We have all said it at one point or another, that we will let our kids make up their own minds, come to their own conclusions, on religion and the god question. That seems like the reasonable thing to do. We don’t want to force our beliefs down children’s throats. That would make us no better than fundamentalist parents, right? Wrong. The equivocation of religious indoctrination to teaching kids about reality cannot be made, as much as it wrongfully is by both atheists and theists.
Is it forcing your kid to believe something when you teach them properly about mathematics, science, history, language, or any other subject out there? How is that the same as teaching them that the Earth is 10,000 years old and there’s a magic man in the sky who is watching every move they make and will send them to a place of eternal torment if they disobey?
Will you let your child make up their own mind about what 2+2 equals, or who the Founding Fathers were, or would you teach them the truth? How about homeopathy or other “alternative medicines”? Would you let your child refuse cancer treatment in place of things that do not work? Would you similarly let your child make up their own mind about things like the diversity of life on Earth? It’s nonsense to suggest that we should not teach kids that there is absolutely no evidence for, in fact there is evidence against, creationism, intelligent design, fine-tuning, and a “god.” Teaching your children these things is not the same as brainwashing them to blindly accept the claim that there is a god.
Of course, always teach children to question what they are taught. Always teach children to have an open mind and to accept new information. However, make sure it’s not so open that it falls out and they start writhing on floor, because they think the Holy Ghost entered them, since we never taught them that there was no such thing as a god, that Jesus never existed, that the Bible and assorted holy books are false, and that ghosts and spirits do not exist; we just told them to make up their own minds.
Professors are told to do similar things. Not give their own opinions, but only to teach students, give them the facts and the reasoning skills, and let them make up their own minds with that. In theory, that should work. Students should be able to come to the right conclusions from that, but sometimes they don’t. Would we rather let them live in ignorance and delusion, which if left unchecked could change public policy and change school curriculum for everyone else, or make them feel a little uncomfortable when their beliefs about the Book of Genesis are challenged by their biology professors?
However, the main point here is about parents, not professors. It’s not enough to say to kids, “These are my beliefs about the subject, but you are free to make up your mind.” Would you let your child come to their own conclusions and believe in demons or monsters that are out to get them, or would you just tell them that there are no monsters under their bed? Why would you do the same thing with a god or anything else?
The site Skeptic Money recently released a post about a study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), which is affiliated with the University of Chicago. The study is called “Belief About God Across Time and Country,” and it details people from across many different nations and if they are certain that a god exists. Skeptic Money’s post on the study is short (at about seven sentences) and not so sweet, as it presents fallacious reasoning about what an atheist is.
At the top (or bottom) of the list in the study is East Germany with a whopping 0% under the age of 28 saying that they are certain that a god exists or not. The United States is over half at 53.8% of respondents under the age of 28 saying they were certain that a god exists. This is bad news for us in the United States’ irreligious population but great news for Europe’s (fuckers).
I digress though. The author of the post had this to say:
If the person says yes [to are they certain that God exists] then they are a theist (the belief that at least one deity exists). If they say they don’t know, or are not sure etc… then they are an atheist. If you are not sure if god exists then you cannot have a belief in that deity. Therefore, you are an atheist!
This new report says that only 54% of Americans under the age of 28 are “Certain God Exists”. That means that 46% are NOT sure that god exists. If you aren’t certain that god even exists then you ARE an atheist!
This is just flat-out false.
One does not have to be certain that a god exists in order to be a theist. Being uncertain, however small of doubt there may be, does not make someone an atheist. Sure, some amount of doubt might someday years down the road turn some into atheists, but simply because they are not certain does not mean that they do not believe or are not theists.
If the same logic is applied to atheism, one could easily say that in order to be an atheist one must be certain that a god does not exist and that any kind of admittance that one is not sure means that they are a theist. We would be quick to call this ignorant and downright stupid, because it is.
This kind of definition of atheist is a strawman in order to get more numbers for the atheist demographic, and it is a terrible attempt at that. A similar tactic is also used by people who think that one is either an atheist or a theist in order to get agnostics on their side, even though agnosticism is its own separate category.
I am sure that the majority of those 46% of people still believe in a god and would resent anyone who dare call them an atheist. If anything is counterproductive to the atheist/secular movement, calling someone something that they clearly are not or do not identify with definitely is.
- An acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists
- Something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction
- A religious conviction
- Trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something
- Facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject
- What is known in a particular field or in total; facts and information
- True, justified belief; certain understanding, as opposed to opinion
- Awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation
I would like to draw attention to that second to last line there.
