We Are All Agnostic

I believe that every person regardless of “belief” is Agnostic and it is the correct label for everyone on the planet. I believe that none of us really know and anyone that claims to know is wrong or even intentionally lying. The alternative is Gnosticism, which would be a claim that you do have real knowledge of gods. If there really was such knowledge then we could consider that and examine it instead of having all of these religions and theistic beliefs based upon faith. Well, since the theists only have faith to stand on then humanity obviously has no real knowledge. Since we are all without knowledge that would mean we are all Agnostic. It’s still the only label I really care about because it still says the most to me.

I understand the root meanings of a- and theism and see that atheism itself doesn’t really mean much. Most people using that label apparently want it watered down since it isn’t truly synonymous with antitheism or an explicit rejection of gods. Theism is the belief in gods and the prefix a- only means someone who lacks that belief or someone who isn’t in the god believer category. As a word it doesn’t mean anything more than that. It doesn’t mean the same thing as antitheism if anyone actually uses that label for themselves. If you’re not a theist then you are a-theist. Even if you might have a god belief in the future, you don’t presently so you’re still an a-theist. If you’re a hardcore antitheist then you also fit in the broad category of atheist since you also lack a belief in gods. It can be a little confusing but anyone that is non-theist is atheist. The anti- prefix is the one that means “opposed to” whereas the a- prefix just means “without”.

A reader asked what happens to the middle ground between atheism and theism, which perhaps should be phrased as between antitheism and theism. Well, I think that there really isn’t a middle ground unless you want to remain undecided on the whole subject. Agnosticism isn’t about being undecided. Maybe we could make a new word like untheist for that. 🙂 Agnosticism is truly about the lack of knowledge and being the unknowing people we are. It’s a decision to say we don’t know. A middle ground would be a nonreligious person firmly planted in the secular world and unwilling to even enter the argument enough to have a label. What is a neutral path other than to not have a label for belief or nonbelief? To all god believers (theists) we are all outsiders to their belief and the “without theism” (atheism) label is valid for anyone that is not them. If you believe like I do that we don’t know and the theists don’t have the answers, then the theists don’t care if you do so primarily from a simple lack of sharing in their belief or the added acknowledgement of your lack of knowledge on the subject. In the end I see that nontheists are both atheist and agnostic, but I think we should still choose which word says the most about us, which for me is Agnostic.

The Atheistic Agnostic

I’ve engaged in a forum discussion on the subject of Agnosticism being a “third way” in addition to Atheism and Theism. I want to retract that notion and say that I am an Atheistic Agnostic or alternatively I’m a strong Agnostic/weak Atheist. Either way, I will continue to go by the label Agnostic as the shorthand for both.

Here is what I posted to the forum at About.com:

I’ve never found the atheist label troublesome since I believe a rational agnostic should be in agreement with atheism. I am definitely a strong agnostic as contrasted to a weak agnostic. OK, I think I’m understanding this better and would revise my stance of putting agnosticism in as a “third way” between atheism/theism sitting right on the line between them or outside of that set of 2 that I was last trying to argue.

Let me look at some other labels for a moment as to why I was flawed in thinking of it as an independent “third way”. I’m a male (XY). I’m a non-female (non-XX) or A-female. Not all A-female’s are actually male even though that is definitely the first assumption a typical person has. There is such a thing as a Human Intersex or Hermaphodite with XXY chromosomes or other variants. They are A-female even though they share chromosomes of both male and female. I could argue XXY is both XX and XY, however it actually is a new third category. I was there with my thoughts on atheism, theism, and agnosticism. However, XXY in the strictist sense is definitely not XX so it is logically in the A-female category. So XY isn’t atheism, it’s some sort of active non-belief or rejection of theism. XXY could be a passive non-belief, lack of belief, or those open to the possibility of belief. Atheism is simply being non-XX which does not logically imply XY. I think I’ve gotten that now.

Let me add that I’m a left-handed male which is A-right-handed. We have the same thing going on with this category. There are ambidextrous people that are also A-right-handed so the A-female logic applies to this category as well.

I’m an A-right-handed A-female person and also an A-female A-right-handed person. It means the same thing but I’ve just flipped the perceived importance of the traits by their order of appearance. You could argue that being A-female is a much more important trait than being A-right-handed. However, what I feel more impacted by is my A-right-handedness like when I’m trying to use scissors or any other devices designed for right-handed use. Other people may be more impacted by their A-female trait then the A-right-handed trait or modifier. Both traits aren’t always worth mentioning at the same time. I could say I’m A-female as much as a I could say I’m A-right-handed.

Are there atheistic agnostics? I lack belief because god isn’t knowable. I like that usage of the terms and that is actually what I would consider myself. I would then just use agnostic in the same way that an agnostic atheist just uses atheist since they don’t feel the need to differentiate themselves from the gnostic atheist label. Atheists simply care most about the atheist part of the grid and don’t feel the need to always point out they’re agnostic in regards to knowledge. I’m an atheistic agnostic that goes by the label Agnostic for short.

Now if you say there is no such thing as an atheistic agnostic and agnostic only exists as an adjective modifying atheist/theist then I have this thought on using the agnostic noun as a primary label. There are strong and weak agnostics and strong and weak atheists that can subdivide the options into a grid of 4.

weak agnostic weak atheist – god could be known/proven and lacks belief

weak agnostic strong atheist – god could be known/proven and does not believe

strong agnostic strong atheist – god cannot be known/proven and does not believe – this one appears contradictory so you probably can’t be this

strong agnostic weak atheist – god cannot be known/proven and lacks belief

I would consider myself a strong agnostic weak atheist. As a “STRONG AGNOSTIC/weak atheist” I would simply shorten it to Agnostic. The reason for this isn’t just convenience of using a single word, it’s because I think a strong agnostic theist position is contradictory.

