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Old 06-15-2009, 09:37 AM   #81
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Objectively, you would call me a secular humanist. I don't really feel the need to resort to labels personally though. Maybe some day.
Yes. The label "secular humanist" has the big advantage of being an affirmative tag ("this is what I believe") rather than being framed as "what I do not believe." This is worth highlighting. I also think the term "rationalist" is useful, highlighting a preference for reasoning and evidence over that of faith.

Still, the most significant difference between my world view and that of most Americans is my non-belief in god. For quick shorthand in informal discussions with others, "agnostic" or "atheist" gets the point across (at the expense of precision).

Regarding "atheism" vs "agnosticism," here was Isaac Asimov's reasoning, which i think makes sense: (link)

Quote:
Kurtz: Isaac, how would you describe your own position? Agnostic, atheist, rationalist, humanist?
Asimov: I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I'm a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time.


Kurtz: But the burden of proof is on the person who claims God exists. You don't believe in Santa Claus, but you can't disprove his existence. The burden of proof is upon those who maintain the claim.
Asimov: Yes. In any case, I am an atheist.
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Old 06-15-2009, 10:05 AM   #82
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I do think that if what you say about atheism is correct, atheist should throw out the term atheism and call it what it would then be- agnosticism.
I think labels can be misleading as they don't go deeper than a general idea. In this case, agnostic means a certain thing and atheist means a certain thing. But there is a wide diversity of thought that falls under each of those labels. Broadly speaking, an agnostic has not reached or cannot reach a conclusion whether god exists and an atheist expresses no belief in god.

Atheism is also commonly defined from a theist-centric point of view. The non-belief in god is not what forms and defines the moral and ethical being of an atheist.
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Old 06-15-2009, 10:07 AM   #83
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If I needed any more proof that I wouldn't enjoy living in a large chunk of the South, this thread would have convinced me.

must ... control ... comments ... on ... religion

Whew! Successful this time!
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Old 06-15-2009, 10:15 AM   #84
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must ... control ... comments ... on ... religion

Whew! Successful this time!
Thank you.

While the majority of posts on this thread haven't been a problem, a few have skirted with the rules. We appreciate your self-restraint.
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Old 06-15-2009, 10:44 AM   #85
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Originally Posted by FUEGO View Post
Broadly speaking, an agnostic has not reached or cannot reach a conclusion whether god exists and an atheist expresses no belief in god.

Atheism is also commonly defined from a theist-centric point of view. The non-belief in god is not what forms and defines the moral and ethical being of an atheist.
I think this is inconsistent with what has been said above. It seems to me that the atheist, for example Asimov in the interview above, does not just express no belief in god. He expresses a belief in no god.

Ha
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Old 06-15-2009, 11:09 AM   #86
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In your paradigm, how is an atheist different from an agnostic?
The Wikipedia has an interesting definition of agnoticism (see URL http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnostic):

"... the terms are not mutually exclusive, since agnosticism refers to knowledge, while atheism and theism refer to belief."

Under this definition, it is quite possible to both believe in God (be a theist) but have no evidence (knowledge) that God exists (or doesn't exist). Or to put it differently, it is quite possible for some people to be agnostic theists while some others are agnostic atheists.
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Old 06-15-2009, 11:23 AM   #87
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The Wikipedia has an interesting definition of agnoticism (see URL http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnostic):

"... the terms are not mutually exclusive, since agnosticism refers to knowledge, while atheism and theism refer to belief."

Under this definition, it is quite possible to both believe in God (be a theist) but have no evidence (knowledge) that God exists (or doesn't exist). Or to put it differently, it is quite possible for some people to be agnostic theists while some others are agnostic atheists.
I think this definition is a little odd. The fact that something can't be proven (as we know under scientifically accepted definitions of "proof") would mean (by definition) that we would ALL be agnostics, or else someone would have either solid proof (or disproof) of the existence of supreme being(s). And as far as I know, no one has any proof about the existence (or lack of existence) of God.

Nobody *knows* to a provable extent that God (or any manifestation of supreme being) does exist or does not exist. So I would think the Wiki definition as quoted above is useless. I prefer what was stated earlier: an agnostic is someone who is undecided about the existence of God; they are neither firmly convinced God exists nor firmly convinced God doesn't exist. Theists and atheists both have convictions that God exists or doesn't exist (respectively), but neither can prove their beliefs. And yes, I consider atheism a belief (unlike agnosticism).

