My view on atheism and agnosticism

See also my Atheism page

What is Atheism?

Atheism is often looked upon as denying god. This is not completely true. Basically atheism (a=lack of, theism=belief in gods) is only lack of belief in a god godess or gods. There are basically two different views of atheism (Webster lists sub-groups), weak and strong atheism. (An introduction to atheism)

Weak atheism is a negation: "I don't believe that it is true that god exists"
Strong atheism is a positive claim: "I believe that it is true that god does not exist"

Most people don't know this, and weak atheists often call themselves agnostics, which is a different view. Agnosticism (a=lack of, gnosis=knowledge) concerns lack of knowledge, but the popular view is that agnosticism deals with belief. That someone doesn't know if he believes or not. But how can anyone who doesn't believe not be defined as a weak atheist? The term agnosticism was originally defined by TH Huxley, from Acts where an inscription says "To the unknown God", and was a view implicite accepting god's existence:

God is, and god is unknown.
God is, and god is unknowable.

This definition I find illogic. If god is unknowable, how does one know there is one? It is nothing but theism disquised as atheism. There is also the (Herbert??) Spencer definition, of which I know nothing. I have only heard the term, but I suppose that definition does not allow for any god.

Atheism deals with belief or rather lack of belief, while agnosticism concerns (lack of) knowledge. A weak atheist is generally agnostic when it comes to knowledge but atheist when it comes to belief. That is, he doesn't know that there is no god, but he lacks belief in any god, and therefore he does not worship any god. That is because the default position is not to believe a proposition when there is no ground for supposing it true.

If you don't really understand the difference between weak atheism and agnosticism, try Webster Dictionary's definition of Atheism/agnosticism.

Here is a definition that I agree with very much -- not completely, though.

A person who claims that he doesn't know if god exists or not is really a weak atheist. To say "I don't know if god exists or not" or "I don't know if Jesus was the son of god, I wasn't there" is to say "I don't believe that it is true that god exists, and I don't believe it to be true that Jesus was the son of god". The popular view of agnosticism is like saying "I don't know if I think I have AIDS or not, I haven't tested it".

Not believeing a positive claim is not the same thing as believeing the negative, but it is to not assume the positive. If there is no reason to believe that you have AIDS you don't believe it, but this is not the same thing as knowing that you don't have AIDS. For the same reason if there is no reason to believe in god, you don't believe in him. This is the view of weak atheism.

Why I am a strong atheist

I am a strong atheist. This view is a little harder to justify, because then you have to prove that there is no god. I have tried to do that in my non-existence file, but I would like to compare it to the example with AIDS again. I you asked me "Do you have AIDS?" I would reply "No I don't have AIDS, I am totally healthy!", I would even be upset because I am pretty sure that I don't have AIDS. The step from not believing in something to believing in it's opposite is a mere emotional step, and a small step too. It is important to understand that, unless the strong atheist feels that he can disprove god, he believes because of emotions and not evidence. However, don't assume that all atheists you meet are strong atheists, most atheists are not unless you can specify a certain god.

Almost everybody on this planet are probably strongly atheistic to the Egyptian god Ossiris, for example. So theists are also strong atheists, but they simply don't realise it. "You're in denial, you never will believe it's you.", like Ozzy Osbourne sings in his song 'Denial' from the record 'Ozzmosis'. The only difference between an atheist and a theist is well described in my absolute favourite quote:

"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." (Stephen Roberts)

How can anybody want to be an atheist?

Atheist is nothing you choose to be. Many religios people believe in a god because they want to believe, but an atheist is an atheist because he has come to the conclusion that there is no god or more commonly, that there is no evidence for any god. I don't believe in the christian god for the same reason that I don't believe in Ossiris, Thor, Odin, Zeus, Brahman, Khali, Satan, Mother Goose or Santa Claus. Things aren't decided by what we want them to be, they simply are what they are. Honestly, if you believe in a god, did you do this by reasoning or just ignorance because you wanted to believe?

After considering the truth one can ask if it is better to live as if there was a god or not. Let's take a look at the reasons to live as if there was a god or not.

Inquisition, colonialism, crusades, witch burning, fundamentalism, occultism, dictatorship, satanism, death penalty on Salman Rushdie, antisemitism, Nazism, David Koresh, the theory of original sin, creationism, ritual torture of animals, Christian far right, freemen, slavery, North Ireland, people crusifying themselves every Easter, celibacy, The Dark Ages...

I guess my view is clear. If there was no religion most of the things described above wouldn't have been, or at least nobody could have justified them. I will be more specific when I have had the time to formulate myself. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. Meanwhile try one of theese:

  • The Harm of Religion
  • Church history
  • Humanity's Gain From Unbelief, by Charles Bradlaugh
  • Some Reasons Wy Humanists Reject The Bible, by Joseph C. Sommer says most of it
  • Adrian Cybriwsky's atheism page Has another good definition of Atheism and a discussion on Pascal's wager.

    Or take a look at Does god love you? where this quote is taken from:

    "I cannot justify my own faith in a religion that tells me everyone else is going to Hell. I cannot justify faith in a religion that tells me homosexuals should be killed. I cannot justify faith in a religion that tells me I am a condemned at birth to everlasting fire and must debase myself before Jesus to be saved."

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