In a snarky and light-hearted discussion about beliefs over on Damn Portlanders, a LiveJournal community I frequent, I and others eventually got down to the subtle differences between an agnostic and an atheist. My own personal take on it appeared to oppose dave256’s views; the definition I use is that atheist belief is provisional and contingent on the evidence, and an agnostic’s belief, coming from the assumption that the existence of God or gods isn’t necessarily something we can ever know, is not really provable or disprovable.
Of course, I’d say that because I consider myself an atheist, and I’m giving myself the rational position. Heh.
dave256, on the other hand, gives the same basic definition of “agnostic” that I would give – then appends the idea that an agnostic would be the one most likely to change their mind if presented with evidence of a God or gods, rather than an atheist, which gave me food for thought.
Sure, atheists in general seem more sure of themselves on the topic, but even among atheists there are distinctions that not many are aware of. There’s both “strong” and “weak” atheism, where a weak atheist takes the position of being against the specific gods of the major world religions – the Christian God, Jesus-as-God, Yahweh, Allah, the many Hindu gods, the Norse or Greek or Egyptian gods, and so on – and a strong atheist takes the position that dave256 is suggesting, that there are, flatly, no gods at all.
More and more, I find myself pushed by the evidence (always follow the evidence is my creed and motto) to simply reject the major gods of the world’s existing religions. Might there be a god yet uncovered by human philosophy? Sure. Show me the evidence, though, so I can evaluate your claim. But the vast flavors of Christianity, the various sects of Judaism, the factions of Islam, the myriad followers of Vishnu et. al. – those all make specific claims, and those claims can be evaluated with the imperfect-but-best-we’ve-got tools of logic, the scientific method, rational thought, and always always always direct comparison to the world we actually see around us.
And those gods have always failed tests by those tools.
So, in that Damned Portlanders discussion, when existence_ltd mentioned the word “adeist”, it caught my attention:
It strikes me that in the context of this conversation — in the context that we commonly use the word “atheist” — that it might be more appropriate to use the word “adeist.” Is that a word? Should be.
I Googled the word and found that someone had apparently added “adeist” to Urban Dictionary in October 2007, so they had beaten existence_ltd to the claim of invention, but the idea itself is useful and it’s one I shall use for myself in the future as a more specific descriptor of my own beliefs.
And whether or not others see it my way or not, I can say for myself that I’m open to new evidence and willing to admit I’m wrong if someone shows me God in a Box ™.