Agnosticism, atheism and labels

Religiously Inclined

hannah.web

As is common in the religious world, the concepts of both agnosticism and atheism are unforgivingly complicated. Even the standard Google search does not adequately resolve inquiry into their basic definitions. My own attempts to tackle these two subjects were in fact quite humbling — I realized, once again, that my personal knowledge in the realm of religion, and its tangents, is not only lacking, but sometimes decidedly incorrect. Therefore, I have entered into this endeavor alongside the uninformed, and my first question is simple: What are agnosticism and atheism?

To best understand these terms, I should probably even back up one step further. The ideologies behind agnosticism and atheism seem linked, in my opinion, in that both of them are outside of “religiosity.” By that I mean, when someone asks “What religion are you?”, people respond in a few distinct ways: “I am (fill in the blank with religious affiliation),” “I am not religious, I’m spiritual,” “I’m agnostic,” “I’m an atheist,” or “I don’t know.”

The first two seem relatively self-explanatory, but the third and fourth often give way to only a vague understanding. And this ambiguity is not going to be entirely quelled by my following efforts because both agnosticism and atheism — like most other religious or spiritual convictions — have various forms and features. Nonetheless, I think it is important to consider what these identities entail.

From the very beginning of my columns, I have freely shared my own religious beliefs — or perhaps more appropriately, my own nonreligious beliefs — as a self-professed atheist. To me, this means that I do not believe in a god or any sort of higher power, and I don’t believe in an afterlife.

Yet even while I read the definition of atheism on the American Atheists web site, I remarked the bleakness of this position when outlined in such a way. The site says that atheists essentially feel that there are “no forces, phenomena, or entities which exist outside of or apart from physical nature, or which transcend nature, or are ‘super’ natural, nor can there be. Humankind is on its own.”

Though I do agree with these statements, my lived experience as an atheist is not nearly as bleak as “believers” might think. My worldview is arguably just as ordered as that of a religious person’s, and I find comfort in that. I see my time on Earth as an absolutely incredible culmination of science and history that I feel obligated to take advantage of on a daily basis.

Agnosticism is not the same thing as atheism by any account. According to the multiple definitions that I happened upon in my research, agnosticism can most readily be defined as a state of incertitude. The website Faithology asserts that agnosticism is characterized by the opinion that “the existence or non-existence of a deity is ultimately unknowable” and that they “neither accept nor reject the possibility that deities are indeed real and may play a part in human life.”

Over the years, I’ve known several people who were self-identified agnostics at one point or another, but most professed a fundamental belief in a higher power — they just didn’t know exactly what that looked like. And, understandably, it is difficult to track down agnostics to speak with — or even agnostic websites — because this “ideology” does not have any fundamental concepts. On the contrary, it can be viewed as a wholesale rejection of fundamentalism.

However, I think the agnostic state is not unlike the state of being a college student. Bombarded by information, opinion, facts and truths, we often resort to the classic “I don’t know” response that summarizes our inner turmoil. I respect agnosticism because it allows people to admit — and embrace — their incertitude. The world is not always as black and white as one might want it to be, and agnostics engage with the gray.

To be clear, this is not about endorsing any one belief set. It is about understanding difference. Last week in front of Dwinelle Hall, I witnessed a showdown between a fundamentalist Christian and a hardcore atheist, both decrying the truth of the other’s claims. I shuffled by with most other passersby, uncomfortable with the confrontation. But my discomfort was not the only reason why I fled.

Categories within the religious context are essentially different, but I don’t feel that anything productive emerges from harping on that difference. Even identities such as atheist or agnostic include much internal variation. It is important to approach difference through understanding. And while definitions may sometimes be daunting and unsatisfactory, labels are not always helpful in discovering what someone truly believes. Just ask the question: “What religion are you?” Then, embrace the confusion and dialogue that ensues.

Contact Hannah Brady at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter: @brady_hm.

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  • I_h8_disqus

    Even though Hannah claims that she is an atheist, her articles show her to be agnostic. The only thing holding her back is that she is having a hard time reconciling some of her political views with religion.