Interesting discussion. Hope we can keep it civil and respectful, since discussion of religion can turn volatile in a hurry.
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Old 06-15-2009, 12:25 PM   #88
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To me, atheists and theists are both faithfuls. They both believe in something that cannot be proven, which is the basis for faith. Unlike the faithfuls, the agnostics make room for doubts.
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Old 06-15-2009, 12:48 PM   #89
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I think this is inconsistent with what has been said above. It seems to me that the atheist, for example Asimov in the interview above, does not just express no belief in god. He expresses a belief in no god.
Asimov says "I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time." He also says he's an atheist, and I believe him. But the quoted language seems to leave open the slight possibility that god could exist and that he does not have sufficient evidence to conclusively prove non-existence.

Maybe it is semantics whether one labels him atheist or agnostic?
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Old 06-15-2009, 12:48 PM   #90
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I think this definition is a little odd. The fact that something can't be proven (as we know under scientifically accepted definitions of "proof") would mean (by definition) that we would ALL be agnostics, or else someone would have either solid proof (or disproof) of the existence of supreme being(s). And as far as I know, no one has any proof about the existence (or lack of existence) of God.

Nobody *knows* to a provable extent that God (or any manifestation of supreme being) does exist or does not exist. So I would think the Wiki definition as quoted above is useless. I prefer what was stated earlier: an agnostic is someone who is undecided about the existence of God; they are neither firmly convinced God exists nor firmly convinced God doesn't exist. Theists and atheists both have convictions that God exists or doesn't exist (respectively), but neither can prove their beliefs. And yes, I consider atheism a belief (unlike agnosticism).
Supposedly, Thomas Huxley coined the term *agnosticism*, which is derived from the Greek and, as I understand, it means roughly "not knowledgeable" in the Greek. Thus, it's quite reasonable to argue that agnosticism is somehow about "knowledge." As I also understand it, the term agnosticism originally referred to someone who believed that it was impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God NOT someone who was undecided about the existence of God.

Huxley is believed to have been influenced by the Victorian-era English philosopher Herbert Spencer, whose reputation among the Victorians, according to the Wikipedia, owed a great deal to his agnosticism, the claim that it is impossible for us to have certain knowledge of God.

Now it seems to me to be quite plausible to suppose that there are those who are undecided about the existence (or non-existence) of God, but nevertheless believe that such proof might be found in the future. But according to the Huxelian definition given above, the undecided must also believe that no proof is possible to be agnostics. Thus, indecision by itself does not an agnostic make.
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Old 06-15-2009, 12:52 PM   #91
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To me, atheists and theists are both faithfuls. They both believe in something that cannot be proven, which is the basis for faith. Unlike the faithfuls, the agnostics make room for doubts.
I thought atheists DON'T believe in something that cannot be proven. It is a negative assertion. Is that an example of faith?
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Old 06-15-2009, 01:02 PM   #92
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I thought atheists DON'T believe in something that cannot be proven. It is a negative assertion. Is that an example of faith?
Well, this is MY definition of atheists. Atheists might want NOT to believe in things that cannot be proven, but they certainly believe in a lot of things that haven't been proven yet and possibly cannot ever be proven (no life after death? how would they know?). Merely believing in something doesn't make it a fact.
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Old 06-15-2009, 01:10 PM   #93
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This quote from Bertrand Russell may provide a little insight:

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In Russell's 1947 pamphlet, Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic? (subtitled A Plea For Tolerance In The Face Of New Dogmas), he ruminates on the problem of what to call himself:
As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.
Therein lies the rub. Are we talking the strict logic and specificity of philosophy between philosophers? Or the laymen's meaning of terms?

When someone tells me they are agnostic, from a layman's perspective I think they are undecided as to what to believe in. If they told me they were an atheist, I would think they did not profess a belief in god and for all intents and purposes, that they hold the belief that god does not exist. Maybe atheism is an act of faith if one doesn't really look into the pro and con arguments regarding the existence of god?

As to the question of "what does agnosticism mean?" - there are different types of agnosticism. This article on agnosticism briefly describes some of the different types or groups of agnosticism or agnostic thought. Part of the confusion here is the fact that agnosticism has different meanings depending on which type you are talking about, yet we are discussing it as if it was one unified, internally consistent idea.
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Old 06-15-2009, 01:31 PM   #94
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When someone tells me they are agnostic, from a layman's perspective I think they are undecided as to what to believe in. If they told me they were an atheist, I would think they did not profess a belief in god and for all intents and purposes, that they hold the belief that god does not exist. Maybe atheism is an act of faith if one doesn't really look into the pro and con arguments regarding the existence of god?

