I apologize if this has been discussed before on the forum, but I attempted a search and couldnt find much, so, I'm taking a chance.

I, as many others, am confused over the EXACT differences between Agnostics and Atheists. I consider myself an Agnostic, which I believe to mean that I do not believe in deity, but I do indeed believe in the supernatural; such as spirits, reincarnation and other planes or "worlds". How do my beliefs compare to those of the Atheists? I too, love science and feel that there is a very fine line between Science and The Mystical.

Forgive my naivety, as I am relatively new to change in attitude. I am also a Witch, I started out in worshipping the "Goddess", then as my studies grew and thru research and soul searching, I found the idea and/or concept of a gender specific deity.....ridiculous. Now, one would have to know the definiton of a Witch to understand why it's almost impossible to be an Atheist Witch, but Agnostic..not as impossible. However, that said....I still have to occasionally "defend" my Agnostisim + Witchcraft, as many dont feel that a Witch can even be an Agnostic...not that I give a shit what others think of me or my beliefs, but instead of searching the internet for the answers....I wanted to get the answers from those that live it...daily.

Thank you in advance..
Alayna

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To quote Dawkins, in The God Delusion:

 

Let us, then, take the idea of a spectrum of probabilities seriously, and place human judgments about the existence of God along it, between two extremes of opposite certainty. The spectrum is continuous, but it can be represented by the following seven milestones along the way.

 

1. Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C. G. Jung, 'I do not believe, I know.'

2. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. De facto theist. 'I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.'

3. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. Technically agnostic but leaning towards theism. 'I am very undertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.'

4. Exactly 50 per cent. Completely impartial agnostic. 'God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.'

5. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. Technically agnostic but leaning towards atheism. 'I don't know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be sceptical.'

6. Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. 'I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.'

7. Strong atheist. 'I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung "knows" there is one.'

 

I agree with Dawkins here. I, like Dawkins, identify as a six. By definition, all numbers 2-6 could be considered agnostic, but it's pretty fair to say that anybody identifying as an agnostic falls between 3 and 5; in most cases, 4. Like Dawkins then goes on to say (in reference to a Douglas Adams quote) "I am agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden."

 

In my opinion, if you believe in the supernatural, however you justify it, you are not agnostic. But that's me.

@Dave B, thank you for your comment.  I've only recently discovered Dawkins, who I find to be very interesting and a brilliant mind.  The above numberological sequence is a bit confusing to a newbie (!) but I think I can understand it..the more I read it!

"4. Exactly 50 per cent. Completely impartial agnostic. 'God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.'"

 

If a person was an agnostic in the sense that Huxley used the term, they may very well fall into the '4' category, but would probably not describe the propositions as 'equiprobable'.  Probability shouldn't apply to the situation. 

Well, perhaps I should have been more clear.  

 

The way probability is used on that scale seems either incorrect, or not compatible with agnosticism.  An impartial agnostic isn't sitting at a 50/50 stance; they would be claiming that both propositions are inherently unknowable.  The probability of either position would always be undefined, not 50/50. This is the exact middle ground between those who ascribe to gnostic theism or agnostic atheism.  

 

If someone characterizes the odds as 50% for either proposition being true, I have to ask by what method is this probability being calculated?  There is a difference between saying, "I have no means of knowing which position is more likely, and therefor favor neither" and saying, "Both positions are equally likely, and therefore I favor neither". 

I recall Dawkins dismissing 7 as unscientific, arguing in the lines of: "A scientist can never fully dismiss anything". It rests on the argument 'Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack', though pushing this too far leads to a logical fallacy.

There is currently no evidence of anything supernatural (as in something being, and forever will be, unexplainable). Seeing as defining something as unexplainable can only be done once we have achieved knowledge of everything, I postpone my judgement of anything supernatural existing. But I do live with the presumption that there is nothing, and can thus define me as an atheist.

I do have a bit of trouble understanding how you can believe in spirits or reincarnation without there being something which you deify - be it nature, humanity, the planet, or something else.

I do not believe in deity

 

Then you are an atheist.  See, wasn't that simple?