  • Tom Paine

    I am an agnostic. I disagree with your characterization of agnostics as basically overloaded and confused. I am not at all confused. I see no evidence of gods, spirits, or an afterlife — therefore I doubt their existence. But I cannot categorically deny that some or all of these phenomena exist. Just like a scientist who decides, based on the available evidence, that there is no life of the Moon, I have decided that there is no god. But neither I, nor the scientist, would be so bold as to proclaim that no evidence could ever emerge. The bottom line, for me is this: how does one live his or her life? One can either live in such as way that assumes the existence of the supernatural, or not. Like all atheists, agnostics, and a surprising number of “religious” folks, I do not.

    • AnOski

      Agnostic? “I have decided that there is no god.”

      Confused. I get what you’re saying, but it seems to amount to rational/logical atheism.

  • peepsqueek

    God is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction:a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser;

    Lets look at God’s first four moral Commandments in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic World:

    1. You shall have no other gods before me. (Jealous) (Egotistic)

    2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God. (Jealous and Egotistic)

    3. Thou shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. (Egotistic)

    4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God (I, Me). On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. (Egotist) (One day a week, just for me “the Lord your God”.)

    • Guest

      “And don’t get me started on Muhammed, or someone will be threatening my life.”

      You make some very good points about the Christian God. I’d like to hear your thoughts about Muhammed too.

      • peepsqueek

        I made the above points of fact regarding the ancient text, which Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe.

        To partially answer your question: The earliest documented Christian knowledge of Muhammad stems from Byzantine sources. They indicate that both Jews and Christians saw Muhammad as a “false prophet”.

        In the Doctrina Jacobi nuper baptizati in 634 AD, Muhammad is portrayed as being “deceiving, asking the question “do prophets come with sword and chariot”? “You will discover nothing true from the said prophet except human bloodshed.”

        There are 29 conflicts and border wars around the world today involving repressive Islamic regimes. Where are those values coming from?

        There are 57 declared Muslim Countries at the United Nations. What happened to the indigenous people that “rejected Islam” and had their own beliefs and laws? This is why all your advanced Countries today have separation of Church and State. You have one tiny Jewish State and one tiny Catholic State (Vatican City) in which everyone is welcome. Try getting into Mecca, whose population was once Jewish and Christian prior to Islam/Muhammed.

    • Nunya Beeswax

      I wish you would give that text a rest. You post it in the combox of pretty much every article that touches on religion. Surely you must have other things to say?

      • peepsqueek

        The article is on a religious matter, so I posted my comments on religion. My biggest area of interest is in history and philosophy, and religion is a part of both history and philosophy. It appears that your biggest interest is to silence or censor those you do not agree with. Do you have anything to contribute?

        • Nunya Beeswax

          I have plenty to contribute, and I do, as you well know. I’m not interested in silencing you, just wondering what you think it accomplishes to copy and paste the same rant in any place where you think it’s remotely on topic.

          • peepsqueek

            It is true that I have kept notes over the years, and I apply them when necessary. I quote from encyclopedias, from the Bible and other ancient text, I quote from famous debates and speeches, and when some one’s facts are not correct about any given day, I simply pull all the press releases from various sources around the world from that given day and then copy and paste relevant information for the benefit of those who need correction. It is an education for myself as well. Everyone has a right to be wrong in their opinions, but no one has a right to be wrong in their facts.

    • Current Student

      peepsqueek. the king of the cut-and-paste.

      • peepsqueek

        If I have cut and pasted anything that is not factual, please corrected me with contradictory factual evidence.

        • Nunya Beeswax

          The point is not whether the text is factual or factitious. The point is that those who read these comments have seen you post the same text block several times, and it’s tiresome to see the same stuff keep popping up multiple times in a week. It also makes you seem as though you’re too lazy to be bothered to come up with a different way of saying your piece, or as though you just compulsively have to counter any mention of God or religion on the Internets.

          And your argument that the Gospels must be fiction because they weren’t written in the time, place and language of Jesus is absolute nonsense. By those criteria, hardly any work of modern history can be seen as factual.

          • peepsqueek

            When the same issues come up and a new person posts something that shows that he or she has not done the research, I will ask the same questions and post the same factual arguments. Either I will teach someone a few things or they will teach me. Your posts have no teaching moments.

            Your argument that hardly any work of modern history can be see as factual if we hold it up to the same standards as the Gospel is true. Conversations that people had with God when they were alone would hardly constitute modern factual history.

