Why do Agnostics and Atheists often get labelled as the same thing?

Around here, most people I discuss religion with have these definitions:

Theist - Believes a god exists
Atheist - Believes a god doesn’t exist
Agnostic - Isn’t sure a god exists

When I tell them that I’m an agnostic atheist because I don’t think gods exist, but don’t have definite proof of this, they seem to go into cognitive overload.


My answer to this question is simple: lack of rigour, along with a tendency to treat prescriptive definitions as “axioms” on the subject.

This is why I characterise atheism as suspicion of unsupported mythology fanboy assertions - first, because it kills stone dead the usual duplicitous apologetics about atheism involving “faith”. Being suspicious of assertions is the very antithesis of “faith”. Second, because this is the one observable feature common to all atheists, agnostic or otherwise - they regard mythology fanboy assertions with well-deserved suspicion, even if they don’t possess the training required to express that suspicion in a robust and defensible manner.

Now, with respect to agnosticism, again we need to apply some rigour to this term. At bottom, those of us who treat the issue seriously, recognise that the existence of a god-type in its most general form is an unanswered question. Not least because, as I’ve repeatedly stated in the past, if a proper, rigorous answer had been found in the past, this would now be part of our mainstream body of knowledge, and no one (other than wilful contrarians or members of the tinfoil hat brigade) would be arguing about it.

Of course, because the only candidates for the “god role” that are presented, are the usual fatuous cartoon magic men so beloved by the mythology fanboys, it’s easy to be lulled into thinking that rejection of these manifestly non-viable candidates constitutes rejection of all possible candidates for the role. This is, of course, woefully wrong. In my case, I am on public record in several places, as welcoming genuine evidence for any god type entity that actually exists, for two reasons.

First, should that evidence ever become available, it will almost certainly falsify all of our pre-scientific mythologies at a stroke, and the people expressing the most butthurt when this happens, will be the mythology fanboys whose pet mythologies are tossed roundly into the bin. Second, because that evidence will almost certainly tell us that the entity in question, is so radically different from all past human experience, that the people best placed to make sense of it won’t be “pastors” or other “holy men”, but people such as cosmological or particle physicists, who deal with counter-intuitive entities and interaction on a daily basis in their research.

But of course, as I’ve expounded here in the past, the mythology fanboys aren’t willing to consider any candidate other than their favourite choice of cartoon magic man, and are woefully unaware of the mutliplicity of possibilities other than said choices, that may possibly exist, one of which I covered in some detail when speculating about the ramifications of braneworld cosmology. You never see ideas of this sort emanating from the mythology fanboys, because they’re simply too limited and parochial in their, well, I hesitate to characterise their blind attachment to mythological assertions as “thinking”, which dignifies this practice far beyond its intrinsic worth.

Returning to other candidates for the “god role”, as it were … of course, until evidence for any such candidate arrives, we can still safely operate as if such an entity does not exist, while being willing to revise our view if the relevant data becomes available - a point that mythology fanboys routinely fail to understand, while projecting their own ideological intransigence upon us.

The point I’m making here is that with respect to the general question of the existence of a god type entity, we are all de facto agnostics in the colloquial sense. Our rejection of fatuous mythological cartoon magic men because they’re non-viable candidates for the role, doesn’t alter this. As a corollary, we need to be careful about the use of the word “agnostic”, because there exists a subset demographic whose position is stronger than merely “I don’t know” in that colloquial sense. That subset demographic consists of people who regard the existence question as unanswerable even in principle, let alone practice, and it is this demographic that in my view, should be considered to be agnostic from a rigorous standpoint.

I have, of course, already encountered elsewhere, mythology fanboys who are simply incapable of understanding the concepts outline above, and who resort to knee-jerk reactions to the extent that all of the above is mere fabrication on my part, while pointing me at so-called “definitions” from various sources that I know are tainted by past corruption on the part of ideologically motivated and mischievous mythology fanboys. My response to this is that the days of us being “defined” by those who seek to expunge us are over, and the mythology fanboys in question had better start getting used to the idea that we define these concepts, not them.

Of course, if someone has defensible alternative suggestions, please present them. Mendacious mythology fanboys need not apply.

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