Re: Why atheism beats agnosticism (Was: Re: Contacting God)

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Thu, 23 Apr 1998 21:45:41 -0700 (PDT)

> Let's try a little experiment. I'm about to ask you a question about the
> existence of some thing, X. At the moment, you have no belief about X's
> existence, since I have not named it. And yet it would seem *very* odd to say
> that your "simpl[e] absence of belief" qualifies you as an "atheist" with
> regard to X. (Oh, here's that question I promised: Is there such a thing as
> "aXist"?)
> Hence my conclusion that atheists do more than simply not believe in
> gods--they affirmatively disbelieve in them...

This is all just a matter of definition rather than substance, but
when it comes to what one describes oneself as to others, it is
often important to use words with the right connotation.

I think the impression left in the mind of most English-speakers
when they hear someone describe eirself as an "agnostic" is that
this person merely is unconcerned with religion; ey does not go to
church, baptize children, etc. But the label "agnostic" does not
imply any disrespect for others' religious beliefs--if I hear
someone call emself "agnostic", I would expect em to have no
qualms about having close friends and associates who are dedicated
theists, maybe even marry one, or support eir child's choice to
believe, or even have some measure of respect for clergy.

When someone calls emself "atheist", I expect that such person
might actually distrust openly theist folks, to entirely discount
the opinions of clergy and even ridicule them, to actively oppose
religious-based laws and practices, to oppose prayer and teaching
creationist nonsense in schools, etc.

It is for this reason that I call myself "atheist" even though
Tom's more logical definition might not apply. I want there to
be no doubt in anyone's mind that even though I may rationally
refuse to assert that there is positively no God, I nonetheless
want to make it clear that I think those who assert that there
is a God have lost my respect, and decisions of any kind made
from theist doctrine are bad decisions, not merely different.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC