Agnosticism - a valid standpoint?
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14-04-2015, 12:36 AM (This post was last modified: 14-04-2015 01:16 AM by Robvalue.)
RE: Agnosticism - a valid standpoint?
Mr Woof: Thank you Smile Sadly I've not had the energy to add more to my website recently. I have so much I want to write on there but illness dictates what I can do. I'm fairly pleased with what I've got up there, I hope it would at least be useful to someone new to atheism.

I agree that many, perhaps most, atheists are probably going to be "hardcore sceptics" and reject supernatural/spiritual notions. This is no coincidence since scepticism leads to atheism. But it doesn't mean every atheist is a sceptic, far from it. I've heard all kind of things from lots of different atheists.

If people assume something more about an atheist than just his response to a single claim, they are mistaken. That is the message I am trying to send to everyone.

I think I'll put another example forward, because this is a huge sticking point for people in my experience. It's a very subtle point, it took me a while to get when I first got into atheism in a big way.

The default position is to have no opinion about something. If I know nothing about what you're asking me, I have no beliefs about it. I don't believe it exists, and I don't believe it doesn't exist.

You bring me a small generic box, and ask me what I think is in it. I have no opinion on what is in it. Someone says "probably some onions."

I can assess this claim, to see if I agree with the sentiment. Do I have any reason to think this claim is valid, and probably true? Maybe the box says "onions" on it, or smells of onions. If so, it would be reasonable to accept the claim, especially as it's not an extraordinary one.

But let's say there are no such clues. I feel that person is guessing. I reject their claim. This means I am sticking with my default position. I don't have a belief that onions are in there, nor do I have a belief onions are not in there.

So when someone makes a claim, the choices are to accept the claim and move to this new, positive position, or remain where you are. You are not required to shift your position to the opposite of the claim. In the above example, I reject the claim there are onions in the box. But I am not changing my position so that I believe onions are not in the box. That would be absurd. I have no reason to think there are actually not onions in the box.

So basically, I think people misunderstand the nature of the God question. They seem to think the question is, "Do you believe a God exists, or do you believe a god does not exist?" This is incorrect. It's a false dichotomy. It misses out the third position, where you believe neither of those statements. Just like above, I lack belief in the box containing onions, or not containing onions. The question is, "do you accept the claim that there is one or more gods?" Yes, or no. Theist or atheist. There are no other answers. If you say "don't know" you are saying you don't know what you believe. This suggests some sort of mental disconnect. What I think you're saying is you don't believe the claim but don't want to commit to it being wrong. Well, you don't have to. If you're not sure, then clearly you're not convinced. You're an atheist.

Now, of course, any particular person rejecting the claim "God exists" may choose to accept the claim "God does not exist". But they are not obliged to. They can stay in the default position of not having a belief in the existence or non existence of God, just like above with whether or not onions are in the box.

If I had to choose between your claim and the opposite claim every time you made one, I would potentially be required to shift my position either way just because you made a claim. I hope everyone can that this is a ridiculous expectation.

To sum up: rejecting a claim is not the same as making your own statement that the claim is actually false.

"This coin will come up heads when I flip it."
"Why do you say that?"
"I have a feeling."
"I reject your claim, I don't share your belief that the coin will come up heads."
"Ah, so you're saying it won't come up heads! You're saying it will come up tails!"
"No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying I don't believe it will be heads, nor do I believe it won't be heads. I have no opinion either way because there's not enough evidence to make a decision."

Rejecting the God claim makes you an atheist, by commonly used definitions. You are also an agnostic, unless you also make your own claim that you know God does not exist.

Of course, if you want to label this position as "just agnostic", that is totally fine with me. But please don't think that this is actually different, in real terms, to an agnostic atheist. It's the same thing by a different name.

