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:
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.