Organized Religion

Please check out my forum, consider joining, and respond to this post here…

Most atheists and even many believers have a problem with organized religion, whether that be a church in general or something like the Catholic Church. My question is WHY is organized religion bad and how do you define it.

I ask this for a couple of reasons. First I want to point out that I do understand the problems we have had in the past, as well as current issues. I do certainly believe it is a problem when the Church is seen as a powerful political leader, like the Catholic Church used to be. The Catholic Church literally used to control Europe. Then of course we have the Church of England to a lesser extent and things such as Islamic governments in the Middle East. I doubt very many people would agree with the power and influence of those I listed above, except for the extremely religious, and of course they would want it to be their preferred faith. I think we can agree this causes major problems.

I guess what I want to focus on is a particular denomination or branch of a religion or even a specific Church. We certainly have issues with priests, and people in leadership positions, raping or molesting young children. This is always a problem. We also have bad denominations, such as the FLDS (Fundamentalists Latter Day Saints,) which could be considered a cult. I guess I want to randomly mention the Church of Scientology, which is a cult and does horrible things. There are also single Churches that are problems, such as some of the mega churches or churches like Westboro Baptist Church (which is unaffiliated with the Baptist Church.) We also read a book about Pentecostal snake handlers, which I have a serious problem with due to them allowed children near dangerous animals and teaching them that screwing with these animals is okay. Once again, I do not think anyone will agree these things are good. But does this make ALL organized religion bad?

The reason I bring up this topic is because of currently experiences as well as my upbringing and studies. As many of you know, our children are baptized and will be raised loosely Christian (meaning at a Liberal church that doesn’t pound it into their head so bad they will never recover.) Many atheists disagree with this and do not understand how I can do this being a non-believer. First, I am not religious, I do not believe in Christ as my personal savoir, so rubbing a little bit of water on their head does not mean anything to me. Most important, it is important to my wife and her family and since I do not believe, I do not care. I also plan on telling my kids the story of Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy and I assume there will not be any long term affects.

Anyways, my son is currently going to pre-school at my wife’s church (Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church) and everything about the place makes me feel good. Everyone is friendly and happy. One of the staff members is the sister of one of my wife’s best friends growing up. I like her very much and my younger son has a crush on her. Nearly all of my son’s friends are from this church. When we go there for his different preschool events, they are always a positive experience. We had one recently where we went around and did different activities and finished in a room with one of the pastors leading the kids in singing. My younger one, the one not actually in the class was the star of the show and made everyone laugh. It is true they sang about God and Jesus and guess what? I did not melt…nor did I leave a brainwashed believer. Everything about the place makes me feel good. We have donated food to their box for the food shelf. Nearly every time I go in there I wish I could work there just because of how the place makes me feel. The problem is I have that little not believing in God problem…

Besides this experience I have extensive experience in dealing with many different religions and denominations. I was raised loosely Lutheran Christian (I did Sunday school and we went to church on the holidays.) I went on a number of church trips and camps. I asked for Jesus into my life and for a sign. I never got one. Yet I only have good memories. The church I went too was fairly Liberal though I think they did lean Conservative on a few things, such as evolution. There were a couple other minor things but overall, it was mostly positive.
I was also a Chaplin’s assistant while in Tech School in the US Air Force. While in Basic Training I went to Mormon services. Both were positive experiences, especially going through those tough conditions.

Between my wife going to an all-girl Catholic University and my major in religious studies, as well as traveling to Europe and the Middle East with the Air Force, I have been to large variety of services and gatherings of many different religions and denominations. Nearly every single one was positive…or at least not negative. I always found the Mormons to be very friendly and I like their family aspect. I also appreciated the lack of judgment by the Catholics. I have gone to Catholic services more than anything else, at a number of different churches. I never take Communion, especially at Catholic churches because to do not allow non-Catholics to take Communion. Here is the thing though…not a single place ever asked people if they were Catholic or not, in addition to that not once have I received a dirty look, or even a look, or NOT taking Communion. My favorite was the Baha’I gathering. Their policy is that they can only accept donations from members. If a non-member donates, it is given to charity.