            The New Testament begins with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, four accounts of the activities of Jesus. The authors do not write under those names; the ascriptions come from early Christian traditions. Thus the fourth gospel’s anonymous writer claims to be
            recording the testimony of a source figure identified only as “the beloved disciple” of Jesus, not even Jesus himself. This is not how we document history. We document history by cross checking names, locations, original language, and chronology with multiple sources and text of the time.

          • Nunya Beeswax

            “Your argument that hardly any work of modern history can be see as
            factual if we hold it up to the same standards as the Gospel is actually
            true. Conversations that people had with God when they were alone
            would hardly constitute modern factual history.”

            I don’t think you’re comprehending what you read properly. You say that the Gospels have to be fictitious because they were not written in the time, place, and language of Jesus. If you apply those criteria to Georg Ostrogorsky’s History of the Byzantine State (a modern work of history concerning late antiquity), then that book must also be fiction, since it was 1) written long after the Byzantine state ceased to exist, 2) not written in any of the territories which comprised the Eastern Roman Empire, and 3) written in German, not Greek (the language that the Byzantines spoke). This example should be sufficient to show that your theory of historiography is rather peculiar. Oh, and Thucydides and Xenophon didn’t footnote–does that mean we should discard them as well?

            The issue is not that the Gospels violate some historiographical rule (they were, by the way, produced independently, and so they should qualify as multiple sources; and they were all written less than 50 years after the death of Jesus); the issue is really that you don’t find them plausible. That’s really okay, by the way. You should just admit that, and stop trying to construct unworkable theories to justify your considering them fiction rather than reportage.

          • peepsqueek

            Part of what you say is true. When I was growing up, the history that I was given of the Native Americans, the African slave trade, the story of Cristoforo Colombo finding the New World, were all full of misinformation and omissions, and modern historians, linguistics, and science has a whole difference version than what we taught, hence the old books have been replaced. We do not have the luxury to do this with the Bible, regardless of any new information.

            Most of the stories in the Bible are both logically and physically impossible or just plain fantasy. Your only argument is that because the existence of God is mentioned in the Bible then it must be true.

            Tell me you believe the story of creation and Adam and Eve written 3500 years ago, then you have to discount chronological science and anthropology and the human bones found in Africa that are well over a million years old, and neanderthal bones found in Europe that are over two million years old, and the dinosaurs that are not mentioned which all came before this story was written. Moses story of creation is absolutely fictional by any standard.

          • Nunya Beeswax

            We’ve had this conversation before. The first half of Genesis is a collection of myths (not fiction; if you think the two are equivalent, then you should bow out of this conversation). There is no indication that the editors of Genesis intended to present those myths as literal truth; indeed, there are two different creation stories presented in Genesis. This suggests to me that the point of the story is not the creation of the world 6,000 years ago in 7 solar days, but that God is the creator of all that is, and that he is sovereign over his creation.

            Could you list some Bible stories that you find logically impossible? Could you also delineate the criteria by which you decide whether a story is logically impossible, physically impossible, or just plain fantasy? Do you have a percentage breakdown of which stories or accounts fall into which categories? And how many is “most”? Again, is that based on a percentage, and do you have raw statistics to support that assertion?

            Thanks in advance for providing those important facts to back up your assertions. Because, after all, we wouldn’t want to stray from the facts!

          • peepsqueek

            To make a long story short, Jesus’s story is an obvious rehashing of numerous previous Characters. The statistical probability of this story being unique is staggering. And who gets to document all the previous stories as factual?

            Perhaps even more compelling is the story of Christ himself. As it turns out it’s not even remotely original. It is instead nothing more than a collection of bits and pieces from dozens of other stories that came long before. Here are some examples.

            Asklepios healed the sick, raised the dead, and was known as the savior and redeemer.

            Hercules was born of a divine father and mortal mother and was known as the savior of
            the world. Prophets foretold his birth and claimed he would be a king, which started a search by a leader who wanted to kill him. He walked on water and told his mother, “Don’t cry, I’m going to heaven.” when he died. As he passed he said, “It is finished.“

            Dionysus was literally the “Son of God”, was born of a virgin mother, and was commonly depicted riding a donkey. He healed the sick and turned water to wine. He was killed but was resurrected and became immortal. His greatest accomplishment was his own death, which delivers humanity itself.

