So in what has to be one of the most surreal moments of my godlessness I was asked by a close friend of mine to speak to her Sunday school class about atheism. The kids are between 15-17 and "non-denominational." My friend has sworn that this isn't some sort of malicious attempt to convert me, and I trust her on that.
I said I would give the lecture.
So people of ThinkAtheist here's my question for you:
If you could tell young Christians (in the south no less) about your atheism what would you tell them?
Once it is understood that atheism is merely the absence of belief in any gods, it becomes evident that agnosticism is not, as many assume, a “third way” between atheism and theism. The presence of a belief in a god and the absence of a belief in a god exhaust all of the possibilities. Agnosticism is not about belief in god but about knowledge — it was coined originally to describe the position of a person who could not claim to know for sure if any gods exist or not.
Thus, it is clear that agnosticism is compatible with both theism and atheism. A person can believe in a god (theism) without claiming to know for sure if that god exists; the result is agnostic theism. On the other hand, a person can disbelieve in gods (atheism) without claiming to know for sure that no gods can or do exist; the result is agnostic atheism.
It is also worth noting that there is a vicious double standard involved when theists claim that agnosticism is “better” than atheism because it is less dogmatic. If atheists are closed-minded because they are not agnostic, then so are theists. On the other hand, if theism can be open-minded then so can atheism.
In the end, the fact of the matter is a person isn’t faced with the necessity of only being either an atheist or an agnostic. Quite the contrary, not only can a person be both, but it is in fact common for people to be both agnostics and atheists. An agnostic atheist won’t claim to know for sure that nothing warranting the label “god” exists or that such cannot exist, but they also don’t actively believe that such an entity does indeed exist."
want me to pull more links to show you differently
I was under the impression that the two terms related to two different things: belief and knowledge. Atheism deals with the lack of a belief in god(s). Agnosticism deals with the lack of knowledge about whether any god(s) exist. While the two terms can be related, they don't have to be.
For example, some Christians may KNOW that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, but because of their religion, they choose to believe in young earth creationism.
Since I do not believe any any god nor do I know whether any god exists (nor do I care), I consider myself an apathetic, agnostic atheist.
I think you may be misunderstanding what these words mean.
A-theist = 'not a theist,' (from Greek 'theos' meaning deity) ergo, don't believe in a deity.
A-gnostic = 'not knowing,' (from the Greek 'gnosis' meaning factual knowledge) ergo, don't know for certain there is or is not.
I can quite easily not believe in something, even with great surety, without having 100% certainty of it.
I don't believe I will be struck by lightening when I walk out the door, but I cannot say with 100% certainty that I will not. Or, I do not believe there is, as Russell so eloquently proposed, a teapot in orbit around Saturn. But it is impossible to know with complete certainty whether there is not.
Speak for yourself. I know for certain (100%) there's no teapot orbiting Saturn.
Yes, but that is reasonable certainty, and such certainty is the same as the certainty that there is no God. It is true that there is no reason to believe there is such a teapot, nor is there any evidence of it. However, since such a thing is impossible to prove without surveying the space around Saturn down to the last cubic foot (which we are presently unable to do), it is not something that can be absolutely known; it cannot be proven (or disproven), tested, or documented. Likewise, the non-existence of God is impossible to prove, even though we have just as much reasonable certainty that God does not exist as we do for the teapot.
It is invisable and can only be experienced in the hearts of those who have faith that it is there.
Since we're being completely logical and scientific Rosemary, the heart is an organic blood pump, incapable of "experiencing" anything except electonic impulses that tell it when to contract and when to relax.
Not true. Do a bit of research before putting fingers on keyboard, please.
Those of us who are scientists believe that very little is 100 percent certain, even things that we are really pretty sure about - like whether the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning. It just conceivably might not do that. In that case I would have to revise my beliefs about the suns position vis a vis the earth in the light of new knowledge and experience.
BTW, if you insist that no-one is a true atheist unless they are absolutely certain that there is no possibility that something that could be defined by somebody as a "god" actually exists, then you will exclude just about everyone in the Think Atheist community.
While you may be one of the rare people who are as certain that a god does not exist as most theists are that one does exist, do not assume that the majority of people who use the term "atheist" to describe themselves share your peculiar definition of the word. Most of us use the word to describe our non-belief in the existence of a god, pending some reasonable proof that one does.
BTW. did you know that the term "Athiest" was used to describe early Christians, because they did not believe in the existence of the Roman gods.? By that definition all current Christians are also atheist, at least about gods other then the one they worship.
Though I consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool atheist, you're absolutely right Rosemary - it takes roughly 8 minutes, traveling at 186 thousand mps, for light from the sun to reach the earth, so at no point in time, can we ever be 100% certain that the sun is shining, even in the daytime.
It strikes me (finally?) that maybe one of the biggest differences between theists and atheists is how theists tend to see the world in absolute, black and white, true or false terms, while atheists (and scientists) try--yes, sometimes to a fault--to think about the world in terms of what's most likely, most probable, and most reasonable.
So both theists and atheists can make their claims with integrity, whilst adhering to different definitions of their words. It's an unfortunate opportunity for people who disagree with each other to talk past each other instead of enlightening each other.
Excellent observation, your holiness --
I'm as sure there are no Gods as I'm sure there's not an elephant sitting here in the room with me or that there's not an invisible whale in my fish pond. I'd have to say I'm 100% sure because I've never been given a good enough reason to think otherwise so what grounds do I have to doubt it with 100% certainty, because others do?
But if we talk about Aliens, well now that's another story...LOL..