Monday, September 2, 2013

Militant agnostics are annoying

Let me start off with the usual disclaimers:

1. I don't actually believe that there's such a thing as a "militant agnostic". Until the day that somebody enters a church and/or atheist gathering and shouts: "Nobody knows!" before blowing up the place, I'll stand by that statement.

2. I do not find all agnostics to be obnoxious. I've explained before that while I'm technically agnostic myself, I don't care much for the term. However, I usually find that when I talk to most agnostics, we're pretty much on the same page, yet we disagree on terms - which is pretty unimportant.

What I'm talking about here is a particular breed of agnostic that somehow manages to take what should be the humble position of "I don't know" and turn it into a pompous pedestal that combines the worst of overbearing fundamentalists and condescending atheists. (Yes, I admit that sort of atheist exists. They bug me too.) This particular breed of agnostic is represented by the comic above, but even that only scratches the surface. For a better example, I'd like to direct you to the following link: The Three Sides of the God Coin.

Obviously, I'm just fine with his point when he writes: took me so long to finally decide that a book of parables written by humans and then re-written under the watchful eye of a monarchy was probably 90% bullcrap.  The book does nothing to prove or disprove God's existence.  Yet, the faithful are positive of God's existence and will offer up the Bible as proof.
 Indeed, sir. But then he has to go and write:
The atheists are no better.  They operate on the assumption that God does not exist because God has not shown him/herself.  That for the lack of tangible evidence to the contrary, it must logically follow that there is no supreme being.  Just because you cannot see it does not mean it does not exist.

Let's play a little word-game here, shall we? What do you make of the following statement?
The aleprechaunists are no better.  They operate on the assumption that leprechauns do not exist because leprechauns do not show themselves   That for the lack of tangible evidence to the contrary, it must logically follow that there are no leprechauns.  Just because you cannot see it does not mean it does not exist.
Makes just as much sense, right? Why is it so unreasonable to say that you don't believe in something when you don't have enough evidence to convince you to believe it? Can something exist that you cannot see? Absolutely. Does that mean that I should be agnostic about leprechauns? Shoot, I'll be the biggest advocate for their existence if I ever catch one and get that pot of gold, but until then, I don't think that it's unreasonable for me to assume their nonexistence.

And that's the point. From what I can tell, the evidence for God is just as good as the evidence for leprechauns. What advantages does the belief in God have over leprechauns? From what I can tell, more people believe in God, but since when does popularity equate with truth? How about the following, from the same aforementioned blog:
If you look at life on this planet and how symmetrical and predictable it is, believing that it was by design is not a stretch in my opinion.
I'm fine if that's your opinion, but in MY opinion, it's a really big stretch, and that's what makes me an atheist. Essentially, this line of thinking amounts to nothing but a "God of the Gaps". In other words, it's nothing more than a logical fallacy to assume that "symmetrical and predictable" is enough to assume a deity. And I realize that this is not his thesis, but he holds it as a legitimate point of view that we atheists should at least consider. Well, I've considered it, and it's illogical, so there ya go.

I actually tried to respond to the guy and explain my point of view, and no doubt you can see my comments on his thread. I gave up instantly when he responded:
I do understand the atheist views. I would say that maybe you don't.
So, I manage to be an atheist and yet not understand what my views are. Talk about some condescending bullcrap right there. This reminds me of my post about actually listening to people.

The thing is, I've done this dance before. On another blog forum, I got really frustrated at a guy who kept saying that I was making a "leap of faith" by saying that there "was no God". Even though I explained to him ad nauseum that I don't say "there is no God", he kept at it.

I also ran into this recently on a Facebook thread where somebody kept telling me what atheists, myself included, supposedly believe. When I told him that his description of my viewpoint was incorrect, he showed absolutely no interest in know how I actually felt. I guess it's better to just keep pontificating at somebody rather than actually trying to communicate.

I've tried to explain the concept of agnostic atheists and agnostic theists to a lot of these folks, but they don't want to listen for some reason. Why is it so unreasonable to separate the concept of "believing" and "knowing" from one another? I never make the claim that I "know" that there isn't a god, which is quite different from theists who tell me that they "know" that God is real. (And yes, I realize that there are some out there, although I don't seem to run into them all that much. Religious faith usually brings about a certain degree of certainty.)

