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Atheist Community of Austin
agnostism v atheism

OK, an atheist believes there is no god, while an agnostic says, "I don't know if there is a god." The second option seems honest, the second seems like arrogant certainty, unless there is someone who can prove there is no god.

This is a silly discussion to cultivate a rivalry between atheists and agnostics over who is better, when we all know that theist despise them both. However, they might have a better chance to sway the agnostics. Some theist are fond of playing all kinds of games like who's better than who and (word games.) I suggest a study of the Greek word 'aion.' The revisers put in the word Sheol without translating it at all. This wiped out "hell" from the entire Old Testament. The word aiõnios (the actual Greek for "without a decision"), so agnostics can be identified as those who formally claim not to know (since a-gnostikos means "without knowledge")

Some people need reasons to believe in something. "Anyone with a love for truth has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God." If god is unknowable, than one does not know that there is one. It is nothing but atheism. It also could be (evasion of the question) or it could be not to believe a pitch when there are no grounds for considering it to be true.

Believing that an invisible God exist, is not better than believing that no one can prove a negative, (it is to not assume the positive.) If there are no reasons for a belief in fairies, then you don't believe it, but this is not the same thing as knowing that there are fairies. For the same reason if there is no reason to believe in god, some people don't believe in him.

Nearly everyone would be an atheistic if you ask if they believed in Amen an Egyptian god. So theists are also strong atheists, but they simply don't admit it.

Although it is used for the purpose of proving the existence of god the Christian Bible is a deficient source for real evidence...There is zero evidence that any of the Bible was breathed out of God's mouth. Faith is the holding of a belief in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. If one points out the poor evidence, contradictions and immorality of the Bible it is ignored by the closed logic of the believer. They are unable to show their belief is true in any historical or scientific sense, but it is believed on faith. Apologists seek to impose a dogma rather than seek a truth. Essentially Christianity keeps Christians ignorant. They are not encouraged to read biblical scholarship, and often are amazed that things they take for granted are not true. Apologists are not really seeking the truth they want to belong to the club with the most benefits. Christianity is neither consistent with reason nor does it stand up to scrutiny, and it certainly is not grounded in reality since it demands belief in supernatural beings and events.

Atheists are not born Atheists. In fact most of them are born into very religious households. They awaken to reality by a process of experience, questions and observation which has stages much like any major change has. I submit to you that an Agnostic is nothing more than a stage in which the person lacks enough information or even conviction to state an arrival to a personal belief. In addition to that many people who call themselves Agnostics do so in order to not be offensive to their Christian friends and/or family. Consider that being judgemental is a familiar component of Christian religion where at its very essence it rewards the believer (saved) and condemns the non-believer (to hell). Isn't it a prudent thing to use a term like Agnostic to avoid being labeled an outcast? Christians are way more tolerant of an Agnostic because they think they can convert someone who claims not to know. Christians love to "recruit". Agnostic means basically "I don't know" yet you don't see any Agnostics going to church on Sunday right? My point is, at some point in life that Agnostic will come to a conclusion that unless prone to mental illness or hallucinations there is no god here. Yes... The absence of god is proof of non-existence. Even if god existed and god is unwilling or unable to interact with humanity then the challenge from believers for Atheists to prove god does not exist is irrelevant because the result is the same. So far god does not exist, does not act upon humanity outside the realm of faith which is open to magic interpretation. In any case to the question at hand I say an Agnostic is a person asking themselves if god exists and we know where that will end up. Unless they fill the void with religious assumptions for some time. I called myself an Agnostic for years. I was first a Catholic, then an actual Gnostic. After that an Agnostic, I don't have to tell any of you about the inconsistencies of religion. I have always said the best way to create an Atheist is to have him read the bible along with the apocryphal books. There is no Agnostic vs Atheists it is just a process that more often than not turns out to be one and the same result, an evolution of free thought if you will that begins with a question and ends with a personal answer.

What you describe is that both the agnostic and the atheist do not believe in god's existence. If I ask you "Do you believe I'm honest?" And you answer "I don't know if you are honest," you have failed to answer the question. I didn't ask you if you know I'm honest. I asked you if you believe I'm honest.

Likewise, if I ask, "Do you believe god exists?" And you respond, "I don't know if god exists," you're not answering the question. In the same way, agnosticism is not a response to atheism nor is it necessarily related to atheism in any way. They are two separate answer to two seperate questions.

An atheist is one who disbelieves in god. An agnostic is one who says he doesn't have knowledge of gods (and on some occasions that nobody can have knowledge of gods, as no knowledge about gods exists). The agnostic may still not believe in gods. What he has knowledge of may or may not affect what he believes.

The truth is that many people are atheists AND agnostics. I am an agnostic atheist, in fact. I believe there is no *knowledge* of gods (no evidence to support their existence), and that is why I don't *believe* they exist.

An atheist who says "I don't believe god exists" could also just as well say "...but I don't *know* if there is a god or not." In other words, "I don't know if there is a god or not--but I see no reason to believe in one, so I don't." That's an agnostic atheist stance. And what is "less honest" about saying "I don't believe in things without good evidence to support belief in them"? That seems not only honest, but reasonable.

