Agnosticism is often thought of as scientific because it appears open to new ideas. It implies that there is a possibility that evidence might exist that would prove that deities are real; we just haven’t found that information yet and we may never find it. Well, atheists aren’t that different. They haven’t seen evidence for deities and therefore they do not believe in them. But every true atheist is philosophically scientific, and new evidence will lead to new conclusions. So, if ample (and credible) evidence was uncovered that proved that deities do exist, then all true atheists would become theists. That’s no different than people claiming agnosticism.
There is, of course, that old argument that the difference is over belief and knowledge. Well, if you believe there are no gods, that makes you an atheist. If you believe the answer can’t be discerned, that makes you an agnostic. Though one claim refers to belief, the other claim refers to a belief about knowledge. And if you truly believe that there is even a possibility that deities might exist, then you are not an atheist. One cannot claim “I know X” and “I can’t know X” at the same time without being logically inconsistent.
Having personally gone through theism and agnosticism, I fully understand why people would want to call themselves agnostic atheists. It has a (slightly) better connotation to it than atheism, it sounds more open-minded, and it appears to be more scientific. But the truth is that claiming agnosticism gives credence to the idea of theism, and that is the polar opposite of what a true atheist believes.
Q: What does your worldview say about cooperation & conflict, if anything?
A: I am Gaian. I believe that everyone is intimately related, which is why we are so contentious at times. I believe we are connected to the Earth, and our actions directly affect our environment. I believe that cooperation supersedes conflict. I believe in all religions as long as they create no conflict. I believe the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, but I do not believe this rationale should be used to discriminate. I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to help others. I also believe it is possible for us to cooperate even in the face of extremism and division, and that we absolutely must learn to do so before it destroys us all.
Q: If Christians are such good people why don’t they accept other religions?
were meant to be accepting of each other who cares what others believe in. Everyone has different opinions that’s just life.
A: Like many other religions, there is one important part that can’t be overlooked: they believe their religion is correct and others are not. It’s not because they’re stubborn, it’s because their religion is stubborn. It actually requires them to believe that Jesus is the son of Jehovah, and anyone who claims differently is doomed to spend eternity in Hell.
That’s what they believe. That’s the lens through which they view the world. Their inability to accept other religions is just a flaw in that lens. And even a good person can have imperfect vision.
Opinions and Beliefs
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I was in a chat room recently with a group of people defending that pompous windbag Rush Limbaugh. One of them even claimed that he was “a great American.” I couldn’t stand by while this mind-numbing crap was going on, so I felt compelled to respond. The conversation (not surprisingly) devolved into a discussion about college degrees and expertise, and at one point one of the more enlightened people in the room pointed out that Rush doesn’t even have a college degree. Taking it as a slight against “uneducated” people, we had to defend our position against this perceived class warfare. The problem isn’t that he doesn’t have a college degree (I don’t even have one yet), but rather that he is an uneducated person who speaks with authority on subjects he clearly doesn’t fully grasp. Somehow during all of this, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Phil, and Sylvia Brown were used as examples of non-experts pretending to be experts. The following was my response.
Dr. Phil talks about relationships and personal interactions, which I’m pretty sure is his area of expertise. So, I’m not sure he’s exactly pretending. Oprah doesn’t pretend to be an expert as much as allow experts to come onto her show and share their knowledge. So, I’m not sure what she’s pretending, either. And that psychic lady…well, you’re right about her pretending. Psychics are in the business of pretending to be experts. But, Rush’s area of expertise is what? Opinions? Well, if being full of opinions is all it takes to be an expert, we could each have our own show.
The problem here is that we (as a society) tend to confuse opinions and beliefs. Everyone has the right to their opinions and no one can have a wrong opinion, but anyone can have beliefs that are simply wrong. If (for example) you believe that red is better than blue, then it shouldn’t be a problem if I prefer blue over red. There’s no arguing taste, right? However, if you think that blue is a sign of wanting to destroy America, then that’s not an opinion…it’s a belief. And people can be dead wrong about their beliefs.
Rush is one of those people who blends opinions and beliefs together in order to further his political agenda. That’s fine. We all do that from time to time. The truly unfortunate thing is that he is heard by millions of people (few of whom think critically about what he’s saying and just nod in agreement), and it just further confuses the actual issues at hand. This conversation is a perfect example of that. Does anyone remember what we were even talking about in the first place? No. We just know that the other side is wrong, we are right, and blah blah blah…
But really, who is right? If it’s an opinion we’re discussing, everyone is right. If it’s a belief we’re discussing, everyone has the potential to be completely wrong.
One person’s opinion is that Rush Limbaugh is a great American. I can’t argue that. However, it is my belief that Rush is a hypocrite, a liar, an idiot, a rabble rouser, a tool, and an evil bastard. Those are all points we can argue.
© 1999-2022 Eric P. Metze