Absolute Agnosticism

Hello again. This is fun, indeed.

Most of what we have both said is raised in this:

“You say that it is “attractive, but nonsense” to say that an atheist and an agnostic share the same belief. I think this is a matter of defining terms. I see no reason someone can’t be an agnostic atheist — a person who does not believe deities exist but believes that there is no way to prove the matter either way.”

Defining terms is exactly what it is a matter of, yes. Atheists, like yourself, seem to base their equivalence arguments on this nasty little prefix “a” – meaning “not”. Atheist = Not a theist. And and agnostic is also not a theist. Ergo, equivalence.

Again, it is deceptive.

Moral – Amoral – Immoral. I am certain you would not regard the latter two as being equivalent. It is unfortunate that “atheist” is spelled as it is because it is parallel to the third of that trio, not the second.

Atheism has a dual nature: a lack of belief in god + belief in the lack of god. The second element is essential. Remove it and you have an a-theist, not an atheist. An atheist cannnot be an agnostic (though they share the one element of a “lack of belief”) because agnositcism does not, by definition, include the necessary “belief of lack”.

Again, an atheist is not simply “…a person who does not believe deities exist …”; it is a person who believes absolutely that deities do not exist. Lack of belief does not equal belief of lack.

My brain hurts. Hahah


We may have reached the point of having to agree to disagree.

I don’t see why a statement that there are no deities is essential to atheism. I’m not looking at the prefix of the word atheism here (since word roots are at best a guideline). Rather, I am looking at current usage. To make sure I was not missing something, I checked a few online dictionaries, and most of them included definitions of atheism that did not necessarily include a statement that there are no deities (e.g., “Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods”). Also, atheist philosophy includes discussions of the differences between what are (unfortunately) called “strong” and “weak” atheism — a distinction that would not exist if what you say is true.

You are also incorrect if you are implying that I am saying agnostics are necessarily atheists. Religious agnosticism, as I use the term, is a statement about knowability. Saying that you are agnostic does not say that you do or do not believe there are deities, only that you think the answer to the question is ultimately unavailable. An agnostic theist could believe in deities without possibility of proof through faith or just because that is what seems to make the most sense. An agnostic atheist could disbelieve in deities for similar reasons. A pure agnostic such as yourself could simply have no opinion.

I am not an agnostic because I am not willing to say that the question of the existence of deities is definitely unanswerable. If you say that I am not an atheist because I will not categorically say that there are no deities, then I am left without a word to describe myself.

But since there is an acceptable definition of atheism that includes my philosophy, I’ll stick to that until convinced to do otherwise.

Now let me ask a couple of questions that will help me further understand your philosophy. I understand that you are agnostic as regards to the general question of deities. But what about the question of specific deities? For example, if it could be shown that the qualities of a specific deity were logically inconsistent would you agree that such a deity could not exist as described? And, similarly, are you willing to assign levels of likelihood to various religious beliefs, saying that some are more likely true than others, even though you might not be able to rule any out with metaphysical certainty? And finally — just to ask a question at the ridiculous extreme — if I made up a deity, would you be willing to state absolutely that it doesn’t exist?

Posted on January 14, 2008 at 2:17 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Agnosticism, Discussion

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