Saturday, October 16, 2010

Agnostic vs. aThEiSt

I feel as if my topic has become kind of popular lately. I'm not saying it's because of me (anyone who visits Main Street Plaza on Sundays, notably, knows that outer blogness tends to post along the same theme--just like General Conference! omg). So, you know, we're kind of tethered that way.

But first, I get it. Especially from all my ex-/post-Mormon readers. Nobody wants to say "I know" ever, ever, EVER again. That's what y'all love about saying you're agnostic. Because you don't know and you don't fucking care to know. It feels good to say “maybe!” I get it. You know this.

Here's my thing, though: I never said I knew anything. Many atheists I know don't claim to know anything. Some do, but I'd consider them militant atheists. You know the kind. "I know God doesn't exist." That's militant atheism. That is not me.

It's a matter of definitions, which there are few. Here are mine, and I don't hold them exclusively:


1) I don't know, but I think there's a possibility.
2) I don’t know, you don’t know, you cannot know. (Militant)
3) I don't know, but I want to hold on to the hope.
4) I just don’t know.

I fell into definition #3. After a lifetime of Christianity and a decent chunk of my life spent in Mormonism, even considering that there was no god was NOT okay. There had to be a god! It's what I had been taught all my life. To consider otherwise was just too fucking scary. So it was a hope, but I never felt a peace about it. I know that's a very Mormon-y thing to say, but I do believe in trusting your intuition, I believe in having a peace about whatever you do. I haven't had a peace about "not knowing." And it's not because I didn't know, but because I was afraid. To be honest, I still haven't had a peace. Which is why I have to consider...


1) There isn't a god. Period. (Militant)
2) I don't know, but what I do know indicates there isn't a god, so I'm just going to roll with that until I'm convinced otherwise.
3) Religion has done shit for me or society. I want nothing to do with God.

People really tend to believe atheists are closed-minded assholes. It's funny, because I don't consider myself closed-minded. At least I try my best not to be. I'm actually really willing to leave the door open for most anything. Ask Eric. I think it's become a fault of mine.

Here's the thing. It's weird for me to say this because, historically, I haven't been interested in science at all. But like I said, there are a few things about science and scientists that I especially respect:

1) If a hypothesis (educated guess) is proven false, the hypothesis is discarded or the person considers an alternative hypothesis for the same idea. "Maybe it's the light bulb and not the battery in this flashlight."

2) If a hypothesis is extensively tested and tried and proved, it's considered a theory. It is not considered fact for a loooooong time because there is a likely chance that they haven't considered something or that future technology and discoveries will prove the theory wrong. And for most scientists, this is totally okay. They are looking to learn about the world. Record what you see, not what you want to see.

This is what I consider atheism to be. A theory. What a person sees, not what they want or expect to see.

Listen, to my knowledge there is no way to experiment or test the supernatural. Ask my husband and he will say "oh, that happened because..." It drives me nuts, but he will. He's got an answer for just about everything.

It's no fun.

Anyway, we can say that the supernatural is something impossible. We can say science doesn't deal with the supernatural. That it's untestable, etc. But much of present day knowledge was considered impossible years ago.

Also, God is a faith thing. I get that the answer is that you need a spiritual ear to listen to spiritual things. And I don't doubt that unexplainable things happen--but, you know, what of other explanations?

So, yeah. According to this there is whatever minute possibility that the LDS church is "true" and faeries do exist and there is a band of unicorns over the mountains where I can't see and Santa does, in fact, know when we’re sleeping and knows when we’re awake so he can travel the world one night a year and give us presents (where the fuck IS he, though? I want my laptop) etc. etc. etc.

Whatever. There's a chance. I guess. The Santa thing is pretty convincing. Say it with me: Santa doesn't exist.

It’s okay to know some things.

Like many of you have done just by virtue of leaving the church, a point arrived where you took what you knew and had experienced and you put it together and made a reasonable conclusion. It is a BIG step. A lot of people have severe doubts about the church but stay, if only for a while longer, because the basic doctrine might be true and that's enough to make them suffer a while longer because the basic doctrine is the most important and even damning doctrine.