If you actually think it is a different position, then what you have done is to simply not answer the question of belief in the God claim. Everyone either has an active belief that God(s) exist, or they don't have an active belief God exists. The former is a theist, the second is an atheist. There are no more categories. It's nothing to do with knowledge at all. And lacking an active belief in God does not mean having an active belief in "no God". If this doesn't make sense, please read about the onions again. Of course, you may not feel comfortable actually telling me whether you are an atheist or a theist, but instead you're just an agnostic. That is totally fine, you're not obliged to answer any question you don't want to. But to then criticize me for having answered the question, saying it's more rational to not answer the question, is bogus.

With the god claim, suppose instead of onions, my friend says, "probably metaphysical onions in the box, you can't see them or touch them, but they are there." I also reject this claim. Again, I don't need to make my own claim that there are in fact not metaphysical onions in the box. I'm an a-onionsist just by rejecting the claim. But I may find it reasonable to claim that in fact there are no such onions in there, due to that being an outrageous claim backed by no evidence, and consisting of something I've never even seen can be possible.

I'll just go eat onions now until I lose conciousness from it so you won't have to listen to any more of my drivel.

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14-04-2015, 05:00 AM
RE: Agnosticism - a valid standpoint?
(13-04-2015 04:25 PM)TwoCultSurvivor Wrote:  
(13-04-2015 01:58 PM)rezider Wrote:  I'm simply pointing out that 'agnostic atheist' is an oxymoron.

And I'm simply demonstrating that you are wrong. It is not an oxymoron unless you misrepresent what it means to be an atheist. I don't believe in any gods. Period. Name a god. I don't believe in him. That makes me an atheist. No matter which God you name, I don't believe in him. That makes me an atheist.

But does that mean I KNOW there is no hypothetical deist God who vanished and went on to another dimension afterward or some hypothetical nonsense like that? No. I have no way of knowing that. That makes me agnostic.

They are not in conflict.

But let me tell you, calling someone intellectually dishonest is fucking rude. Pardon my language, but I'm not the one who basically called you a liar right from the word go, as you did to everyone who presents himself as an agnostic atheist.

Quote:It is nothing more than a question of word usage.

No, it's a question of proper understanding of what's being communicated. Someone who defines atheist the way you do (which is to say, incorrectly) would never call himself an agnostic atheist. So the issue here is not whether I'm intellectually honest. It's whether YOU comprehend what I am saying.

Quote:If you want to call yourself that, fine.
No, it's NOT fine on one hand and intellectually dishonest at the same time. Your characterization was rude and an apology is in order. THEN you can say fine. You don't just get to insult people and call them liars and then say "but if that's what you want to call yourself, fine.

Quote:If someone classifies me like that, fine. People use different definitions and thus the big pile of different words. There is no need for harsh language for something this small.

And there's no need to call people intellectually dishonest when the problem is YOUR failure to understand them.

Quote:And if you feel that way, then why are you on this thread? You are not obligated to take part nor has anyone put a gun up to your head making you do it. I find it intriguing to discuss these things, so here I am. You don't - well, I don't see how being here is of any use to you.

So, you want to be able to call people intellectually dishonest and not have anyone point out how damn rude it is. Ok. Gee Mr. Rezider, I would really like it an awful lot if you would not call people liars based on the fact that YOU misunderstand what's being communicated. Next time, just ask, okay? Boop-boop-be-doo!

Wait... who did I call intellectually dishonest? I don't remember doing that? I said that I THINK IT IS [refering to the term 'agnostic atheist'] intellectually dishonest, but I don't remember ever calling you or anyone else a liar or that you specifically are an intellectually dishonest person. I've never used it as a characterisation of anyone. But thank you for pointing out how you interpreted my words.

It was my mistake for using 'intellectually dishonest' as a phrase and I apologise for that, I hope you can all accept it. I already explained what I meant by the misuse of the phrase and I should've structured my statement better. I meant to say 'contradictory' (in a sense), instead I said 'intellectually dishnoest'. My mistake.

