Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What The Hell Am I?

Do you believe in God? It should be a binary, yes or no answer. It is a very simple, yet very big question and the answer defines you in an important way. How you view the world and live your life is likely contingent on your answer.

But there’s a problem. I don’t know if it’s the shifting political correctness of our culture, or just opposing viewpoints projecting their beliefs onto others, but the question has become muddled. Let me help you answer once and for all, are you an atheist, theist, agnostic...what?

This handy question tree should allow even the most inept call centers to ascertain your position. It’s important to note that “Do you believe in God?” is an opinion question. Whether your answer is yes or no, you need not worry about showing your work. You are essentially guessing. Evidence and arguments built on sound reasoning could provide for an educated guess, but a guess none-the-less. People who have dwelled on the topic of theology all their life and those who have just been introduced to the concept of God have equal rights to their opinion. However, if you have no opinion at all, you are an apatheist. This means you don’t care about one of the biggest questions humanity has ever posed and likely live your life as an atheist by default.

From your yes or no response, we come to a question of knowledge. Are you sure that God does or does not exist? Are you 100% positive? This is a hard position to defend no matter which side of the issue you’re on. Generally, theists claim gnostism because their belief system requires absolute faith for the eventual reward. It is my opinion that if you claim certain knowledge, you are mistaken. We are all agnostic, even if we are right, because the question of God as he is typically defined, is unknowable.

Famous agnostic atheist, Richard Dawkins, has his own scale of belief. 1 is a gnostic theist. 2 and 3 are different levels of agnostic theism. 5 and 6 are both agnostic atheists. 7 is the gnostic atheist. The new bit is number 4, the pure agnostic. This is someone who thinks it is just as likely that a higher power exists as not. I’m not sure how you come to such an exact conclusion, but I accept that some might be able to nail down their own belief better than I.
The final way to look at belief is a sliding scale of probability. There are few black and whites in the universe, so the possibility of a creator should allow for shades of grey as well. If you think that it is more than 50% likely that God is up there, you are a theist. Less? You’re an atheist. Exactly halfsies on the issue? That makes you the elusive pure agnostic. Measuring your belief isn’t an exact science, so we are guesstimating here.

Note: Each of these questions and scales may be applied to a vague concept of god or specific definitions of the deity such as Yahweh, Vishnu, Zeus...whoever. For instance, I’m 85% sure that there is no intelligent creator of the universe, but 99.9% sure that Zeus is imaginary. (I just can’t commit to that last 0.1%) While I don’t think one can be gnostic of the concept of god, you can be gnostic of specific Gods if you can prove or disprove their existence.

Some choose to not answer the question of belief for the vague concept of god. If this choice isn’t made out of apathy, they are likely ignostic--thinking a clearer definition is necessary to confess belief.


  1. I love it when theists try to wedge open that 0.01% of doubt as an atheist I have, and try to make it a big issue............usually they say something like, " arhhhh, so you accept that there could be a god??" and then stand there grinning like they have just won the argument and vindicated their position.

    At which point I say that yes I accept that I could be wrong, however……
    “Are you open minded I say?………do accept the possibility that you could be wrong and there is no god?”……usually they start squirming and I then point out, who is it that seems to be the more open minded and rational? Me or them??

    Good post……the whole do you or do you not believe question is quite simply really, we are talking about applying common sense, and as your scale shows, what we can say is where he consider our own opinion happens to be along that scale.

    1. They want us to have an open mind about God until they don't.

      Overall, I think most people on the street understand what an atheist is. Apologists try to twist terms in their favor so I felt I needed a bunch of visual aids to make it clear.

  2. I am a proud 6 on the Dawkins Scale. I agree with Doubter. I find it very frustrating when theists accept anything short of gnostic atheism. It reminds of the scene from the movie Dumb and Dumber. Where Jim Carey's character learns there is a one in a million chance he can get a date with the lead female...his response, "so your saying there's a chance!"----Nope.

    On the Dawkins scale or any other scale it is more or less impossible to exist at either pole and have sound justification for doing so.

    Good Post.

    1. Nice movie reference. I think most atheists ID as a 6. I wavered between a 3, 5 and 6 for a while after giving up faith. Never really felt like a 4, maybe I'm just too opinionated to be pure agnostic.

    2. On my road to being a 6 I definitely spent some time as a 3 and 5 as well. I don't think I ever thought of 4 as being a possible answer...at least it never occurred to me.

  3. I'm a theist but I completely respect that many people do not believe in God. This whole planet is f*cked. Religion is f*cked. I respect that many people decide that they need to look to themselves or science instead of faith in God.

    1. I see you're an optimist. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

  4. I've met a lot of people who call themselves agnostic, but usually they mean they haven't really thought about it one way or another and they don't care. I've also met people who think that's what I mean when I say I'm agnostic, when really I'm not talking about whether I care at all, but just the fact that I don't think you can know.

    1. Yes, there is a big distinction between disinterest and disbelief.

  5. There's a big problem with this.
    Theism is defined as Revealed Theology.
    Meaning that theists are defined as "People who claim to know stuff about god(s)".
    This clearly makes the first label "theist" premature. Only the ones labeled as "gnostic theists" above are actually "theist". The rest are deists of some form (yes, deism hinges on revelation, not on the presumed degree of "intervention").

    Not pointing this out lets theists hide just how crazy their claim is.

    Theism/Atheism is not a neat symmetrical opposition between equals.
    All non-theist stances, including deism and agnosticism and ignosticism and "don't think gods exist"ism, are dependent for their meaningfulness as labels on the theist claim.
    Without someone making the massively absurd claim that they have a source of knowledge of something unfalsifiable that is unavailable to our sensory experience, none of the other stances make sense... simply because it's silly to go around saying what one doesn't believe in.
    We are not aleprechaunists. But in the face of a massive leprechaunist movement, we might be.

    TLDR: Atheism is a meaningful response to theism, but has no inherent meaning in itself. This shit is not symmetric.

  6. Atheists can't prove that God doesn't exist, Theists can't prove that God does exist. Atheists don't believe God exists, Theists do believe God exists.
    Atheism is supposedly based on rationalism. It is as irrational to say God doesn't exist as it is to say that The Big Bang did happen. Neither can be rationally proven or disproven. Colliding atoms in a cave in Switzerland proves nothing except that colliding atoms cause a reaction.

    Atheists see theists as irrational and sometimes deluded. Atheists should look at themselves and ask questions.