Many times in my conversations with religious believers, they attempt to define me as dogmatic. They claim that “atheists” must hold to the position that there is no God and that we can’t accept the possibility that we could be wrong. They maintain that the agnostic position is the only valid position one can hold and yet they themselves are religious believers.
First, I try to explain to them that I am both an atheist and an agnostic. I want them to understand that agnosticism is a lack of knowledge and atheism is a lack of belief. These two positions are not mutually exclusive and in fact, atheism follows from agnosticism. Because I lack knowledge (i.e. evidence), I also lack belief. If a religious believer could present some valid evidence, then I would have knowledge and would then come to believe. But that has yet to happen in all of recorded history – and it hasn’t been for lack of trying or lack of resources.
Unfortunately, this sometimes doesn’t compute with theists. Instead of accepting my definitions for atheism and agnosticism, they maintain that atheism is a dogmatic position and that I must be dogmatic in my belief that God doesn’t exist.
Okay, fuck the labels. I really don’t care what term someone wants to call me. My position is what it is regardless of the term some theist wants to use. I am willing to change my position on whether or not a deity exists if valid evidence is presented. Hell, I’ll even accept a valid argument. But as it stands, there is no evidence for any deities let alone a specific deity. All the arguments seem to be against the concept of God – especially the Abrahamic God. But I am open to the possibility… just not the probability.
On the other hand, I find that few theists are even willing to entertain the possibility that they are wrong and that either God doesn’t exist at all or that their God doesn’t exist. Maybe Zeus is the correct answer or as it is in South Park, the Mormons.
Personally, I identify myself as an atheist first because I think it conveys my position on religion pretty bluntly. But sometimes I will identify as a Humanist because that is actually am ideology I agree with. There are also some occasions that I identify as a Jedi because I find a great deal of meaning in the Star Wars Saga and I use it to preach my values much like some religious believers use their holy books.
I don’t generally use agnostic and here’s why. We are all agnostic whether we realize it or not. As a point of fact, no one has any knowledge pertaining to any deities. Religious people have beliefs, but not any actual knowledge. No one has that knowledge. So to me, it makes no sense to identify with a position that everyone actually has. Plus, I think the term seems wishy-washy, like someone is trying to stay neutral because they don’t want to offend anyone.
But hey, if a Christian wants to label me as an agnostic instead of an atheist because I don’t fit his or her preconceived notion of the evil dogmatic atheist who eats babies and curses a God I don’t believe in, then fine with me. Labels don’t determine my positions; my positions determine my labels. My position is that I am an atheist because I lack a belief in deities. I don’t really care what you want to call it. The important part is that I lack belief in deities, not that “I’m an atheist” part. To me and most other people who identify as atheists, they are the same thing.
My point here is that we can let the fly out of the bottle and stop playing the language game and start dealing with the actual issue. Is there any actual evidence for any deities? If so, present it.