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Are the New Atheists just as messed up as Believers?

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Stokely

Senior member
Jun 5, 2017
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That's an interesting topic. It does seem as if historically, missionary work has caused nothing but harm. One thing it repeatedly has done is create stigmatised national minorities that are later persecuted. It usually seems to have gone hand-in-hand with colonialism.

But I wonder how far you can take that? What about 'missionary work' that isn't religious, i.e. converting people in a distant community to communism or capitalism or liberalism? You could probably make the same argument about all attempts to spread ideologies.
I'm sure. Missionaries do some good work. I'd want them or anyone to do that good work without the conversion part, but then they probably wouldn't be there in the first place. Gotta get that return on investment I guess.
 

pmv

Diamond Member
May 30, 2008
8,196
3,194
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For the witch trials, of course it is. Being agnostic doesn't mean you can't call out the insanity of man-made religions, it just means you are not sure if there is or is not some sort of supernatural power involved in the universe. By no means does that mean an agnostic has to give credibility to all the insane shit man made religions do. You do not know what agnosticism is.
So you are selectively-agnostic? Agnostic about some gods but not others? On what basis do you choose which Gods to be agnostic about, and what degree of probability do you attach to each of them?

Which God is it whose existence you think is unknowable?


More-to-the-point, what is the functional, practical, effect of your being 'not sure if there is some sort of supernatural power involved in the universe' given that you seem happy to reject all the suggested attributes of this power, all the things that would make its existence or non-existence of any concequence. Your stance just seems not to have any actual meaning, as far as I can see, no practical difference from atheism.
 

Stokely

Senior member
Jun 5, 2017
894
792
136
My (simplistic) understanding of being Agnostic vs Atheist is:

- Agnostics don't know one way or another if there is a God. They are open to evidence.
- Atheists firmly believe there is NOT a God.

There's a difference, though I've been in discussions with people that somehow see them as the same. They are only the same in this way:
Neither has a belief in God.

In my database day job world, it's somewhat similar to true vs false vs NULL--NULL being the absence of data, so it's neither true nor false. You can treat it functionally the same as either ("it's not false, so I count it as true!" etc) but it's neither value.
 
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MrSquished

Lifer
Jan 14, 2013
10,108
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So you are selectively-agnostic? Agnostic about some gods but not others? On what basis do you choose which Gods to be agnostic about, and what degree of probability do you attach to each of them?

Which God is it whose existence you think is unknowable?
You do not understand the term agnostic. Agnostic simply means that you admit you do not know if there is some sort of god or supernatural power in the universe, that it might be possible. Thinking some man-made implementations based on their own man made religion are nuts does not change that in any way shape or form. I can't be agnostic if I think stoning women for having pre-marital sex is fucking nuts? That does not make any sense.
 

pmv

Diamond Member
May 30, 2008
8,196
3,194
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You do not understand the term agnostic. Agnostic simply means that you admit you do not know if there is some sort of god or supernatural power in the universe, that it might be possible. Thinking some man-made implementations based on their own man made religion are nuts does not change that in any way shape or form. I can't be agnostic if I think stoning women for having pre-marital sex is fucking nuts? That does not make any sense.
Well if you think that then you clearly aren't agnostic about the God who wants to stone women. You are an atheist about at least that God. Presumably one could work out that you are actually an atheist about a long list of Gods...which is the God you are agnostic about? One that doesn't do anything or make any demands of us, I presume?
 

pmv

Diamond Member
May 30, 2008
8,196
3,194
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My (simplistic) understanding of being Agnostic vs Atheist is:

- Agnostics don't know one way or another if there is a God. They are open to evidence.
- Atheists firmly believe there is NOT a God.

There's a difference, though I've been in discussions with people that somehow see them as the same. They are only the same in this way:
Neither has a belief in God.

In my database day job world, it's somewhat similar to true vs false vs NULL--NULL being the absence of data, so it's neither true nor false. You can treat it functionally the same as either ("it's not false, so I count it as true!" etc) but it's neither value.