This has been my extensive experience. So I ask…do you simply dislike organized religion because you dislike religion or the way the media has portrayed it? Do you simply dislike it because the particular church you were brought up in was one of the “bad” ones? Do you believe not all organization is the same and some groups are not only not harmful, but positive? Or are they all bad? Is it the organization that is bad? I ask that because many atheists organize into groups…How do you define organized religion and what are your objections?


Stop Being an Angry Atheist!

I have not done a blog in a while but I came across a great topic…atheists that are always angry for no reason. Some are just so angry…I’m surprised their head does not explode every time they look down at their money…

I will start by saying there are certainly things atheists should be upset about but I will limit this to US politics. There are things we should be upset about such as creationism (intelligent design, or whatever you want to call it) being taught in science classrooms, gays not being allowed their Constitutional right of marriage, and really any LAW being passed on because of religious beliefs. These are legitimate reasons to be upset, but so many atheists are offended by things that do not matter. I will explain why they do not matter, but first, I will list a few of them…

-In God We Trust on our money
-The Ten Commandments outside a court house
-Swearing in on a Bible
-“Merry Christmas”
-Any religious symbols
-And Thanksgiving

The last one is what led to me creating this blog post. I read the following blog. I will post the link to it but I must warn you about the content on other blogs. The blog directly above it shows a naked man and the blog itself is pretty hate filled.

Here is the entire post…

“Today people all over the USA will be feasting over their tables, stuffing their already fat asses until they can’t walk. All this because of a holiday instituted to thank “God” for things. Really? Do we really need this holiday? We know there are not magical sky fairies up in the sky. There is no one to thank because we do things ourselves. No sky fairies come down to help us, cure us, teach us and so on.

The holiday supposedly originates with the Pilgrims who were a bunch of prude Christians from the Puritan cult. This is the same cult who killed women believing them to be witches (Salem). We are taught that they made friends with the Native Americans and had this feast. But we know they slaughtered the Natives of this nation, robbing them of their land.
This is fucked up! Also, President Obama “pardoned” turkeys at the White House making the sign of the cross with his hand as if he were the pope! What the fuck?? This is endorsing a religion by the Commander in Chief!”

Seriously? Are we that upset about it? Why? I personally enjoy Thanksgiving because I have a family and our family enjoys getting together. I get to talk politics, religion, and conspiracy theories with Uncle Bill and I get to take pictures of my kids with their cousins. It also allows me to cook a dish for the family and watch football all day on a Thursday. Does my family pray before they eat? Yes they do…and I do not pray because I do not believe in God. I sit quietly for 10-15 seconds while they do because it is the respectful thing to do.

What does Thanksgiving really mean? I do agree it is not an EVENT we should celebrate, but let’s be honest, Thanksgiving is about consumerism. Stores typically open on Thanksgiving and stay open though Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. That is then followed by Cyber Monday. It is not about sitting around and worshiping the Christian God.

The atheist in the blog post is so upset the President pardons a turkey to do a blog post about it? My response to that and the other things I listed above is…who cares?

Is it technically promoting religion? One could make that argument and I am sure a number of atheists would enjoy plugging up our court systems to make it. But why? By a show of hands, who has actually watched the Presidential pardon of the Turkey? That’s what I thought…of the few people that have watched it how many felt deep religious meaning behind it? I am willing to bet nearly every Christian just shrugs it off and did not think of religion at all. The only people that feel something religious towards it are the atheists that are so offended by it.

In God We Trust on our money…who cares? It still spends the same. Put a picture of the devil or Mickey Mouse on it, I could really care less. Atheists act like a person is going to look down at their dollar bill and be sucked into Christianity.

The Ten Commandments outside a court house…who cares? Are those the laws of our nation, no, it is about as relevant as a statue of Richard Dawkins outside a court house would be.

