Agnostics vs Atheists, FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!

“Normal Bob,
I found your site a couple weeks ago and I find it almost addicting. I’ve been reading through the hate-mail section and it’s so fascinating to read the give and take between yourself and the people who believe in God and Jesus and all that.  I really like the way you respond to them with a combination of logic, sarcasm, teasing, and parody.

But I’ve noticed that there doesn’t seem to be much discussion about agnostics and that seems strange to me because to me being agnostic makes much more sense than being an athiest or a believer in any notion of god put forth by any of the religions.

On the one hand, all organized religions are based on flawed thinking, as youhave pointed out so well.  It’s easy to see that religious beliefs are based on wishful thinking.  We all would like to believe that there is some benevolent god that will reward us eternally if we live good lives.

On the other hand, I can’t follow the reasoning of athiests who believe that there is no god whatsover.  How can they be so sure?

Here’s my view.  As humans, we see the universe through the framework of time and space.  Everything has a spacial relationship to everything else, and everything has a time relationship to everything else.  My body is a measurable distance from the empire state building.  The empire state building is a measurable distance from the moon.  These distances flucuate, but they are measurable.

Likewise, there is a measurable amount of time that elapses between the moment of my birth and the moment when I taste my first beer.  There is a measurable amount of time between my first beer and the death of Julius Caeser.

Everything we know about the universe can be fit into these frameworks of time and space. But that leads to the mystery of infinity.  If everything has a relationship to some great cosmic timeline, where is the start of the timeline?  If everything has a place in the universe, where does the universe begin and end?  No matter how far back in time we go, we can always go farther.  And no matter how far we travel in the universe, we can always go farther.  It hurts my brain to think about the infinity of time and space.

I have to conclude that the existance of the universe and everything in it cannot be explained by science.  Science may be able to determine that there was a ‘big bang’ that resulted in the formation of the galaxies, but where did the ingrediants of the big bang come from?  There could never have been a ‘time’ when absolutely nothing existed, because how is it possible for something to come from nothing?  So I’ve concluded that the answer lies outside of the framework of time and space.  We owe our existance to something that cannot be defined physically.

But I have no idea what that something is.  I just know that it is beyond the understanding of human beings because it does not fit into our framework.  That’s why I call myself an agnostic.  I believe there is some ‘force’ or supreme being that caused the universe to exist, but I accept that I have no way of comprehending its nature.

As an athiest, do you believe that there is no such supreme being/force?  If so, how is it that we exist?  To me, it seems impossible that the universe just came literally out of nowhere. Something caused us to exist, that seems certain to me, but I don’t believe that any human being has any real concept of the nature of that ‘something’.  I believe that the most honest answer one can give to mystery of our existance is, ‘I don’t know.’ ”
William Bell

William,
To me the answer to this seems so simple.

Do you really believe that indefinable thing you’ve postulated is a living being who we’re meant to worship? That’s what a “god” is, and it’s something I’m utterly convinced is make-believe.

For instance, let’s say instead of a living being creating the universe, it’s somehow evolved up from something minute. Or perhaps the universe is a perpetual exploding/imploding process that has no beginning or end and is just a repeating cycle. Do you consider these explanations godly, to be worshiped on hands and knees, prayers, thankyou’s, offerings, the works? Of course not.

Or how about if aliens made us in an experiment. Are they gods we’re to be worshiping? If aliens made us are we to build churches to them and adore them? Make them our gods? Again, the answer seems an obvious “No.”

In fact, how about this? Let’s say a wizard type character actually did invent us, and plant us on planet earth and he’s watching us scramble about tripping on rollerskates, wearing wigs, burning down each others houses and eating everything we can get our hands on. Is he the god we’re meant to be submitting to? Ass in the air/nose to the pavement, loving & worshiping as a god? Once again, I say, “Nuh-uh.”

My atheism is directed at the gods, which I believe is the most common use of the word. And that goes for the word “agnostic” as well. Because there seems to be nothing more clear, more obvious than there are no gods demanding we worship them, and the idea that there are is absolutely a man made concept, and nothing more. From everything we know, that we know here on planet earth, gods are make-believe, 100% of them, therefore I confidently call myself an atheist.

I mean, am I wrong? Do you think we’re supposed to be worshiping something, we just haven’t figured out who or what it is yet, therefore you call yourself an agnostic in regards to the gods?