That may-or-may-not be the truth of it. I don't believe everyone uses the word 'atheist' in that strong sense though (hmmm...it seems it's not how Mirriam Webster defines it). It's kind of why I just go with 'non-believer' or 'not religious'. I wasn't raised with a religion, ergo I don't have one and rarely think about the topic (except in on-line arguments).
 

VashHT

Platinum Member
Feb 1, 2007
2,626
234
106
Well if you think that then you clearly aren't agnostic about the God who wants to stone women. You are an atheist about at least that God. Presumably one could work out that you are actually an atheist about a long list of Gods...which is the God you are agnostic about? One that doesn't do anything or make any demands of us, I presume?
This would make everyone an atheist as I doubt many people believe in all gods that humans have come up with. Christians would be atheists because they don't believe in Shiva etc., I'm pretty sure the term atheist means you don't believe any gods exist, not that you don't believe in one particular god while believing in another.
 

MrSquished

Lifer
Jan 14, 2013
10,108
6,202
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Well if you think that then you clearly aren't agnostic about the God who wants to stone women. You are an atheist about at least that God. Presumably one could work out that you are actually an atheist about a long list of Gods...which is the God you are agnostic about? One that doesn't do anything or make any demands of us, I presume?
"Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable"

Therefore all these man made creations of god or gods are unknowable. They can't know. So by thinking some of their rules and regulations are nutty I am completely going along with that. They can't know, so it's all made up nonsense.

Nothing I said contradicts being agnostic.
 

JD50

Lifer
Sep 4, 2005
11,096
438
126
My (simplistic) understanding of being Agnostic vs Atheist is:

- Agnostics don't know one way or another if there is a God. They are open to evidence.
- Atheists firmly believe there is NOT a God.


There's a difference, though I've been in discussions with people that somehow see them as the same. They are only the same in this way:
Neither has a belief in God.

In my database day job world, it's somewhat similar to true vs false vs NULL--NULL being the absence of data, so it's neither true nor false. You can treat it functionally the same as either ("it's not false, so I count it as true!" etc) but it's neither value.
Not trying to be a dick but several of us have already explained that in this thread.

Atheism is a lack of a belief in a god. Agnosticism is saying you don't know one way or another. Knowledge is a subset of beliefs, so you can be an Agnostic Atheist, which is probably what most atheists and people that call themselves agnostics actually are. You can lack a belief in a god but not know for certain that one does or does not exist.

Your understanding of an Atheist would be considered a strong atheist.
 

woolfe9998

Lifer
Apr 8, 2013
13,126
8,162
136
What is this about the existence of a God or gods being "unknowable?" I think some people are conflating "unknown" with "unknowable" when they aren't the same thing.

The notion that the existence of a deity is unknowable is an untenable proposition. The fact is, there is no theoretical reason why an existing god could not reveal itself, could not provide evidence of its existence. And that is the point for atheists - there is no proof in spite of the fact that in theory such proof could exist. This lack of proof does not support the notion that it is unknowable. It supports the notion that it is unproven, period.

I think when self-described agnostics say that the existence of a god is unknowable, they are pretending that proof is not possible, which allows them to skirt the implication of there being no proof at all.
 
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IronWing

No Lifer
Jul 20, 2001
61,853
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What is this about the existence of a God or gods being "unknowable?" I think some people are conflating "unknown" with "unknowable" when they aren't the same thing.

The notion that the existence of a deity is unknowable is an untenable proposition. The fact is, there is no theoretical reason why an existing god could not reveal itself, could not provide evidence of its existence. And that is the point for atheists - there is no proof in spite of the fact that in theory such proof could exist. This lack of proof does not support the notion that it is unknowable. It supports the notion that it is unproven, period.

