Relationship of agnosticism to theist/atheism

Discussion in 'Comparative Religion' started by James R, Jan 4, 2021.

  1. Halc Registered Senior Member

    Beliefs in certain things are a requirement for life. I (the part of me in charge anyway) believes that if I don't take a breath, I'll die.

    Wrong. Atheists lack a belief in god, which is a very different statement.

    That would be a contradiction. An atheist by definition lacks such a belief.

    Excellent analogy. Atheism is 'not guilty', while 'innocent' corresponds to a belief in a lack of a god. Both guilty and innocent require sufficient evidence. Not-guilty is simply the default position when that evidence one way or another is lacking.

    As for your history of belief, I, like so many others, took a similar route. I was taught in a Christian (not public) school that the Church teaching are not in conflict with science. As time went on, the larger Church did actually go on record to take a stance in denial of science, forcing me to choose. So I did. I at least abandoned the Church, and the beliefs vanished some time later without the backing of professional salesmanship.
    Pinball1970 likes this.
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  3. geordief Valued Senior Member

    Well if your beliefs do not bend with changing circumstance -or if you have a core belief that orchestrates sub beliefs around itself as an interface with that changed circumstance ,then that is one way of navigating through life.

    I subscribe to that but I can imagine others who have little concept of a core belief (or have one that they are entirely unaware of) and whose beliefs concerning a range of thing could be unreliable and volatile.

    Have you come across such people(I am just imagining and cannot say if they exist or are common)?
    If they do exist ,we could invent a word to describe them vs the (as I see it) default psychology.

    Or it could be a spectrum.
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  5. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

    I ditched it after Uni when I had time to study the Bible. At that time I think I still wanted it to be true, god, Jesus, heaven but had doubts for years.
    Over thirty years later nothing has happened to persuade me otherwise, the opposite in fact.
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  7. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

    Yes I have met people who do not care, do not think about such things.
    Do not think about the Universe, the nature of it.
    Do not watch the news that much.
    They work, pay the bills and pick the kids up from school.
  8. geordief Valued Senior Member

    Years ago I was part of a group of university friends I felt very connected with (we had only good feelings to each other and had a name for those who were outside our circle)

    One day I called upon one of those friends and he was in the company of others whom I had not met.

    Whilst discussing another person we knew ,I commented that he seemed "self aware"

    This was a description I had (I thought) made up A neologism ,in my head.

    Anyway that created mirth which I interpreted to indicate that I must be a Class A pseud to have such an idea.

    To my consternation ,my friend was joining in the chortling.

    I buried the notion that the mind could have such a property until some 50 years later when I decided to look up the concept in Google.

    There it was .A perfectly common description.

    I am going to suggest that the opposite of "self aware" might describe the people you have in mind.

    "Self unaware" A blessed state perhaps and not to be scorned in any way.
  9. Zero Point Native Registered Member

    I was just curious if anyone here had a term for someone who believes in everything since it's very rare to see someone who does.

    I'm still not clear on the explanation of what an atheist is here. Let's forget about the "god" thing since that is such a loaded term anyway with tons of religious baggage attached to it.

    Do atheists believe that consciousness ends upon "death" of the human body? If so, can an atheist also believe that consciousness continues?
  10. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Seeing as Θεός is the Greek for God, it seems rather hard to discuss atheism ignoring the "god" thing.
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  11. Zero Point Native Registered Member

    Sounds very limiting so I very much doubt that but ok.
  12. geordief Valued Senior Member

    Are you thinking of pantheism?

    To tell the truth ,I lean towards that.It is an inconsequential supposition in my mind.

    I have not studied it and I couldn't say if there are various interpretations of it as philosophical viewpoint.

    But I think it has been expressed in the past as the worship of things(a bit like materialism?)

    Wordsworth comes to mind where he goes on about seeing the world in a grain of sand.

    As good an outlook as any in my view.
  13. Halc Registered Senior Member

    An atheist can indeed believe in continuation of consciousness. I imagine that the majority of them do not, but perhaps not the vast majority
  14. Zero Point Native Registered Member

    That's what I was wondering. I was wondering if atheists are free to believe in whatever they wish and not just bound to specific beliefs with no consideration for their opposites. You see, the majority of people I've encountered my entire life, and it would appear that the major consensus among the majority of non-atheists, all believe atheists only believe that "god" does not exist and that their consciousness ceases to exist beyond the human body, and that life ceases to exist beyond this world, this reality. But it now appears that their view may have been based on biased judgements and it would appear to be different from what an atheist actually may be.

