SFL Forum
Agnosticism(its usage as a label) - Printable Version

+- SFL Forum (http://www.sflforums.com)
+-- Forum: Deep Discussions (http://www.sflforums.com/forumdisplay.php?fid=28)
+--- Forum: Non-Believer Safespace (http://www.sflforums.com/forumdisplay.php?fid=30)
+--- Thread: Agnosticism(its usage as a label) (/showthread.php?tid=7123)

Pages: 1 2


Agnosticism(its usage as a label) - D-Stan - 06-15-2013

Some theists and atheists tend to have a problem with people who identify themselves as agnostics. Pen Jillette, for example, says that you either have an active belief or you don't. If you lack belief in God, then you are an atheist-end of story. Agnosticism is just an epistemological position. I understand this view. It is not unreasonable. I just feel it is restrictive.

The reason why I feel it is restrictive is that atheism does have certain implications which a person who identifies himself or herself as agnostic might not believe. For instance, does the universe have a purpose? I am agnostic. I don't know. The atheistic answer to this question is no. Will I say that it doesn't have a purpose just because I think god may not exist, and that a purposeless universe may in fact be what we find ourselves in at the moment? I do not see any compelling reason why I should concede to that unless my unbelief is strong enough to make my knowledge, or lack thereof, a non-issue.

Can there be a middle ground? I know there are different shades of agnosticism. I do not mind if you think that I'm an atheist. Sometimes I feel like God exists, but most of the time I don't. I still do not label myself as an atheist. It's not because I'm scared of making a decision. I have wrestled with this for a long time.


RE: Agnosticism(its usage as a label) - slh12280 - 06-15-2013

Labels by their very nature are restrictive. I am the type of person that likes labels but yet never feels like any ever really, truly fit. I agree that agnosticism can be a tricky term for a lot of people because they view it as being between theism and atheism, which it really isn't. Like you said it is a knowledge claim. I would say that most days now I feel like: "who knows? I don't know." I would say that I tend to believe more than disbelieve but I am more of a confused mess at the moment.


RE: Agnosticism(its usage as a label) - Naomi - 06-15-2013

I call myself agnostic, but I don't like the boxing of labels or other people's definitions of them. For me, agnostic is the most precise way to describe the only intellectually tenable position for me - not knowing, because it's unknowable.* I don't think there are gods, or an afterlife, or reincarnation, etc. But I don't think I can know that for sure and won't say I do (which is how 'atheist' sounds to me, even though I realize most of them functionally describe their position the same as me when pressed).

I avoid reading atheists. Especially when it comes across as evangelical atheism.** I understand what people use religion for and that what works for me is very different from what works for many other people. No problem. I don't think my being agnostic is the only or even best way for every other person to live their life. It simply happens to be what I can live with.

* Not getting too much into epistemology, because unnecessary complexity right now.

** Seriously, evangelical atheists make me feel bad like fundy bad. I will not be told how I can and should identify myself, nor do I think everyone should believe just like me, nor do I see my agnosticism as making me especially discriminated against (so US-centric), nor do I want to be artificially made part of a community, nor do I think it's OK to collapse every group that doesn't believe like you ("religion") then trashtalk them as the cause of all evil.


RE: Agnosticism(its usage as a label) - D-Stan - 06-15-2013

slh-I definitely agree with you that labels are restrictive. I just believe some people place an unnecessary restriction on agnosticism. Though agnosticism is not necessarily between atheism and theism, it is hard not to feel like I'm between the two at the moment. Maybe "confused mess" should be an option for some of us. It is hard to sift through the feelings on such an important matter.

Naomi-I like reading certain atheists(Nietzsche, Russell, etc.), but I can relate to your issues with antitheists. If you do not join their tribe, then they will probably try to bully you in some form or fashion.


RE: Agnosticism(its usage as a label) - Ricardo - 06-15-2013

I think it depends on the individuals. Some people absolutely need to have everything figured out, while others do not mind dealing with fuzzy concepts.

I have a friend who cannot stand cookbooks that say "a pinch off this" or "a dash of that." She needs, actually REQUIRES exact measurements. (I suspect she has a touch of Asperger's.)

My reply, "All you are cooking is Mac and cheese. Who cares if you put more or less cheese than the recipe says!"

Alas! SHE cares. She cannot substitute ingredients.

Same with Agnostics and Atheists. And many religious persons also.