I think when self-described agnostics say that the existence of a god is unknowable, they are pretending that proof is not possible, which allows them to skirt the implication of there being no proof at all.
It depends on the attributes one assigns to one's god(s). If my god is omnipotent and omniscient (surely such gods are the product of two ten year-olds arguing about who had the biggest, baddest god) then the only way to know that my god is really omnipotent and omniscient is to be that god. Of course, that just leads to the Russian doll problem of my supposedly omnipotent and omniscient god just being a pocket toy for an even badder-ass god.
 

pmv

Diamond Member
May 30, 2008
8,196
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"Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable"

Therefore all these man made creations of god or gods are unknowable. They can't know. So by thinking some of their rules and regulations are nutty I am completely going along with that. They can't know, so it's all made up nonsense.

Nothing I said contradicts being agnostic.
If you think it's "unknown" whether you are to be condemned to eternal torment for, say, having sex outside of marriage, then you are going to err on the side of caution and obey the rule, as the stakes are, literally, infinite, so whatever probability you assign it, you still end up with an infinite negative value.

The most I can make of your position, is you think the existence of God is unknowable, and it's also unknowable what said God wants us to do, therefore you are just going to live as you would if there were no God. I fail to see the difference with athiesm - which the same dictionary defines as not believing in the existence of a God. It's a distinction without a difference.
 

pmv

Diamond Member
May 30, 2008
8,196
3,194
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Not trying to be a dick but several of us have already explained that in this thread.

Atheism is a lack of a belief in a god. Agnosticism is saying you don't know one way or another. Knowledge is a subset of beliefs, so you can be an Agnostic Atheist, which is probably what most atheists and people that call themselves agnostics actually are. You can lack a belief in a god but not know for certain that one does or does not exist.

Your understanding of an Atheist would be considered a strong atheist.
Yeah, exactly. Most 'atheists' just don't see any evidence for any of the posited Gods, so just live as if there isn't one. MrSquished's idea of 'agnosticism' seems functionally identical to atheism in that sense.

There probably should be a different word for a belief in the non-existence of any God. And really the likes of Dawkins should be called anti-theists - their whole schtick is being against belief in God and opposing the believers. Usually those types are products of religious societies and communities.
 

MtnMan

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2004
5,945
4,179
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My (simplistic) understanding of being Agnostic vs Atheist is:

- Agnostics don't know one way or another if there is a God. They are open to evidence.
- Atheists firmly believe there is NOT a God.

There's a difference, though I've been in discussions with people that somehow see them as the same. They are only the same in this way:
Neither has a belief in God.

In my database day job world, it's somewhat similar to true vs false vs NULL--NULL being the absence of data, so it's neither true nor false. You can treat it functionally the same as either ("it's not false, so I count it as true!" etc) but it's neither value.
I am an atheist, probably pretty hard core at that. I often refer to my views as a feral atheist, born that way (as we all were) but never indoctrinated into the utter nonsense of a deity.

However, if someone has some empirical evidence I'm wrong, I'll take a look at it. I am not closed-minded, I am just confident in my views.

And no, ancient urban legends of men that didn't understand where the sun went at night does not meet that standard, though some will always present it as such.
 

MrSquished

Lifer
Jan 14, 2013
10,108
6,202
136
If you think it's "unknown" whether you are to be condemned to eternal torment for, say, having sex outside of marriage, then you are going to err on the side of caution and obey the rule, as the stakes are, literally, infinite, so whatever probability you assign it, you still end up with an infinite negative value.

The most I can make of your position, is you think the existence of God is unknowable, and it's also unknowable what said God wants us to do, therefore you are just going to live as you would if there were no God. I fail to see the difference with athiesm - which the same dictionary defines as not believing in the existence of a God. It's a distinction without a difference.
They are as easy to differentiate between as vanilla and chocolate. There is a clear distinction that for some reason you are unable to grasp.

Atheists KNOW there is no God/Gods/Mystical life. Agnostics feel that is unknowable, that all these religious creations of man are just that, man made creations since what he is trying to explain is unknowable. Therefore I can judge religious peoples' actions within my own framework of morals and values and still believe that there may be some mystical or supernatural power out there, or maybe not, but we don't know.

An atheist would say they know for sure not only are all of man's religious creations false, there is definitely no God/Gods/Mystical life beyond that either.