    If you want to know where I stand, personally, I don't consider myself to be an atheist, although, I don't consider myself to be anything at all for that matter. I don't have any interest in labels or titles, although I realize it's necessary in this society on this planet to classify certain things in order to function properly. I am one who believes in everything, but I have no interest whatsoever in being bound by any of them. I am free to believe in whatever I like on any given day and have no qualms whatsoever in believing its complete opposite the next. I am of the view that in order to believe in everything one must also believe in nothing, otherwise, you could not possibly believe in everything. One becomes bound and enslaved by a belief if they are unwilling or are incapable of believing in its opposite.
  15. Zero Point Native Registered Member

    Yes, that would be the appropriate term.
  16. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

    That's exactly what it is, it does not matter whether you consider pantheism, deism, polytheism, they are all concepts of god.

    Theist = A belief in one or more of them
    Atheism = No belief in any of them.

    The question of consciousness is a separate question.
  17. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Zero Point Native:
    From wikipedia:
    Pantheism is the philosophical religious belief that reality, the universe and the cosmos are identical to divinity and a supreme being or entity. The physical universe is thus understood as an immanent deity, still expanding and creating, which has existed since the beginning of time.
    Does this describe what you believe?

    If not, what do you mean when you say you believe in "everything"? That seems like a contradiction in terms to me. For instance, you can't simultaneously believe that 2+2=4 and that 2+2=17. Not if you have a coherent belief system, anyway.
    The "god thing" is intrinsic to the definition.

    Put simply, an atheist is a person who is not convinced that any gods are real.

    If you're convinced that at least one god is real, then you're a theist. If you think the universe is a god, then you're a pantheist.
    Atheism, on its own, does not mandate any particular beliefs. It only requires that you not be convinced that any gods are real.

    So, some atheists might believe that life after death is possible; others might not. It doesn't affect whether they are atheists. Atheism is only about a person's beliefs about whether gods exist.
    "Atheist" describes a person who is not convinced that gods exist. It doesn't prescribe any other beliefs.

    In practice, many - but not all - atheists reject all supernatural claims, whether or not they involve gods. Many - but not all - atheists advocate a humanist ethics. But there's no "bible of atheism" which says "Now you're an atheist, you have to believe X, Y and Z and do A, B and C."
    I think it is far more common to find atheists who are simply not convinced that gods exist, as opposed to atheists who assert that gods definitely do not or cannot exist. But atheism also includes the "hard liners" who say they know no gods exist. (How they could know that eludes me, and I'm an atheist.)

    Lots of atheist reject the idea of an immortal soul or a dualist view of mind and body, just as they reject claims that there is a "world beyond this reality". Part of the reason is that those atheists tend to view the supernatural as unevidenced.
    Are you convinced that at least one god exists? If so, you're a theist. If not, you're an atheist.
    It's impossible not to be "bound" by your own beliefs, one way or another.
    You must drift through life like a lost lamb. Do you have any lasting goals or desires?
    I have no idea what it could mean to "believe in nothing".
    On the other hand, if you believe in the opposite of gravity, then you might find yourself walking off a cliff and thinking you'll float up. That could lead to an unfortunate and messy accident. I think you'd be better off being enslaved by at least some beliefs, for your own protection.
    Pinball1970 likes this.
  18. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Hmm... I'm not sure what I was thinking when I wrote that. I'm inclined to agree with you.

    There is something in agnosticism about regarding evidence as important, which I think was probably the original train of thought I was on.

    So, maybe I should revise. How's this:

    An agnostic theist believes in the existence of one or more gods, but also acknowledges that there is insufficient evidence to support the belief. Therefore, the agnostic theist would not claim to know for sure that his God exists. He might even think that it is impossible to obtain convincing evidence that his God exists. Nevertheless, he is convinced that the god exists for reasons other than evidence - faith usually being the justification given for the belief. The agnostic theist will therefore be willing to acknowledge that he cannot "prove" the existence of his God to the satisfaction of people who, like him, value evidence, but at the same time he will nevertheless report that he is convinced the god is real for other reasons.

