meanings of the words. Atheist means “without belief in God” and Agnostic means “without knowledge of God.” Once again I take objection to the word God because it conveys the meaning of a single intelligent creator that humans have created in our image. But I will continue the use of the word in the generic sense that “God” could be defined as all manner of things and represents the supernatural creator concept itself.
Atheism involves your knowledge of God as the basis of your belief. So even if you claim you don’t really know for a fact there is a God, you have taken this knowledge to be sufficient to believe that no God concept exists. This God would have to mean anything that could be described as a supernatural creator. So an Atheist can take Agnosticism to the point of actively denying the validity of the supernatural creator concept.
Agnosticism involves knowledge of God as the basis of belief, but the belief remains of Agnosticism itself. You claim you don’t really know for a fact there is a God, and you have taken this knowledge to be sufficient to believe that you know nothing of the God concept.
Think of the God concept as Schr?dinger’s cat. Most people believe the Universe we live in and all life contained within it had a definite starting point. This creation was a powerful and potentially complicated event that may or may not have been initiated and constructed by a supernatural creator. Agnostics believe that this indeterminacy can be resolved by direct observation of the creation event, but that we have not observed it yet. Indeed, we do not know if the “box holding the cat” can ever be opened. Finding the Big Bang itself was just finding the box and not looking inside it. It may not even be the right box.
Atheism believes that “Schr?dinger’s cat” is not in there(God does not exist) and Theists believe that it is in there(God exists). In either case, it is belief based upon insufficient knowledge. Agnostics just say we may have found the box, but we don’t even know the state of the cat because the state hasn’t actually been observed.
The Webster?s International Unabridged Dictionary has one definition of Ethics
to be: the principles of conduct governing an individual or profession : standards of behavior
. The same dictionary defines Moral Law
as: a general rule of right living; esp.: such a rule or group of rules conceived as universal and unchanging and as having the sanction of God?s will; of conscience; of man?s moral nature; or of natural justice as revealed to human reason
. Admittedly moral law is defined as coming from God, but not exclusively. I will remind people that the definition says “or”. These definitions fit neatly in line with Social Contract theory. This theory does not require God in order to be moral.
Social Contract theory postulates that people give up natural freedoms (i.e. the rights to do as they please, also known as Law of the Talon) in exchange for civil freedoms and protection. The idea puts forth man in a state of nature, no better than the animals, doing as he pleases with no regard for the harm it causes others. The flip side of this being he is open to harm others would cause him. It is a truly anarchistic system, relying solely on power, instead of any sort of moral law. In order to improve his situation man applied his reason and realized that a group of people (tribe, or government) would provide more protection, but would require associating with other people. Since other people could not be trusted, this idea was obviously flawed. However, the idea worked when someone came to the agreement with his neighbor ?you don?t steal from me, I don?t steal from you.? All it took from there was the addition of more people to the contract to form a large enough group it couldn?t be threatened by outside forces. Suddenly there was government. The moral and ethical laws they began to use were the ones determined to keep their group from falling apart under its own stresses.
A Basic Primer on Non-Deocentric Ethics
Yes, it is true that if you lived alone away from the rest of the civilized world you would probably do whatever you wanted to without a book from God to tell you how you should behave.
It is our place in society that keeps us good and ethical in our actions. It is our promise to our fellow humans and them to us that makes the “rules of right living.”
These rules can change and evolve over time as long as they are derived from society and we acknowledge this fact. If we take our rules from a God then they become absolute and we freeze ourselves in time to the time of increased ignorance and superstition that existed when the original rules were put to paper.
But, as Bertrand Russel said, “in another sense, everyone does whatever he pleases.” Our self-image, peer pressure, guilt, or any other human emotion or pressure are the real powers that keep us ethical and enforce moral law. The fear of God and eternal damnation do not work without these other human influences. This is why we don’t need God or writings on his behalf to keep people ethical. We can do it on our own for our benefit and the good of society.
The OIC, the world’s largest Muslim body, plans to launch an $8-million satellite within two years to take pictures of the moon to find lunar calendar dates.
It said religious scholars would have access to accurate pictures of the shape of the moon instead of having to rely on naked-eye sightings which have in the past created discrepancies between Muslim countries or mistakes.
It was not immediately clear how many countries would use the technology to determine religious dates. There is already some criticism from religious officials in Saudi Arabia, which uses the lunar calendar.
“The shape of the moon has to be seen from the ground,” said Osama al-Bar, dean of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Haj Research in Saudi Arabia.
Yahoo! News – Satellite to Help Determine Islamic Dates
What sort of helpful things could humanity do with 8 million dollars? Obviously God or Allah is taking care of us all too well since we can throw that kind of money into a project to correctly determine the right days to worship his magnificence.