 

For the clarification you seek:  Gnostism refers to knowledge, or what you KNOW to be true.  Theism refers to belief, or what you BELIEVE to be true.  To be an a-gnostic is to "lack knowledge."  In other words, you have no direct knowledge that there is a god.  To be an a-theist is to "lack belief."  In other words, you have no personal belief that there is a god.

 

Most people who describe themselves as atheist or agnostic are, in fact, both.  In common parlance, agnostic is generally used to mean "I'm not sure, so I take the on-the-fence position."  If you can state outright that you do not believe in a god or gods, then you are an atheist.  You made exactly such a statement.

 

As for the other stuff you mentioned, such as various supernatural elements, I don't think you'll find many here who share in those beliefs and, be forewarned, most consider such beliefs to be just as false, outdated, and "silly" (no offense) as a belief in a god.  But I think you'll also find that as long as you don't expect others to abide by your own beliefs, we atheists really don't care so much what you believe.  Welcome to T|A :)

@Galen..thank u as well for commenting.  Well, that simplifies it doesnt it?!  The reasons I believe in the supernatural is that I've....experienced what may be called paranormal activity in my life.  As a child, my parents took a scenic drive to our annual vacation spot one time..thru a tiny town in somewhere from NY to CT....at one time...almost in the blink of an eye..I looked out the window..and felt a sense of familarity...I believe it's called De Ja Vu.  I knew I'd been there before, but my parents insisted we had never been there before.  Then, years later,...I had a "thing" hovering around me...the weird thing..light footsteps at the foot of my bed..on my bed.  Also, about 6 years ago...I saw my dad...called a "visit"..during the day..outside..in his carpenters' clothes (he died in 94)...in the blink of an eye..he was there and then gone.  Now, could these be  "neurological" events instead of supernatural?....I suppose, as I like to think I walk around with an fairly open mind and am always willing to hear someone elses beliefs, ideas and views.

@Nelson.....no, at this moment, I'd have to say I feel my experiences were supernatural.  I am trying my best to read up on subjects such as Neuropsychology, and Quantum Phy...so I can get an idea whether or not the things I've experienced "were in my head" so to speak.  Science knows that everything is made of energy correct?  So do Witches...that's what being a Witch is about..manipulating energy.  We can "see" some forms of energy...as well as feel them.

I think that just because there is no god or higher divine force, that it doesn't mean there can't be other forms of "energy" in other planes and all around us.  Nature is all about energy...so, spirits are....energy.  Does that make any sense?

I have to say, in my opinion what you stated you experienced was in fact, halucinations or something of that sort. There have been times I thought I saw or heard something. I fully believe that the things I saw and heard were hidden in my mind and something brought them to the surface.

I can be in a pitch black room... and close my eyes... and see a bright light, like a car's headlights are shining in my face. The first time it happened, it scared the shit out of me and fascinated me at the same time. Now I can think about it and make it happen. I have no clue how it works, but I know there's a scientific explanation for it.
I think you are describing Exploding Head Syndrome (wiki it).  I've experienced that as well.

During 'hell week' in the military I saw a full troop of soldiers marching past my post. Problem was that the only troop near by was my own...

Pissed off 50 very tired guys by alerting them to my hallucination. :)

I have also had supernatural experiences in my life.  For a long time, I was not only a Christian, but a strong believer in all of those supernatural things as well.

 

I put to you the question that Christopher Hitchens has put to many audiences before:  Which is more likely, that the laws of nature upon which the universe operates have been suspended (and often in your favor too), or that you are simply mistaken?  There is a reason that first-person eyewitness knowledge is the very lowest form of evidence in science; because it us unreliable!  As Neil DeGrasse Tyson puts it, "we are poor data taking devices!"

 

I know, intellectually, that my own supernatural experiences were nothing of the sort.  No matter how real they may have felt to me, feelings do not determine what is reality.  Deja Vu, for example, is not mystical, but simply a read/write error of the brain's memory processing (you are recalling something at the exact moment it is being "written" to your memory).  Tales of apparitions and such are merely cognitive malfunctions of our very poor and unreliable senses and such malfunctions are commonplace.

 

I know that if Jesus Christ appeared to me right now, I'd require more proof than what I see with my own two eyes before I'd accept such an unlikely thing as reality.  I encourage you to hold yourself to this high standard as well.  You are an intelligent being, don't sell yourself short! :)

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