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« The Secret | Main | Pascal’s Wager »



Why do we even have to label ourselves as atheists? I don't believe in astrology and feel no need to call myself an a-astrologist. The idea of god, especially, the iron-age hand-me-down version now worshiped by monotheistic fundies in the U.S. and the Middle East is as meaningful to be as whether Venus is crossing the constellation of Orion next month. Well, I might be slightly wrong about this. The astrologers aren't organizing politically to force a right-wing medieval belief system down my throat, the theists are.


Why do we even have to label ourselves as atheists? I don't believe in astrology and feel no need to call myself an a-astrologist. The idea of god, especially, the iron-age hand-me-down version now worshiped by monotheistic fundies in the U.S. and the Middle East is as meaningful to be as whether Venus is crossing the constellation of Orion next month. Well, I might be slightly wrong about this. The astrologers aren't organizing politically to force a right-wing medieval belief system down my throat, the Scott Adams theists are.


Scott Said:
"And it’s too hard to explain that agnosticism is the only intellectually defensible position."

In other words, you're too lazy to do any thinking on the subject, so you'll trot out Pascal's wager in a poor attempt at justification.

To quote Dogbert - "Out! Demons of Stupidity!"


Atheist and proud.

The argument about the number of decimal places on certainty misses an important point. Atheism (which I define as the rejection of faith-based approaches to life, and please no one pull out a dictionary unless they're willing to go toe to toe over words like "liberal" in dictionaries vs. current usage) is not a strictly epistemological position, but also a decision about how to approach life.

And how is it that the rationalist, atheist person approaches life? I like this passage from Ayn Rand's "For the New Intellectual"). I am not a subscriber to everything the woman wrote, but I think this is germane and cogent:

"Do not say that you're afraid to trust your mind because you know so little. Are you safer in surrendering to mystics and discarding the little you do know? Live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life. Redeem your mind from the hock-shops of authority. Accept the fact that you are not omniscient, but playing a zombie will not give you omniscience--that your mind is fallible but becoming mindless will not make you infallible--that an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error."


To answer the question "What's the difference between a "weak atheist" and an agnostic?", the former states "I do not believe in god", while the latter states, "I don't know whether or not a god exists". While these may seem very close--I've had long, pointless arguments over whether a friend of mine is an agnostic or a weak atheist--the former tends to act as though god didn't exist any more than the FSM does, while the latter frequently goes around making asinine arguments which pretend to have just discovered this nifty idea about expected values, and to have coincidentally never heard of Pascal's Wager.


MaryMactavish, please note that, as others on this thread have pointed out, Richard Dawkins isn't 100% sure of the nonexistence of god. (If you want an example of someone who is, check out Penn Jillette's "This I Believe" segment on NPR.)

He's also not 100% sure of the nonexistence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Invisible Pink Unicorns, or a tiny teapot floating through space, all of which have previously been mentioned on this thread.

Here's a similar question. Let's say that a deposed Nigerian prince sends you an email, explaining that he needs five bucks from you, and if you send it, you'll get five million dollars. Now, of course it's likely to be a scam. There's a million-to-one chance against it being a legitimate offer. So, if the prince offers you five billion dollars, does that change your outlook on the situation? A hundred billion, and you only need to send him a single penny?

This thread of argument is ridiculous; even presupposing that god is heavily predisposed to cold, calculating gamblers, it just declares as the One True Religion whichever one can dream up the worst hell.

Anyway, you can read about how infinite payoffs distort one's intuitive notion of expected value in, for instance, the St. Petersburg paradox, which hasn't been mentioned yet. So at least that's educational. (My links get stripped, but just look it up on Wikipedia.)

Reginald Selkirk

And it's too hard to explain that agnosticism is the only intellectually defensible position.

It sure is. It's also too hard to explain that 2 + 2 = 5.


I don't/can't believe in (a) god. It's not about certainty, it's about an overall sense that this beautiful, fucked up world got this way along its own tortured path; and, that no omnipotent would present the varied peoples of the world with such different versions of itself that those varied peoples would kill each other mercilessly from day 1 through the present on its behalf. Because if there is being that did such a thing, creating people of such limited vision that the fight to preserve their ONE TRUE RELIGION is all, that entity is not a god: it's a run of the mill asshole (in the same vein as Cheney and Bush).