Swearing in on a Bible…who cares? Like someone is or is not going to tell the truth because, Jesus…You tell the truth because perjury is a crime…or you lie because you do not want to go to prison. The President is sworn in on a Bible…yes, to run our secular government…

Merry Christmas…if you are upset when someone says that to you, you are an asshole. That is the same when someone says “God bless you” or “I’ll pray for you.” They are wishing you well, showing empathy, or giving you their support. If you cannot see that or are offended by that, you are an asshole. Seriously, did someone spank you too many times as a kid in the name of Jesus?

Religious symbols…who cares? I am talking about the people that complain EVERY TIME they see any type of religious symbolism ANYWHERE. Get over it, you do not have the right to not be offended. If you are allowed to hold up “God hates fags” signs at a military funeral, I’ll put up my damn Nativity scene.

The thing is that for most of these things the only people feeling religious significance from them are atheists. Are some of them technically unconstitutional? Yes, but who cares? The only people they affect are the uptight, angry atheists. We should focus on important issues that actually affect people and society, things like marriage equality and keeping religion out of science class.

Here is the thing the angry atheists do not realize (well do, but ignore it…) You do not have the right to not be offended and you do not have freedom FROM religion.

Contrary to popular belief the United States IS a CHRISTIAN nation…it is ALSO a SECULAR nation. It was also FOUNDED as a CHRISTIAN nation and a SECULAR nation. We have something called a separation of church and state (which I am sure most atheists have thrown in the face of Christians a time or two,) which means we can be both secular AND religious.
Around 75% of Americans are Christian (with another 5% being religious.) If 75% of a country’s population were 75% atheists, we would call it an atheist nation.

The United States was also founded as a Christian nation. The vast majority of the groups that came here were Christians. They were different sects or denominations of Christianity that came here to escape religious persecution in Europe. The people were Christian.

The Founding Fathers also had Christian influences. Many of the Founding Fathers were Christians and believed religion played an important role in society (not necessarily in government.) There is one thing none of the Found Fathers were…atheists. Thomas Paine is most frequently pointed to as being an atheist, but he was a deist, like the rest of the Founding Fathers. Deism by definition is the opposite of atheism but before you object, please read the next paragraph.

One thing is certain…the United States was founded as a SECULAR nation (and a Christian nation.) The Founding Fathers came out of Enlightenment Philosophy and secularism. I have heard many atheists argue that Enlightenment Philosophy and deism were the REJECTION of Christianity. This is simply false. Many people rejected the Church or aspects of Christianity, such as Jesus’ divinity and the Resurrection, but the deist god was certainly the Christian God. In any case deism, by definition, is the opposite of atheism. Either way, all of this came out of a Christian culture and had Christian influences.

This was not a country founded by atheists, but by Christians and deists using Enlightenment Philosophy to establish a nation with a SECULAR government. It was never intended to be an atheist nation or a “religion free” nation, simply that religion was not supposed to be in the government.

This is a Christian nation and you are FREE to be an atheist, but you do not have the right to not be offended. If that is too difficult for you, I suggest you move to an atheist nation.

The whole point is that atheists should put their time towards things that actually mean something and stop being angry for the simple excuse to be angry about stuff that does not matter. When you complain about every little thing it makes you lose credibility on legitimate topics. People think “just another atheists complaining about nothing.” Stop shooting yourself in the foot…

Is Sam Harris being Unfairly Attacked or is he a Dishonest Hypocrite?

I am very familiar with Sam Harris. Richard Dawkins is the only one of the Four Horsemen I have read more of. I have bashed Dawkins and Bill Maher for their views on religion but have only briefly mentioned Harris, so here is a blog for him. He came to my attention again when he was on Real Time with Bill Maher, where Ben Affleck gives the both of them a pretty good beating. Ben Affleck is spot on in his analysis. Here is a link to the video. I will address specific parts later in this bit…

Ben Affleck is not the first person to criticize Sam Harris, in fact, it happens quite frequently. Harris has actually responded to his critics on his website, and actually covers two of the points I wish to touch on. Here is a link to his responses to critics…

If you read that, you will see one of his biggest grips is about people calling him a racist and a bigot. He states “Such defamation is made all the easier if one writes and speaks on extremely controversial topics…”

