1. Yes.

    Example: evolution is nitpicked by creationists, but somehow there’s nowhere near the outcry about providing evidence a magic man in the sky created everything…

  2. A-fucking-gree. Ricky Gervais was on Inside the Actor’s Studio a while back and it’s hilarious (and available in full on youtube). He comments on atheism a bit, even saying that his mother was a very gentle and lovely woman who only lied to him once, telling him there was a god.

    Also lots of dick jokes.

  3. mm this seems like a similiarty between athiests and zealous fundamentalists.. both think the other is stupid, and will go out of their way to convince everyone that they are right/the other is wrong…
    instead of trying to actively proselytise, letting people wallow in ignorance is much easier… seems like a cynic really wouldnt care what other people believe

  4. AP, I don’t care what you believe – until your beliefs mess with my life. I want my children to get a good science education. Creationists are actively trying to prevent that. I don’t want to pay higher taxes than I have to, but somehow church donations are tax deductible – so my taxes have to go up to make up for the loss. I would like a clean world to live in – many creationists think god made the world for them to destroy. I would like my kids to not die in a war – both the current wars the US is involved in were caused by religion. I could go on, but I’ll stop here.

  5. Regarding Ricky’s quote: I think the burden of proof is on all of us. This gets to the heart of why I consider myself an agnostic: the theist and atheist positions are both impossible to prove. To reference “ap” above, I posit that we are all “wallowing in ignorance”.

    I’ve heard plenty of “evidence” presented by the major religions, and while these are (sometimes) nice stories, I find any notion of a personal god so contrived that it is nearly impossible to believe. Similarly, the atheist denial of the possibility of something which may be beyond our means of understanding strikes me as illogical. In other words, for me, the burden of proof is not met by either side.

    I’d guess most readers of this blog consider themselves to be atheists or agnostics. I’d be curious to know which label you choose and why (essays due on my desk first thing Monday).

  6. “Similarly, the atheist denial of the possibility of something which may be beyond our means of understanding strikes me as illogical. In other words, for me, the burden of proof is not met by either side.”

    No atheist truly thinks 100% there is no God, since it’s impossible to know something for certain. All (reasonable) atheists are agnostics in the same sense that everybody is an agnostic regarding the belief that thunder is caused by Thor being overly drunk and unleashing his wrath on us.

    When ideas are proposed, the burden of proof is on the one who is making such claims – you wouldn’t say that it’s reasonable to give any credence to the idea of invisible unicorns without evidence, so why should we do so with God?

  7. @dang – Strictly speaking I’m agnostic, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking it’s a 50/50 God-or-no-God scenario. God is just one of millions of possible explanations for the universe et al, so that would mean mathematically that I’m 99.99999% leaning toward atheism. For simplicity’s sake, I just round myself off to “atheist.”

    And the burden of proof is on the Xians by the nature of how arguments work. They have put forth the claim. Atheism should be regarded as sort of mankind’s default position. How many babies are born with an inherent understanding of a god? How many feral children are discovered praying to the east 5 times a day or praying at all? To lure humanity away from their original state, christianity better have some hella good evidence.

  8. @mrclam, @Mike and @Justin – Thanks for your responses. It seems we’re all pretty much in agreement (with perhaps a fraction of a percentage point difference in our odds-making), but some of us call ourselves agnostics and others call themselves atheists.

    If we really are down to semantics, I find it fascinating how people have such different reactions to the labels. I seem to elicit a bit of a non-reaction from people when I tell them that I’m agnostic – they don’t know what to make of me. How threatening is an ignoramus like me who just “doesn’t know”? On the other hand, I’ve noticed some religious people stiffen up and get ready for battle with atheists. After all, they see it as a specific challenge to their beliefs.

    Perhaps we are all 99.99999% leaning towards atheism in reference to every specific (big G) God we’ve “encountered”, but are agnostics in a general sense? That is, we are unwilling to pretend that we know more about the universe’s context and creation than we really do. I suppose that I’d just rather not let these big questions be framed by someone else’s beliefs and my inability to share them, which is why I’d rather call myself an agnostic than an atheist.

  9. “What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos.” — Albert Einstein

  10. Mr. Gervais apparently is unfamiliar with Acquinas’s Summa Theologica. It may not constitute the type of “proof” he’s looking for, but it most definitely answers his question, “why do you believe it?”

    The bigger problem is conceptual dischord: why should the natural world be expected to yield evidence of the supernatural? The concept of proof as we currently understand it simply doesn’t apply here. Anyone other than the agnostic must resort to something other than empirical data to support his or her belief.

