Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Agnosticism vs. Atheism

In a past post, I talked about the experiences (and lack thereof) that lead me to agnosticism. I thought I should talk more about why I'm an agnostic and not an atheist.

If you are at all versed in the nuances of difference between agnosticism and atheism, you'd know that for all intents and purposes, in all practicality - they're the same. Agnostics and atheists both behave as if there is no God. But agnostics and atheists have slightly different reasons for behaving as such. You could almost say that the difference is merely semantic. But that's not exactly the case. Richard Dawkins says its a matter of probabilities, and I'm very much inclined to agree with him. There's a scale of (a)theism that he lays out, and I paraphrase it here:
  1. Strong theist. 100% probability of God's existance.
  2. De facto theist. Very high probability of God's existance, but not quite 100% - let's say 70-99% chance.
  3. Technically agnostic, but leaning towards theism. Higher than 50% probability of God's existance, but not as particularly high as a de facto theist. Let's say 51-69% chance.
  4. Impartial agnostic. Exactly 50% chance of God's existance.
  5. Technically agnostic, but leaning towards atheism. 31-49% chance of God's existance.
  6. De facto atheist. Very high probability - say 1-30% chance - of God's existance.
  7. Strong atheist. 100% sure there is no God.
So when I say I'm agnostic, I'm saying I'm a 5 or 6 on Dawkins' scale. I don't think we have enough evidence to be certain of God's nonexistence, but it really looks like there's nothing there. I would rather wait until there's more evidence to say I'm atheist (or theist, for that matter). But there's more and more mounting up every day; I feel it won't take that much longer. So I live on the assumption that there is no God, just like an atheist does.

So if you want to call me an atheist, that's fine. For all intents and purposes, you might as well be right.

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