Atheism and Agnosticism

Theism and Atheism, Gnosticism and Agnosticism
Theism is the belief in the existence of god(s). Simply put, a theist is a person who has accepted the proposition "God exist."

Atheism is the rejection of theism. That is, an atheist is a person who rejects the proposition "God exist." Note that it is simply a rejection of theism - It does not necessarily mean that an atheist accepts the opposing proposition that "God does not exist."

This distinction is made by weak atheism and strong atheism. Weak atheism is only the rejection of theism. Strong atheism not only rejects theism but accepts the proposition "God does not exist" as well.

That's theism and atheism - These deal with beliefs.
Check out the Wikipedia articles on Theism and Atheism.

Agnosticism deals with knowledge. A gnostic has knowledge of the existence of god(s). An agnostic does not have such knowledge.

Theist/Atheist and Gnostic/Agnostic classification thus creates 4 different categories. To learn about the distinction check out the Iron Chariots Wiki: Atheist vs Agnosticism.

What about me?
I am an agnostic atheist.

I have no knowledge of the existence of a god or gods. I reject theism for there is no evidence to warrant belief in a god.

Belief require evidence. This is necessarily true - otherwise we would be believing in all sorts of things if evidence is not the criteria for belief in matters of fact. Without evidence, belief is not warranted and is irrational. Thus, non-belief is the rational and default position.

To learn about my position, see my entry: Why I don't believe.

Common misconceptions
The following are some of the common misconception/misrepresentation of atheists along with my responses.

Atheists say that "god does not exist." Prove it!

False, on two counts.

Atheism, in its broadest sense, is simply the rejection of theism. Asserting that "god does not exist" is strong atheism which is a subset (and minority) of atheists.

Having clarified that most atheists are weak atheists, it is notable that the burden of proof lies on the theists. The theist who makes the claim should back up his claim with evidence. If others rejects his claim, they are correct and is not required to produce evidence of the contrary (especially if they are not asserting god does not exist).

In fact, rational atheists (atheists who are rationalists/naturalists) are not strong atheists (in most of the common definitions of god).

Atheists believe in the Big Bang and Evolution. They think we came from nothing.

Firstly, atheism does not necessitate the belief in the Big Bang theory and the theory of evolution.

Secondly, scientific theories does not require belief (faith) in the religious sense. Scientific theories are accepted based on the evidence and the knowledge/trust in the integrity of the scientific community. This applies to most rational atheists.

Third. Believing "we came from nothing" is a misconception of the Big Bang theory.

If god didn't create the universe then there is no purpose to the universe. So if there's no purpose in life, why don't atheists just kill themselves.

Purpose need not be intrinsic to the universe. However it does not follow that we should commit suicide. Rational atheists typically do not believe in gods or afterlife. As a result, we think that this is the one and only shot at life we have and thus we treasure our lives.

I think a quote from Richard Dawkins, in his book "Unweaving the Rainbow", can shed some light on this point:

“After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with colour, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn't it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked -- as I am surprisingly often -- why I bother to get up in the mornings. To put it the other way round, isn't it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be a part of it?”

It's obvious that god created the universe.

No. It is only obvious if you're brainwashed into theism. If not, you have fundamentally flawed understanding of the scientific method or a poor understanding of science in general.

Atheists are immoral or have no reason to be moral because they don't believe in god.

Obviously false. I've addressed this in a previous entry: Human Morality.

Any more common slanders?


Rene Benthien said...

excellent rundown. These topics are difficult enough without people redefining the basic terms as they please.

It's a common debate trick, akin to the strawman, but it doesn't contribute to actually clarifying the problem.

The 'what would jesus do' video was freaking hilarious.