You seem to be under the misconception that atheists and agnostics are somehow mutally exclusive. They are not. In fact, agnosticism isn't even divorced from theism. Even a theist can say, "I don't know if there is a god, but I believe in god's existence." In such a case, he is an agnostic theist. It's not rational--but it's possible. And I've met such people.

What one claims to believe is not the same as what one claims to know. And they are sometimes related--but not necessarily. I think you aren't really familiar with the definitions of atheist and agnostic, otherwise, your question wouldn't have been put forward. The two stances can stand in harmony, and you don't seem to understand that (based on what you're asking).

RE: "arrogant certainty" - Those who 'assume' that there is a god do not provide even the basic information needed to apply critical thinking to examine their 'assumption' (If you acknowledge that ideology is not information.) 'God' must be demonstrated, not assumed. It is plain that there are no standards (at least none that survive scrutiny) by which one may reasonably assume there is a god, or suggests that the existence of god is obvious. It isn't!

When there is a dispute it is those who make an unusual claim who must prove it right. Agnostic, atheist, cynics, etc. make no claims; they simply do not accept an assumption without any real proof. (Not the same!) Of course, when a particularly incredible claim is made the burden of proof is on the side that tries to prove the positive.

Atheists do not believe in god for many of the same reasons that theists do not believe in a fairy-god-mother, or the gods of other religions. Many theists don't believe in the existence of any god but their own, so they are atheist as well. The theist must realize that prayers are "answered" in every other religion too. Furthermore, I am really sure that those in other religions judge themselves better than those who do not believe in their god.

If something can not be observed and there are no scientific methods that can be used to confirm that it exist then the only thing left is to wait until it can be measured or observed ...At this time that situation does not exist.

Gerhardt - I'm waiting on your rebuttal with 'baited breath.'

According to

http://www.atheist-community.org/faq/#atheist_agnostic

an "atheist" is one who does not have a belief in god, and an "agnostic" is one who believes that god cannot be proven to exist.

That is kinda the opposite of what you claimed. To be honest, I don't know who's right. After all, words are defined, made-up.

Agnostics believe that there is no evidence for or against the assumption that there are god/gods. The atheists think there is evidence that there is no god. The agnostics believe there is not enough evidence to prove or disprove the existence of God. An omniscient, omnipotent god surpasses those things that atheists can bring himself or herself to believe. I don't know if it's possible is not all there is to it; it is a lie.

If there were no suffering and no opportunity to improve things then maybe we would be perplexed about god/gods. In fact a "loving" god? Does anyone think that a genius all knowing god wrote that book the bible? I don't.

Frankly, how can theists be so sure that there is only one god why not many gods, after all there is no way to know for sure.

Saying, "I don't know if god exists or not" is to me the same as saying "I don't know if Pinocchio exists or not. If there is no reason to believe Pinocchio exists why would you believe it.

An agnostic might not answer the question; "do you believe there is a god"? Saying I don't know. However, many theists would say, "that is being lukewarm, which is a more serious sin I guess than being ice cold. Rev 3:14-22 Jesus says, "Write this letter to the Angel of the Church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen (the name of an Egyptian God) the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's new creation: I know all the things you do that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!

If you really look into the scriptures you will find that it is better to be a red hot Atheist than a lukewarm Agnostic. The concept is that if we don't know for sure, on faith without any proof, we are bad.

Most anybody thinks something is true because it has been proven; with the exception of the falderal nonsense and foolishness of belief.

If there is no proof for something to be true most people probably won't believe it. However, we all have the option to change our minds in the event that it is uncontrovertibly proven to be true. And anyone would.

I don't think it is reasonable to just accept the idea that god's having himself a peek-a-boo party.

Hi Linda,

Don't agree with your definition of atheist & agnostic. Specifically: "atheists think there is evidence that there is no god". I would stick with "atheist believes that there is no god"

Although I think it's important not to get too tied up in definitions. We know what our position is, right? Too many theists try to use these definitions to confuse & mislead.

I was watching good ol' Willy Lane Craig debating with Hitch, and saying something like: "but if you can't prove God doesn't exist, that's not atheism, that's only agnosticism". Which I think is false. (and I don't like the word 'ONLY' either).

I would love to know how he would respond to: "Is agnosticism symmetric? Lets turn your argument around. Is it true to say that: If you can't prove that Jesus was the son of God, you are not a Christian, just an agnostic?"

Well done doubting Thomas & pay no attention to Jesus's little lecture on faith. Relying on faith isn't good enough to be a Christian, it means you're only an agnostic.

Somehow, I don't think any Christian would accept that (and I probably don't have to pick on Christians).

Nor do I think that agnosticism is asymmetric (non-believers must have proof to avoid it, but believers don't have to have proof).

A Christian is a Christian because of what they believe. Not what they know, or can prove. Similarly an atheist is an atheist because of what they believe, not what they can prove or know. (although either of them may have proof, knowledge, etc.)