Now, I fully understand your reasoning behind belief vs. knowledge. That doesn't in any way mean that since I understand it I am not allowed to rethink and find out new things. Here is a dictionary: http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery?s=agnostic&gwp=13
'One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.' That's what I am trying to explain to you - that the position of an agnostic can be defined exactly the same as 'agnostic atheist'. I claimed that 'agnostic atheist' is an oxymoron because knowledge and belief are so intertwined, that you cannot simply say that they are COMPLETELY different things. Using this logic (that they can be looked at 100% seperately) I can say, 'I know that I am wrong, but I believe that I am right.' There is nothing wrong with the sentence, it is not even contradicting itself. But in reality there is something awfully disturbing in it as a whole.

Atheism is simply the lack of belief, there is no need for any other word infront of it. But if you wish to claim that there is no god with certainty, then you can add something like strong, positive, hard or say anti-theist etc.

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14-04-2015, 05:08 AM
RE: Agnosticism - a valid standpoint?
I agree, you don't have to add anything to atheism. If it came up in conversation, I'd just say I'm an atheist, I wouldn't say agnostic atheist. I mean, being an atheist is a pre-emptive stance against unknown claims anyhow. I don't know what definition of "god" the next person is going to put to me. They may say, "My wife is god. There she is." And I can say, "OK, I believe in your god." So my atheism kind of relies on the fact that most god definitions are going to be supernatural in nature. Otherwise, we're just talking about randomly calling other stuff god, which isn't much of a discussion.

And depending on the claim, if they pressed me for details, I can tell them more. If they say ,"Oh he created the universe blah blah..." I'd say I can't know anything about such a being or whether that happened. I'm agnostic, if you like. If they say "He's omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent..." I can say no, that's actually impossible because it contradicts reality and logic. So I will gnostic that up, thank you very much.

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14-04-2015, 08:00 AM
RE: Agnosticism - a valid standpoint?
Accepted.

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14-04-2015, 08:08 AM
RE: Agnosticism - a valid standpoint?
(14-04-2015 12:10 AM)Adrianime Wrote:  If you guys want something fun to think about, I'll share an idea. I personally think knowledge is a type of belief. That is, belief with certainty or conviction. This is part of the reason I consider myself a gnostic atheist. But I understand the designation of agnostic atheist just fine, and I think it works (for those who take that position)!

I agree. I tell people I'm an atheist. I don't use "agnostic atheist" unless the person I'm telling wants to get all persnickety about it. "Oh, you mean you know for a fact there is no God? How arrogant!"

Well, no, I don't know there is NO god. I have a high confidence level that there is no god, but my mind is not intellectually closed to the possibility. So if that's where you want to take the conversation, fine, I'm an agnostic atheist.

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14-04-2015, 08:20 AM
RE: Agnosticism - a valid standpoint?
(14-04-2015 05:00 AM)rezider Wrote:  I claimed that 'agnostic atheist' is an oxymoron because knowledge and belief are so intertwined, that you cannot simply say that they are COMPLETELY different things. Using this logic (that they can be looked at 100% separately) I can say, 'I know that I am wrong, but I believe that I am right.' There is nothing wrong with the sentence, it is not even contradicting itself. But in reality there is something awfully disturbing in it as a whole.

Actually, no, you cannot say "I know I am wrong but I believe I am right."

It is inaccurate to say that knowledge and belief are completely separate things without equivocating (that is, changing the meaning of "believe" halfway through the conversation).

We "know" (or think we know, let's not get persnickety) facts and truths. We believe propositions based on the facts and truths we know. Knowledge does not require the exercise of judgment. Belief does. That's the difference. Is there overlap? Not really (again, unless you're gonna quibble). I know the Miami Marlins finished the 2014 season under .500. I don't "believe" that. I know it. It's a fact. This year, they made some roster improvements and when baseball season started last week, I believed (based on the fact of their roster changes) that the team would perform better this year than last year. That is a belief. I don't KNOW it.

I can't say "I know the Marlins were under .500 last year but I believe they were over .500." That's an absurdity. I CAN say "I know the Marlins were under .500 last year but I think they were a good team nonetheless."

I know there's no convincing, testable evidence that any gods exist. Based on that knowledge, I can choose to believe in one anyway (on faith) or not to believe in any. I can even articulate my nonbelief to make it sound more certain than that: I believe there is no God. But that is not a knowledge claim. If I KNOW there is a God but I don't BELIEVE in him, that would be stupid. That's what theists say about us. It is not an intellectually coherent position because it misstates what I do/don't believe.

