Tag Archives: Agnosticism

Meme Tagged: My first day as an Atheist

Here’a first, I’ve just been tagged by the Atheist Blogger with a new meme. I haven’t done any of these in the past (other than taking it upon myself that is). So let’s see…

Can You Remember The Day That You Officially Became An Atheist?

Well, Officially is a weird word that doesn’t apply very well since there’s no organised Atheist Religion. Nevertheless, I can’t really say that I remember the day I became an atheist. I know that I considered myself an Atheist for a while mostly because I could not consider myself a good Christian but I never expressed it. Truth be told, I wasn’t really an atheist but rather an agnostic at that point.

What I do distinctly remember is being in a church for a reason or other (I think because of Easter) with my aunt and for some reason I ended up telling a priest that I was an Atheist, which of course promted him to tell me that I’m just angry at God that I lost my mother. Highly presumtious of him I’d say.

Yes my memory is incedibly crappy.

In actuallity, I became a full-fledged Atheist in my current (and only correct) form only in recent years but it was a gradual process.

Do you remember the day you officially became an agnostic?

Again not really. I was really an agnostic while calling myself an atheist in my teens so I guess you could say that.

How about the last time you spoke or prayed to God with actual thought that someone was listening?

I remember occasionally, when in a difficult or sad situation, asking inside my head for help but I never explicitly prayed. Perhaps I was defending my self mentally or perhaps it was a leftover from school&church brainwashing.

I’ve since conditioned myself to stop doing this ridiculous mental trick and just get on with the problem at hand.

I never actually truly prayed, as in, “get down on my knees” kind of thing. I was seeing my classmates devoutly bending down their head and closing their eyes in the school’s morning mandatory prayer and I remember I tried it once (simply saying the Πατερ Ημόν prayer internally) but I thought it was all too silly.

Did anger towards God or religion help cause you to be an atheist or agnostic?

Nah, although people were inclined to believe that because of my mother’s death, that wasn’t the case. I never really felt enough about them to feel anger. I am currently opposed to organised religion and their actions occasionally get me angry but this does not drive my irreligion.

Here is a good one: Were you agnostic towards ghosts, even after you became an atheist?

By the time I consider myself to have become a proper Atheist I had managed to achieve scepticism as well. By the time I first called myself an Atheist when I should have been saying agnostic or even agnostic Christian I still believed in various woo-woo like Energies, Auras, Magic etc

But fortunately not Ghosts. I think Holywood ruined it for me 🙂

Do you want to be wrong?

I would not like to be wrong (I mean, who does?) as it would mean that I was living my life wrongly, based on false beliefs and knowledge. Having said that, If I did turn out to be wrong, I wouldn’t mind, unless the Christian God is, indeed such a bastard as the Old Testament makes him out to be, in which case I would summarily be going to hell anyway.

I would like to be wrong about other stuff however. I would very much love to be wrong about Global Warming, Aliens, Ghosts, Auras and the like. If those things existed, the world would be so much more interesting.

Unfortunately just because I’d like those to exist, I can’t bring myself to willful delusion.

So, that’s that. Time to spread the mind virus.

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Definition of Agnosticism

So my recent verbal spar with the Socratic Gadfly moves on. It seems that due to the linkbacks I made to Austin Cline and Adrian Hayter, they were apparently curious enough to see what the post was about and ended up defending my position on Gadfly’s blog (appreciated).
This in turn triggered him to contact me via email and also write about it on his second blog.

During our email conversations, Gadfly did have a more amiable attitude (albeit a bit condescending occasionaly) and we managed to have some progress in finding out exactly what the gist of our disagreement is. In turns out that it is a simple definition issue on the word “Agnosticism” and I will attempt in this post to explain.

Now, I guess the secod post of his was written while tempers were still high and this is why the language is still a bit strong.  Since I have been unbanninated already, I think there’s no point in feeding the flames any more so I’ll keep a more respectful tone.

Gadfly maintains that Agnosticism cannot be logicaly combined with theism. Indeed, by looking at some of the analogies he made on email:

“Agnostic theism” is like “Democratic Republicanism” and “theistic agnosticism” is like “Republican Democratism.” (Allow the neologism for the noun parallel.)

It is obvious that for him an agnostic theist is an oxymoron.

As I mentioned in the previous post. The etymological meaning of the word is “Without Knowledge”. Agnosticism however does not define what you do not have any knowledge about but it is commonly understood that it is about deities. One could very well argue that he is agnostic about abiogenesis or the creation of the universe and that would be a perfectly acceptable phrase.

As pertaining to theism however, agnosticism can easily take one of two common definitions.

  • One can be agnostic about the existence of god(s). This classifies them as Agnostic Atheists. The defining quote would be “I don’t know if gods exist
  • One can be agnostic about the nature of god(s). This classifies them as Agnostic Theists and the defining quote would be “I don’t know what or which gods exist“.

The difference is small but significant. On both of these definitions, one could even apply various scales of knowledge. Thus an agnostic atheists can verge closer to atheism with “I don’t know if gods exist but there is no reason to believe that they do” and an agnostic theist can approach a religion “I believe the Christian god exists but I don’t know his exact nature (and thus follow no denomination)” – an Agnostic Christian (The group I think most liberal Christians really belong to).