Mk1,

Oh! I'm sorry! I didn't know that I couldn't say "god does not exist." I should say, "I don't believe in God" because otherwise I might have to prove something. Maybe someone thinks I can't prove logically that god does not exist. I say god does not exist because I am an (atheist, atheist) and I'm not worried about it. I'm also not afraid of someone proving something? I don't need to make qualifying statements as if I can't prove anything. Others can be whatever they want to be and say whatever they want to say. What I say is just my opinion. I do not represent everyone who claims to be an atheist.

I said, "agnostics have no knowledge of god. That does not say a thing about what they believe." Someone else on this thread said almost the same thing.

Now, let me get on my soapbox and write a wall of text that will be too long and complicated for any idiot to read. I think people come to logical conclusions about things all the time, but only atheists apply that method to god.

Dismissing an unsubstantiated claim has nothing to do with what I think I can prove. I don't think an atheist should feel the least bit intimidated about proving something. I'm in the Stephen Hawking camp. I think that there is a preponderance of evidence that god does not exist.

Stephen Hawking (not an exact quote) It's not necessary to invoke god to explain why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. We do not need to invoke god to set the universe going.

People who make claims about things that exist need to prove what it is, what it does and why it exists. That proof does not have to be physical evidence; proof is also the logical basis for the presumption. Proving anything exists requires demonstrating that the hypothesis is logical. That can and is used to prove things in science all the time. If a claim can't be proven I don't have to say I don't believe in your claim, that's a ploy to get me to say that I can't be sure. I think I can be sure that it does not exist.

Isaac Newton believed God created and conserved order in the universe. He believed that a creator designed it specifically for the existence of human life. The discovery of other solar systems outside our own, in 1992, proved that our world was not so uniquely designed and that human life could exist throughout the universe. It is not miraculous that there are planets that support life. There are untold numbers of planets in the galaxy; any form of intelligent life that evolved would adapt to that environment. The conditions would be perfect for them.

Carl Sagan believed that it is nearly impossible for other intelligent life not to exist in the universe. Sagan was not saying that aliens had visited earth or that anyone has observed an alien. He was using the Drake equation or an exact method to reach a conclusion about the plausibility of life somewhere else in the Universe. Astrophysicist Dr. Frank Drake devised The Drake equation in 1960, in an attempt to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy with which we might come in contact. The main purpose of the equation is to allow scientists to quantify the uncertainty of the factors, which determine the number of such extraterrestrial civilizations. The Drake equation (sometimes called the Green Bank equation or the Green Bank Formula) is a famous result in the fields of exobiology and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Carl Sagan lectured on the Drake equation, which is a way of estimating the number of technologically advanced civilizations in the galaxy. This presentation of the Drake equation, from the Cosmos series, is the best evidence for the possibility of alien life, and was based only upon the number of stars in our galaxy at that time. This was before the Hubble discovered that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies throughout the universe. The existence of these newly found galaxies pushes back the time when galaxies began to form to before 500-600 million years after the Big Bang. There are astronomers building a much more powerful James Webb Space Telescope (JWST); planned for launch in 2014, which will allow astronomers to study the detailed nature of primordial galaxies and discover many more even farther away. Statistically, alien life is virtually a guaranteed proposition. Life's basic building blocks comprise a group of chemicals known as nitrogenated aromatics. They form the very foundations of all life on Earth. Astrophysicists study the composition of the universe by analyzing spectra - the unique signatures of light either emitted directly by stars or reflected by non-luminous objects, such as moons, asteroids, comets, dust and gas. Using sensitive instruments called spectrometers; scientists can detect elements and compounds at great distances. Nitrogenated aromatics exist throughout the Milky Way galaxy. The chemistry that underlies life on Earth is abundant throughout the universe.

Carl Sagan's final book was The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1996), and it puts prayer in the same category as astrology, ESP, spiritualism, and superstition. Carl Sagan said, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." He believed that the public's ignorance of science would lead to disaster and this is why he tried to inform the public (as much was possible) about science, and how to use critical thinking.

Carl Sagan said, "I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking. The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides. We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers."

If someone claims that something exists that requires proof; like an observation, or the existence of an observer, or the use of a model, formula or an exact method to reach a conclusion about the plausibility of the existence of something that we cannot observe. The purpose of these methods is to allow scientists to quantify the uncertainty of the factors, which determines if there is an experiment that could be done to prove the existence of something. What is the formula or equation for the existence of an omnipotent, omnipresent supernatural god and what is it based on, and how does anyone construct a model? How do you test or falsify your answer? Why just believe it? Why is deciding there has to be something (with no evidence) a better decision than there is nothing? Without evidence no experiment could support the hypothesis 'there is something' because the lack of any observation (of the supernatural) obviously implies there is nothing that is supernatural.

This doesn't include all the contradictions concerning all the religions and all the gods, but even without them my answer is that there is no god.