At some point, though, you have to decide. Now if you're an agnostic because "I dunno, you dunno, nobody knows"--fine. But I'd hardly consider that any more open-minded than "From what I know, the possibility is slim so I'm going to live my life as a good, decent person who helps others and does her best. If I'm given any reason to believe there is a god or whatever, I'll reconsider. Right now, however, I'm kidding myself if I say I believe."

I've left open the door for possibility. Please, please remember that. I am not the only one. Atheists are good people. They can be jerks, but religious people can be jerks too. So can agnostics. We’re people like that. And if you don’t appreciate atheists who go on and on on their blog about why religion is a farce and god doesn’t exist and is only a force for evil in the world, consider your own blog or those that you read and support that go on and on about why Mormonism is a manipulative, corporate farce that steals your money to buy billion dollar malls and tell women they are only to be barefoot and pregnant and subject to their husbands and, oh yeah, Moroni never existed. Also, while we’re at it, Nephi was a self-righteous dick.

Not saying you haven’t the right or a very good reason for doing so, because god knows I’ve done and will do the same thing and giggle like a hyena when others point out the obviously stupid stuff, but y’know. The door can swing both ways.

More later. I think I'll stop there.


  1. The only point I'll have is that I don't think it's a good idea to call atheists who believe there are no gods militant. A militant theist is one who murders abortion doctors or blows up buildings. Putting the same label on atheists who simply express their beliefs is done to delegitimise and daemonise us.

  2. Point taken, and that was never my intention.

    Do you see the distinction though? How would you describe it? (I mean this genuinely) Zealous, perhaps?

  3. Now that I think about it, though, because I'd then have to re-ascribe "militant agnostic"...which makes no sense, I considered the idea that "militant" in the sense that I and many others use it is more "this is what i know as truth and you can't change my mind."

    Not "I'm gonna go kill some abortion doctors."

    Those are extremists. Terrorists.

    There's a difference.

  4. I'm #4!!

    *jumps up and down*

    I'm #4!!

    But can we add a bit to that one?

    I just don't know... and for the most part I just don't care.





    You know I love you.

  5. For myself I like "apatheist" because I really and truly no longer care if there's one deity or many or none. I am interested in the topic of religion and enjoying reading about many different religions, but I don't really care about God as such.

  6. I used to be agnostic. Then, over the course of many months, I did some research and discovered the afterlife, God and anything else supernatural, was created in peoples minds. No, this doesn't have anything to do with theories originating as hypotheses in the mind either. It means that I finally realised you can't form a theory or experiment on something (i.e. The afterlife) if it never existed in the first place. That's how I know there's no afterlife, that's how everyone can know there's no afterlife or God, because there never was.

  7. My comment on your last post was based on a lot of stuff you deleted (?). You just came off as a little pompus, and high on science "proving" stuff. Regardless- me strongly voicing my opinion on whether to be agnostic or athiest is no better than a Christian/Mormon doing the same thing. So I digress.

  8. Noe: haha :)

    Diana: I like that, actually. Hope to get to the "fuck it" stage, which is what I'm trying to do.

    Suz: I get that.

    yget: My intention was never to come across as 'pompous' but whatever. I believe that, in the end, I still said you can't *prove* basic shit--except for the whole 6,000 years old thing and the idea that nothing evolves. You could call that high on science if you want, I just thought it was cool. I hardly think what I discussed was the end-all, however. Very few things can be proven.

    I deleted the stuff because it just took up too much space and wasn't that important to the post.

    Also, I'm just musing.

  9. I'm still not big on any of the labels in general...but I guess calling ones-self atheist or agnostic is much easier than trying to spout off one of the descriptions you've listed above every time belief comes into question.

    The way my Sweetie puts it, she's always "looking for God" but since it can't be put in a box, there's no reason to believe. Though she still prefers the term 'secular humanist'

    I don't fall into any of the above, so I'll have to find a different label. But then again, I think the most important thing is that people explore the question in general, and that's what you're doing.

  10. Last night one of my favorite youtube channels posted a video on this very topic, entitled "Lack of belief in gods.

  11. Ariana: I've been thinking of "humanist" lately, actually. And thanks. That's all I'm doing :)

    Reason: I'll definitely check it out later, thank you!

    Off to class. Gonna be a long one.