|· Am I an Atheist or Agnostic?|
by Buck R. Cash
I think the common problem is the mixup of two separate questions with the four relative answers to them:
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1. "Do you KNOW if there is a god?" ('yes'-gnostic or 'no'-agnostic)
2. "Do you BELIEVE that there is a god?" ('yes'-theist or 'no'--atheist)
The roots of the words define what they address. 'Gnosis' addresses 'knowledge', while 'theism' addresses 'belief'. It's an important distinction, but one that is often confused until one looks closely at it to sort it out.
To the question "do you KNOW?" I think the only clear choice is agnosticism, since no one KNOWS. But when someone asks if you 'BELIEVE' there is a god and you answer, "I'm an agnostic" you've just dodged the question by answering instead to "do you KNOW if there IS a god?".
Personal opinion and story ahead: I think anyone that answers "I'm an agnostic" to the question "do you believe" is a closet atheist trying to avoid the stigma associated with the word 'atheist'. I could be wrong, but looking back, I realize it was true of me when I did it. A friend said to me at that time, "an agnostic is an atheist without guts." He's the one that pointed out to me that claiming agnosticism didn't answer the question, "do you BELIEVE?"; It only answered the question, "do you KNOW?"
I thought about that long and hard. I looked up 'atheism' in the dictionary and read that atheists (according to it) made the claim that there is no god. Further, it described atheism as immorality. Well, I didn't fit either of those, so I figured I was no atheist.
I knew that the "a" part at the beginning of the word meant 'without' and made 'atheism' the negative of the word 'theism' so I decided to look up 'theism' as well. It said, "BELIEF in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in a personal God as creator and ruler of the world." Nothing about morality there, nor an affirmation of KNOWledge.
Okey dokey, what is 'belief'?
1. The mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in another: My belief in you is as strong as ever.
2. Mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something: His explanation of what happened defies belief.
3. Something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons.
It's good to be clear about that, and an important aspect of the whole thing.
Now that we have a clear understanding of what 'belief' is, let's think about it again. If you claim agnosticism, saying in effect, "I don't KNOW if I have BELIEF that there is a god" then obviously you do not have belief in a god yet. Check the definition. You do not yet place trust or confidence in the idea. You do not yet have mental acceptance and conviction in the truth, actuality or validity of that idea. You have not yet accepted that idea as true. So you don't yet have belief. It's that simple. Well friend, if you don't have belief yet that there is a god, you ARE an atheist, like it or not.
The definition of 'theism' was decidedly NOT the opposite of the definition of 'atheism' in the dictionary. That much was clear. Hmmm... It seemed there was some kind of double standard involved that didn't fit with the word roots themselves.
So I put the meaning of 'a' at the beginning of the definition of 'theism' and arrived at a simple definition for 'atheism' that I have used since:
"Without belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in a personal God as creator and ruler of the world."
I looked hard at 'belief' again. Got it! With that, I came to my own personal truth: I am an atheist because I do not have belief (as defined) in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in a personal God as creator and ruler of the world.
So if someone asks me if there IS a god I can honestly reply that I am agnostic, since I don't KNOW. Depending on the conversation, I may go on to say that I doubt it, but have no way to KNOW - still agnostic. Depending on the conversation, I may ask them to define 'god' with characteristics and attributes and so forth and, depending on the description, I may go on to say I HIGHLY doubt it OR there may be some possibility of it OR (usually) I can then show how that particular version of a god is logically impossible, at which point I am no longer agnostic about THAT PARTICULAR god. At that point, I KNOW that particular god does not exist.
BUT, when asked do I BELIEVE there is a god, with OR without description, I have only one answer. I am an atheist, for I do not have belief that there is. If pressed, I can go on to declare that neither do I have belief that there is not - still atheist. I am simply without belief.
'Gnosticism' and 'agnosticism' answer only to "do you KNOW if there IS a god?" They cannot answer to "do you have BELIEF that there is a god?"
'Theism' and 'atheism' answer to "Do you have BELIEF that there is a god?" They cannot answer to "do you KNOW if there IS a god?"
Hope that helps...
Smile... There is no Hell.
|· What Is A Fundie?|
-- By SvZurich[ Back to Top ]
Many of us suffer from siege mentality due to constant attacks by
religious fundamentalists. Let me explain EXACTLY what I mean when I use the term "Fundie",
which is shorthand for Goddamn Fundie™. Bear with me, for I am bitter when
dealing with people who think they know how to live my life better than I
A Fundie is someone filled with Absolute Truth, not Objective Reason, who feels
they have a mandate to impose their morality and beliefs on others. Southern
Baptists who ridiculed me when little for believing in evolution KNEW the
dinosaur bones were "made by the Devil to discredit God." People in the military
forced me out upon learning I am a sexual minority, and there went my career in
the Navy. Other Fundies wouldn't hire me in 2001 because I am a Veteran, and
murder is wrong. Still more Fundies are illustrated by the paragons of virtue
(self-proclaimed by them) at Westboro Baptist Church (www.godhatesfags.com).
Well before I stopped being a theist, it was Fundies who drove me away for
daring to think and being different. To this day, I am still attacked, and no, I
am not going into it. It is none of your business.
Fundies tout the Ex-Gay process as salvation for all sexual minorities. It is
the same discredited brainwashing techniques formerly used in the 1950s and
1960s by the mental health community. All "Ex-Gays" are still gay, they just
don't act on it or try to play straight. I believe you want to Google John Paulk
for an example of an Ex-Gay poster child who still trolls gay bars for men. He
is a leader and a "success" story.
Fundies don't take the time to research before they proclaim things sins, and
make proclamations up on the spot. Funny how many things were okay once but are
sins today. Sin just doesn't seem constant to them. These are the jokers who
forced Prohibition and the unsuccessful War on Drugs. These same jokers act as
if they know all about sexual issues without needing a degree in
sexology, or looking at the DSM IV manual. My transsexual friends have many
horror stories based on their experiences with Goddamn Fundies™. Based on
my own daily experiences, I believe my friends. Fundies try to cure transsexuals
to make "proper men and women out of them". Lovely, increase the odds of their
suicide past 50%. Better to give them surgery to align the body with the brain
and give them less than 1% chance of suicide. Nope, Fundies think they know
better than medical researchers and the people suffering.
Do NOT accuse me of picking on Christians. Al Qayda are also Goddamn
Fundies™, and it applies to ALL Fundamentalists filled with Absolute Truth
and seeking to force their will upon others. Most Christians and Islamics do not
fit this description.
Timestamp: Feb 18, 2004