Strong agnostic theist – god cannot be known/proven and believes in god – this one doesn’t make sense since how do you believe in something that can’t be known to you? That is why I think as a strong agnostic I wouldn’t consider being a theist as a valid position to hold since as soon as you’re stating a belief in god you’re making god into something knowable. Because of this I feel it’s not important for me to state an atheist position since I feel it is implied by my strong agnosticism.

There is also the weak agnostic theist – god could be known/proven and believes in a god based upon faith. That is how they are able to describe something they claim to not have knowledge of because god could be known. Anyway, I don’t care about the theist labels so much since I’m certain I’m not a theist.

Me: I’m an agnostic

You: No, you’re an atheist

Me: Yes, I’m an atheist agnostic or just agnostic for short. Alternatively I’m a strong agnostic/weak atheist or I still just prefer being called an agnostic for short.

The Agnostic Unknown Belief

I’ve written about an article in the Atheism Guide on About.com before. I have to write again about another article there since I saw a tweet about it. It’s called Atheism vs Agnosticism. Austin Cline believes agnosticism isn’t a belief by itself since it speaks of knowledge first and foremost instead of belief. He only thinks atheism and theism are the two major categories of belief and Agnostic is just an adjective to qualify why people have a belief. I guess he forgets that Agnostic is also defined as a noun in the English language.

First, I don’t see agnostic as a useful adjective because I believe that none of us really know. Since we don’t know it means anyone with a belief claim does so without knowledge and only has faith in their belief. It’s a waste of a word and we should just simply use Atheist and Theist and not bother with an agnostic adjective. A Gnostic Theist is not credible without the ability to actually provide us all with proof of their “knowledge”. If that would ever happen we wouldn’t be arguing any of this anyway.

Now back to Agnostic as a noun. I’ll quote from Cline’s article:

Once it is understood that atheism is merely the absence of belief in any gods, it becomes evident that agnosticism is not, as many assume, a “third way” between atheism and theism. The presence of a belief in a god and the absence of a belief in a god exhaust all of the possibilities. Agnosticism is not about belief in god but about knowledge — it was coined originally to describe the position of a person who could not claim to know for sure if any gods exist or not.

Here we are with a black and white definition of either you believe in god or you don’t. Even in a binary system there is still the option of the variable being undefined which would be a third option for belief. The main problem with this article is the use of the word “god.” It suggests a single creator called god and instantly brings to mind the Christian God. So let’s go ahead and start there. The Theist obviously believes in their human defined god. The Atheist rejects that god or simply lacks belief in it because they just don’t believe in it. This part is easy to define and agree upon. The Agnostic, in stating first and foremost that we do not know about such supernatural things, must say that nobody else knows either. If they don’t say that then they’re not making a statement of belief that matches their statement of knowledge. If they don’t also reject Christianity like the Atheist then they shouldn’t bother calling themselves anything other than a fence-sitter at that point. The Agnostic should logically have a belief the Christian is wrong because the Christian is claiming to know something that collectively we don’t know. In this regards an Agnostic and Atheist can agree on the truth of Christianity even if they don’t get to that conclusion in the same way. The Atheist simply doesn’t believe and the Agnostic can’t agree with the belief because of a belief that we don’t know such things.

Now we need to talk about the supernatural realm in the larger sense and whatever our possible origin may be from a supernatural creation, natural creation (Big Bang?), or even perhaps no creation event at all. The Theist looks at the majesty and mystery of the universe and claims an all-powerful being came from nothing (or always existed) and created the universe. Why they think a being is needed for this magic to happen instead of just the universe coming from nothing in the same way that their god came to exist is beyond me. Regardless, the question of our origin is answered by the Theist with “God did it.” There are other kinds of theisms such as Pantheism which claims the Universe is god or at least is the only thing worthy of reverence like a god. There are any number of words under theism you can dig up to describe a supernatural realm with a supernatural creation concept in it that explains the existence of our natural universe. That is the commonality found in theistic belief.

Atheism is a rejection or lack of all theistic beliefs and the supernatural realm they try to define. If you don’t see a supernatural cause for our existence then you are an atheist. This is the black and white two sides of the theistic belief coin. But what if you haven’t flipped that coin? What if you just don’t know and you acknowledge that humanity is clueless on this subject? What if you hold open the possibility of a supernatural creation that we don’t understand and therefore can’t define it under any theistic label? What if you also hold open the possibility of a natural creation or no creation event as well because you say you don’t know where all of this came from? Well, my friend, you are an Agnostic.

The Cure – This Is A Lie

The Cure – This Is A Lie

How each of us decides
I’ve never been sure
The part we play
The way we are
How each of us denies any other way in the world
Why each of us must choose
I’ve never understood
One special friend
One true love
Why each of us must lose everyone else in the world

However unsure
However unwise
Day after day play out our lives
However confused
Pretending to know to the end

But this isn’t truth this isn’t right
This isn’t love this isn’t life this isn’t real
This is a lie

How each of us believes
I’ve never really known
In heaven unseen and hell unknown
How each of us dreams to understand anything at all
Why each of us decides
I’ve never been sure
The part we take
The way we are
Why each of us denies every other way in the world

However unsure
However unwise
Day after day play out our lives
However confused
Pretending to know to the end

But this isn’t truth this isn’t right
This isn’t love this isn’t life this isn’t real
This is a lie
This isn’t truth this isn’t right
This isn’t love this isn’t life this isn’t real
This is a lie