Before the Christians laugh, take a look at the money spent on churches and celebrations that truly do nothing for humanity either. I am appalled at the amount of money the human race spends on perpetuating myths in a sad attempt to enslave the minds of the masses.
Why can’t we teach morality based upon human goodness instead of fear of God? Do people have so little faith in their fellow humans to be good to each other? We could do so much with our existing education system and society without having to have a separate religious structure sucking money away from us all and giving us marginal value back in return.
Why should these rational religious philosophies outside of the faith world be united, and what unites them?
Universism says that all these groups outside of the faith world are much more similar than they are different, that these people should interact with each other and work on the future together. We are on the same path in the sense that we are using the same method to get where we are going – personal reason and experiential evidence. People interested in any of these religious philosophies share much of their perspective on the world in common, and have much to learn by talking with one another. Some people move between these philosophies throughout their life. Universism says no rational religious philosophy can claim certainty… there is no revealed book, no faith, no dogma, so anything we know about the universe and our place in it is due to hard won reasoning and world experience, something everyone has to share. Universists value their religious perspective in terms of its approximation to apparent reality, yet also derive inspiration from the fact that no one knows for certain. Universism enshrines uncertainty whereas traditional religion enshrines certain Truths. Universism is about individuals being true to their nature.
Universism Frequently Asked Questions FAQ – Universist Movement
Unbelievers of the world unite! Everyone on a personal path of religious truth derived from our personal experiences of the Universe should unite together in a new religious fellowship of Universism.
I have links to the 2 Universist forums on the Communication page of this site. It is interesting to interact with Agnostics, Atheists, and Deists. I don’t recall interacting with too many Pantheists or Trancendentalists.
It wasn’t until I started talking with these new Universists that I grew to understand Deism and their Agnostic flavored belief in God. I often see the similarities in thought that leads me to think of Agnosticism as an Atheistic Deism or Deistic Atheism. We take the Deist’s unknown God/creator concept and acknowledge it as a complete mysterious unknown and combine it with the Atheist’s disbelief in any gods dreamed up by humans. We do not suppose a creator but we do not discount the real mystery of the Universe and think the Big Bang was the only thing to create our somewhat intelligent lives.
The Deism site has a nice spiral showing the Universist philosophies and where Agnosticism fits between Atheism and Deism.
Clausen noted in a footnote to his previously mentioned article, “No one, however, has made the more significant point that agnosticism is itself a positive religious position.” The term evangelical agnostic suggests that the principles of agnosticism do provide the basis for such a religious position.
At first glance, “evangelical” may seem a strange word to be juxtaposed with “agnosticism.” However, as was noted in the “Pope Huxley” article of 1870, there is historical justification for speaking of an evangelist in an agnostic context. The word evangel means “good news,” and many agnostics feel that agnosticism is the good news that saves them from being seduced into unreasonable conclusions and frees them from guilt for having inspected and rejected some of their past beliefs. Agnostics, by word or deed, overtly or covertly, do communicate the good news of their agnostic faith. This makes them evangelists of sorts, although probably only a few would speak of themselves as such. In any event, “evangelical agnostic” is a lighthearted label to use in this age, somewhat in the spirit of Huxley’s use of the term agnostic to describe himself to his friends and colleagues at the Metaphysical Society in 1869.
I guess I would be willing to consider myself an Evangelical Agnostic. I feel it is a religious position that is the good news worth spreading throughout the world… at least on the web. I’m not comfortable with confronting people in person yet. I still avoid the topic of my beliefs in public.
This is such a Christian country that it makes it difficult to openly discuss not believing in God. What is funny is how many people just play along with the game to get along. I think at least half of the people I know do not truly believe in the Bible God and their belief is more like “Yeah, sure.” These people do really need to know that they are most likely Agnostic so they know there is an alternative. Otherwise, as the Religious Right tries to dictate rules from God for the country, they will just play along because they aren’t willing to say they don’t anything about God.
Evangelical agnosticism is really nothing new. It is simply a reaffirmation of the principles enunciated by T. H. Huxley a century ago: It is wrong to say one is certain of the truth of any proposition unless one can produce satisfactory evidence. One’s mind should always be open to conviction, and it is all right, after all, to confess one’s ignorance about those things that one does not know.
This is the core of my belief. I am ignorant of my ultimate creator. I came from my parents. Beyond that, who knows? I do know there isn’t a God that wrote a Bible, Koran, or anything else that tells me what to do. If there was he would have struck me dead long ago for everything I’ve thought or said about “him.”
The Universe is a big mysterious place. We are just little specks of life like the microbial life in our own world. We should all spread the “good news” that the only master we have is ourselves. The only purpose we have in life is the good we can do for our family and our society. The only thing we know for certain is that we exist in this moment and hopefully we will continue to exist tomorrow…