Honestly, I respect the agnostic position, and even this guy's. I just wish that some of them would show me the same courtesy and take the time to even understand what mine is.


MRMacrum said...

I appreciate you dropping by and especially appreciate the fact I stirred your pot some.

My post was more of a synopsis of my reaction to both the belief side and the non belief side. I find both have merit when they use logic I understand and not emotion which I do not.

I am also a guy who feels that we should honor the definitions we give words and not mix and match them to suit our needs. When I suggested you might not understand your own beliefs, I was being a smart ass. It was my response to your claim that you are both and atheist and an agnostic. In my mind, the two are different. Atheists flat out deny the existence of God - Agnostic refuse to recognize his/her/its existence without evidence.

But to the more important point of whether you or for that matter any of us truly know what we believe.....well, I'm still working on it for myself. Everyday evidence or conversations cause me to re-think many different notions I have held for years. If we do not question ourselves, what is the point of questioning others?

As to little Irish guys who live under mushrooms, well, just because we can't see them, does not mean they don't exist. I operate on the assumption that anything is possible. Guess that's the result of too many SciFi books as a kid.

Did we bridge our gap any?

Lance Johnson said...

" In my mind, the two are different. Atheists flat out deny the existence of God - Agnostic refuse to recognize his/her/its existence without evidence."

I'm with you on honoring definitions, as there's nothing I can't stand more than obfuscation. However, I'm not making things up by stating that "theism" deals with belief and "gnosis" deals with knowledge.

Basically, I'm telling you that I didn't come to self-identifying as an atheist lightly. I also read the literature of prominent atheists, as well as have many conversations with them. This atheist that you describe is one that I have not met.

"I operate on the assumption that anything is possible."

But would you say that you're agnostic about leprechauns or do you feel safe saying that you just don't believe in them?

"Did we bridge our gap any?"

I hope so. I wasn't being patronizing when I say that I respect your belief and the reason why you are agnostic. It's a humble position to have. However, where I take issue is your description of atheists being "just as bad" as theists. Saying "I don't believe that" is not the same thing as saying "I know that God exists" (which is what most theists say).

What I'm saying is that I take issue with this idea that the God proposition has this 50/50 probability. I haven't been given a single reason why I should even entertain the notion that one exists. If I'm given one, then I'll either be a bit more agnostic or become a full-on believer.

Lance Johnson said...

Another way to put it - "agnostic" describes what I know regarding the existence of God, but "atheist" describes my opinion about it.

Uncle Bob said...

"'Agnostic' describes what I know regarding the existence of God, but "atheist" describes my opinion about it."

And with that in mind, I'd say that most well adjusted human beings fall into the gray area of being somewhat theistic or somewhat atheistic. If people's belief systems were as simple as picking one side or another, there'd be no need for opinion polls that include any options between "strongly agree" and "strongly disagree". "Agnostic" is a perfectly fine label for someone who isn't comfortable with identifying as "agnostic atheist" or "agnostic theist" because their opinion on the likelihood of a God isn't quite a done deal. (I guess you could label them "gray area agnostics" but I think the disclaimer is kind of pointless.)


"Agnostic refuse to recognize his/her/its existence without evidence."

Agnosticism means "does not have the knowledge to confirm or deny existence of a deity", it's not a refusal to believe without truth.


"I do understand the atheist views. I would say that maybe you don't."

"I don't believe in God" and "I believe there is no God" are used interchangeably, but they're slightly different. How many newborns "believe" in God? Compare that with how many newborns "believe" there is no God. (I'm using this as an illustration to show the subtle difference in meaning between "no belief" and "no god"...I have no scientific studies to quote on the theological beliefs in the infant community.)

Even if we use "I believe there is no god" and "I don't believe in god" interchangeably, there's a difference. I suspect the "militant agnostic" crowd is reminding atheists that declaring atheism as a position isn't an absence of belief, it's actually stating a belief that "there is no God."