08 February, 2008

Agnosticism or Atheism?

A question that sometimes bothers me is whether I am an Agnostic or an Atheist. I usually describe myself as an atheistic agnostic... which means an agnostic leaning towards atheism. Agnosticism is usually defined as being unsure of the existence of God, but I have always found myself doubting that existence. A better stance would be Atheism, but then, won't I be in the same believing-things-they-don't-know group as theists?

I confess I hadn't given much thought to the issue, and not let my oscillating stance bother me that much, so I am thankful that I found a Richard Dawkins piece about this ambiguity in Forbes Magazine. In it, Dawkins doubts that scientists (like Einstein) who frequently refer to God are doing so with the same God in mind that an ordinary person believes in. But their references get frequently misinterpreted by religious propagandists, who use the mileage of science to get more followers.

Other quotations from Einstein, like "my God is the same as that of Spinoza" are much less widely known. Einstein's God was nature itself, not the God people worship every day. Scientists usually mean "nature" or "laws of nature" (or even "initial conditions") when they say "God". My own stance is similar, except that I call "Nature" as "Nature", and not "God", having developed an aversion to the word (it leads to misunderstandings, especially when people who know I'm an atheist tell me not to take God's name in vain).

The main question Dawkins poses (which comes a little later in the article) is this: can religion and science 'converge'? Is it possible, on one hand, to believe in miracles, and, on the other, to 'believe' in science as the truth? It might be possible for some people but I think that's due to inconsistency on their part. Religion and science are mutually incompatible, atleast if you have a conventional definition of both ;). Praying isn't going to save you from that exam, and if you've studied the physics part of it properly, you should know that. ;)

So let me clarify my stand on God (well, his existence): Atheism. Religion is not equally believable as science. Just like Evolution is much more plausible than "creationism". Religion might step back when the rollcall for scientific theories takes place, but it intrudes into that very territory on most of it's ideas. Like Dawkins, I believe many things are unknown by science, but that doesn't mean they're unknowable.


  1. I like the post. I love discussing religion..as in anti-religion. Anyway, now that you have taken a stand courtesy Dawkins, looks like im all alone stranded in the boat of confused agnostics.

  2. Samuel Skinner
    You are an atheist agnostic- you don't believe in the gods, but you don't believe thaey don't exist. That would be strong atheism.

  3. No, actually, I believe there is sufficient evidence (and lack of it from the other side) to warrant the view that God doesn't exist. My worldview doesn't require that unfalsifiable and unprovable concept, so I discard it. I gather that's not agnosticism, and maybe it's not strong atheism, but it's a sort of weak atheism then.

  4. why are you so fixated on labelling yourself? I mean you believe what you believe and whatever title you give yourself won't change that... And besides I doubt there are many people who would know what the term "atheist agnostic" means anyway...

  5. I label myself because there is a label and with a label it's easier to get the message across (it has it's pitfalls, I know). Also it helps to meet like/unlike minded people and discuss stuff with them.

  6. In a more recent blog you inquired about politics. Short answer: politics is not about wants or needs. It's about labels. As a reform Jew I can get away with believing not that God doesn't exist, but that he does not interact (by choice). Perhaps the best way to figure out who you are is to discover what guides you. Me? I'm an American Jew because I go by the Ten Commandments of the Torah and the Ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. I hope this way helpful to you

  7. I'm not going to inject my opinion here; however, you might find this quite interesting:


    Enjoy ^^