Sunday, September 23, 2007

An appeal to agnostics: Try atheism, it fits.

There is a correct answer to the ultimate question: Why is there this universe with this planet where we reside? It is a three word answer and those three words are not "God did it". Agnostics and atheists agree that the answer is "we don't know" while theists cling to the faux god did it "explanation".

Unfortunately, some agnostics don't understand that agnosticism has more in common with atheism than with theism. These agnostics are repelled by what they assume is atheism's certainty that there is no god. They challange the atheists to show how we can know there is no god, they complain that atheists are making the same mistake as religionists by asserting too much. However, atheists are not claiming such certainty, we are just not adopting beliefs which lack adequate justification. Maybe I can clarify why atheism and agnosticism are almost the same beliefs by analogy.

A pet is ill. The owner takes the pet to the local animal hospital and is told that the pet has fluid in the chest. The hospital staff asks: Did the pet drink anti-freeze? That is possible, the pet owner doesn't know. The pet dies. A pagan religionist has an "explanation" for the pet's premature death: An evil spirit cast a death spell on the pet. We skeptics know something is wrong with this "explanation", we honestly can't accept this "explanation", its too far-fetched. The problem here is that we have a declaration, not an explanation. These declarations are catch-alls, anyone can assert such a declaration for any dead pet because the declaration is rooted in fantasy, not in evidence. We don't know the cause of the pet's death but we can still rule out a death spell cast by an evil spirit while we cannot rule out the evidence supported explanation that the pet drank anti-freeze.

Most agnostics will concede there is no Ahura Mazda, Zeus, etc. but they lack the courage and insight to recognize that generic god belief is just as unjustified as all the other no evidence catch-all declarations that lack explanatory validity and logical coherence. The god did it declaration, like the evil spirit cast a death spell declaration, gets us nowhere. It just replaces one mystery with another mystery without moving us forward even a nanometer towards acquiring a genuine explanation. We don't know, but not knowing doesn't mean we have to accept as viable every declaration that someone mistakenly asserts is an explanation. To justify any belief we need evidence, we need explanatory validity. God did it, like the evil spirit's death spell, is a catch-all declaration lacking the attributes necessary to justify the belief.

My appeal to agnostics is this: You reject many other imaginary, no evidence, catch-all declarations as lacking explanatory validity. Employ the same skepticism consistently and across the board. Find the courage to take the small additional step of letting go of god altogether. You will be no more mistakenly certain as an atheist than you are as an agnostic who doesn't believe in Ahura Mazda or evil spirit death spells.


  1. Interesting essay. As an "agnostic" (not sure I'd use that label, but you probably would), I *don't* particularly rule out Zoraster, Zeus, or whatever, as compared to the Judeo-Islamic-Christian god. I would rather just say that there really isn't enough evidence to say anything about the situation at all.

  2. mike, so it could be turtles all the way down then, eh?

    i proclaim that the earth was created last tuesday by a giant snail-fish creature, who wove it together using a magical pink substance called electrophysimagma. sure there's no evidence for it, but please, try to disprove it!

    sure, it's an extreme example, but i think we can both agree that it's completely fantastical.

    but what makes it any more fantastical than christian fundamentalists who say the earth was created 5,000 years ago (despite evidence) by a man in the sky?

    i think that's the point of this post.

  3. Atheists would label me as an "agnostic", and I reckon that's what I am; I try not to label myself anything, anymore. However, why should agnostics convert to atheism? Agnostics do not believe in deities, just like atheists, however, "we" know that we can't disprove the existence of any deity, as well. Neither can Atheists. Most "atheists" I know, who proclaim to be die-hard atheists state that all "atheists" really are "agnostic" because "atheists" can not disprove any deity, as well. They really believe that there isn't one, but, going by the "facts" in which most atheists spew, and going by logic, they can't, still, prove that a deity hasn't ever existed, or does exist. So, you're preaching to the wrong people, no?


  4. Nam, your "disprove" and "prove" comment supports my argument in this post that agnostics are mistakenly applying an impractical "disprove it" standard for theism that rational people don't and sholdn't apply to other similarly far-fetched supernatural beliefs. Are you agnostic about leprechauns? No one has to "prove" there are no leprechauns to disbelieve in leprechauns. Insisting on proof to reject a belief in a fact claim (in this case the there is a God fact claim) is a catagory error. Proof applies to mathematics, not to beliefs. By your "disprove it" logic, anytime someone asserts a fact claim, that fact claim automatically merits be taken seriously enough to be considered viable for no other reason then the fact claim is asserted.