“True, justified belief”
It is often said that because knowledge and belief have two different definitions that they are two separate things, that belief equates theism and knowledge equates gnosticism. This is based entirely off etymology alone, not usage of modern language, vernacular, or human psychology.
Knowledge and belief are not two different scales or options that split people into four, exclusive little categories based solely on etymology. Knowledge, according to Plato, is a belief that is justified by evidence and reason. They are not separate things that go in two different directions. Belief and knowledge are simply different sections on the same sliding scale.
On one end of the spectrum, there are claims that fly in the face of evidence and reason, such as Intelligent Design/Creationism. As we go further down the spectrum, more and more evidence supports the claims that are made, making them more justified to believe; eventually, we can start saying that we know them to be true instead of simply believing that they are. At the other end of the spectrum there are claims that people accept and know to be true beyond a reasonable doubt because of a mountain of evidence supporting it, such as the theory of evolution.
Another spectrum that can be used in this discussion would be Richard Dawkins’ seven point scale of belief that he talks about in his famous book The God Delusion. On one end you have “strong theist” (1) and on the other you have “strong atheist” (7). These could be called states of mind on the existence of a god. In the book Dawkins calls himself a six. In several interviews since the book has been released he has repeatedly called himself a 6.9 instead of merely a six. I personally would call myself a 6.999999999999999…999999 (you get the point). At that point, I might as well just round up to seven, even though it is not quite fully seven.
A nice metaphor I would like to draw is one that is commonly used against Creationists to help them understand evolution and how small changes occur over time.
What is the first purple (agnostic) word? What is the first blue (atheist) word? Where does atheist switch over to theist? Where does etymology come into play here? Conversions, reconversions, and deconversions can take years. It is not something where someone is automatically now an atheist. There is a time of transition when someone just does not know or claim to believe either way or even know where they stand on the issue. Some might even stay that way.
Now I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I really hate playing “My Definition is Better Than Yours,” but I’ll keep doing it:
- A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God
That last part is what I have come to realise what an agnostic person is, “A person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.”
Agnosticism is a valid and stand-alone position, despite what some people may say that because they do not claim belief in a deity, they fall into the false dichotomous position of atheist. They also do not claim disbelief, or lack of belief, in a deity either. They are not atheists or theists. They are neither believers nor non-believers. They are agnostics. They are “I don’t know-believers.” Let’s go with “IDK-believers” for short and to appeal to the youth out there.
Do not confuse agnostics with “apatheists,” who I will call “meh-believers” just for the hell of it. Apatheism is a peculiar position that I will go into very quickly. An apatheist is someone who may or may not necessarily believe in a deity, but they just do not care one way or the other if a god exists or not, or they claim neither belief nor disbelief simply because they do not care one way or the other. The god question is not something that they care about or think is relevant to them. Personally, I think they are foolish for thinking that. The question, “Does a god exist?” and the resulting actions taken out by people on either side has profound societal consequences for everyone, as we have seen from Republicans trying to take contraception away from women based entirely off religious reasons.
A person who is agnostic may fall close to atheism or close to theism on the belief and knowledge spectrum, so I can partially understand why someone might call themselves an agnostic (a)theist if that is the case (or even an (a)theistic agnostic), but describing all atheists and theists as agnostic or gnostic is simply unnecessary at best. There is no need for any qualifier to the words atheist or theist.
If someone really wanted to, then as we go further and further on ends of the spectrum, one could call themselves a “gnostic (a)theist.” Just like with the “agnostic (a)theists,” I can partially understand it, even if I disagree with the labeling. I know from some of my most recent videos, such as I Know God Doesn’t Exist, that people have started calling me a “gnostic atheist,” and several friends and followers of mine have started saying that they are “gnostic atheists” as well because of my videos. I would like to say that I do not call myself that. I am an atheist. No extra words needed.
In my videos, I was not endorsing “gnostic atheism.” I was, if anything, explaining my views on ignosticism (not agnosticism for those of you who think I misspelled something). I have run into similar problems with ignosticism that I have had with agnosticism. People seem to think that because they do not believe in a god that they are automatically atheists. However, they also do not lack belief. They also are not “IDK-believers.” They are “what the fuck are you even talking about-believers.” Possibly “WTF-believers” for short.
Using the word “believers” at all for agnostics, apatheists, and ignostics may cause some confusion. I do not recommend using these terms to describe anyone; I’m just using it here alone and possibly within my own blog to help make sense of these stances and philosophies.