I do believe that atheists perform an act of faith by rejecting the existence of God because, objectively, the non-existence of God is as unproven as His existence (unless I missed something). The agnostic decides to remain open to both possibilities. To the question "Does God Exist?", theists will answer "yes", atheists "no" and agnostics "maybe". That's how I see things but I am no philosopher...
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Old 06-15-2009, 01:52 PM   #95
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I do believe that atheists perform an act of faith by rejecting the existence of God because, objectively, the non-existence of God is as unproven as His existence (unless I missed something). The agnostic decides to remain open to both possibilities.
Like I said, most atheists that have given significant thought to the matter would probably profess themselves technically agnostic in a very limited technical sense. They are open to the possibility that god exists, just regard it as a highly unlikely event due to lack of evidence. But in practice, to the layman, they deny a belief in god (without really getting into specifics and laying out their whole philosophical position). Sometimes it is easier to say "I'm an atheist and I don't believe in god" than to be specific about exactly what you believe.

Now suppose an atheist said "I know for 100% sure, without any possibility of doubt that god does not exist, and no amount or degree of evidence could ever possibly change my position, no matter how strong or convincing." And suppose further that they actually felt this way. Yeah, sure, then I'd say they are taking things on faith.


At some point you have to consider epistemology, or the theory of knowledge. This branch of philosophy seeks to answer questions such as "what do we know?" and "how do we know what we know?". There is some absolute truth out there, and we all do the best we can as human beings to ascertain that truth. Some look to evidence, some look to faith, some look to a mix of both. One important distinction is the difference between belief and truth. Belief is subjective and personal for someone, yet truth is objective and independent of anyone's own beliefs.
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Old 06-15-2009, 01:56 PM   #96
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Could an omnipotent god create questions regarding his own existence so intractable to which not even He could provide an answer?
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Old 06-15-2009, 02:03 PM   #97
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There is some absolute truth out there, and we all do the best we can as human beings to ascertain that truth. Some look to evidence, some look to faith, some look to a mix of both. One important distinction is the difference between belief and truth. Belief is subjective and personal for someone, yet truth is objective and independent of anyone's own beliefs.
The bold bit is also a belief.

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Old 06-15-2009, 02:16 PM   #98
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The bold bit is also a belief.
I have faith that it is true.
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Old 06-15-2009, 02:28 PM   #99
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To me, atheists and theists are both faithfuls. They both believe in something that cannot be proven, which is the basis for faith.
That's a good analysis. There are a lot of similarities in how the faith of each is practiced. Especially how some of them are intolerant toward members of the other "side". At the fringes it gets nasty.

The Bible Belt promoted what amounted to a State mandated religion and marginalized non-believers in matters secular and social and religion dominated public life. But now we frequently see attempts to create a State mandated non-religion that marginalizes believers and seeks to obliterate all things religious from public life. Despite all of the arguments to prop up their views, ultimately those are just crutches to prop up the fervor of the faithful. Does anyone else see the irony here?

Which is less intolerant and not reliant mostly on faith: A religious person labeling the non-religious as Godless sinners, or the non-religious calling the religious dimwitted clods?
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Old 06-15-2009, 02:58 PM   #100
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I think the map provided by Leonidas is probably the closest you'll find defining the bible belt. My wife reviewed this and agreed except she thought almost all of WV should be considered. Her father was a minister in The Church of God of Prophecy. When she was a kid she wasn't allowed to chew gum, drink Coke, wear lipstick, go to movies, or dances. She never developed any friends because they moved almost every year to a different town. She told me that many times they just lived out of their car. When they had a place to stay, they made holy pictures at night and sold them on the street the next day. Her mom played guitar, her dad the mandolin and my wife sang with them as a trio. Much of the time people didn't have any money so they paid them with eggs, cheese, cooked veggies, cornbread or anything they had of value. Of course they settled every year somewhere so the kids could go to school. Her dad was also a certified welder and they spent many years in Norfolk, Va. during the war where he worked in ship building. She reviewed the map with me and said she spent time in every area except Texas.

She lead such a sheltered life but her parents were the salt of the earth. Regardless of what she has now , she thinks she living like a king. She'll get her big reward in heaven.
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