Sam Harris is either completely missing the point of the criticism (or intentionally avoiding it,) which is the same point Ben brought up in the video. He is not being criticized for talking about controversial issues. He is not being criticized for calling out the Jihadists and Islamists, he is being criticized because he LUMPS ALL MUSLIMS TOGETHER. He says he is not, and that there are decent Muslims, but this is completely dishonest. Both Sam and Bill proclaim they have numbers, and Sam Harris was nice enough to provide us with some. In the video, Harris says that Jihadists and Islamists make up roughly 20 percent of the Muslim world. So according to Sam Harris, 20 percent is “most?” He is defining and condemning an entire religion based on 20% of them? He also uses the term “conservative Muslim” but fails to give a number.

Let’s use Sam’s logic. According Gallop polls, over 40 percent of Americans believe in creationism. 40 percent is double the 20 percent Sam Harris uses to describe the “Muslim World,” so by his reasoning Sam Harris is just a stupid American that believes in creationism.

Honestly though, Ben and the others make the best argument for those types of numbers. They are the classical racist arguments. They are literally the same as saying “this percentage of black people commit crimes therefore…” They use minority numbers to condemn an entire group of people, to justify their prejudice. Harris backtracks on this claim and states this…

“Okay, I’ll give you what you want. There are hundreds of millions of Muslims who are nominal Muslims, who don’t take the faith seriously, who don’t want to kill apostates, who are horrified by ISIS, and we need to defend these people and prop them up and let them reform their faith.”

The fact that Harris says he is not talking about ALL Muslims (even though it is clearly obvious that he is,) is clearly false. He has never said anything positive about Muslims and now he is saying we need to defend them? He has done this type of thing before… in his book Letter to a Christian Nation, he puts a lumping disclaimer at the beginning of the book. It reads as follows…

“Consequently, the ‘Christian’ I address throughout is a Christian in a narrow sense of the term. Such a person believes, at minimum, that the Bible is the inspired word of God and that only those who accept the divinity of Jesus Christ will experience salvation after death.”

“In Letter to a Christian Nation, I have set out to demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity in its most committed forms. Consequently, liberal and moderate Christians will not always recognize themselves in the ‘Christians’ I address…”

“I engage Christianity at its most divisive injurious, and retrograde. In this, liberals, moderates and nonbelievers can recognize a common cause.”

To me, this seems fair enough. This book is about the more conservative Christians, the literalists, and not all Christians. It is similar to my lumping disclaimer about atheists. I read his entire book based on this statement and man did it piss me off when I got to the end.

There is a chapter at the end named The Problem with Moderate Religion. In this bit he craps on the very people he is claiming to not be talking about…Here are some selected quotes…
“Religious moderates also tend to imagine that there is some bright line of separation between extremist and moderate religion. But there isn’t. Scripture itself remains a perpetual engine of extremism…”

“Another problem with religious moderation is that it represents precisely the sort of thinking that will prevent a rational and nondenominational spirituality from every emerging in our world.”

“By living as if some measure of sectarian superstition were essential for human happiness, religious moderates prevent such a conversation from ever taking shape.”

At the very least he is guilty of being a horrible writer, lacking the capability to use the correct language to present his views and opinions. However, I find it more plausible that he is dishonest and a hypocrite. How can one say they are only talking about extremists and then say that liberals, moderates, and nonbelievers can recognize a common cause, and then follow that up by saying there is not really a difference between extremists and moderates?
I will emphasize it again…the reason he is being criticized is because he is being dishonest and inconsistent. To Sam Harris, one is either religious or not, there is no middle ground. You are either an atheist or religious extremist. Sam Harris does not like or respect people of religion. That is the definition of bigotry and that is not an unfair attack, it is a conclusion based on his writing about people with religious beliefs.