To prove something is false you find the inconsistencies or contradictions. Anything that involves contradictions cannot be logical or true. If something is self-contradictory it is false. Anything that violates the fundamental law of noncontradiction (if the question itself is contradictory) it can not have a positive answer. Contradictory "positive" facts make it possible to prove a negative. Give a number that is higher than the highest number (a positive claim that implies the existence of a higher number. There cannot be a number higher than the highest number (a positive fact)? The question posed cannot be answered because it is based on a false positive reality that is contradictory, and that makes it a negative fact. The theoretical proposition of a number higher than the highest number is contradictory; therefore the answer is negative (it doesn't exist). Just like the positive reality that there is nothing supernatural that exist.

We exist because of evolution, and we are not supernatural, so a supernatural being didn't create us in His image.

There is no theory that requires a Supernatural Being (creation) for us to exist. That is why it is necessary to have "faith" to believe in God.

There is no logical theory about the existence of god, if there was they would present it like Darwin did with the theory of evolution, and then let the experts examine the evidence.

There is no evidence of (design) or that anything was created, but there is plenty of evidence of evolution. Scientists first evaluate the plausibility of an explanation for some phenomena before they apply it to a theory. The clergy will never subject the omnipotent Supernatural Being that created everything to that kind of scrutiny. The problem is deeper than just not having any evidence. There is no supernatural explanation for anything that we know scientifically. That is another reason the theory of a supernatural god is not plausible. There is no need for a supernatural explanation of any phenomenon.

It is very obvious that the Bible demonstrates no knowledge of anything scientific. An all-knowing being did not inspire the bible. I certainly would have used some advanced technology (if I knew it existed) if I were giving a message to the whole world that their salvation depended on. People wrote the bible who had no knowledge of advanced technology. The bible was not inspired by a superior being.

A theory (about anything) is based on an accumulation of facts that are testable. If the results contradict the hypothesis then it is either revised or discarded. If the results support the hypothesis then it becomes stronger and more tests are done. This is a process known as the scientific method; that method requires thoughtful, plausible and logical reasoning that gives credence to the hypothesis that is presented to be tested.

Nobody has ever proven any claim (by controlled tests) about the supernatural. Most people will dispute unsubstantiated claims, with the exception of those people who are so indoctrinated that they can't think for themselves, there is no claim that can't be challenged. If they can't defend their claim that god exists then they didn't stand up to examination. If I can't or don't defend my position, no matter what I say about not believing in something, it is pointless. I have good reasons for saying that god does not exist, and I can say that, even if nobody but me says that.

Hello, Gerhardt.

Whilst I do believe that there are no gods, and think that there are arguments that demonstrate this beyond reasonable doubt (rather than with complete certainty), this isn't a neccessary condition of being an atheist.

When someone says that they are an atheist, they often just mean that they don't believe in any gods. This view is compatible with agnosticism, because such atheists may not claim to know that no gods exist.

Also, the claim "There are no gods" isn't necessarily a claim of certainty, any more than the claim "The Earth is round" is a claim of certainty. I can't absolutely prove to you that the Earth is round, but the evidence is very compelling.

Greetings,

Yes indeedy there is no reason that one couldn't be a member of the "Flat Earth Society" and also be an atheist, but somehow I doubt it. There are many methods that one can use to prove that the earth is a sphere. There is no method to prove the existence of god. Thinking there is any possibility that the earth is flat is more analogous to an unreasonable belief in god. There is indisputable evidence that the earth is a sphere, but not one shred of evidence that there is a god.

That argument only supports a particular conclusion about a known object that isn't imaginary or supernatural. Therefore, any conclusion about it's shape (no matter how far out) would never be comparable to any conclusion about a (supernatural being) god's existence. Pictures of the Earth from space have been taken for 50 years that prove absolutely conclusively that the Earth is round. These pictures show only a circular shape, and the only geometric solid, which looks like a circle from any direction, is a sphere. There is 0 evidence of god. So, there would be no reason to yield to that example.

For an analogy to illustrate someone's point it should represent the actual question. The debate is not about the shape of things known to exist; or if things we think are round might be square. Not being sure of something that has been proven (the shape of an existing planet) is not similar to god might exist? Just establish that there is a god first and then work on His shape. An accurate similarity would be if (earth) something known to exist might not really exist, "do we know for sure that the earth exists." Maybe we're inside a Matrix and the world and everything in it is computer simulated (virtual reality) imaginary. The big computer programmer in the sky created it all. So, everything we think is real isn't and what we think is imaginary is real. People who have a little better sense of reality than someone who thinks they are inside a Matrix will have less trouble figuring that one out.

We don't know an illusion from reality has been a theme in many of these types of films. I think they actually lead to questioning reality not fantasy. It is very much like saying I know the earth is round but I can't prove it. In case anyone is confused reality is what is still there even when you stop believing in it.