Quibbling. Persnickety.

"Agnostic atheist" is not an oxymoron. It is a necessary response to a quibbling argument.

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14-04-2015, 08:24 AM (This post was last modified: 14-04-2015 08:27 AM by Robvalue.)
RE: Agnosticism - a valid standpoint?
The funny thing about this is that gnostic atheists, agnostic atheists and all but the most mental theists will act pretty much the same most of the time. They assume no one is going to stop a car from hitting them if they randomly run into the road. They go to the doctor when they are ill. They make efforts to find food, and then they eat it. The only difference is the theist praises God for all the stuff that's going on anyway and the atheist doesn't.

It's when a theist starts acting significantly differently from an atheist that they run into problems. I wonder why that is?

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14-04-2015, 09:07 AM
RE: Agnosticism - a valid standpoint?
(14-04-2015 05:00 AM)rezider Wrote:  Now, I fully understand your reasoning behind belief vs. knowledge. That doesn't in any way mean that since I understand it I am not allowed to rethink and find out new things. Here is a dictionary: http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery?s=agnostic&gwp=13
'One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.'

Except that I am both skeptical about the existence of gods, and I profess my atheism. I'm not paying any attention to the qualifier "true" because it thus far lacks any definition in this context.


(14-04-2015 05:00 AM)rezider Wrote:  That's what I am trying to explain to you - that the position of an agnostic can be defined exactly the same as 'agnostic atheist'.

And I think you're wrong. There are at least two types of agnostics, firstly. Secondly, as noted above, the difference between belief and knowledge means that dropping the modifier is inapt.

(14-04-2015 05:00 AM)rezider Wrote:  I claimed that 'agnostic atheist' is an oxymoron because knowledge and belief are so intertwined, that you cannot simply say that they are COMPLETELY different things.

This is a strawman position. Perhaps some here hold it, but I don't. The two are certainly related, however, they are clearly not the same thing ... which is the reason why they are indeed two different words: they describe two different mental states.

(14-04-2015 05:00 AM)rezider Wrote:  Using this logic (that they can be looked at 100% seperately) I can say, 'I know that I am wrong, but I believe that I am right.' There is nothing wrong with the sentence, it is not even contradicting itself. But in reality there is something awfully disturbing in it as a whole.

This is a strawman as well. An agnostic atheist doesn't know that he's wrong in his atheism, but clings to it anyway; he holds his atheism while admitting that he might be wrong about it.

(14-04-2015 05:00 AM)rezider Wrote:  Atheism is simply the lack of belief, there is no need for any other word in front of it.

Adding "agnostic" in front of "atheist" is useful insofar as more accurately describes the views of some atheists. It also keep online theists from strawmanning my position by claiming that I know that there is no god, by making it plain that that is not my position.

(14-04-2015 05:00 AM)rezider Wrote:  But if you wish to claim that there is no god with certainty, then you can add something like strong, positive, hard or say anti-theist etc.

Why is that permissible, yet adding "agnostic" isn't?
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14-04-2015, 09:11 AM
RE: Agnosticism - a valid standpoint?
If words had 1 and only 1 definition there would be no point to agnostic atheist and it would be seemingly an oxymoron.

Because there is so many different ways to calculate the terms it has value. You could be a Strong Atheist, Weak Atheist, Gnostic Atheist, etc. Because it further defines what you mean by atheist as it doesn't mean just 1 thing absolutely in all contexts.

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14-04-2015, 09:19 AM
RE: Agnosticism - a valid standpoint?
The notion of a "true atheist" assumes that only one definition of atheist is valid and the rest falsely claim the label.

A true atheist is one who does not believe in any god. It's not more complicated than that. It is not a knowledge claim. By saying "true atheist," you presume that atheism is a knowledge claim. This is your error, not the atheist's. That's what we've been trying (and failing) to get through to you.

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