Bob

31 thoughts on “Agnostics vs Atheists, FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!

  1. dg

    wait a second, william. wouldn’t you say that believing in the possibility of some unknown force that you yourself aren’t even sure about could be called wishful thinking? seems to me that’s what your belief is in a nutshell.

  2. Bill Bell

    No, I don’t feel that my belief in the probable existance of some unknown force to be wishful thinking at all, since I don’t get anything from it.

    Wishful thinking is when you try and believe
    stuff because it makes you feel better or because you think you will get something from it. If I tell myself that the prettiest girl on the block is probably going to ask me to go on a date with her, THAT could be wishful thinking. Or if I believe that when I die I will go to a wonderful place where all my friends and I can play softball all day and eat ice cream all night, THAT would be wishful thinking. But my concluding that there must be some unknown force not subject to the constraints of time and space is just my best effort to logically understand how the universe can exist. It’s a theory, albeit not a provable one.

  3. mark rogan

    well the writer makes a point i have been hearing lately….is not atheism itself a form of religion? Is the ardent belief that there is no god a sound way of thinking? Well for me I need to develop policies for living based on my perception of the way things are. I see no reason to believe in a god so I act accordingly. IF you have some EVIDENCE to bring to the table showing otherwise, I will gladly revise my position and start doing some hosannas! Regardless of what happens, if I one day do find myself standing in front of Saint Peter I sure hope I can get a decent public defender!! Agnostics in my book just are gutless atheists.

  4. TwistofCain

    The problem with the argument here is that agnosticism, on its own, is a fairly weak position. Agnosticism without a “stance” is just saying “I don’t know anything, and I’ll just sit on the fence.” That’s a good way to get splinters in your crotch. I think that William is confused about how most atheists feel. Very few atheists will state that they know with absolute certainty that there is no “god” of any kind. Of course, plenty of us, myself included, will make this statement about CERTAIN gods; Jehovah, for example, is ludicrous enough to earn the statement “Does not exist” with absolute certainty. Too many contradictions. However, the common atheist is what’s known as an “agnostic atheist”, or “weak atheist” in more common parlance. Essentially, the person who states: “I cannot be CERTAIN about the existence of a god or gods one way or another, but feel that the lack of proof or evidence of any kind is justification to not believe there is any sort of divine figure.” Richard Dawkins refers to this as a 6 on his scale, 7 being absolute assurance that there is no god of any kind, and 1 being the absolute certainty that god or gods exist. Atheism is, of course, not even close to a type of religion, having no dogma, no rituals, no belief system, and no shared beliefs. The common lack of a belief can classify us as a “group”, but atheism has no tenets, and atheists are free to believe whatever they like.

  5. Atheist Named Jeff

    Two things:

    1. I define agnosticism to be the answer to the question “Can we know if there is a god?” (which the sensible answer is “agnosticism”, or “I don’t know, I can’t know, and I most likely will never know”, as William points out) and atheism to simply be the lack of belief in those same gods (which is also personally true for me, probably for William as well – we would confirm the statement “I do not believe that a god exists”). I don’t see a conflict of labels of calling myself both an atheist and an agnostic. If you define atheist to be “I believe that there are no gods (and there can’t possibly be any gods)”, then technically, yes, we don’t have any proof to show that there isn’t an invisible whatever lurking out there in the yonder, so that seems extreme. Making claims to know what the “invisible” looked like either way always seemed kind of crazy to me.

    2. William, check out this cool (nerdy?) hour long video from Lawrence Krauss, from AAI 2009, intro’d by Richard Dawkins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo

    If you have ever read Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”, this is the updated for 2009, hour-long-lecture-format of that book, essentially. Lawrence goes through the mathematics to show that the total energy of the universe equals ’0′, and thus could theoretically “come from nothing” – it happens in quantum physics every day. If you have a spare hour to sit down and listen to hear what we currently know (and how we know it) about astrophysics and the state of our universe, I’d highly recommend it.

    I think everyone struggles with the “Well, where did the universe come from?” question, just as Hawking briefly does at the end of “A Brief History of Time”, but it’s a stupid question, really. Whatever the answer it is, it’s clearly unimportant, can not be observed, and has no bearing on anything. Everyone makes some underlying assumption about this question – only a few people will freely admit it. We exist though, so that’s a good enough answer for me.