    This is in contrast to the gnostic theist position that God exists and that it is possible for a person to have certainty in his knowledge of God. The gnostic theist doesn't concern himself with such trivialities as evidence from the material world. That type of evidence isn't important to him because he believes he has a direct connection with the God, most likely though the revelations that he believes the God has provided to him - either directly (e.g. a strong feeling of certainty that the god is real), or indirectly (e.g. a strong feeling that a holy text is the direct Word of God).
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2023
  19. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    That wasn't me. That was Yazata. See his post #2 and my reply #3 (which you quoted).
    Religious faith requires you to believe in unevidenced things. I'm partial to the definition of faith that goes "Faith is pretending to know things you don't know."

    Caveat: the usage of the word "faith" in religion is different from the use of the word "faith" merely to mean something like "trust". Trust can either be based on evidence or not.

    If a religious person says "I believe that the bible is the Word of God because I have faith" they might be saying that they are putting their trust in all the authors of the bible, believing their implicit or explicit assertions that they have (somehow!) managed to channel the Word of God into their writings. But, more likely, the religious person thinks he or she is expressing a sort of trust in God, directly, and not in any human being. But it's not very different either way. In the first case, the religious person is pretending to know that the writers of the bible had a direct line to God. In the second case, the religious person is pretending to know that God is real and has directly intervened in the biblical writing process. Clearly, the religious person does not actually know either of those things.
    That's one example. Vishnu and his avatars is another. The Trinity seems like an incoherent idea to me, and it raises far more problems than it solves.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2023
  20. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

    No that's about it for me. The Religious were in the vast majority in the 1960s when I was born so every single person I knew was a Christian. We were not allowed to challenge it much at school or in church.
    I wanted confirm it was true but I failed to do it.
    The idea of god was heavily connected to an afterlife so that went also as did the soul.

    Consciousness to me is just a function of the brain, when we die all brain function goes with it.
  21. Halc Registered Senior Member

    That's pretty consistent with the definition I see online, which is somewhat different than the one I had in my head. For instance, the word seems to apply only to the theism issue. It is incorrect to say I'm agnostic about the existence of unicorns, but I say stuff like that now and then.
    Yes, belief coupled with an acknowledgement of the unknowability of the issue. Faith is required, which is considered a virtue. May attempt to rationalize god, but that's very different than a rational argument for god. Humans are very good at the former and only marginal at the latter.

    I personally hold an agnostic un-theistic view, which is an actual belief in the nonexistence of a god, coupled with the admission of inability to prove it. This is not a strong position. I would have a real hard time finding anything for which there is undeniable evidence. There are valid philosophical views that deny the existence of the moon, and I cannot demonstrate to them otherwise, despite my personal belief in the moon.

    That sounds a lot like trying to demonstrate to another than you are conscious. One has empirical access to one's own consciousness, but not to that of anybody else. So a gnostic theist is a solipsist of sorts, aware of his perceived connection, but incapable of demonstrating that connection or seeing one in others.

    The part I quoted was you, yes, in reply to Yazata. Yazata only mentioned 'belief' and did not bring up the word 'certainty'. You did. Hence my reply.

    I like that definition. Pretending to yourself at least. Pretending only to others is just that, not faith. I know plenty that pretend only to others but have no actual faith.
  22. TheVat Registered Member

    There seems to be great variety in the forms of non-belief. Some agnostics take their cue from the root meaning - a-gnosis (without knowledge) - and simply mean that the nature of any god would be unknowable to a human. My suspicion is that a lot of agnostics are really atheists who live in a social milieu where atheism is seen as more alienating than agnosticism. But some are genuinely agnostic theists, who consider there to be some kind of universal being that lies beyond an epistemic barrier for humans. And some are just using a handy label to say, "I have no f---ing clue." (can't argue with the honesty of that) Richard Feynman was a quantum theory agnostic, after all, asserting that no one really understood the quantum world.

    Once I figured out that pantheist was not someone who believed in the organized theft of trousers (pant heist), I leaned toward it for a while. Later, I realized what I was feeling was more animistic (everything is alive, but not necessarily godlike or divine) and was largely just the hardwiring of the tribal brain peeping out from under my modern Western scientific education. But then I read an essay on panpsychism by the philosopher David Chalmers and that animism came roaring back. It still haunts me.

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  23. Zero Point Native Registered Member

    That's cool. For me, I see it a little differently. For me, consciousness can neither be created nor destroyed. It is just constantly reforming and evolving into something else, but there is still an awareness of one's self. I don't see consciousness as part of the brain but rather the other way around. I see the brain as nothing more than a very complex antenna that can receive and transmit information.

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