            Osiris did the same things. He was born of a virgin, was considered the first true king
            of the people, and when he died he rose from the grave and went to heaven.

            Osiris’s son, Horus, was known as the “light of the world”, “The good shepherd”, and “the
            lamb”. He was also referred to as, “The way, the truth, and the life.” His symbol was a cross.

            Mithra‘s birthday was celebrated on the 25th of December, his birth was witnessed by local shepherds who brought him gifts, had 12 disciples, and when he was done on earth he had a final meal before going up to heaven. On judgment day he’ll return to pass judgment on the living and the dead. The good will go to heaven, and the evil will die in a giant fire. His holiday is on Sunday (he’s the Sun God). His followers called themselves “brothers”, and their leaders “fathers”. They had baptism and a meal ritual where symbolic flesh and blood were eaten. Heaven was in the sky, and hell was below with demons and sinners.

            Krishna had a miraculous conception that wise men were able to come to because they were guided by a star. After he was born an area ruler tried to have him found and killed. His parents were warned by a divine messenger, however, and they escaped and was met by shepherds. The boy grew up to be the mediator between God and man.

            Buddha‘s mother was told by an angel that she’d give birth to a holy child destined to
            be a savior. As a child he teaches the priests in his temple about religion while his parents look for him. He starts his religious career at roughly 30 years of age and is said to have spoken to 12 disciples on his deathbed. One of the disciples is his favorite, and another is a traitor. He and his disciples abstain from wealth and travel around speaking in parables and metaphors. He called himself “the son of man” and was referred to as, “prophet”, “master”, and “Lord”. He healed the sick, cured the blind and deaf, and he walked on water. One
            of his disciples tried to walk on water as well but sunk because his faith wasn’t strong enough.

            Apollonius of Tyana (a contemporary of Jesus) performed countless miracles (healing sick
            and crippled, restored sight, casted out demons, etc.) His birth was of a virgin, foretold by an angel. He knew scripture really well as a child. He was crucified, rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples to prove his power before going to heaven to sit at the right hand of the father. He was known as, “The Son of God”.

            The problem, of course, is that these previous narratives existed hundreds to thousands of years before Jesus.

            As far as the Christ myth goes, the primary driver for this was St Paul – who never met the central character of his mythology. Paul came from the birthplace of Mithras, whose own mythology parallels the Catholic record of the Christ myth. Combine this with the popularity of Mithraism in Rome and its easy to see how it would have been convenient in creating a new religion to steal sections of an existing mythology.

          • Nunya Beeswax

            That’s all irrelevant. I asked you to document your assertions, not to vomit forth more copypasta on a completely different topic. Please answer my questions, or admit that you’re generalizing and that you cannot cite the text in question to support your assertions.

          • peepsqueek

            You have an ego problem and cannot admit that you have been checkmated.

          • Nunya Beeswax

            Thanks for your diagnosis, but I’m still waiting for answers to my questions. I’ll be happy to address your list of inaccurate assertions about mythic figures later, once you’ve finished the discussion we started above. I am not going to be distracted by attempts to change the subject. Put up or shut up.

          • peepsqueek

            You have been checkmated. You want me to prove that you do not have an full grown elephant in your hand, just because you believe that you do. While I cannot prove it, it is impossible by logic and all known senses. You can believe in all the fiction that you want. I cannot only say that I hope you are never called for jury duty, as the defendant could never pass your standards of what is factual evidence. In every Court in the Western world, the burden of proof is always on the one who make the claim. You claim that the Bible is factual, but provide no basis other than the Bible itself. It is like going to Court and the Judge is your Uncle.

          • 10guy

            Do you remember watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood?

          • peepsqueek

            No, but what is your point? Be very specific!

          • Nunya Beeswax

            See, you’re trying to make this about whether Christianity is true or not, and that’s not the issue. The issue is your manner of posting : you seem to be choosing random quotes from jesusneverexisted.com and throwing them out for consideration regardless of whether they address the discussion, as though your borrowed “erudition” is somehow going to end the discussion in your favor. News flash : it doesn’t. You can crow “You’re checkmated” all you like, but it will take more than your declaration to make it so.

