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.
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?
Religious beliefs and our rights of free expression to criticize those beliefs are on my mind lately with the Charlie Hebdo shooting. Fanatical believers tried to enforce religious blasphemy laws with their own hands in countries that don’t have those laws in their government.
Those Christians often try to claim the USA as a Christian Nation despite our clearly secular government. We even have Mike Huckabee claiming the country has become a secular theocracy which he needs to fight. The argument for a Christian Nation usually centers on the beliefs of the founding fathers and the majority of our citizens regardless of what was actually codified in the constitution and laws. It shouldn’t be disputable, but Huckabee claims our country’s laws (from and for the people) are actually the natural laws of his jealous God who demands no other gods before him. No thank you!
The “nation” isn’t actually secular. We have an awful lot of individual religiosity permeating our communities while our government and laws are supposed to remain neutral. We can’t ignore this fact in the unbelieving minority. The laws clearly allow us to not believe as the majority does while they also allow for the free exercise of religions by individuals and groups. This causes much confusion in government and the public square as we balance an overall freedom of religion with individual freedoms to do as they wish while not being forced to go along with other beliefs or disbeliefs.
Mike Huckabee’s call for a God-centered nation with God-given laws is equivalent to Muslim desires for Sharia law. It’s sad that so many Christians don’t see that purely biblical law has no place in our free and democratic society even though they’re free to use it in their churches. They can ban birth control and gay marriage in their church but they should quit trying to push those religious-based rules on the country.
Democracy isn’t compatible with any type of theocracy and that includes Huckabee’s invention of a secular theocracy. Freedom of religion doesn’t mean every public square should be devoid of religious expression. The public square is for the use of the public to come together as communities and hopefully celebrate their differences. Like it or not, a variety of religious expression is a part of being an American and that includes our non-Christian religions and non-religious lack of beliefs.
Tax dollars shouldn’t be directly funneled to support any of these viewpoints. The right model is the town square that allows a variety of privately funded holiday displays. Street parades should be allowed for veterans, ethnic pride, gay pride, Christian pride, science, and everything else we can celebrate in this country! Banning all viewpoints to promote a sterile unbiased secular government is un-American.
In belief or disbelief, we should all be able to honestly agree that nobody truly knows. Nothing on the belief scale rises to the standard of knowledge. If everyone else can claim what type of nation we are then I can propose the most inclusive label. I see the United States as an Agnostic Nation with a secular government full of agnostic theists and agnostic atheists. Let’s have so much religious freedom that we all remain free to believe in ways that are blasphemous against other religions just as our neighbors are free to be blasphemous against our beliefs and disbeliefs.
The Muslim and Mike Huckabee alternatives to our blasphemous freedoms could take our nation to a theocratic society that’s simply too scary to imagine. Yes, Christians, a Christian Nation would be a terrible thing. All you have to do is pick a denomination you disagree with (Catholic? Mormon?) and imagine their religious leaders telling you how to live your life. Would you really want that?
Religion has been described as the opiate of the masses. A recent study finds that religious people are much happier than others. Those “others” are all of us non-believers not going to church and not talking to a powerful imaginary friend. Are we missing out on a good opiate that increases happiness in our lives?
The study doesn’t give a clear answer:
The correlation between religiosity and happiness is clear, but explanations of the connection and possible causal relationship are less clear. One theory suggests that the social support that religious communities can provide may be a key factor contributing to increased happiness, since “religious Americans are more apt to be involved in their communities.” Yet even here, the study found “that those who attend religious services often are happier than their peers with similar levels of involvement in the community.”
I always assumed it was the common bond and support of a community that added to their happiness. The study has been repeated and still holds true so there must be something to it. It obviously doesn’t prove religion is right but it does show religion provides an extra something to people’s happiness that simply not being religious doesn’t replace. It’s something to think about during religious holidays with our secular observances. The article ends with:
One could almost predict that many of those celebrating Christmas will be merry, those observing Hanukkah will be happy, but those only recognizing the “holidays” will have a little less cause for rejoicing.
I’d like to see a study that delves into those that simply drop religion and ground themselves in humanity and atheism. I like to think I’m not just that kind of person. I still live in awe of the universe and the mystery of our existence.
Where atheism tears downs the wonder and miracle of it all, agnosticism simply says we don’t understand it. The human described gods aren’t the answer but no god at all isn’t necessarily the answer either. I just don’t know. Freethought should allow for all of us to believe as we choose as we’re all just trying to figure it out.
I marvel at the mystery of it all during winter solstice, Yule, Christmas, or whatever this season is to me. I’m thankful to be alive and have my family and friends. I hope that whatever makes you happy with religions or no religions isn’t hurting anyone else and that you all are free to be yourselves. I wish for freethought and joy for everyone during this winter season!