Since I have made these videos, some people have been confused with my stances, saying that I can not say I know a god does not exist if I claim ignosticism. This is from ignorance of the stances themselves. To make it as clear as possible, I am “gnostic,” for brevity’s sake, about the theistic gods. I know they do not exist. I can prove definitively with science that they do not. There is no question in my mind that Jehovah, Vishnu, Thor, etc. do not exist. This is why I call myself an atheist, but I do not say that I am a “gnostic atheist” simply because I see no point to these extra labels.
Now an ignostic is someone who does not take a position on the god question until the very term “god” itself is properly defined. Do not confuse this with agnosticism. Agnostics take a stance somewhere in the middle on the belief and knowledge spectrum. Ignostics are not even on that spectrum. They are their own little group separate from the three other categories.
I would say that I am ignostic about a deistic god. Because the term “god” itself is so poorly defined once all claims of theistic gods are destroyed, there is no reason to believe or not believe in a deistic god or gods. The theistic gods have qualities and characteristics that we can test for and see if they really do exist, such as Jehovah’s creation story in the book of Genesis.
A deistic god, which is basically a theistic god watered down by science and philosophy, is too vague to properly define, and those that have been defined, such as those touted by philosopher William Lane Craig, have also been discredited and debunked just like any theistic god out there. All claims about a god, whether theistic or deistic, have been debunked.
This is why I say that I know even a deistic god does not exist. I am not agnostic about it. I am just as agnostic about a deistic god as I am about the Celestial Teapot or the Zsadlfkjasdiagrb. For those readers who do not know what in the hell I just typed, do not be alarmed.
“God” is so poorly defined, but people, as in some atheists, say that they do not know if one exists or not. This is why I created the term “Zsadlfkjasdiagrb” (pronunciation: Zuh-sad-loofk-jaz-dee-ahh-gurb), in a discussion with a (former) friend of mine and fellow atheist (I think), in order to show the vagueness of the term “god” itself. I do not know what the Zsadlfkjasdiagrb is, what its characteristics or qualities are, but I know it is not real.
It is a made up thing. It does not require my belief or disbelief. Doing any of that gives undeserved credence to the concept of the Zsadlfkjasdiagrb. The same can be said of a god. The very concept of a god was made up by fearful, superstitious people that did not understand the natural world around them and attached “god” to the things they could not explain. These evolved into the gods of the world’s religions that we see today. Characteristics and qualities that we could recognise and partially understand were attributed to different gods for different things, and we debunked them all. We showed with science how these gods simply do not exist. Once the theistic gods are gone, what is left? Nothing.
Characteristics were given to the Zsadlfkjasdiagrb when I first made videos about it. People said they imagined a drunk, French Zoidberg from the show Futurama. Does this exist? Obviously not. Once that is gone, the Zsadlfkjasdiagrb no longer exists as anything but a word that someone made up, same with a god.
Another pretty picture to help explain this.
Is anyone agnostic towards the invisible chair? No. Is anyone a theist towards the invisible chair? I would hope not. Is anyone an atheist towards the invisible chair? There is no need to be. Calling oneself an atheist towards the invisible chair or “god” is giving unnecessary credit to the very concept of such a thing when it simply does not exist.
Another problem I have run into is when I say that I am a 6.999999999999999…999999 on the seven point Dawkins scale. People will say, “Then you aren’t 100% sure, therefore you can’t say you know a god doesn’t exist!” Again, with my stance I might as well round up to a seven or up to 100% sure. I will not though, because I cannot be 100% certain of anything by certain people’s definitions of knowledge and certainty, even my own existence, and I do not care to go down that rabbit hole, but I still know that the invisible chair and “god” do not exist.
To explain this, I wrote a quick post in response to this common objection weeks ago, which I have since slightly tweaked from its original form that I think is appropriate to be used here as a closing statement.
If I draw a square in the sand, it is not perfect, but it is still considered a square by most. If I draw a square with the aid of a ruler, even though we are getting closer it is not perfect, but it is still considered a square. If I draw a square with the aid of a computer that gets it within one-millionth of an inch in accuracy, it is still not perfect, but it is still considered a square. None of these are perfect squares. You can say a square is when all four sides are perfectly equal, but even the most advanced pieces of technology and machinery cannot make such a thing. Even if it is only one atom off, that automatically makes it not a perfect square. Closer and closer we get to a perfect square with the advancement of science and technology, but we will probably never be able to make a perfect square, but for semantic reasons we say that these are still squares and not rectangles or trapezoids. The same can be applied to disproving the existence of a god. We may not be able to definitively disprove its existence and be one-hundred percent sure, much like we cannot make a perfect square, but for semantic reasons we know that a god, even a deistic god, does not exist.
