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6 years ago  ::  Dec 02, 2008 - 2:52PM #51
NWFrank
Posts: 3
Would not ALL thinking persons need to consider themselves Agnostics, even the Pope and the Atheists? No one can prove or disprove the existence of God. Atheism is as much a belief system as Christianity.

Were one able to prove the existence of God, faith would be unnecessary, and we all know how big a deal faith was in the bible, even in Jesus' time. Too often, people confuse a strong belief with knowledge. Knowledge requires evidence. Faith does not.
Most Christains acknowledge that God is "unknowable" then proceed to tell you all about him. How can that be? Unknowable is unknowable. There is no way to know whether what you think is true, really is true. Another case of confusing belief with knowledge. At least, let's be honest about it.
I once had a discussion with an academic theologian about this. He totally agreed, but cautioned most people would not understand and would disagree.
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6 years ago  ::  Dec 21, 2008 - 8:49PM #52
runawaycow
Posts: 20
Thank you for creating this thread :)

All of you have said such wonderful things! I can relate fully to what all of you have said.

I am also Agnostic. An Agnostic Humanist, to be exact. Or an Agnostic theist.

I get so much flack (sp?) from both strong theists AND strong atheists. I feel like a taunted middle child, lol.
I never understood why they were both so adament about their beliefs when they are simply just that- beliefs, not facts.

I believe that knowing whether a Higher Power exists or not is unknowable, but I lean more towards the belief in a Higher Power seeing as "knowing" and "believing" are two different things. On the other hand, the Humanist side of me doesn't think the belief in a Higher Power or religion really matters. I'm more focused on a persons personality and the kindness of their heart; and I am more focused on the here and now and making the Earth a better pace for the future generations.
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6 years ago  ::  Dec 28, 2008 - 2:40PM #53
Agnosticspirit
Posts: 9,244

runawaycow wrote:



I am also Agnostic. An Agnostic Humanist, to be exact. Or an Agnostic theist.

I get so much flack (sp?) from both strong theists AND strong atheists. I feel like a taunted middle child, lol.
I never understood why they were both so adament about their beliefs when they are simply just that- beliefs, not facts.



Hello runawaycow, I'm similar yet opposite from you because I'm an agnostic atheist. I neither know whether or not god(dess) exists, nor do I believe s/he exists. I've been on the receiving end of flack from strong atheists who claim I'm merely a fence-sitter and strong theists who just KNOW god exists as well.

Agnosticism isn't a middle of the road position, nor are we sitting on the fence afraid to take a stand. It's a philosophical position that stands well on its own because the existence or non-existence of god(dess) can't be proven. Ignostics may even have a better idea --- rather than quibble about whether or not god(dess) exists, they question the DEFINITION of god(dess) before the existence can be discussed.  :)

Kinda reminds me of one of Plato's works (can't remember the name) but Menos asks Socrates whether or not virtue can be taught. To which Socrates responds, first virtue must be define before we can determine whether or not virtue can be taught. At the very end of the chapter, Menos still hasn't gotten it and he asks Socrates whether or not virtue can be taught. :rolleyes: I guess Menos wasn't a very good student. Come to think of it, I must not be a very good student because I don't remember the work where this appeared and I don't remember whether or not, according to Socrates virtue can be taught either.

Tribalism, ethnocentricism, racism, nationalism, and FEAR is the Mind Killer... >:(

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6 years ago  ::  Jan 06, 2009 - 3:08PM #54
cloudlogic
Posts: 4
I am a (not so) strong atheist (there is likely no god ) rather than simply an agnostic, because I don't believe that ultimately the fact of whether or not there is a personality or force in control of, or immanent within, the universe is unknowable, at least to a hypothetical super-mind.  Humans may not be capable of comprehending this personality or force, or may not survive long enough to develop the science to understand it, but that doesn't mean it can not be proven, one way or another.  Furthermore, the burden is on the theist to prove God exists, not on me to prove there is no god.  In the absence of proof from the theist, the default, for me, is non-belief, with a rebuttable presumption of there being no god.  This train of thought is the method I believe most people use, outside of religious debate, in dealing with unknowable things.   If someone on the street came up to you and asked "Do you believe an invisible, absolutely silent, little man who leaves absolutely no evidence of his existence lives in your house?" would you say "No" or would you say "Because I cannot prove one or another whether there is an invisible, silent, little man who leaves no evidence of his existence living in my house, I will withhold judgment?"  Maybe you would, just to be consistent.  I just don't see much difference between god and the little man, other than that we find the ideas of god, the afterlife, and everything else, psychologically comforting or because we don't want to offend.
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6 years ago  ::  Jan 10, 2009 - 4:48PM #55
grampawombat
Posts: 269
Hi cloudlogic,