I have not taken his writing out of context, merely point out contradictions, but one of his biggest complaints of critics is that people take what he says out of context. He points to a bit which Chris Hedges criticizes him about preemptive nuclear war. I have also pointed this out in other blogs because it is one of the most troubling things he has ever written. Here is the bit, copied from the link I posted at the beginning…

“It should be of particular concern to us that the beliefs of Muslims pose a special problem for nuclear deterrence. There is little possibility of our having a cold war with an Islamist regime armed with long-range nuclear weapons. A cold war requires that the parties be mutually deterred by the threat of death. Notions of martyrdom and jihad run roughshod over the logic that allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to pass half a century perched, more or less stably, on the brink of Armageddon. What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe. How would such an unconscionable act of self-defense be perceived by the rest of the Muslim world? It would likely be seen as the first incursion of a genocidal crusade. The horrible irony here is that seeing could make it so: this very perception could plunge us into a state of hot war with any Muslim state that had the capacity to pose a nuclear threat of its own. All of this is perfectly insane, of course: I have just described a plausible scenario in which much of the world’s population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman, the philosopher’s stone, and unicorns. That it would be a horrible absurdity for so many of us to die for the sake of myth does not mean, however, that it could not happen. Indeed, given the immunity to all reasonable intrusions that faith enjoys in our discourse, a catastrophe of this sort seems increasingly likely. We must come to terms with the possibility that men who are every bit as zealous to die as the nineteen hijackers may one day get their hands on long-range nuclear weaponry. The Muslim world in particular must anticipate this possibility and find some way to prevent it. Given the steady proliferation of technology, it is safe to say that time is not on our side.”
This is the first bit of his response…

“Clearly, I was describing a case in which a hostile regime that is avowedly suicidal acquires long-range nuclear weaponry (i.e. they can hit distant targets like Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles, etc.). Of course, not every Muslim regime would fit this description.”

Once again, he is trying to throw in the “not all Muslims” but once again he fails to use language that would support that statement. In addition to that, he makes it seem as if he is talking about ANY hostile regime, not just a Muslim one. This is Sam Harris taking Sam Harris out of context. If the book, chapter, or even section was about US foreign policy, he might have an argument, but this bit has nothing to do with that. If one looks at his book, they will see this is in the chapter titled “The Problem with Islam,” in a section titled “Jihad and the Power of the Atom.” In this section there are two paragraphs before the bit I quoted above. This is not being taken out of context, it is purely about the problem with Islam and he justifies preemptive nuclear strikes.

Harris attempts to disguise his beliefs by saying something like this would be “horrible” and “insane,” but he said it, and he makes an excuse for it…

“I have just described a plausible scenario in which much of the world’s population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman, the philosopher’s stone, and unicorns. That it would be a horrible absurdity for so many of us to die for the sake of myth does not mean, however, that it could not happen. Indeed, given the immunity to all reasonable intrusions that faith enjoys in our discourse, a catastrophe of this sort seems increasingly likely.”

So basically he is saying “you made us do it because you believe in a myth and are unreasonable?” Harris is admitting it may be acceptable to kill tens of millions of innocent people! This is sick. Once again, I call this Hitler type stuff. This is not being taken out of context, it is not about US foreign policy, this is about the problems with Islam. There is absolutely no reason for this bit in his book unless he believes this is a legitimate option to dealing with Muslims.

Is Sam Harris being unfairly criticized? He is only being unfairly criticized if he admits he is a horrible writer that adds meaningless stuff to his books and that he is incapable of getting his real message across. I doubt this is the case though. I would not be allowed to speak in the same room with him because of his credentials compared to mine, ask him, he will tell you. The only logical conclusion is he is being fairly criticized, not for discussion the difficult topics, but by lumping all religious people together. He constantly, and clearly, says contradicting statements, whether that is in his speaking or writing. Maybe he is legitimately confused about how he feels about religious people, but then tell us that. Based on his words I think it is more apparent that he knows exactly what he believes and is upset when people call him out on it, as is any racist or bigot when you call them out on it. Anyone feel free to correct me if you think I AM wrong…

A Convo about Sharia Law

I decided to make this a blog post so that I could post the pictures. This came out of a Twitter conversation regarding Islam as law in Muslim countries…

To expand, it is not that my views are peaceful, it is that this is the way to create progress. Violence has never created peace. I am all for condemning fundamentalists but often those fighting against the fundamentalists are moderates of the same religion. Look at the Middle East right now. Who is fighting against the radical Muslims? With the exception of the US intervention, it is Muslims. We need to prop these people up, make them allies, not vilify them. People like Sam Harris are wrong, moderate religion does not breed fundamentalism. The Islamic Empire used to lead the world in science and philosophy. We have the ancient Greek texts today because of Muslims. Fundamentalism destroyed all of that. Moderates are obviously capable of logic, reason, and secular societies.