  6. Thackerie

    I also used to call myself an agnostic because I mistakenly thought that an atheist is someone who declares unequivocably, with 100 percent certainty, that there cannot possibly be anything that could be referred to as a god. Since then I’ve come to realize that not believing in a god is all atheism means, and I’m proud to be an atheist … or an agnostic atheist, if you prefer. It’s not a distinction worth fighting about.

  7. OP

    Bob,

    “Because there seems to be nothing more clear, more obvious than there are no gods demanding we worship them, and the idea that there are is absolutely a man made concept, and nothing more.”

    That’s a strangely limited perspective on theology. The agnostic’s mere appreciation for the *possibility* that there is more to our reality than we directly perceive and the intuitively compelling notion that the universe did not POOF! itself into existence are quite unrelated to the notion of tin pot godlings demanding adulation.

  8. Julius

    Bill, your use of ‘belief’ is not how quite the word I’d describe my attitude toward grasping concepts of god(s) or faith of any kind. As a lev 6 atheist per above, the word ‘dismissal of’ is better than ‘belief in’ anything. I’m about as sure of the ‘nonexistance of god(s)’ as much as ‘one plus one does not equal three (1+1!=3)’ (which is just as verifiable as the former). Agnostics, to me, go around (and, sadly enough) live out their lives by asserting to themselves “Who am I to say ’1+1!=3′ any more than ’1+1=2′?” – having such a spill of non-absolutes to live by must make the world a very troubling place to the agnostic. At some time in your life, you’re just going to have to weigh the emperical evidence and make some reliable assertions to live by. Faith!=ReliableTruth

  9. Bill Bell

    This is in response to those who feel that being agnostic is a weak, fence-sitting position to take and that agnostics should take a stance one way or the other.

    Please tell me what was the natural color of my greatgrandmother’s brother’s hair? Blonde? Brunette? Red? … Come on, give me your answer! What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?Are you going to just “sit there on the fence” saying that you don’t know? How weak!

    Obviously you have no way of knowing what color my greatgrandmother’s brother’s hair was, or even if she HAD a brother. Sometimes the only honest answer a person can give is, “I don’t know”. You could make an educated guess based on the most common hair color
    of men with my last name, but you can’t say for sure. That’s how I feel about the god question. We can speculate, but none of us know for sure.

  10. TwistofCain

    Well, Bill, if you take after your great-grandmother’s brother, then I’m going to say he was blonde. You seem to have inherited the stereotypical traits associated with that. The difference between your stupid question and the question about god is that we have EVIDENCE, and OBSERVATIONS. We can hypothesize and test the world around us, and make educated guesses at worst, and a clear theory at best. What you’re doing is refusing to make even an educated guess, with all the evidence in the world at your fingertips. There’s a difference between admitting you don’t know and willfully refusing to have an opinion because you won’t look at facts. Apologies to any blondes who read this.

  11. OP

    Twist,

    “What you’re doing is refusing to make even an educated guess, with all the evidence in the world at your fingertips. There’s a difference between admitting you don’t know and willfully refusing to have an opinion because you won’t look at facts.”

    Question: Did Cro-Magnon man interbreed with Neanderthals? The best science can tell us only that we do not know the answer to this question. We do not have compelling data either way. Now you could make a guess as to the answer, but why bother? You don’t know the answer so why take sides prematurely and label yourself ‘Yes-Interbreeders’ or ‘No-Interbreeders’? It’s silly to strongly hold to an “educated guess” in the absence of compelling data.

    It’s only when you have an ideological reason that you push people to come to premature conclusions. Religions have obvious ideological reasons for pushing certain conclusions and so does the modern atheism movement. Why does it bother you that Bill is not convinced by either party on the God debate but probably could not care less if he declared uncertainty on the interbreeding question?

  12. TwistofCain

    It doesn’t bother me in the slightest whether he makes a choice. What bothers me is that he treats it like there’s nothing we can do to make any sort of rational decision or prediction, especially when we have a lot to work with. Can we be certain? No, probably not, but we can infer and make a very good guess, one that is good enough to work for almost anything. If you don’t want to make a decision, that’s none of my business, but when you claim that making one is illogical, I feel it’s necessary to speak my piece. As to the second part of your statement, what do you mean by the “modern atheism movement”? I wasn’t aware that I was part of a movement of some kind. Certainly atheists are more vocal now than they were, say, 50 year ago, but that hardly constitutes a “movement.” Were we all banding together to demand rights or something, I’d call it that.