There are numerous absurdities nobody can prove do not exist. That does not mean it's rational to believe they do exist. Proving that god (a supernatural cause) created the Universe and all life therein would be the most important scientific discovery of all time. It's not a philosophical question. Indeed, It's a question for science, but the theist scientists don't seem to be able to apply "god" to a single theory that is useful about the creation of the Universe or life. We all know god would be the most important scientific discovery of all times, and every scientist would be looking for Him if it were not pseudo-science. There is no reason to merit something that could never be proven. An almighty assumption without the possibility of any experimental testing is irrelevant. To be even considered a hypothesis it has to be capable of being proven false. A plausible tentative assumption or hypothesis may have a body of scientific theories, but if contradictions are found it will not become a theory. The god theory doesn't get to first base. I'm discarding the whole idea instead of waiting for a miracle, since that's what it would take to fix all the problems with the god hypothesis. That's just how I see things, but don't let that stop anyone else, feel free to apply god indiscriminately whenever there is something you don't understand. You can't go wrong considering there is no possibility of falsifying a god theory that is so obscure that it is possible to shoo away any and all rebuttals.

If the god theory were more specific it would be possible to dispute the theory, and that is why it will remain so vague, by taking away the testability of a theory you prevent anyone from proving it false. No known way to detect it, it is in another dimension that we can't know about etc., and where did the whole concept of god come from? Ancient primitive man who knew nothing about science therefore, "man made him a god in his own image" to explain everything. And low and behold, along came scientists who denounced creation, with claims that were testable. However, instead of acknowledging that creation was proven invalid the followers tried to make science agree with their beliefs via pseudo-science. This has gone on throughout history. When scientific discoveries disprove theology theists simply erect a new assumption. Evolution is now considered a fact and a theory, and it does disprove creation theory. So, the theists (who don't still deny evolution) assumed a supernatural intervention caused evolution, and nobody can disprove the theory of "supernatural" evolution. When, in fact, there is no need for supernatural intervention in any theory. The only reason Creationists try to attach supernatural intervention to the scientists work is to "save" god from invalidation; they take the work of scientists and introduce a needless factor (the supernatural) which can not be falsified. While claiming that nobody has disproved their theory. I guess so? If the fact that nothing was created/designed doesn't eliminate it as a possibility. Nobody can prove that it isn't there because it is beyond testing, and that isn't a good thing, it is a defect. If there is no test that could clearly refute the theory it is not provable and it can not be considered true. A real truth is precise and could be disproved; if nothing disproves it then it is true. Just not being able to prove an absurdity does not make it possibly true. The only proof of a Creator is their theory, created out of cheesecloth as a strategy to claim scientific status. A genuine test of a theory is an attempt to refute it by every means possible. That will never happen with the "god" theory because they are too busy looking for the flaws in real science. Genuine theories do not avoid jeopardizing their status as science by making it impossible to falsify them. The "god" theory cannot be true because it predicts "something" without any testable evidence.

Originally "god" was a spirit in a metaphysical mental place. People who saw and heard god were in another spiritual realm, mostly poor and uneducated.

A hypothesis can be an educated guess or an idea with some degree of evidence or research. Groundless claims are not based on educated guesses, research or evidence. The claim "god exists" will have to be proven no matter what the rebuttal. I said, "god does not exist" in response to a groundless claim. I am separating what is information from attempts to produce information. My response is not that I do not know; it is that is a groundless claim. I don't have to prove anything; it's obviously a groundless claim. Therefore, they would be required to prove the claim is not a groundless by producing testable evidence that god exist. Why make the claims unless you can prove them? Just because many people believe something doesn't make a belief turn into proof. Scientists have believed things that were logical and plausible but they turned out to be wrong when they were tested, but a claim that cannot be tested can never be considered true.

It's true that new discoveries in science do change theories. However, as science makes more discoveries that answer more questions, divine intervention is less and less believable, and that is not what happens when something is true. Things that are problematic in theories are discarded. The belief that god exists does not rest on logical proof or plausible evidence.

The position known as agnosticism is (no knowledge) of god, atheism is (no god), the original expression (there is no god) opposing (God exists) as false. In ancient Greece it was uncommon and dangerous to express no belief in gods, and many Greek philosophers writings were burned. We only have hearsay accounts of their writings. The word atheist roots are in the Greek language; the word for god was theos. A is negative in front of theos the word atheos means no god. Atheists, who think that the word atheism is a combination of (theist) and (a) used, as negation, are absolutely wrong. The word atheism is A (negation) Theos (God) meaning (no god). That means "god exists" expresses a false proposition.

People can use words just about any way they want. I use atheist, theist and agnostic in the classic understanding of those words. Atheist (no god) is a decision. Theist (God exists) is also a decision. Agnostic (no knowledge) is not a decision.

It is not true that atheist refers to a specific god, and one might be an agnostic in regard to certain gods and atheistic in regard to others. That is true of theists but not atheists. Atheists oppose the position any god exists; how many does not matter. It is logically inconsistent to toss the atheists in with god beliefs. The number of gods recognized over the world and recorded in world history are in the hundreds. How many saviors does one world need? An atheist position is that no god exists period. There is no reason to change what the term atheist means. If someone actually has not made a decision about the existence of god/gods they are agnostics or non-theists.

A while back I read a very interesting, but dubious atheist web page. The person writing the page defined the term atheist wrong repeatedly. Then they went on a rampage about labeling being all wrong because it is not inclusive. The corker was when they said atheists could be all kind of things because man is a special creation and we are all different, but theist will never accept atheists. So get rid of those labels.