To your most recent tweet…

No, I am not wrong. Just because they share some aspect of Sharia law in their governing system does not mean that is the law of the land. As defined in the picture, some of those countries only use Sharia law in more personal things, such as marriage. This is due to cultural reasons, which were a big part in the make-up of religion. Why are their different branches of Islam? It is due to culture. We see this in the United States, especially with the gay marriage argument. It is entirely religious and many of our laws are based on religion, yet many would argue the United States is very secular.

As for the countries shown in the map, how many of them have had female leaders? A lot of them have. Yet Saudi Arabia is very oppressive towards women. Who is right and who is wrong? Is there a right or wrong? One of the countries highlighted is the United Arab Emirates. They are very secular and have women in a lot of their highest positions. Women even walk around in bikinis.

Picture 316Picture 303

Is this a violation of Sharia law?

I am not condoning the horrible ways places like Saudi Arabia implement it but I have been to countries highlighted in your picture and your vision is very skewed. Shall we look at your picture more closely?

Too add to the debate, you just sent me this picture…


To start, these two picture completely contradict each other. In the first picture, countries in the green color… “Members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation where sharia plays no role in the judicial system.”

In your second picture, in the orange, it states that converting a Muslim is a crime. How is converting a Muslim a crime when Sharia law plays no role in the judicial system? Maybe the people made these laws based on their religious or cultural views, but they are not supported by the judicial system, according to your sources.

Here is another picture…

According to this picture and your pictures, Sharia law is stricter in many Muslim MINORITY countries. Ethiopia, for example, is a Christian majority country, yet it follows Sharia law? This is due to a point I have made in other blog posts…this is a cultural thing, not a religious thing. People claim female genital mutilation is a Muslim problem, yet it is a problem in Ethiopia, a Christian country.

Let’s go back to your first picture again…


(Green) Members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation where sharia plays no role in the judicial system. Muslims are a minority in some OIC nations.

(Yellow) Countries where Sharia applies in personal status issues (such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody).

(Purple) Countries where Sharia applies in full, covering personal status issues as well as criminal proceedings.

(Orange) Regional variations in the application of sharia

The only countries that practice Sharia law in full (according to your sources) are the ones in purple, or not the majority. This is a smoking gun and PROVES Islam and religion is not the driving force in most Muslim countries. Posting those two pictures together is done either out of propaganda or ignorance because neither one of them is representative of those countries.

Where are the Conservatives and Atheists When it Comes to North Korea?

When we were first considering bombing ISIS I was against it. I said we need to stay out of the Middle East. Many people, usually Conservatives, tried to take the moral high ground and tell me what horrible people the people in ISIS were. Atheists also make the argument that Islam is the problem. I make the argument we should have never gone to war in the first place with Iraq but Conservatives tell me what a horrible person Saddam was.

Obviously Conservatives and atheists want to validate any military action by saying “they are bad people” and “Islam is bad.” They want to be the world police. But I ask you this…If you hold the moral high ground, if you are ridding the world of evil, I ask you, where the hell are you when it comes to North Korea?

Here is a bit about a former body guard for Kim Jong Il.

In the article he talks about how this family rules based on fear, that they will simply cut people’s head’s off when they are having a bad day. This does not come as news to anyone with moderate knowledge of what is going on in our world. This is not new. Here is the Wikipedia page on their prisons…

The UN has compared North Korea to Nazi Germany, some say it is worse…

In addition to this North Korea has poked fun at us by advertising it is testing nuclear missiles.

