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We are a worldwide social network of freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and secular humanists.

There has been an ongoing argument regarding the words, “atheism” and “agnosticism,” practically since the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley coined the term, back in 1869.  What further complicates the contretemps is the fact that the object at the center of the belief or argument – “god” – continues to be without any form of objective demonstration or proof.  The conflation of the two terms on the part of some people only muddies the waters further.  Granted that I am no Huxley nor Hume.  To borrow from Dr. Leonard H. (“Bones”) McCoy, “I’m an engineer, not a philosopher.”  Nevertheless, I mean to offer my take on the issue of atheism versus agnosticism with this piece and explain why I unabashedly declare myself to be an atheist.

Definitionally, the two words operate on different tracks:

  • Agnosticism – Lack of KNOWLEDGE regarding the existence of god(s)
  • Atheism – Lack of BELIEF in god(s)

That said, is it possible to KNOW that there are absolutely NO GODS in this universe?  Not from where I sit.  However, the ultimate source from which most belief systems spring are the holy books which represent said systems.  An analysis of the bible or the quran or any other holy book yields up multiple serious problems regarding reportage, observational errors, internal contradictions within the books, or contradictions with known scientific fact which would disqualify any attempt at being an authoritative reference.  Steve Wells’ work on both the bible and quran does a serviceable job of dismantling both, to the point where I can say with reasonable confidence that the gods those books represent simply do not exist.  As regards the Abrahamic god, I am a gnostic atheist.  Regarding any other god which may exist but produces no LOCAL demonstration of its existence, I have to fall back on the Null Hypothesis, which effectively says that, in the absence of evidence, the best answer to such a question is: “I DON'T KNOW.”

Now ... all THAT said, ultimately, I think there are those who claim agnosticism rather than atheism because of the negative baggage associated with the latter term.  That to me IS a cop-out, and here I emphatically assert that “atheist” is what we SHOULD be calling ourselves, if for no other reason than that the term is well understood by the vast majority of those who hear it.  If the word “atheist” is confrontational, I have no problem with that.  Some of us are confronted daily with the presumption of Christian privilege which too many believers exercise on a regular basis, and that needs to be answered in kind.  They need to be disabused of that practice and understand that Christianity should be on an even footing with Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and every other baseless superstition this world has produced to date.  Not one of them should have the favor of the government over another.  The playing field needs to be LEVEL, regardless of belief or lack thereof.

It's well past time to man-up ... or woman-up or person-up or whatever ... and call ourselves what we are: ATHEISTS.  If someone doesn’t like it, that’s their privilege, but it’s no reason to compromise ourselves or our position … and I won’t.

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Comment was by Grinning Cat on Monday

On beliefs "based more on a taste for steak than reality":

"You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky (way up high).
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die."

--Joe Hill, "The Preacher and the Slave"

Comment was by Grinning Cat on Monday

Well said, Detlef!

And maybe hamburgers have no ham for the same reason that hammers don't ham and fingers don't fing. Whoever said English made sense? :)

(Perhaps for Quote of the Day:)
The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and ri[f]fle their pockets for new vocabulary.
--James Nicoll

Comment was by Detlef Pelz on Monday

Now that you put it that way, I agree. A am an atheist, goddammit! Theists need to show me the beef for their beleefs, or grab the bull by the horns and admit they don't have any, and that their beleefs are based more on a taste for steak than reality.

On a side note, why do hamburgers generally have little or no ham? 

Good night.

Comment was by Loren Miller on October 2, 2021 at 8:30am

Total agreement, Stephen.  Faith is a bad joke and equivalent to gullibility.  As has been said by multiple people, anyone can have faith in ANYTHING, which completely disqualifies faith from being any kind of reliable means to knowledge.

A snake would have more use for shoes than have for faith!

Comment was by Grinning Cat on October 2, 2021 at 12:49am

To me the problems with the Bible, Qur’an, and other scriptures, as well as their utter disconnect from the observable real world, render them moot. It strains credulity to suppose that vague and self-contradictory (as Ruth said) gods as described in those books, that supposedly have real-world effects in modern times, exist outside people’s heads any more than square circles do.

(BTW, I read an assertion that the Abrahamic god’s perfection, changelessness, omniscience, omnipotence, omni­every­god­damned­thing,™ etc. were late imports into Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, coming ultimately from Greek philosophy, specifically the Stoics. The god of the Bible has very human-like traits and emotions and foibles.)

Maybe there are “supernatural” beings “out there”, but for me, the complete lack of their effect in the world (effects that can’t be much better explained as coincidences, natural phenomena, or the thoughts and actions of believers themselves) makes gods not worth worrying about.

Even if I’m not 100% certain that a BibleGod doesn’t objectively exist, 99.9% is good enough. I’ll take “atheist”.

Comment was by Stephen Brodie on October 2, 2021 at 12:44am

Faith don't talk to me about faith. "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  Hebrews 11:1: How anyone can cite that and keep a straight face.

Comment was by Loren Miller on October 1, 2021 at 6:19pm

Should go without saying that I'm right with you, Ruth! [grin!]

Comment was by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on October 1, 2021 at 6:16pm

To me "lack of knowledge regarding the existence of gods" makes no sense. Theist beliefs are either unendurably vague or outright self-contradictory. I need evidence, based on sensory experience that is verifiable by others, to know if something is true or false. Nonsense isn't true by definition. If it doesn't make sense it can't be knowledge, it can't be verified. So Atheist, here.

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