    Also, we do have some evidence of whether or not Cro-Magnon man interbred with Neanderthals: it is likely that, if there was interbreeding, it was very limited in scale. A friend of mine has been writing a paper on this, I’ll try and get links if you’re interested. Maybe it’s just me that’s actually really fascinated by that.

  13. Hellbound Alleee

    Sigh, Bob. You know that I would have something to say, but I get tired of saying it.

    The position that something came from nothing is a creationist position. Atheists do not claim that something came from nothing. I don’t believe that there ever was A Nothing, because Nothing does not exist. Something exists, nothing does not. I guess that’s being difficult, so here it is. There’s no reason to think that the building blocks of Life, the Universe, and Everything didn’t always exist. Time probably didn’t exist until matter and energy emerged from a singularity, since time is not an entity but merely how we measure things on a clock.

    Agnosticism is a kind of Strong Atheism (in a way) that asserts, “I don’t know and I will never know if there are gods, and you won’t either.” Atheism says “I don’t believe.” Which one of these is a statement of fact, and which one is of opinion? Answer this question correctly and tell me which one is more arrogant?

    I am an atheist because I honestly don’t know if I, or anyone else, will know or knows any facts about the existence of a god or gods–but what I DO know is that when I look “inside myself,” I cannot find any belief in gods. An agnostic either has or doesn’t have a belief inside of himself–he just won’t answer or refuses to look.

  14. greengoddess

    Elayne Boosler once said, “Popcorn is a miracle if you don’t know how it happens.” Just because humans don’t know how our Universe began doesn’t mean that we never will, or that there won’t be a perfectly reasonable and understandable answer. We just don’t have access to that information right now. That doesn’t mean a god did it. Quite a leap, don’t you think?

    Let’s keep looking for real answers with real evidence to support them, instead of continuing to make up origin myths for ourselves.

  15. Bill Bell

    A christian, a muslim, an agnostic and an athiest are stranded
    in the desert next to a rarely used road. They’re out of water
    and know they will all die unless someone comes along to save
    them. In the distance they suddenly hear the hum of an approaching
    car. Then they see what appears to be a very ordinary car coming
    into sight. The windows are tinted so that the driver cannot be
    seen.

    The christian falls to his knees and proclaims, “Jesus is driving
    that car and he’s going to pick me up and take me to safety. The
    rest of you will be left behind to suffer because you don’t believe
    that it is Jesus who is driving the car”.

    The muslim bows to mecca and says, “You’re wrong! Allah is driving
    that car and I’m the only one who he will give a ride to because
    the rest of you are non-believers. So long suckers!”.

    The atheist scoffs at them both, saying, “You’re both wrong. You
    have no proof that Jesus or Allah are driving the car. In fact, I
    believe that nobody is driving that car and that none of us are
    going to be picked up and driven to safety.”

    Finally the agnostic speaks up and says, “Gentleman, I don’t believe
    that Allah is driving the car and I don’t believe that Jesus is
    driving the car. But I don’t see how it is possible that NOBODY is
    driving the car either. I believe someone is driving the car, though
    it may be by remote control. But I have no idea whether that car
    is going to stop and pick any of us up. It sure would be nice though!”

    That’s it. No punch line. Just a short story to illustrate my views.

  16. A Pedant

    Bill, there is no car! The Christian and the Muslim were convinced by something they once read that a car would definitely come along, and loking for it so eagerly that dehydration caused hallucinations of a car. The agnostic wanted so desperately to be rescued, and didn’t want to argue the point with the believers. Neither expecting a car, nor caring therefore about who would be driving, the atheist was free to use a small piece of plastic to build a condensationb trap to gather water from the desert air, the sun to get his bearings and plan a route to safety.

  17. Dog

    “I believe that nobody is driving that car…”

    Yeah, right, the atheist, after seeing countless cars in which there was always a driver, safely assumes that this one is driven by nobody. – Euhemerus, one of the first recorded atheists (around fourth century B.C.), thought that the mythological figures of his time were actually people whose lives and actions had been greatly exaggerated by subsequent generations. My guess is that the atheist, if he’d even bother to say something, would say something like “I’m sure the driver is just a man… or a woman.”

    Here’s my try at illustrating this fun topic:

    The christian:
    You better believe in Jesus/God and do as He(=’Me’, or my elected/self-proclaimed Leader) says, or else!