It's pretty simple.
 

pmv

Diamond Member
May 30, 2008
8,196
3,194
136
They are as easy to differentiate between as vanilla and chocolate. There is a clear distinction that for some reason you are unable to grasp.

Atheists KNOW there is no God/Gods/Mystical life. Agnostics feel that is unknowable, that all these religious creations of man are just that, man made creations since what he is trying to explain is unknowable. Therefore I can judge religious peoples' actions within my own framework of morals and values and still believe that there may be some mystical or supernatural power out there, or maybe not, but we don't know.

An atheist would say they know for sure not only are all of man's religious creations false, there is definitely no God/Gods/Mystical life beyond that either.

It's pretty simple.
Well it's only simple because you just made up that bit in bold to make your argument work!

From Mirriam Webster:

Definition of atheist
a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods : one who subscribes to or advocates atheism
 
Nov 29, 2006
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They are as easy to differentiate between as vanilla and chocolate. There is a clear distinction that for some reason you are unable to grasp.

Atheists KNOW there is no God/Gods/Mystical life. Agnostics feel that is unknowable, that all these religious creations of man are just that, man made creations since what he is trying to explain is unknowable. Therefore I can judge religious peoples' actions within my own framework of morals and values and still believe that there may be some mystical or supernatural power out there, or maybe not, but we don't know.

An atheist would say they know for sure not only are all of man's religious creations false, there is definitely no God/Gods/Mystical life beyond that either.

It's pretty simple.
Can you tell me how anyone, atheist or theist would ever KNOW there is or isn't any gods? I mean if it was that easy we wouldn't even be having this discussion :)
 

VashHT

Platinum Member
Feb 1, 2007
2,626
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Can you tell me how anyone, atheist or theist would ever KNOW there is or isn't any gods? I mean if it was that easy we wouldn't even be having this discussion :)
Heh I've met plenty on both sides that believe that they know.
 

woolfe9998

Lifer
Apr 8, 2013
13,126
8,162
136
Well it's only simple because you just made up that bit in bold to make your argument work!

From Mirriam Webster:

Definition of atheist
a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods : one who subscribes to or advocates atheism
Yes, he and another poster just can't quit mis-describing atheism. It's obviously a form of motivated reasoning.

Or perhaps the confusion comes from not understanding that when someone says "I don't believe in X" it is not the same as saying "I believe in the opposite of X."

Non-belief is the default position for everything in the universe that is as yet unproven. Gods, FSMs, moons made of cheese, time machines.

That is a basic principle of logic and epistemology.
 

nOOky

Golden Member
Aug 17, 2004
1,994
813
136
Agnostic's thinking the existence of god being unknown or unknowable does not mean they don't necessarily believe that god could not exist, they would just require proof of it. The only way to obtain proof that most reasonable people would think would confirm that belief would be to die to find out, since that is the only way one could prove it. Since no one has come back from the dead, we say that means it is unknowable.

I consider myself agnostic, unless I'm on a dating app, then I'm "not religious, but spiritual".
 

pmv

Diamond Member
May 30, 2008
8,196
3,194
136
They are as easy to differentiate between as vanilla and chocolate. There is a clear distinction that for some reason you are unable to grasp.

Atheists KNOW there is no God/Gods/Mystical life. Agnostics feel that is unknowable, that all these religious creations of man are just that, man made creations since what he is trying to explain is unknowable. Therefore I can judge religious peoples' actions within my own framework of morals and values and still believe that there may be some mystical or supernatural power out there, or maybe not, but we don't know.

An atheist would say they know for sure not only are all of man's religious creations false, there is definitely no God/Gods/Mystical life beyond that either.

It's pretty simple.

You also couch your answer in terms of abstractions that are not accessible to anyone outside the individual, i,.e. what someone "knows" or "believes". All that an outsider can observe is how someone actually behaves. How does this agnosticism of which you speak influence actual behaviour?