By this logic, if I don't believe in Zeus, I risk his wrath as well. And Zeus sounds like a pretty bad-ass deity, zapping people with thunderbolts, turning them into stone, etc! Yet I presume that Scott Adams doesn't believe in (i.e. is atheistic about) Zeus. Why is his atheism on that deity any different from my atheism about his deity? Why is he so certain that Zeus doesn't exist, and thus so comfortable that he will not be punished by a Zeusian thunderbolt?


Mr. Adams,

I hope you picked the right god. Good luck.


Saying that atheists are 100% sure of the non-existence of God is a lot like saying that Christians believe the earth is 6000 years old.

That's a very narrow definition of atheism. Richard Dawkins isn't the only one who gets to decide what it means.

I'm not a theist. I'm an atheist. I'm not positive there are no gods, but I don't believe in them. I'm also not positive there's no Santa Claus (though I enjoy the game).


You've provided a great example of how people will invent absurd rationalizations to support the positions in which they want to believe, in the face of evidence or lack of evidence.

Do you think it likely that every little conceivable idea created in our minds exist, just because we can't prove that it doesn't? Perhaps God wants us to eat oranges every second Tuesday, how can you be sure he doesn't? Thinking like that is a sure path to a room at the nuthouse. Why not free yourself of all that paranoid nonsense and accept that these religious ideas are nothing more than fiction.

John Frelk

Are you completely certain you're believing in the correct god? And in the right version of Christianity? If you believe in the wrong god or follow the wrong teachings, you might burn in hell for all eternity, you know. Better re-calculate those odds, even if you are a theist through and through.

And how do you know that it isn't exactly your belief in a god (or your profession of a belief in a god, or your calculated pretense of a belief in a god) that will actually condemn you to eternal suffering? After all, theists don't have a monopoly on heaven and hell.

In the end, people adopt atheism and agnosticism for the same reasons people adopt Christianity or other religions: as a matter of faith; no proof is needed, and no utilitarian calculus is going to alter that faith.

To thine own self be true.


Any deity I'd want to believe in would kick your sorry ass straight to hell for trying to make such transparent bargains.


Dear Scott,

Please send me a signed original copy of any Dilbert comic strip. If you do, I promise you eternity on a lovely Carribean cruise with everything you could ever ask for. If you don't, I condemn you to spend eternity in small cubicle being whipped by a pitch-fork carrying PHB.

Sure, you might not believe that I can carry through with these promises, but think about the magnitude of what's at stake here - can you really afford to take that chance?


Your arguement for believing in an imaginary friend with temper tantrums is weak at best. Weak minds require the threat of punishment to lead a decent life in the now. People without gods know that here and now is it and how to get along with others without being threatened by a vengeful jealous middle eastern deity.

Believe whatever you want. the elephant headed god that holds up the world, the Arabian who molested children or the young jewish guy who couln't hold his temper and make his point without pissing everyone else off. Just don't inflict your beliefs on my life.


Sorry, this is the most interesting post in the last few weeks. Need to comment.

Athiest - From the Latin - Without (not) God
Agnos - From the Greek - Without (not) God

The words mean the same thing. They have different conotations, probably becuse of the Roman empire (stroger meaning given to A Theos), but the root meanings are the same.

I would be really interested in the thoughts of a Cat and a Dog. Cats are not truly domesticated, Dogs, they chose a different path. Both animals are self-aware, as are we. Humans ask the question about the God thing.

Personally, I believe in a "prime mover", something that started the Universe off. The big bang is just one concept, it's still up in the air. As far as that entity being interested in the completely insignificant existence that is mine, not likely.

There isn't anything after this corporial existence. When we die, there is nothing. Get over it, and make the most of the time you have in this life.

Just my $.02 US.


Wow, lot's of non-believers here. I read all of them. Would be interesting if you asked the reverse question and see how many Christians responded.

My wish is that all these folks posting here would join/start a new political movement to take the power away from the religious fanatics. See, I don't have a problem with my friends being Christians until they force me to conform to their dogma by passing laws that directly affect my choices.

