Hey everybody! My name's Jon, I'm a Philosophy major at MTSU, born and raised in New Orleans, LA. This is just a quick excerpt from my upcoming book Stark Raving Lunatic: Life and Times of a 20-year-old Part-Time Cynic which contains, amongst many others, thoughts on sociopolitical issues, life, and yes, faith. Here's
A BRIEF DIGRESSION ON ATHIESM VS. AGNOSTICISM.
I swear, I heard Penn Jillette use this argument somewhere. But when I searched for it, I couldn’t find it as I remembered it. Hell, maybe I just made it up. So, taking a move from the man himself, I’m just going to present this as my own and if anyone finds it, you can tell Penn I said I’m sorry. So let’s get to it.
People who identify as “agnostic” as opposed to “atheist” kinda frustrate me. There’s a fairly good reason for my argument, and that is this: Agnosticism and Atheism are not mutually exclusive by any means. They don’t even answer the same question.
Agnosticism answers an epistemological question: “is there a god?” The answer to this, at least in the case of any reasonable human, is “I don’t know.” You can’t know. That’s the nature of a deity. It supposedly exists outside our plane of reality so its existence cannot be known beyond doubt.
Atheism answers the theological question: “do you believe that there is a god?” This is a different question entirely. This is a yes-or-no question. Do you believe? If yes, you’re a theist. If no, you’re an atheist.
Let me offer an example.
Right now, as you’re reading this, I’d like to ask you if there’s an invisible elephant in your bathtub. Well, is there? It’s invisible…so you can’t really observe it. So your only reasonable answer to the question can only be “I don’t know.” You’re currently an Agnostic towards a theoretical invisible elephant in your bathtub. Now, if I ask you whether you believe, given the evidence, that there is an elephant in your bathtub, then (hopefully) you’ll say “no, I don’t believe there’s an elephant in my bathtub. What a ridiculous question. Fuck you.” You’re now an Atheist towards see-through bathtub Dumbo.
The point is, most Atheists are Agnostic, and honestly, in their heart of hearts, I’d go as far as to say that most self-identifying Agnostics are Atheists.
Go ahead and put whatever label you want on yourself. That’s your prerogative. All I’m saying is, don’t try to present an epistemological answer to a theological question.