There is no reason to change the meaning of the term atheist to be more inclusive. Changing the meaning of atheist is no different than eliminating the term. Blending the atheists in with other positions is assimilation, which is how theists eliminated the other gods and their religions.

Atheists are not indifferent to the decision making process because they know that not making a decision leads nowhere. Religious nonsense should be behind us; it is practically nonexistent in most of the advanced countries, and they do not have the incredible level of violence and poverty that the most religious countries do have.

Making decisions is a part of life, like it or not, but some people have been trained not use reason or logic in the decision making process. There is a process involved in making decisions. Some people do not have the tools that are required to make decisions on their own, and they will probably always be followers, but very seldom will they ever be atheists.

This seems an unnecessarily binary distinction. My understanding of both is that they form a continuum. Just as 'levels' exist within Atheism, it could be argued that Atheism itself relative to Agnosticism is merely more conclusive.

I liked Linda's analogy of aliens: How convinced are we by the evidence/math that life exists (or doesn't) elsewhere in the universe? There's surely gradations in our level of 'certainty' on that issue (my own is that it's 99.999% likely that other life exists in our universe, but I certainly can't prove if, of course).

I'm much less certain that there are any gods, but I'm also not 100% uncertain. Or, do I state it as I'm much less certain that they're aren't any gods? Whichever way, I'm certain that I'm uncertain. ;-) Is this a hesitation or indecisiveness? I don't think it's either. I just feel like I don't have enough information to feel conclusive in the direction that I lean. And this applies to the aliens as well, though I feel more confident in that conclusion than the god one (heck, I have more evidence, why shouldn't I?).

They are not a continuum. Atheism is about what you believe, or in this case, don't believe. Agnosticism is about what you know. Knowledge is a subset of belief. Belief is binary - you either believe or you don't. There's no middle ground.

There are some people who claim agnosticism as some noble middle ground between theism and atheism. The premise of this "middle ground" claim is that they can't claim to be certain either way. The obvious flaw here is that this premise only works if your definition of an atheist is someone who claims that they're certain there is no god. That definition of atheism isn't used by any major atheist organization in the world. It's simply a strawman and a gross misunderstanding of the meaning of the words agnostic and atheist..

I'm not 100% certain that no gods exist, but my uncertainty about this is on the order of whether or not fairies exist. I don't believe either gods or fairies exist, because I've seen no evidence to support any claim that they do. I am an atheist and an a-fairiest.

This is all semantics then. Call it what you want.

If there's no middle ground, what's the point in differentiating between 'weak atheism' vs. 'strong atheism' (the former apparently being synonymous with agnosticism)?

I highly doubt the existence of a bigfoot species, but I'm not willing to completely write off the possibility (i.e., my skepticism doesn't go as far as the necessary 95% to be considered confident by empirical standards), since (a) the colonizers aren't the only ones purporting sightings - apparently legends of encounters existed with the natives as well, though I concede the latter could have influenced the former, and (b) it's not unheard of that previously unknown species are discovered in remote wilderness areas:

http://endangerededen.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/new-lost-world-species-discovered-in-indonesia/

Atheists should be careful not to succumb to the same level of rigid dogma that plagues theists.

Calling it "all semantics" is a nice bit of handwaving, but it doesn't get around the fact that you simply don't understand the terms you're using. I suggest watching Matt's lecture on belief and spending some time on Austin Cline's blog. You can also look in the archives of The Atheist Experience or on the Atheist Experience blog, as we've covered this topic many times.

Weak atheism is not the same as agnosticism, but asserting it is is a common misunderstanding of both atheism and agnosticism. This is not about creating some atheist doctrine. It's very simply about using the terms correctly. You don't get to make up your own definitions of words.

cbr125r, Your analogy (god theory vs. alien life theory) would be valid only if the theory that life exists throughout the universe was based on a non-testable myth; it's not. It is based on testable scientific facts.

Life's basic building blocks comprise a group of chemicals known as nitrogenated aromatics. They form the very foundations of all life on Earth. Astrophysicists study the composition of the universe by analyzing spectra - the unique signatures of light either emitted directly by stars or reflected by non-luminous objects, such as moons, asteroids, comets, dust and gas. Using sensitive instruments called spectrometers; scientists can detect elements and compounds at great distances. Nitrogenated aromatics exist throughout the Milky Way galaxy. That is how scientists know that the chemistry that underlies life on Earth is abundant throughout the universe. The Drake equation statistically determined that intelligent life is virtually a guaranteed proposition by estimating the probable number of technologically advanced civilizations in the galaxy.

There is 0 evidence for god. God isn't really the sort of thing that can be proven at all. So, there would be no reason to compare the "god' assumption to a scientific theory that does require evidence. Scientists did not assume (out of cheesecloth) that life exists throughout the universe. A scientific theory is based on an accumulation of facts that are testable. That is not equivalent to a conclusion based on (BS) or mere speculation about an imaginary supernatural being. Therefore, any conclusion about a theory based on facts and accumulated scientific evidence could never be analogous to a conclusion without one shred of evidence.

