“Are you still searching?”

I’m occasionally challenged by religious folks as to whether I still question God’s existence, or if I’m still “seeking”. They ask if I’m at all “skeptical about evolution”, or other similar questions. These sort of questions betray their inability to understand that other people have good reasons for their beliefs (or non-beliefs), and how stuck they are in their own belief that they simply must be right. Then if you don’t get that, there’s something wrong with you. The irony is that it’s basically odds-on that they don’t question like they think you should.

See, here’s the thing; I’m always open to any new ideas or evidence no matter what the idea is or how crazy it may be. But being open-minded and a good skeptic doesn’t mean constantly questioning every idea there is. It means being open to new information.

Let me to toss out a few ideas here to help illustrate:

  1. I don’t believe any gods exist.
  2. I believe evolution is the process by which all life came to be as we know it today.
  3. I believe the Earth revolves around the Sun.

In my mind, from my accumulated knowledge and experiences, these three things are equally correct. I’m not going to sit around like a moron all day and ponder whether the Earth really revolves around the Sun. This is a settled question. What if there were new evidence presented that, in fact, the Sun revolves around the Earth? Well that would be some amazing evidence. I would consider that evidence, and, if it were convincing, I would change my mind. But I feel no need to seek out such evidence. There are things in life that I just don’t feel a need to constantly question.

It’s the same with evolution. Evolution has been proven time and time and time again, and has withstood all attempts to disprove it. It’s done. It’s settled. It’s what happened. We know it happened, just as we know that the Earth revolves around the Sun. If some new evidence came out that disproved evolution, then I would consider it, and, if it were convincing, I would change my mind. But all we ever get are the same old tired arguments against evolution that have been answered, disproven, or are just nonsensical.

The same with the existence of gods. Done deal. New evidence or arguments? Okay, bring it. But until/unless that happens, I don’t need to go out of my way to question if the Earth revolves around the Sun… er, I mean… if a god exists.

Let’s get a few things straightened out

Yeah, let’s try to get a few things straightened out regarding some definitions. I’ve noticed a lot of people seem confused regarding the definitions of atheism and agnosticism. As a bonus we’ll go over antitheism as well.

The root words here are theism and gnosticism. Theism deals with belief, or what you BELIEVE to be true. Gnosticism deals with knowledge, or what you KNOW to be true.

The prefix a- simply means “not”.

Theism is the claim that some deity or deities exist (henceforth referred to as just “god” for simplicity). Atheism literally means “not theism”. So “not belief that some god exists”. It is NOT saying “no god exists”.

Gnosticism, in the context of some god existing, is the claim of knowledge either way. Either “I know a god exists” or “I know no god exists”. Unless you have some evidence that no one else has, either of these claims are irrational. This evidence would have to be something conclusive and objective that you can show everyone else so they will know too. Or as AronRa says “If you can’t SHOW it, you don’t KNOW it”.

So the only rational position is agnosticism, meaning “not knowledge”, or just plain old “I don’t know”.

Let me be clear. Agnosticism is NOT the third option. EVERYONE is either theist or atheist. You either believe the claim or you do not.

On to the bonus round: antitheism. Again, the root word is “theism”, and you tack on the prefix “anti”, meaning “against”. So “against theism” or “opposed to theism”, theism being the belief in some god. Again, you can be theist or atheist and also be antitheist. I can’t put it much better than the antitheism article on Rationalwiki:

“Antitheism is the belief that theism and religion are harmful to society and people, and that if theistic beliefs were true, they would be undesirable.”

And again from the article:

“Whereas agnosticism and gnosticism address knowledge about gods, and whereas atheism and theism address one’s belief in the existence of gods, antitheism addresses the utility and favorability of theistic belief.”

So there you have it. Even if right now I found conclusive proof of a god existing, thereby becoming a gnostic theist, I would still be an antitheist, because I would still think that the mere existence of any god is undesirable.

-Kipp