    The muslim:
    The christian is all wrong! THIS is what God/Jesus=Allah/Muhammad=’Me’, or my elected/self-proclaimed Leader says is allowed or not!

    (…insert all other creeds here…)

    The atheist:
    Can’t you see how foolish you both are! And won’t you just leave me alone, I’m trying to work here!

    The agnostic (phrased as to better illustrate the position :P):
    Well, umm… you (don’t) know, atheist, erm… maybe they are not 100%, you know, wrong. Maybe there IS something… haven’t you never considered this possibility? It’s just that, well, you can’t be, you know, a 100% sure… you know? Maybe ‘it’ just doesn’t care about…

    The atheist:
    !!%!%!??&1!*!”&! What difference does it make then that I believe in ‘it’ or not! Just quit it with yours gods!$”%!?$!”&!!&”&?!8

    (Let’s give it to agnostics though, where there’s no atheist present, they will defend the atheistic view.)

  18. OP

    Twist,

    “It doesn’t bother me in the slightest whether he makes a choice. What bothers me is that he treats it like there’s nothing we can do to make any sort of rational decision or prediction, especially when we have a lot to work with.”

    That’s not my impression of his reasoning. He seems to me to promote conflicting, incompatible reasoning and that is what prevents him from forming a solid conclusion.

    “Can we be certain? No, probably not, but we can infer and make a very good guess, one that is good enough to work for almost anything.”

    Sure – and *practically* speaking a non-theistic agnostic is indistinguishable from an atheist.

    “As to the second part of your statement, what do you mean by the “modern atheism movement”? I wasn’t aware that I was part of a movement of some kind. Certainly atheists are more vocal now than they were, say, 50 year ago, but that hardly constitutes a “movement.” Were we all banding together to demand rights or something, I’d call it that.”

    Well, besides for the actual fact that atheists have certainly been more involved in pushing public policy regarding church/state issues and the like over this past generation, the truth is that atheists are also at the forefront of America’s culture wars in terms of how people think. It’s a social movement. Whether you would be an “active” part of this movement is not of particular importance, though you are spending time visiting a kind of internet rally site for atheism (i.e. normalbobsmith.com) and defending and promoting atheism on the internet in public forum.

  19. OP

    Hellbound,

    “The position that something came from nothing is a creationist position. Atheists do not claim that something came from nothing. I don’t believe that there ever was A Nothing, because Nothing does not exist. Something exists, nothing does not. I guess that’s being difficult, so here it is. There’s no reason to think that the building blocks of Life, the Universe, and Everything didn’t always exist. Time probably didn’t exist until matter and energy emerged from a singularity, since time is not an entity but merely how we measure things on a clock.”

    Well, perhaps. But where did they exist? A singularity of all of our current space and time and “stuff” existed for an indefinite ‘period’ and rapidly enlarged for no apparent reason? It begs the question. Even theists don’t technically claim that something came from nothing – since it’s claimed that it was God that existed eternally.

    Just for the record, too, current theory describes time as a type of dimension akin to spacial dimensions, which is how it bends and stretches like spacial dimensions do ala general relativity. Ergo, time may very well be an “entity” or that equally space is not an ‘entity’ but merely how we measure things on a ruler.

    “Agnosticism is a kind of Strong Atheism (in a way) that asserts, “I don’t know and I will never know if there are gods, and you won’t either.” Atheism says “I don’t believe.” Which one of these is a statement of fact, and which one is of opinion? Answer this question correctly and tell me which one is more arrogant?”

    Heh, well what you’re describing is actually more of a “strong agnosticism.” A “weak agnostic” would simply say, “I don’t know but perhaps I’ll figure it out later.” My position is that everyone is truly an agnostic since gnosticism is about knowledge and I don’t believe anybody today *knows* if there is god(s) or not. There’s nothing incompatible with recognizing your agnosticism while claiming a position on the topic.

  20. OP

    Green,

    “Let’s keep looking for real answers with real evidence to support them, instead of continuing to make up origin myths for ourselves.”

    Or while we exist today in a time with a paucity of direct data of the subject, it can be equally (or perhaps more) rational to choose to apply provisional answers since one’s life course may be strongly effected by how one understands our origins, our relationship to the rest of reality and our own humanity. Indeed, provisional “myths” may intuitively come closer to real truth than would waiting with *no answer* as *no answer* is certainly wrong.