            The list of supposed sources for the figure of Jesus is a farrago of half-truths and inventions. I’ll briefly address two.

            First, Horus. You assert that the cross is his symbol. By “symbol” do you mean hieroglyph or pictorial representation? Either way, you’re incorrect. The symbol most commonly associated with Horus is the wedjat eye, and his mother Isis is not a virgin goddess. A brief fact-check in a book about Egyptian religion, or even Wikipedia, would have prevented your posting such nonsense, but of course that might have cut into your time fighting the good fight for Mr Dawkins.

            You assert also that the “birthplace” of Mithras is St Paul’s home city (Tarsus, though you don’t mention it by name). I wonder where that information comes from; there is no Mithraeum in Tarsus (which is in Asia Minor), and the cult of Mithras was stronger in the areas of the Aegean and Tyrrhenian seas than in the East. We actually know very little about this cult, since no contemporaneous written accounts or religious texts survive. Pictorial representations in Mithraeums are all we have to go by (sort of like what would happen if archaeologists had to reconstruct what Christianity was like with no written texts; they would probably conclude that it was a sun-worship cult that engaged in human sacrifice, neither of which is true). Again, it wouldn’t have taken you much time to check these “facts”–actually, “factoids” would be a better word, since although they formally resemble facts there is no real factual content.

            Finally, could you please make up your mind as to whether I’m too gullible or too rigorous?

          • Nunya Beeswax

            Oh, and p.s. : the next time you post a long list of this sort of “evidence,” could you please indicate the primary source(s)? I’d hate to think you were a plagiarist.

          • peepsqueek

            A plagiarism is when you copy someones work and claim it to be your own. When you copy a bunch of people’s work on one paper, it is called research. I would ask you to quote the primary source of your so called God’s word.

          • Nunya Beeswax

            The Bible is itself a primary source, you dunce. Did you ever have to write a term paper? Did you ever take a course in basic research techniques? Typing search terms into Google and then copying and pasting the first thing you find is not research.

            Copying another person’s work and claiming it is yours is indeed plagiarism. So is using another person’s research and neglecting to credit them. Also, when you make a list of assertions like the ones you post above, providing textual references is a courtesy to other scholars who might want to see those texts for themselves in order to make up their own minds. It also shows that you’re not just making stuff up, a charge which in your case is becoming more and more plausible.

          • peepsqueek

            pri·ma·ry 

            1. first or highest in rank or importance.

            2. first in order in any series, sequence, etc.

            How can you logically state “the Bible is itself a primary source”?

            Letters from Earth by Mark Twain, 1909: “You have noticed that the human being is a curiosity. In times past he has had (and worn out and flung away) hundreds and hundreds of religions; today he has hundreds and hundreds of religions, and launches not fewer
            than three new ones every year. I could enlarge that number and still be within the facts.”

            “One of his principle religions is called the Christian. A sketch of it will interest you. It sets forth in detail in a book containing two million words, called the Old and New Testaments. Also it has another name — The Word of God. For the Christian thinks every word of it was dictated by God — the one I have been speaking of.”

          • Nunya Beeswax

            Exactly. You don’t know what a primary source is.

          • peepsqueek

            Now we are in agreement! No one knows the primary source of this concept called God?

          • Nunya Beeswax

            You’re using “primary source” in at least two different senses in the post above. Please indicate which one we’re talking about. The sense you quote from wikipedia is the one I’m referring to; I don’t quite understand how the Bible does not qualify as a primary source. The accuracy of what it reported in it doesn’t make any difference; Herodotus’ History is also regarded as a primary source, though much of it has been shown to be inaccurate.

          • peepsqueek

            The ancient Egyptians also adopted the cross as a religious symbol of their pagan gods. Countless Egyptian drawings depict themselves holding crosses in their hands. Among them, the Egyptian savior Horus is depicted holding a cross in his hand. He is also depicted as an infant sitting on his mother’s knee with a cross on the seat they occupy. The most common of the crosses used by these pagan Egyptians, the CRUX ANSATA, was later adopted by the Christians.

            The Egyptian savior, Osiris, the Egyptian god of the dead and the underworld, is sometimes represented holding out this cross to mortals signifying that this person has discarded
            mortality for the life to come.