For example: I do art for a hobby. I posted a (rendered) picture of a 6 year old girl sitting in a stream, surrounded by natures animals, drawn by her innocence. The owners of the gallery deleted my art because someone (A Christian) complained that the 6 year old girls nipples could be seen. They felt this bordered on kiddy porn. Everyone (100's) loved the image, except one radical person. That's all it took. One complaint.

Actually, the whole gallery is undergoing deletions because of pressure from credit card companies. The gallery is free and supported by marketing supplies they also sell, mostly though credit cards. The Lola's (Little Old Ladies Asc) found that a few letters to credit card companies, complaining that they are helping to support the Porn industry, has caused a ripple of playing it safe and thus leads to pandering to these few simple minded zealots.

An erotic dance club in town is constantly fighting court battles and spending incredible amounts of money to survive and stay open. It's located in a business district surround by high class hotels. Business men stay in these Hotels because of easy walking access to the dance place. The club is very classy and very expensive. No drugs, no alcohol, no problems, no scum. But the Lola's in town can't stand the very idea that it exists. They have applied pressure on the city to spend Millions in court fee's trying to shut down the club legally or otherwise. Including entrapment by law enforcement agencies. One undercover officer spent $1000's of city money dollars, on lap dancers, trying to get the girls to step over the line.

There isn't a single legal public nude beach on U.S. soil. Most of Europe has long accepted public nude beaches with no problems.

I could go on and on.. Pot is illegal (but safe) and alcohol is legal (and dangerous). Not that I'm complaining about the War on Drugs.. But these folks are so simple minded and see everything in Black and White.

Prostitution should be made legal and taxed like any other business. Safer for the ladies and the public too. (Why is Sex legal if given away, and against the law, if it's charged for?)

So much irrational thinking. Our own President, with his finger poised over the big red button, believes he's going to get raptured away soon. That's so scary, how can anyone sleep at night?

Atheists are at least secure types and believe "live and let live" while the religious fanatics seem to be frightened insecure types, that feel better if they can force everyone to their way of thinking. Misery loves company I guess. And they love to use the law or any other means, to get their way.

I have my own God (not the Biblical one). He/it/God didn't create this place and can't affect it. He's outside of it and can only see what it produces.

So, I'm a bit off track here Scott, but thanks for allowing me to rant.. Best to ya from Dave :^)

Robert Furber

Both agnostic and weak atheist are terms that are unfortunately given inconsistent definitions by different people.

I don't call myself agnostic because some people define that as someone who believes that the question of the existence of deities is impossible to prove either way. This is itself a proposition which requires either a priori proof or evidence (a priori proofs of impossibility do exist, e.g. Goedel's incompleteness theorem, Turing's proof of the undecidability of the Halting Problem and the proof of the impossibility of squaring the circle, trisecting the angle and doubling the cube with an unmarked straight edge and compasses). Since no-one has presented to me adequate evidence that it is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of deities, I do not accept it (and do not reject it) and do not classify myself as an agnostic for this reason. Naturally, I find taking any proposition on the basis of faith is to the highest degree odious.

For ordinary purposes I call myself an atheist for similar reasons to Bertrand Russell (explained in Am I an Atheist or an Agnostic In interviews Richard Dawkins says he calls himself an atheist for the same reasons.


don't worry, if I'm wrong, I'll re-cant on my death bed.

Arthur Delaney

Hullo, weak atheist here. In my opinion weak atheism and weak agnosticism are different and have different names for a reason. A weak agnostic says, "I don't know if there's a god." A weak atheist says, "I have no belief in god." These are, in my opinion, the two defensible positions. And they are different. A weak agnostic seems to express some doubt and wondering about the possibility of a god. A weak atheist does not. Therefore while I consider weak agnosticism perfectly defensible as a philosophy, I also find it a bewildering waste of time.