Due to the open nature of the word “Agnostic”, many people default it to either of the two cases described above. In my personal experience, I’ve had far more people who thought of “Agnostic Theist” when hearing “Agnostic” – which is, incidentally, why I started calling myself simply Atheist in the end. This is also why in the article that triggered this approximately half the agnostics go either way.

And this is where I believe Gadfly is wrong. He defaults to “Agnostic Atheist” but he then takes it a step further and asserts that his take on it is the correct one (and gets annoyed that others use it differently).
This is what I have been trying to explain via email but we seem to have reached the “Agree to dissagree” point.

The thing is, at the end of the day, what matters is that we know what we are talking about. It does not matter a bit if we call someone as “Agnostic Atheist”, “Agnostic”, “Fideist” or even “Purple Banana” as long as we are understanding the same thing. It is a fact that just “Agnostic” can mean different things to different people. And by definition, these people are correct.

All we can do when uncertain is simply ask: “Theistic or Atheistic?”. It’s certainly no reason to get upset about.

I wonder who's the clueless American after all…

Ready for some Intarwebs drama? The irony is delicious!

So as I was reading the articles of the latest Carnival of the Godless, I happened upon a particular one from the Socratic Gadfly which was making fun of the U.S. Americans of a recent poll, that were claiming Atheism and prayer at the same time. Now that’s all well and good as I’m all for making fun of inanity like that. However there was one comment that I saw that I felt I should respond to:

Hey, idiots. If you believe something, you can’t agnostic about it!

I decided to leave a simple comment, that this was incorrect and one could very well be an agnostic and a theist; Namely a theistic agnostic. I innocently assumed that my comment would help the Gadfly realize that he did a mistake and perhaps avoid embarassing himself in the future by calling people idiots, when in fact they are not (not talking about the “praying atheists” here of course).

For those not very familiar with the word [1. and who can’t be bollocksed to read the article I linked from it], the word “Agnostic” is greek and literally means “without knowledge”. As a result, one can be agnostic about a great many things, including deities. Indeed, there are various ways someone can be agnostic about Theism. A Theistic Agnostic specifically is both a theist and an agnostic and the definition is that he does not have knowledge about the nature of god(s) but believes he/she/they exist. Hell, one can even be a Christian Agnostic! It does not matter that he falls under the subgroup of theism, as the Gadfly insisted, they also fall under the subgroup of agnostics. So yes, you can very well believe in something and still be agnostic.

Anyway, I was not prepared that the Gadgly would stick to his guns and attempt to argue the point and I was wholly unprepared when not only was I told that I do not understand the meaning of the word, not only was I told that I am trolling but I was even called a theist!
Now, one would assume that before someone makes such a claim against someone, they would at the least have attempted to have a cursory look at the other’s profile before making themselves look like an even bigger ignoramus than they already are.

But alas, for the Gadfly the fact that I was supporting this definition of agnosticism was enough of a proof to jump to the conclusion that I must be a thest. The fact that I even had the gall to argue my point was further “proof” that I must be a troll, which only shows that further than agnosticism, the Gadfly does not even know what a “Troll” is. It is a tasty irony that someone who is complaining about cluelessness would himself prove how (shamelessly) clueless he is.

The cherry on the top? It seems that the only thing smaller than his knowledge is his temper. And thus we get to enjoy the Socratic Gadfly having a hissy fit.

Look, here in Dallas, I had a college philosophy professor claim to be an atheist, then talk about praying in the same breath.

I didn’t put up with his bullshit, and I’m not putting up with yours either.

Second, you’re lying, to me and to yourself, when you claim you don’t want to argue about this. You do.

Third, if I clearly presented your metaphysical self-definition to 100 people on the street, 99 would call you a theist.

Your Wiki link? It’s agnostic THEISM, you troll. It supports ME, not you.

Finally, it’s my blog, and I get the last word. Capiche?

If you don’t understand that, understand this: I just banned your IP, as you’ve gone past the edge of being a theist troll.

Well, unfortunately for you Gadfly, you may be able to ban me from your blog (I must really start keeping track of this) but you cannot ban me from speaking or pointing out how wrong you are, or how foolish you look.So I see your “Capiche” and raise you a “Nyah Nyah”! 😛

This was, however, unfortunate in a way. Not because I was banned when I wasn’t even trying to be offensive but because the Gadfly is such a prolific poster that it’s certain various people open to irreligion might stumble upon him and be horribly misguided by his ignorance. That, and he is just another excuse that not all Atheists are very bright or tolerant, but of course the Objectivists already help with that anyway.

UPDATE: Just to let people seeing this know that I’m currently continuing this debate with Socratic Gadly via email where he seems much more amiable. Perhaps it’s the public thing. In any case the basic issue we have at the moment is a definition one.

Namely he believes that Agnosticism equals “Agnostic Atheism” while I assert that it’s more open than that (as per Austin’s comment)