  21. Hellbound Alleee

    So that totally went over your head. You make a claim of knowledge when you assert that I don’t and can’t know anything about the existence of a god or gods.

    Look inside yourself. Is there a belief in God or gods in there? If there is, you are a theist. If not, you are an atheist. Don’t worry. If you have strong positions about knowledge, you can be an agnostic as well. I do not make claims about knowledge–I don’t know if you know something or not, and I don’t “know” myself. I only know my own beliefs. Perhaps you do not. You certainly don’t know what I believe or know.

  22. Mark

    The dispute between atheist and agnostic doesn’t work. Atheists claim to know the absolute absence of any god (actually any theistic reality), yet they provide as little evidence for their axiom as Christians do. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Agnostics however, offer a weak view and in my experience are not content with the godless universe and seem to be looking for a proscribed way of living, which they will never find.

    I have dealt with this conflict personally, originally calling myself and atheist, but feeling too confined by an unprovable belief. Similarly, agnosticism, with it infirm proclamations, offers too little certainty and leaves too many discussions with “I don’t know” and “you can’t know.” Also both of these terms seem too passive for me, and especially for the activity of Normal Bob.

    I have recently chosen a title which I hope can unite atheists and agnostics that is separate from the dispute about theological certainties. I now call myself an “Anti-theist.” The term does not care whether any god could exist (or could have existed) at any point in time. The term asserts the historically provable certainty the all theistic beliefs on our pathetic planet are inherently damaging. It also implies an active role in combatting these evils, as Normal Bob had so nobly done. To separate atheist and agnostic only weakens the unity needed to slowly destroy all theism.

    “Civilization will not attain to its perfection until the last stone from the last church falls on the last priest.”

  23. OP

    Hellbound,

    “So that totally went over your head. You make a claim of knowledge when you assert that I don’t and can’t know anything about the existence of a god or gods.”

    Heh, how I am I making a claim of knowledge when I say that I *believe* you do not know if there is a god or not? I only know my own beliefs. ;-) Additionally, of course I never made the straw-man jump with words like “can’t” or “anything.” Furthermore, I made a clear distinction between a categorical understanding of a “weak agnostic” and my own perspective.

    “Look inside yourself. Is there a belief in God or gods in there? If there is, you are a theist. If not, you are an atheist. Don’t worry. If you have strong positions about knowledge, you can be an agnostic as well. I do not make claims about knowledge–I don’t know if you know something or not, and I don’t “know” myself. I only know my own beliefs. Perhaps you do not. You certainly don’t know what I believe or know.”

    But I live in modern day and have access to the same types of evidence and experiences as you. I can certainly form legitimate beliefs about other people’s state of knowledge. I’m pretty sure you don’t know, say, certain facts about my personal life, or about the existence of an advanced alien culture 1000 light years away, or how to cure cancer or the mechanism of the Big Bang. Or profound metaphysical truth ala Kantian transcendentalism.

    This is what makes you an agnostic alongside your self-declared status as an atheist.

  24. Bill Bell

    Dog:
    “The agnostic ….. :
    Well, umm… you (don’t) know, atheist, erm… maybe they are not 100%, you know, wrong. Maybe there IS something… haven’t you never considered this possibility? It’s just that, well, you can’t be, you know, a 100% sure… you know?”

    Dog, you and others seem to equate expressing uncertainty about the existance or non-existance of god with weakness. I’m wondering why that is so.

    Isn’t it better to admit to uncertainty than to take important positions based on insufficient evidence? If George W. had not been so “certain” that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and had let the weapons inspectors continue to do their job we could of avoided
    a horribly destructive and expensive war in Iraq. I don’t intend to politicize this discussion but I think that is a classic example of where the stronger position would of been to reserve
    judgement rather than taking actions not supported by the facts.

    That’s what I think agnostics do and atheists don’t. The post by Mark, above, put it very nicely :

    “Atheists claim to know the absolute absence of any god (actually any theistic reality), yet they provide as little evidence for their axiom as Christians do. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”

    As for Slythwolf, who finds it, “hilarious that because William personally cannot wrap his brain around the concept of infinity he assumes that means science can’t explain it.”, I am impressed by the unstated suggestion that some people CAN get their heads around the concept of infinity. Really!?! That would require an awfully big head. :>)

    Some have suggested here that eventually science will provide the answer to my questions about the existance of the universe, what came before the Big Bang, etc. I say that is not possible because anything that science can proove requires evidence, and the question will always linger as to where did the evidence come from?