            Another cross has been unearthed in Ireland. It belongs to the cult of the Persian god of the sun “Mithra” and bears a crucified effigy. The Greeks and Romans too adopted the cross as their religious symbol many centuries before Christianity did the same. An ancient inscription in Tessaly is accompanied by a Calvary cross. More crosses can be found to adorn the tomb of king Midas in Phrygia. The above references may be referred to for many more examples.

          • Nunya Beeswax

            There are no references. A reference looks like this : Ronald Takaki, Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 113.

            I love how when you’re shown to be wrong, you just post more copypasta bullshit. Do you actually have a college degree, or did you learn everything from web sites?

          • peepsqueek

            A cross shaped like a T with a loop at the top, as used in ancient Egypt as a symbol of life. Also called ansate cross is also a reference.

            9Paus. ii. 26. § 6, iv. 3. § 2; Cic. De Nat. Deor. iii. 22, where three different Aesculapiuses are made out of the different local traditions about him.) After Aesculapius had grown up, reports spread over all countries, that he not only cured all the sick, but called the dead to life again. (Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 14.) These are also references.

            Don’t you use the Bible as a reference? Yet it is all fantasy from earlier text.

            On the other hand, if you asked me questions about the US Constitution, I would copy and past relevant sections of the Constitution. But you would discount those sections because I pasted them. This is the twenty first Century. I do not have to write all the reference points in long hand. I have won a number of legal cases by copying and pasting all the relevant case law, relevant US Federal Codes and Regulations, and the determining Judge’s prior decisions on the matter in my legal briefs. A Judge will never argue against his own prior legal and binding decisions.

          • Nunya Beeswax

            I’m not discounting the things you post because they’re copied and pasted, but because you don’t provide references for where they come from.

            Thanks for the Pausanias and Cicero references. Asklepios indeed healed the sick; he was, after all, a physician, and one would think that might be his job. He may have revived the dead as well, but I can’t find any source which refers to him as either “savior” or “redeemer”. Do you have specific citations?

            What you call a “crux ansata” is properly called an ankh (that’s what the Egyptians called it; Coptic Christians appropriated the symbol thousands of years later). The ankh is a symbol of life, and is not especially associated with Horus; all the gods in the Egyptian pantheon are depicted holding it.

            You are asserting that the Bible is “fantasy from earlier text,” whatever that is supposed to mean. You have posted some further assertions that are more specific, yet I have shown that a number of them are demonstrably false. Yet you refuse to respond to any of my counter-arguments. Your only response is to post yet more baseless assertions. You are exactly like a fundamentalist Christian who posts Bible verses in response to his opponent’s argument. Your tactic seems to be to try and drown your opponent in sheer verbiage. It’s not working.

          • Guest

            da fuq u just say? do u even lift fgt?

    • 10guy

      when was the last time you held a baby? :)

      • peepsqueek

        My own or someone else’s? My instinct is to love and protect all babies, human and animal. I was in conflict when I was younger when I slaughtered some animals for food, and when I was in a position to have to kill people during war. I saw “no all loving, all forgiving, all merciful” being interfering, not even once.

  • Guest

    “Last week in front of Dwinelle Hall, I witnessed a showdown between a
    fundamentalist Christian and a hardcore atheist, both decrying the truth
    of the other’s claims.”

    I witnessed that spectacle too. It was hilarious, lol.

  • Calipenguin

    When Hannah wrote about being caught up in the romance of a Tibetan prayer rug that can spread happiness I knew she couldn’t truly be an atheist.

  • Damian

    “On the contrary, it can be viewed as a wholesale rejection of fundamentalism.” Well, depends on how you look at it. Agnosticism comes in two main varieties. Weak or negative agnosticism is the more familiar one, where one sees neither the theist (believing) nor the atheist side as plausible from what we know. Strong or positive agnosticism is the view that certain issues, most notably the question of God’s existence, cannot be known, and explicitly rejects atheism and theism. Weak agnosticism is compatible with atheism. As for atheism, you’re right, defining it is not as most people think it is. Atheism comes in two main types, strong atheism, the belief that there is no God/gods, and weak atheism, the lack of belief in one.