  11. @LL
    isnt that argument the basis of conflict anyway? that people want to ‘increase'(i say this lightly because they may after all be doing the wrong thing) quality of life by blaming another group of people for all the problems…

    most of church donations actually go to helping people in need. im not christian, but i have volunteered for some church groups who do good work. the reason church donations are tax deductable is the same reason why charitible donations are tax deductable… maybe if u donated once in a while u wouldnt be in this mess?

    i could suggest solutions to those other things mentioned… like free thinking schools, voluntary miliraty service, and, the police! most modern societies have safeguards to protect people becoming too influential or disruptive..
    please disregard if you live in a country which discourages those things… but moving would be a solution… ecology 101: population size will decrease when environmental conditions are unfavourable because individuals will emmigrate.

    sorry i dont mean to be taking an aggressive tone. im not trying to support fundamentalism, or any other side (except mine! hehe). it just annoys me when certain social groups are blamed for a problem when its the whole community thats to blame or even just certain individuals in power. unlike some people, i don’t think sticking social groups in ghettos achieves much. if ur hoping for a country where everyone believes the same thing… maybe a new nazi germany would be ideal?


  12. @Justin It’s interesting that you say “God is just one of millions of possible explanations for the universe et al”.

    Are there really? If so, how many do you find plausible? What percentage of the millions of theories of the origins of the universe are being taught to @LL’s kids in school?

    Marginalizing the beliefs of Billions (yes, with a B) of people throughout history to just one of a million alternative beliefs – when you would be hard pressed to come up with a dozen that are given any credence anywhere in the world – is just plain disingenuous.

  13. I have a question for atheists: was the Big Bang caused by an entity outside our scientific explanation?

    If you say anything but “no,” how can you be an atheist? An “I don’t know” would seem to imply agnosticism, not atheism.

  14. @chris
    If religion has been forced into your head like a bullet, as it is with so many of these unfortunate sheeple, then the resulting effect mimics a bullet as well: the destruction of thought, an absence of reason, a void of criticism.

    A cynic is someone who is critical of the motives of others; it doesn’t define whether they’re going to sit idly by or proselytise. As unlikely as it may seem to some, there are cynics and atheists and humanists out there who are not interested in useless wallowing and instead pursue active improvement of themselves, their community, their country and their world.

    Thanks for the simplistic definition of ecology, it really helps. I’m sure your point would be much clearer if you adjusted your verbiage a little. Had you considered something more direct, maybe along the lines of “why don’t you atheists just leave already”? It’s good to know there are still people out there who have no qualms with the integration of religion into society, government, and education. Surely, no harm could come of that!

    Perhaps you should consider the idea that the backlash from atheism is not a simple stereotype or community-label but a reaction based on the blatantly visible evidence. Sometimes a social group is blamed for a current and documented evidence, causing that very problem.

    Oh, also, congratulations! Thanks to you, Godwin’s Law has prevailed in a remarkable time of just 16 posts. Pathetic.

    @trent hamm
    What’s your point? We don’t know what caused the Big Bang. There are theories. It doesn’t really matter if it’s outside our current scientific explanation as long as we strive towards further understanding through evidence. We’ve come to understand a ridiculous amount about the world we live in through the beauty of science and perhaps one day we’ll fully realize the Big Bang too.

    It was once believed that the earth was flat and the sun revolved around it. Then, evidence was found to the contrary and the theories were revised. That is the beauty of science: this black-and-white nonsense of what-is-and-what-isn’t becomes irrelevant in the world of evidence, hypotheses, and education.

    Instead of splitting hairs over the definitions of atheism and agnosticism through ridiculous yes-or-no questions, perhaps you should broaden your perspective. The religious say ‘there is a deity’. The scientific say ‘there is probably not a deity’ (to paraphrase). Before you toss trite and binary inquiries, understand two things: One, agnosticism is almost entirely irrelevant as members tend not to do or say much of anything. Most sit in the middle ignoring both the insurmountable evidence on the side of science and the immeasurable idiocy of religion. Two, atheists actively disbelieve in any form of deity. While the true answer does tend to be as Dawkins writes (there is *probably* no god), we often speak a much more absolute phrase of “there is no god”. We do so because there is _zero_evidence_supporting_that_theory_.

  15. Or, something simpler like, as an atheist I do not live my life in accordance with any deity (whether they exist or not). It doesn’t matter to me whether there is or isn’t, whether its Agnostic or Atheist. I simply don’t want that in my life any more and I am happier person for it.

    For the record I’m pretty frickn’ confident in the that 0.000001% chance…

    @Will – Aquinas recanted his life’s work. I think he must have been frustrated but it’s worth pointing out.

  16. @cd – The agnostics I know are not ‘irrelevant’ fence-sitters ‘in the middle’ who ‘ignore evidence’. We are simply unwilling to speak in absolutes about what we consider to be a reasonable hypothesis (‘there is no god’). In fact, I would argue that Dawkins’ stance that ‘there is probably no god’ is nuanced to be more agnostic than atheist.

    Furthermore, your statement about the relevance of agnostics is insulting and unsubstantiated. For the record, I support science education and oppose religious agendas in public schools and government.

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