    I’m glad to see so many people willing to weigh in on this topic. It’s been an interesting discussion.

  25. Dog

    Bill:
    “Isn’t it better to admit to uncertainty than to take important positions based on insufficient evidence?”

    It seemed to me like atheists and agnostics agreed that there is no force or power up there that we ought to bow to – precisely because we ‘have’ evidence that those are just stories from the past, and also that all religions have always been very highly politically tainted. The weakness of agnostics is, IMO, that they often don’t have the courage to posit that there is no god in the sense of an ultimate creator who’d created the universe for some kind of purpose (namely us, of course, according to believers), who has directly spoken to us and wants us to do “His”(duh) bidding. Their vagueness is perplexing.

    If I wanted to put myself in the skin of a believer or an agnostic, the best I could do is to acknowledge that there ‘is’ some chance that we are the creation of some kind of Prometheus-like demiurge: a being, flawed like all other beings we know, although much grander and much older, and maybe only an individual in its own civilization, who has somehow managed to gather enough power to create the universe and us. But would that be enough to call such a being a god? Definitely not. I wouldn’t call this creator a god anymore than I would call a falcon the size of Egypt – or the size of the known universe – a god, and I would definitely not worship it, for its creation is much too flawed for my taste (impressive though it is).

    No, the best I could do maybe would be to call it mother or father, and ask it where it thinks it comes from. And even this possibility seems far-fetched. In any case, I repeat: not a god. After all, even we little humans are starting to realize that we can have some impressive impact on our environment, and that we have the potential to, some day, create beings (robots) and maybe small scale civilizations that will be able to operate on their own. Those beings could call us gods and worship us all they wanted to, it wouldn’t change a thing. This story has been told many times, and surely you got the point already. Sorry if I may have been condescending in my previous message; it was dubious humor.

  26. OP

    “The weakness of agnostics is, IMO, that they often don’t have the courage to posit that there is no god in the sense of an ultimate creator who’d created the universe for some kind of purpose (namely us, of course, according to believers), who has directly spoken to us and wants us to do “His”(duh) bidding. Their vagueness is perplexing.”

    It’s a little amusing to see how atheists again and again seem to only conceive of God alongside revelation and commandment. The first part about an “ultimate creator” and “purpose” is an entirely different discussion. There is no requirement that the two parts be linked.

  27. OP

    Bill,

    “I don’t intend to politicize this discussion but I think that is a classic example of where the stronger position would of been to reserve judgement rather than taking actions not supported by the facts.”

    Unless, of course, Saddam actually did have nukes, in which case waiting for him to prove that he had them would have been a much worse disaster. It may be wiser to sometimes act without full data…like how emergency doctors work on a daily basis. Perhaps sitting on the fence is penny wise but dollar foolish.

  28. Bill Bell

    OP,

    “Unless, of course, Saddam actually did have nukes, in which case waiting for him to prove that he had them would have been a much worse disaster. It may be wiser to sometimes act without full data”

    You’re right, sometimes one has to take action without having 100% reliable and complete
    information. Therefore we should launch simultaneous nuclear attacks on Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, and Iran because if we don’t, one of them might attack us with nukes first and that would be such a disaster! … … Sorry for the sarcasm, but I have little tolerance for those who justify the world’s greatest military power attacking a smaller,
    non-threatening country by saying they “might” have the bomb and they “might” try and
    use it against us. If the rest of the world adopts that kind of pre-emptive strike doctrine then ANY nation could justify starting a war at any time.

    Getting back to the charactorization of agnostics as fence sitters, it reminds me of the argument so often thrown at NormalBob by christians who ask how can he take the chance
    of being wrong about Jesus being the son of god and refusing to accept him as the saviour of the human race. Afterall, if he’s wrong and they are right, he’ll burn in hell for all eternity!

    Bob’s typical response is to point out that with so many different religions making similar claims it isn’t at all clear that choosing christianity over one of the other religions is the logical way to go. No matter which religion he “chooses” to believe in he could be wrong and end up in hell. No religion has convincing evidence that their beliefs are right, so he elects not to make a choice. Maybe there’s a parallel with agnostics like me who’d rather, as you put it, “sit on the fence” than be browbeat into choosing between atheism and belief in god, when neither side has convincing evidence to support their side.

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