I consider myself an atheist; that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone here, considering how the word “Godless” is in the name of my blog. However, there is another group out there that, despite the fact that they mostly believe the same things as I do, who believe that I am not only unreasonable–they believe that I am just as much of a fundamentalist as the religious types I tend to criticize. These people call themselves agnostics, and they’re making a meaningless distinction.
Now, I don’t know with 100% certainty that the God of Abraham does not exist; I also don’t know with 100% certainty that there are no Yetis living on Pluto (in fact, one could say that I am agnostic concerning the issue of Plutonian Yetis). However, I have yet to see any of the necessary or sufficient evidence I need to believe in any God (or Plutonian Yetis, for that matter), so I act like anyone should act when confronted with an unsubstantiated claim: I simply live my life as if the claim (in this case [insert god here]) is false. Technically, this makes me an agnostic.
So, why call myself an atheist? Well, because I don’t possess the positive belief that any sort of god exists, and that’s really all there is to it. “But wait,” you might ask, “I thought you said you were an agnostic?” Well, that’s true too. I consider myself an agnostic atheist. When it gets down to it, I don’t know whether or not there is a god out there, but, since there is no evidence for that claim, why should I treat the claim that any god exists differently than any other unsubstantiated claim?
When it comes down to it, the claim of special knowledge (also known as “gnosis“) of the existence or nature of a god only serves to supplement whether or not you believe in a god. For example you could actually be any of the following*:
- The Gnostic Theist-You believe and know that a specific god (or gods) exists and also believe that you know the nature, wants, behavior, etc of that god (for example: Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc)
- The Agnostic Theist–You believe that a god probably exists, but you make no claims as to the nature or temperament of that god (like Deists); or you believe that god exists, but that you cannot actually know it.
- The Agnostic (or Negative) Athiest-You believe that there is probably no god, but you don’t assert a positive belief in the nonexistence of any god (this also includes practical atheists and “apatheists,” by the way).
- The Gnostic (or Positive) Atheist-You claim to know that there are no gods that can or do exist.
If you are an “agnostic” who doesn’t actually believe in the existence of a god, then congratulations: You’re also an atheist. Stop running away from that term. The more good, upstanding people call themselves atheists, the more we can demystify the term and the more people will realize that we aren’t evil. When we get that message across, we can be all the more effective in defending science education, the Separation of Church and State, and all of those other issues that the religious are trying to take over.
*This is just the way of classifying the degrees of theism that makes the most sense to me. If you have a better one: then leave it in the comments and we can talk about it.