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.
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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?