I was intrigued by several comments that you made. For example, you wrote:  "I don't believe that ultimately the fact of whether or not there is a personality or force ... immanent within, the universe is unknowable, at least to a hypothetical super-mind."  I am reminded or Arthur C. Clarke's book Childhood's End, which posits what I think he calls an "overmind" that is the next stage of human devopment. Clarke's idea may be fanciful as a near-term event, but I can see it as a possibility in, say 100,000 years or so (if humans last that long).  Then perhaps they will "discover" God, who may not turn out to be exactly what people today expect, i.e. without the omnipotence or omniscience parts.

For me, proof is not a particular issue. I see myself as "living as if" there was a God that champions the oppressed and promotes social and economic justice and genuine peace among people. Non-theists do not use this construct, and often arrive at the same place in terms of ethical convictions as I do, and that is ok with me.

At present, I think of God as a barely detectable signal, sort of at the point of what as an engineer I call "tangential sensitivity" or a signal just at or barely above the level of background noise. I don't imagine that idea is particularly useful to the non-theist, but I find it helpful.

I appreciate your desire to be considerate of the beliefs of others.
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6 years ago  ::  Jan 11, 2009 - 11:04AM #56
cloudlogic
Posts: 4
grampawombat, thank you for your reply.  You and I have arrived at the same place, for the most part.  I try to live "as if" life has a benevolent purpose, "as if" kindness is better than cruelty, "as if" honesty is better than dishonesty, and "as if" love is better than hate.  Admittedly, I cannot prove that these things are better.  However, I suspect, without having citations to back it up, that psychological and sociological studies would show that most people are "happier" when they choose to be "good."  That's good enough for me.  If your form of intellectually gracious theism was mainstream, I would be eager to attend a church.  However, I'm curious.  How far do you take your as if's?  Do you live "as if" God grants miracles in response to intercessory prayer, "as if" the earth was created in seven days, and "as if" Jesus was born of a virgin and rose from the dead?  I ask because I would like to attend church, but I feel when I do I inevitably reach a point where I must pretend I believe something I do not.  I very much appreciate the kindness of many of the people in the church and I share in the goals of promoting social and economic justice and genuine peace, but I feel like a charlatan participating in prayers for physical healing or talking or singing about barbaric things like my sins being washed away by Jesus' blood,  when I don't believe in them.  Perhaps I'm too literal and I should just "go along", enjoy and share in the kindness and community, and not worry that I don't agree on every issue, but I can't do it while maintaining my sense of honesty to myself and others.
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6 years ago  ::  Jan 11, 2009 - 11:20PM #57
grampawombat
Posts: 269
I like the way you think, cloudlogic. And I appreciate the idea that someone else can see the value of "living as if." I think it is interesting that the ideas that you reject (virgin birth, miracles, literal resurrection and so on) are the same ideas that liberal or progressive Christians have been challenging for at least the last hundred years. It's true that most of these challenges are found in university religion departments and in various seminaries, and not in most churches, mainstream or otherwise. But the popularity of such author/theologians as John Shelby Spong and Marcus Borg indicates to me that there are some (but not many) "mainstream" congregations that fit that description. I belong to such a congregation, but it is in a university town, as are most such groups.