A scientific theory requires evidence or research; it is not a groundless claim. "God exists" is a groundless claim that is not based on reason, logic, research or evidence. "God does not exist" is a response to a groundless claim; I am separating what is information from attempts to produce information. My response is not that I do not know; it is that "god exists" is a groundless claim. A claim without any testable evidence is groundless. The origin of god was an attempt to explain the origin of life and the universe. The slightest belief that there could be a "god" is without one scintilla of evidence, and the "god" assumption cannot be applied to a single theory about the origin of life or the universe. Nothing was created or designed. There are thousands of gods and goddesses that nobody can prove didn't exist, and that doesn't mean a thing concerning their credibility.

If the god theory were more specific it would be possible to falsify the theory, and that is why it will remain so vague. Taking away the testability of a theory (preventing any method of proving it false) does not make it plausible. Scientists have proven that the creation story is false with testable theories. Evolution does disprove creation theory. So, the believers either deny evolution or assume a supernatural intervention caused evolution. Even though there is no "supernatural" event involved in evolution. There is no supernatural intervention involved in any scientific theory. The only reason believers attach supernatural intervention to the scientists work is to "save" their god from invalidation. They are trying to use the work of scientists to prove to themselves that the god theory is valid by introducing a needless factor (the supernatural) into scientific theory. Then they claim that nobody can disprove their theory. Why doesn't the fact that nothing was created or designed eliminate the Creator as a possibility?

A real theory is precise enough to be testable; it will only be considered a theory if it cannot be falsified. Not being able to disprove an absurdity (without evidence) means nothing. The only proof of a god/gods is mythology that was created out of cheesecloth. Making up stories that are impossible to falsify does not make them possibly the truth. The genuine test of any theory is an attempt to refute it by every means possible. A theory about "something" that exists with no possible way to prove it exists is the theme of every fairytale. The "god of the gaps" never explained how anything came to be. Science has filled in those gaps. There will never be any possibility of falsifying a theory without evidence, reason or logic. "It's a mystery".

Is there some atheist doctrine that I'm not aware of? I don't do group think (if I did I'd go to church) nevertheless there are some well-known atheists who think much the same as I do, and there are those who do not. Atheists are usually individual freethinkers who do not allow anyone to tell them what they have to think. I am not arguing that you or anyone else has to think the same way as I do. I am saying that answering a groundless claim is not the same as making one. Those making the claims need to prove them. Scientists have to answer questions. If scientific researchers came to a question that they couldn't answer they couldn't just throw up their hands and announce, "god must have done it". That doesn't work in science. The scientists would have to prove that a complex god exists. They would have to explain what god is and how He did it. What this god is made of. How did god exist before time and space? God existed before time existed? Everything that exists is either matter or energy. What did god make the universe from? Believers can't tell us what god is made of or how god made everything - they can't answer anything.

To determine the existence of something there are various kinds of observations, experiments and logic that are used. These are the factors in making those kinds of decisions. Proof that something exists is not based on a belief or something that could never be tested or falsified. Just believing something exists on faith has nothing to do with what anyone knows. It is simply indoctrination. Nobody has to believe something is true without proof. That should be the position of every rational person. Nobody has put the existence of god to any test (least of all a scientific testing) because it is not possible. The fact that something is not testable is meaningless. To prove that something does exist requires actual evidence. It is logically impossible for someone to prove (without any evidence) that something does not exist. I really don't care about the countless absurdities that nobody can prove anything about until they start trying to make me worship them and give the money.

Linda said:

The genuine test of any theory is an attempt to refute it by every means possible. A theory about "something" that exists with no possible way to prove it exists is the theme of every fairytale. The "god of the gaps" never explained how anything came to be. Science has filled in those gaps. There will never be any possibility of falsifying a theory without evidence, reason or logic. "It's a mystery".

AND

Believers can't tell us what god is made of or how god made everything - they can't answer anything. Nobody has put the existence of god to any test (least of all a scientific testing) because it is not possible.

Hi Linda, I agree with almost everything you said, with the exception that I'm not quite convinced that the concept of the existence of some divine being can't ever be falsifiable. "Every means possible" changes as science and knowledge evolve. How do we know how sophisticated our inquiry will be in 50, 100, 500 years? If we extrapolate our rate of increase from the previous 500, things considered unfathomable and forever beyond knowing today may well be settled in the future. It may not be possible with our current tools and methods, true, but that doesn't mean that it can't be at some point (perhaps I'm optimistic). This changability of our level of certainty/knowledge is why it seems implausible to consider belief binary: If I had no reasonable expectation that knowledge can progress, it would make sense to commit to a conclusion. But that's not the case. As such, evolving levels of uncertainty (rather than a mere yes vs. no on a belief) seem the most reasonable correlate to such volitility.