My belief: I KNOW there is something out there. Something I cannot explain. Something I have felt. Something that supports me and -I feel- makes me a better person. It is something that helps me connect with my fellow man and makes all of us better persons. This is pretty much a "heart" definition.

The problems start when you try to define it more specifically. I have problems with just about every definition I have heard. But that is "the brain" talking. I can bring up questions, tear apart most human definitions of God, especially the contradictory definitions in the Scriptures.

So, I live with certainty and uncertainty. I KNOW there is something out there. I simply do not like the "approved" definitions of this Being.


RE: Agnosticism(its usage as a label) - UnePetite - 06-17-2013

I would argue that, to some extent, all are technically agnostic - atheist and theist, alike.

Note I said "technically". How can anyone be 100% sure there is or isn't a God? Atheists, and logic, tell us we cannot prove that something does not exist. On the other hand, Christianity tells us to live by faith and not by sight. This is a simplistic but broad statement of others beliefs ... but I think it still stands to say no one can be 100% sure.


RE: Agnosticism(its usage as a label) - Klasie Kraalogies - 06-17-2013

In this context Dawkins' spectrum of theistic probability becomes quite useful.

I myself hate pigeonholes - mainly because very few of us are pigeons. Smile


RE: Agnosticism(its usage as a label) - Recovering - 06-17-2013

(06-15-2013, 11:05 AM)D-Stan Wrote: Some theists and atheists tend to have a problem with people who identify themselves as agnostics. Pen Jillette, for example, says that you either have an active belief or you don't. If you lack belief in God, then you are an atheist-end of story. Agnosticism is just an epistemological position. I understand this view. It is not unreasonable. I just feel it is restrictive.

The reason why I feel it is restrictive is that atheism does have certain implications which a person who identifies himself or herself as agnostic might not believe. For instance, does the universe have a purpose? I am agnostic. I don't know. The atheistic answer to this question is no. Will I say that it doesn't have a purpose just because I think god may not exist, and that a purposeless universe may in fact be what we find ourselves in at the moment? I do not see any compelling reason why I should concede to that unless my unbelief is strong enough to make my knowledge, or lack thereof, a non-issue.

Can there be a middle ground? I know there are different shades of agnosticism. I do not mind if you think that I'm an atheist. Sometimes I feel like God exists, but most of the time I don't. I still do not label myself as an atheist. It's not because I'm scared of making a decision. I have wrestled with this for a long time.

There is a sense in which all labels fall short. If you are generally comfortable with the label "agnostic," don't let someone else's restrictive definition of the term dissuade you. I consider myself agnostic in belief, but I still practice the Christian faith.

Honestly, I think if we didn't have so many fundamentalists (whether atheist or Christian) running around, it would be easier for those of us who lean toward agnosticism to comfortably embrace one side or the other.


RE: Agnosticism(its usage as a label) - oneflewoutofthecuckcoosnest - 06-17-2013

(06-15-2013, 11:05 AM)D-Stan Wrote: Some theists and atheists tend to have a problem with people who identify themselves as agnostics. Pen Jillette, for example, says that you either have an active belief or you don't. If you lack belief in God, then you are an atheist-end of story. Agnosticism is just an epistemological position. I understand this view. It is not unreasonable. I just feel it is restrictive.

The reason why I feel it is restrictive is that atheism does have certain implications which a person who identifies himself or herself as agnostic might not believe. For instance, does the universe have a purpose? I am agnostic. I don't know. The atheistic answer to this question is no. Will I say that it doesn't have a purpose just because I think god may not exist, and that a purposeless universe may in fact be what we find ourselves in at the moment? I do not see any compelling reason why I should concede to that unless my unbelief is strong enough to make my knowledge, or lack thereof, a non-issue.

Can there be a middle ground? I know there are different shades of agnosticism. I do not mind if you think that I'm an atheist. Sometimes I feel like God exists, but most of the time I don't. I still do not label myself as an atheist. It's not because I'm scared of making a decision. I have wrestled with this for a long time.

Don't let anyone bully you out of your beliefs by saying that you cannot be agnostic. I find that claim as arrogant and ridiculous as theists who claim that there are no "true atheists". Yes there are. And there are true agnostics whether Jillette believes in them or not. It would be like me saying you were a theist since you did not have an active unbelief. You are wrestling with the question and you are entitled to that position. Evangelical atheists can be as annoying as some evangelical Christians.


RE: Agnosticism(its usage as a label) - D-Stan - 06-20-2013

I can't say much at the moment, but thank you for all your thoughtful replies.