Your idea of agnosticism just seems to be a kind of superlatively-vague mysticism - that there might be _something_ out there, but we can know nothing about it and say nothing about it or what it means for us, and it doesn't affect our behaviour in any way. I don't understand the point of even referring to such an undefined thing, other than just trying to sound 'deep' and 'spiritual' without having to make the effort of following the precepts of any actual religion.
[edit -the more charitable explanation I can think of is that it's out of a need not to fall out with religious friends, without having to actually adopt their belief system]
 

MrSquished

Lifer
Jan 14, 2013
10,108
6,202
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You also couch your answer in terms of abstractions that are not accessible to anyone outside the individual, i,.e. what someone "knows" or "believes". All that an outsider can observe is how someone actually behaves. How does this agnosticism of which you speak influence actual behaviour?

Your idea of agnosticism just seems to be a kind of superlatively-vague mysticism - that there might be _something_ out there, but we can know nothing about it and say nothing about it or what it means for us, and it doesn't affect our behaviour in any way. I don't understand the point of even referring to such an undefined thing, other than just trying to sound 'deep' and 'spiritual' without having to make the effort of following the precepts of any actual religion.
Apparently this is your own shortcoming then, because it's pretty defined. It is a space between those who claim to know there is NO supernatural at all, and those who claim to say there is, and not only that, they know all about it, it's in these books yada yada - with zero proof and a bunch of contradictory man-made and implemented systems. When you stop to think about it both of those claims are so defined, with no evidence at all on either side, that it is borderline ludicrous.

Agnosticism is a really really simple concept, and when you understand it, is the most reasonable one of all the positions on the supernatural, or potential lack thereof.
 

pmv

Diamond Member
May 30, 2008
8,196
3,194
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Apparently this is your own shortcoming then, because it's pretty defined. It is a space between those who claim to know there is NO supernatural at all, and those who claim to say there is, and not only that, they know all about it, it's in these books yada yada - with zero proof and a bunch of contradictory man-made and implemented systems. When you stop to think about it both of those claims are so defined, with no evidence at all on either side, that it is borderline ludicrous.

Agnosticism is a really really simple concept, and when you understand it, is the most reasonable one of all the positions on the supernatural, or potential lack thereof.
You keep insisting that 'atheism' is claiming "to know there is no supernatural at all", even though I already posted the definition that contradicts that. Why do you insist on using your own definition of 'atheist'? It's getting annoying that you keep throwing in insults while continuing not to grasp the meaning of the word.
 

pmv

Diamond Member
May 30, 2008
8,196
3,194
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Apparently this is your own shortcoming then, because it's pretty defined. It is a space between those who claim to know there is NO supernatural at all, and those who claim to say there is, and not only that, they know all about it, it's in these books yada yada - with zero proof and a bunch of contradictory man-made and implemented systems. When you stop to think about it both of those claims are so defined, with no evidence at all on either side, that it is borderline ludicrous.

Agnosticism is a really really simple concept, and when you understand it, is the most reasonable one of all the positions on the supernatural, or potential lack thereof.

And, no, it's not "pretty defined". At no point have you defined this vague amorphous "God" that you are agnostic about. It's apparently just something 'out there' that is 'unknowable' but which doesn't have any affect on us or our behaviour. The "shortcoming" is all yours, as you have failed to define what this thing is about which you are agnostic. You've already said it's not any of the mass-market Gods, with their specific lists of rules. So it's left undefined.

All I get from this is you think something, that you can't define or say anything about, may or may not exist.
 

Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
67,178
3,863
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Agnostic's thinking the existence of god being unknown or unknowable does not mean they don't necessarily believe that god could not exist, they would just require proof of it. The only way to obtain proof that most reasonable people would think would confirm that belief would be to die to find out, since that is the only way one could prove it. Since no one has come back from the dead, we say that means it is unknowable.

I consider myself agnostic, unless I'm on a dating app, then I'm "not religious, but spiritual".
If that was a joke, it's a good one. It it's a strategy, I hope your dates are people you deserve.
 

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