I don't wonder whether there is a god anymore than a wonder whether there is a pink unicorn. The very question is absurd. Why ask such a question? Hypotheses are useful but if they do not yet submit to experimentation they lose their usefulness. Wondering if there is a god in the universe is like wondering if there is a purple vegetarian mountain lion named Gary who has a powerful crush on a bamboo shoot that he calls Terwilliger Hornbreath. In an infinite universe...yeah maybe. But I don't think it's a very promising line of inquiry for now. If we see some purple mountain lions then it would be a good idea to investigate their behavior which would probably include seeing if they spend inordinate amounts of time nuzzling bamboo shoots. But until we see a purple mountain lion I think our time would be better spent exploring the ocean, space, microorganisms, the fronteirs of math and science etc. than sitting around contemplating the existence of Gary and whether or not Terwilliger likes his name.

Bill Tkach

I can be certain that 1 + 1 = 2, by definition.

I can be 100% certain that at this point in time, The average human, living on the surface of planet we call Earth, that is visible to the naked eye has 10 fingers.

I can be 100% certain that a spinster, has never been married, by definition.

I don't think that makes me a god.

andre breitman

I don't believe in God.
I remember that, as a child (before my barmitzvah, so pre 13) I thought it was "ovious" that he didn't exist- all the reasons/dogmas were so easily refutable.

Today, I still don't, for the same reasons BUT i REALLY ENVY people who believe!

Like all adults and parents some bad things happened to me and my family. At those times, it would really help to believe in something...

So- to answer your question-
1. I am jewish (My reasoning is: if a Nazi skinhead decided to go on a Jew killing rampage I'd be on the list, therefore I might as well admit I'm one)
2. I don't believe in god
3. A part of me wish I did

I am sure someone up there will be able to do the % math for me on this...


Religious chicks look nicer than atheist ones...maybe that's significant.

Because they're religious, you can't shag them. Maybe that proves that god has a sense of humour?


Also, scott - I know you don't believe, but just to make the idea of the Christian god seem even more improbable, I'm going to post this comment -

1) Original Sin - Christians love using this, the idea that even if you live a perfect life, no matter how nice you are, you're damn for hell unless you believe and start donating, all because a man is said to have bitten an apple thousands of years ago. Why should I have to pay for the crimes of another man? I certainly bit no apple. The bible also says that the sins of the father should not be borne on the son - but then again, the Bible loves contradicting itself. If god is ALL POWERFUL, and he can do ANYTHING, why not just erase original sin? Original sin is an odious, indefensible idea. And if Christians claim that god can't get rid of original sin - then god isn't omnipotent anymore eh? Some christians might make the claim that my idea of justice (i.e, you should suffer for something your ancestor did) does not fit in with god's idea of justice, so I should abandon my own - so let me get this straight - god makes human beings to have a sense of justice that is not in accordance of his own. For that matter, if god made adam and eve, surely he would have KNOWN that they would have eaten the apple - so why did he put the damn tree there? Isn't god all knowing? Evidently not (if you believe the bible)

2) Why did Jesus have to go through all that pain to forgive people? From what I understand of the Jesus story - Jesus came down to earth to save us, by teaching us, and then he had to die on a cross before coming back to life. How the act of being whipped and nailed to a wooden frame and then springing back to life is supposed to "save" mankind, I don't understand. Christians always say that Jesus died on the cross for people - but how did the act of dying save people? Why didn't god just forgive everyone? Why go through this enormously difficult, long term plan? God is supposed to be OMNIPOTENT. If god exists, and he truly is all powerful - he obviously likes being inefficient, circuitous and doing things for no reason. In short, if god exists, he's illogical. And if jesus's resurrection was supposed to convince people of the divine power of god - I thought the supposed raising of lazarus would have done the trick.

3) What sacrifice did Jesus make? He KNEW he was going to die - and he KNEW that he would come back alive - in short, although christians say he died on the cross - he really didn't (if you can believe the bible that is). In short, the fact that Jesus knew he couldn't truly be killed, diminishes his "sacrifice" so much as to make it meaningless. He wasn't going to die and he KNEW it. Sure, he suffered quite a bit - but what he went through was nothing compared to how much people suffered in the GULAG or the concentration camps of nazi germany. In short - it was an empty gesture.

There - those are just some of the reasons why, scott, you should not believe, even though I already know you don't. So I'm illogical - but I'm human, so that's okay.

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