I'm not sure that there is that much to be gained, though, for a non-religious person in being in such a community. The reason it works for me is at least in part that the common language of commitment and concern (mostly from the Bible) is one that I have been using all of my adult life. Also, that lanuage has played out in movements such as liberation theology, which still has a heavy influence on my thinking, but is less generally influential than it was a few decades ago. I appreciate the fact that there are non-religious folk who share many of my convictions, even if we do based on different philosophical positions. It was the conviction on my part (among others) that such folks were around that prompted me to start this thread in the first place.
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6 years ago  ::  Jan 12, 2009 - 2:30PM #58
Jcarlinbn
Posts: 7,037
[QUOTE=cloudlogic;1011466] I ask because I would like to attend church, but I feel when I do I inevitably reach a point where I must pretend I believe something I do not.  I very much appreciate the kindness of many of the people in the church and I share in the goals of promoting social and economic justice and genuine peace, but I feel like a charlatan participating in prayers for physical healing or talking or singing about barbaric things like my sins being washed away by Jesus' blood,  when I don't believe in them.  Perhaps I'm too literal and I should just "go along", enjoy and share in the kindness and community, and not worry that I don't agree on every issue, but I can't do it while maintaining my sense of honesty to myself and others.[/QUOTE] [FONT="Franklin Gothic Medium"][COLOR="DarkRed"]I have attended churches (other than UU) all my life as an atheist. Usually with a friend who was a member of the Faith and knew of my atheism.  I never pretended belief, and treated hymns and prayers as myths.  Maybe as something to analyze for value, but myth nevertheless. 

A Catholic friend of mine told me once that God even listens to the prayers of atheists, so when he asks me to pray for him I do so.  I don't expect much, but he does, and maybe it will work for him.  My cost? zero.
His benefit? At the very least a warm feeling of concern by his friend.  I am still looking for the downside.

I think if you scratch the surface beliefs of some of the members of the congregation you would like to attend, you would find that some will be even less theistic than you are.  Like you they are attending for the goals of promoting social and economic justice and genuine peace, and probably for social networking as well. 

I got over the hypocrisy of pretending God belief a long time ago, in fact I would go so far as [COLOR="Blue"]suspending disbelief[/COLOR] in appropriate situations. What did I have to lose? Atheism?  It never happened, but if it did, so what.  Lots of people seem to live happily as theists.   

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Jcarlinbn, community moderator
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6 years ago  ::  Jan 13, 2009 - 4:44PM #59
Free2beme09
Posts: 733
[QUOTE=Starrylight;185214]Glad to find you.  I was hoping there'd be some other fence-sitters here.[/QUOTE]

I asked my husband last night what Agnostics believe in, he is the religious gurue Christain buff in our home.  He said he didn't know.  Seems he was almost right on. :)

If I am absorbing this correctly; Agnostics are uncertain and Atheists are certain there is not a God?  Just for clarification.  I am still very much seeking knowledge.  Thanks!
Religion is for those afraid of hell.  Spirituality is had by those who have been there!
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6 years ago  ::  Jan 18, 2009 - 5:22PM #60
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,206
[QUOTE=free2beme09;1016813]I asked my husband last night what Agnostics believe in, he is the religious gurue Christain buff in our home.  He said he didn't know.  Seems he was almost right on. :)  If I am absorbing this correctly; Agnostics are uncertain and Atheists are certain there is not a God?  Just for clarification.  I am still very much seeking knowledge.  Thanks![/QUOTE]

They're overlapping but distinct positions.

An atheist is someone who doesn't believe in a god.  That could be someone who simply lacks it the way I did as a child.  Before my parents divorced, no one bothered to confront me with beliefs involving a supreme being, so I spent the first few years outside the God Question.  That's a kind of natural atheism.  For most, atheism is more of a rejection of god claims.  Most atheists have been confronted with one or more God claims and have rejected them.  There are different bases on which to do this but they tend toward the same result.

An agnostic is someone who doesn't believe the question can be resolved.  Many people think this makes agnostics fence sitters, people who can't make up their mind.  This is a misconception about agnostics.  While there are those who call themselves agnostics - either because they can't make up their mind or because they don't want to commit either way - an agnostic is more properly someone who remains skeptical about the process.  Imagine the bar-room brawl of the commercials, where one side is saying, "Tastes great!" and the other says, "Less filling!"  The agnostic is the one who walks into the room and asks, "What's the point of this discussion?  How would you go about resolving such a dispute?"