As a possible example, It appears that the 'final frontier' for theists, and the one that at least the thinking one's try at every turn to hang their hat on, is the singularity prior to the big bang: "It must have come from something", they argue. And while I'm mildly amused by the claim something could have preexisted the singularity (since anything preexisting it seem an unnecessary addition, given that preexistence is already attributed to the singularity itself), I feel my typical rebuttal (i.e., then where did this 'god' then come from?) falls a bit flat due to science's own uncertainty on the singularity. Where indeed did IT come from? How long was it there (if that's even a plausible question, but if not and we assume the singularity was beyond what we know as space and time, how meaningful is such a concept anyway)? Why did it go off 'when' it did and no earlier or later or not at all? Do such questions relegate the origin of the singularity itself to 'currently untestable'?

As far as I've heard, there's not YET any real agreement in the scientific community on such regarding the singularity. However, I think that as the body of physics knowledge grows, at some point we may very well be able to test ideas on the origin of the singularity (e.g., It's possible that strong evidence for a 'cyclic model' of the universe would decisively invalidate this variant on cosmological argument).

I'm not a physicist, so the above example may not quite suffice, but the premise underlying it is that while science is evolving, in perspective, we're still so very in-the-dark about so much of the content and origin of our universe that's it's difficult to be too confident. Our perception of the depth of this 'hole' in our knowledge undoubtable determines the level of confidence one may have in conclusively dismissing any/all concepts of some sort of divinity (define as, at the very least, a purposeful instigator of our universe's existence).

Certainly science has progressively eroded religous claims and will continue to do so. That's part of the search for objective truth. My own 'uncertainty' as an agnostic is that any 'snapshot' of current scientific findings aren't quite the 'be-all end-all'.

I think the following, intriguing quote from Dr. Richard Lewontin is somewhat relevant:

"It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."

To that I might add, perhaps the material underpinnings are still expandable.

The Big Bang Theory is the basis for all scientific research because it has stood up to every test. The Big Bang theory is the theory that the universe started with a huge and rapid expansion of a singular zero size condensed point about fourteen billion years ago. Hubble's observations are proof of that expansion. He observed that distant galaxies are moving away from us and that the more distant ones are moving away more rapidly. He found that the rate at which they were receding from us was proportional to their distance from us. This proportionality is known as Hubble's Law. This observation exactly matched what was predicted for an expanding universe.

At the Big Bang (time is zero) and (mass had to be zero.) The singularity had to be mass less. If there is no time (beyond Planck time - smallest amount of time possible), mass does not exist. If space did not exist in singularity and mass was not the origin of the universe we have to consider its energy equivalent as the initiator.

According to the Big Bang Theory, the notion of time does not exist in singularity. Time is a property of space-time universe. In the energy-time version time is a computable element that cannot exist in singularity. Singularity is not time-bound. Steven Hawking, George Ellis, and Roger Penrose the British astrophysicists and mathematician worked on the Theory of Relativity and its implications regarding the notion of time. According to their calculations, time and space had a finite beginning that corresponded to the origin of matter and energy. The singularity didn't appear in space; space began inside of the singularity.

Singularity by definition is zero size. There are many evidences that zero point contains energy. Casimir force and Lamb shift are proof for the presence of energy in point zero.

According to the Big Bang Theory the simplest form of matter (quarks) first appeared after cosmic inflation. The vacuum energy transformed itself into particles and anti-particles of matter in equal number. There is no evidence that at the beginning of time mass was present. With the ultra-dense mass model the matter would turn to pure energy before the reformation of mass particles. The universe started with a burst of energy and that was the source of the expansion of space. The starting point does not have to contain matter. In such a scenario, we do not have a positive gravity force for the singularity. If mass is removed from the singularity. Zero is representing the singularity. The real value of matter has to disappear at the singularity; Singularity does not contain matter (with common definition of matter.)

If there are no dimension in singularity space is not a property of singularity. Space and time are bendable and play a very active rule in the universe Einstein mentions that singularity cannot contain topological space. It means there is no spatial dimension in singularity. In other words, singularity is a mathematical point.

If space did not exist in singularity and mass was not the origin of the universe then its energy equivalent is the initiator. There are arguments that support the claim that space did not exist in singularity, and that mass was not the origin of the universe. Enormous energy was the initiator. The Big Bang Theory, space started at time 0 and has been expanding ever since. The Big Bang was the expansion of everything and energy was before.

With quantum mechanics things happen spontaneously. If the point of energy that started the expansion was (spontaneous) the cause is meaningless. If the cause is meaningless it doesn't need to be considered.

Stephen Hawking in his book "The Grand Design" states that given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing."

God cannot have created Time - in order for time to be created it must be finite, and god would have had to create time before there was time, which is not possible. Therefore, God did not create such things as the dimensions of the Universe, major physical constants and the mass/energy sum total. If God created the universe, then God existed before the universe, and if god created everything who created god.

Was that the evolutionary scientist Lewontin who I have read is a Marxist? He's not an astrophysicist, but he has complained about being misquoted by creationists concerning evolution. He stated clearly that evolution is fact?

Nevertheless, they can take their Divine foot and stick it wherever; but first tell us what it explains.

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