Disclaimer One: I forgot to put up this disclaimer when I originally posted this!
Disclaimer Two: This was actually written more than a year ago when I had less of a grasp on science and the theory of evolution as a whole. I have not edited it from its original form, so any and all mistakes can be chalked up to my ignorance at the time.
I do not believe in evolution. Belief is defined as thinking something is true, despite no evidence backing it or denying the evidence that refutes it. I do not believe in evolution, I accept it. Evolution is a theory, but a theory is always falsifiable. Evolution could be wrong, but with the amount of evidence that supports it, it is hard to deny that evolution has occurred in the way scientists predict it has. Intelligent design is not a theory, because it is not falsifiable. It makes no claims or predictions of why things are they way they are, it simply says, “We don’t know what caused life to start out or why such and such happened, so we are going to say it was God who did it all and leave it at that.” The biggest problem with this is that this is rendering God and the idea of a deity incapable of being falsified. In order for a theory to work, it has to make claims that can be either proved or disproved. If it is simply going to the default answer of, “God did it,” that is not a theory, that is a belief that has absolutely no evidence to back it.
In a conference talking about evolution and intelligent design, a speaker/presenter asked everyone in the room to raise their hand if they were an evolutionary biologist or were getting their major in biology. The camera showed that about seventy-five-percent of the people there had their hands up. The speaker then asked for them to keep their hands up if they could think of any shred of evidence that contradicts evolution. No one in the room had their hand up after that. If you can think of one piece of evidence (EVIDENCE, not just a claim that says, “God did it”) that contradicts the theory of evolution by natural selection and random mutation, then I will award you one-thousand dollars of my own money and cease to accept in evolution.
Irreducible complexity is also not a legitimate claim, because it cannot be proved because there is no way to tell if there even is a higher being like God, but the claims made around it can be disproved, like the idea that certain organisms are useless unless they have all of their parts, by looking at specific examples like the bacterial flagellum, which I have mentioned in another note that I dedicated to refuting nothing but irreducible complexity. Things may look designed, such as the vertebrate eye or the bacterial flagellum, but there are ways that those things could evolve over time to become the complex organisms and organs that we see today like the eye. The design inference can also be disproved or refuted when it comes to evolutionary biology. It says that things with high probability are things that happen by natural causes; things with a low probability and unspecified probability, you say that it was simply chance; and those things that have low probabilities and specified are things that are designed. Let us go back to feudal Europe and we see a ring of toad stools in our field, which are called fairy rings. Is this a high probability thing? No, it wasn’t here yesterday, and it won’t be here tomorrow or next week because toad stools break down very fast, and who knows when it will come again. Is it a low probability with an unspecified or random nature? No, it’s in a circle, this looks pretty specified to me. Is it a low probability with a specified nature? Of course! And as feudal peasants of Europe we know what causes fairy rings, it’s where fairies and pixies had their little parties. Ummm… no. Unfortunately, if you look under toad stools that form a fairy ring you won’t find little beer cans or champagne bottles. Being the time it is now, we know what causes fairy rings. Fungi reproduce in a concentric manner that send out mycelium, which are roots basically, and because it is concentric, it forms a circle. And under the right temperature and humidity and many other factors, they create fairy rings. This completely destroys the design inference, because it does not account for things we have yet to figure out. We don’t know how the human eye evolved, we have some theories, but those can be disproved or proved based on evidence that we have yet to find (or that I have yet to read up on).
Evolution may be just a theory, but so is the atomic theory, does that mean that atoms don’t exist, no, we have seen them; so is the theory of gravity, does this mean that gravity does not exist, no, we see things being forced down by gravity all the time; so is the theory of a flat earth, does this mean the earth is not flat, no, but we have seen that through so many photos of the earth, through voyages around the earth, and so much more evidence that the earth is round. It may be just a theory, but we see evolution happening right before our very eyes. Evolution is occurring when you grow from a baby to an adult, your body is changing with its environment and due to genetic traits, which is why some people are taller than others or are smarter than others. Evolution occurs when you see a pond of fish evading predators, those more camouflaged into the bottom of the pond or those faster than others, are more likely to survive and pass on their genes, over time making camouflaged fish and fish who are super fast and agile.
I do not believe in evolution, I accept it.