The atheist is skeptical of the CLAIM.  The agnostic is skeptical of the MEANS of evaluating it.

A couple of fine points are in order.  First, while atheists are skeptical of the claim, they do not have a burden of proof.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to prove the nonexistence of something.  How would one go about proving that God doesn't exist?  When the atheist says, "I don't see a God," the theist says, "That's because he's invisible."  When the atheist says, "I don't hear a God," the theist replies, "He doesn't want you to hear him," or "You're not listening right."  When the atheist points out the dearth of evidence, the theist simply argues that God is the ultimate ninja, not to be perceived unless he wants to be, and he usually doesn't want to be. 

God can only be approached through "the eye of faith," and since atheists don't have it, they are "blind" to God - whereas the faithful have all these exepriences that "prove" to them that God is out there.  They call these experiences "testimonies," but they're not the kind you'd see in a court of law.  If the plane crashes but nobody got hurt, it was a "miracle" and God is praised.  If the plane crashes and everybody was killed, it was "God's will" and God still gets the praise.  Faith is, to be sure, a selective process.  Things count as long as they promote the right conclusion.

Some atheists are willing to accept the burden of proof, possibly because they want to argue that God not only doesn't exist but can't.  While it's virtually impossible to disprove the existence of something, the conclusion is logically deductive if you can show that the idea is self-contradictory.  There are whole series of arguments that point out the contradictions in theistic claims.  If God is everywhere, for example, there is nowhere that God cannot exist.  But if God is everywhere, with no exceptions, then God must be in everything, and not just "in" everything but in "every part" of everything.  Otherwise, that place in which God is not would contradict the idea that God is everywhere.  But if God is in every part of everything - so much so that there is not the merest fragment of existence that isn't God, then God is not only everywhere; God is everything.  But if God is everything, then it is meaningless to speak of any person, place or action that is not God.  Once God becomes defined, not as an entity that created or rules the universe, but as the universe itself, "God" as a concept becomes meaningless. 

There are also atheists who might as well call themselves igtheists.  They don't merely reject the claims of the theists, nor do they find fault with the limits of reason and experience.  They find fault with the very concept of God, essentially arguing that you can't even discuss whether it's possible to evaluate the claim because you can never know what the claim is.  An igtheist argues that there is no clear conception of God to evaluate, and therefore, the process is not merely impossible to complete but impossible to start.

One can take any or all of these positions, based on where one chooses to address the issue.  A healthy (and probably endless) debate could be made by the igtheists, forcing the theists to arrive at a single definition.  An equally healthy (and also endless) debate could be made by the agnostics, that the God claim is such that evaluation is impossible.  For me, it's more fun to attack the argument from the perspective of the atheist, by showing how absurd theism sounds.  There are even two other positions - maltheism and apatheism - that are worth consideration.  Maltheism says that the God invented by theists is such a hateful being that one would rather not believe in him, let alone worship the ground on which he walks.  Apatheism says that the issue is moot, either way, at least to the apatheist.  Apatheists aren't interested in the question for a variety of reasons.   Atheistic and agnostic apatheists think it's pointless to argue the case - and they will be the first to point out that God is not important to them.  Theistic apatheists will tell you that their conception of God is such that they don't think it matters whether you believe in him or not.  They can't conceive of a God who would care whether you believe in him or not.

My position is a bit less technical.  I'm an atheist.  I don't believe in God.  If I had a reason to, I'd become a theist, but I don't.  The universe, as I see it, does not need God to explain it.  Adding God does not solve any problems.  It merely adds more as we try to square God with everything else.  I find all of the proofs for God's existence to be both shallow and self-serving.  As for the supernatural claims of Moses, Jesus, Paul, Muhammad, Joan of Arc, the Virgin of Guadelupe and Joseph Smith -  Carl Sagan was right: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."  These claims are dubious at best.  I don't have to disprove the possibility of God - through deductive reasonong - to reject the claim.  I do not have any burden of proof.  But I'm more than happy to argue whatever point the theist wishes to make.
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