Nuclear weapons and human rights violations comparable to the holocaust, and you are silent on the issue? If you are going to take the moral high ground and validate our need to bomb the Middle East, you need to answer, where the hell are you on this? Are you simply ignorant on this topic because the media is not spreading their Islam propaganda? Maybe you need to rely less on propaganda to support your wars.

My Defense of the Term “Agnostic”

Often on Twitter and even in this blog I have been questioned and/or criticized for my use or definition of the term “agnostic” and “agnosticism.” Some atheists read that I am agnostic and they think that I am “one step away” from becoming an atheist. Others believe atheism and agnosticism are one in the same. The final group states that agnosticism is about knowledge, where as atheism is a conclusion.

Regardless of which group one falls in to they are often dissatisfied with my definition or use of the term agnostic. They question my credibility or intelligence because of my inability to use a dictionary and they argue that I cannot make up my own definition. There is an example of this here in this blog where I am talking about my transformation story…

People point me to a dictionary and explain etymology the word “agnostic…”

“ Agnostic (from Ancient Greek ἀ- (a-), meaning ‘without’, and γνῶσις (gnōsis), meaning ‘knowledge’)…”-Wikipedia

They also use dictionary definitions, but the problem with that is they the definitions vary…


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.-Google

a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to

a person who does not have a definite belief about whether God exists or

Even if one uses a dictionary definition, they have to actively choose which dictionary or which definition they are going to use and why.

They also point out agnosticism is about knowledge and show me pictures like this one…

Agnostic v Gnostic v Atheist v Theist

Besides the fact that the Merriam-Webster definition says NOTHING about “knowledge,” who created this picture and what makes it an authority? Is it simply accepted because a lot of people post it on Twitter?

Either way I am questioned and criticized about my use of the term for the reasons above. The final thing they say is that I cannot make up my own definition for words, there is a reason we have language. Actually I can and people do all the time. The key is providing of the details and reasoning behind a working definition.

When I am criticized for the reasons above, people are actually showing their shallow knowledge of the topic. I have studied religion, atheism, philosophy, and science and based my definitions and opinions on that. The people criticizing me demonstrate that their knowledge is limited to Googling the definition of a word or passing pictures around twitter. Let me explain why this makes their knowledge on the term shallow. Using only Wikipedia, I can show their lack of ability to look up the history of a term.

Above I quoted something from Wikipedia…

“Agnostic (from Ancient Greek ἀ- (a-), meaning ‘without’, and γνῶσις (gnōsis), meaning ‘knowledge’)…”-Wikipedia

This is actually the entire quote…

“Agnostic (from Ancient Greek ἀ- (a-), meaning ‘without’, and γνῶσις (gnōsis), meaning ‘knowledge’) was used by Thomas Henry Huxley in a speech at a meeting of the Metaphysical Society in 1869 to describe his philosophy, which rejects all claims of spiritual or mystical knowledge.”-Wikipedia

If we go to the top of the page, it explains this…

“Thomas Henry Huxley, an English biologist, coined the word agnostic in 1869. However, earlier thinkers have written works that promoted agnostic points of view. “
See, the term was coined by Thomas Henry Huxley, who created his own definition for the term. His definition is the definition I go by because he is the person that coined the term. The question is, what exactly did he say about the term?

To keep it simple, here is some of the stuff from the Wikipedia link above…
Agnostic views are as old as philosophical skepticism, but the terms agnostic and agnosticism were created by Huxley to sum up his thoughts on contemporary developments of metaphysics about the “unconditioned” (William Hamilton) and the “unknowable” (Herbert Spencer). Though Huxley began to use the term “agnostic” in 1869, his opinions had taken shape some time before that date. In a letter of September 23, 1860, to Charles Kingsley, Huxley discussed his views extensively…

“I neither affirm nor deny the immortality of man. I see no reason for believing it, but, on the other hand, I have no means of disproving it. I have no a priori objections to the doctrine. No man who has to deal daily and hourly with nature can trouble himself about a priori difficulties. Give me such evidence as would justify me in believing in anything else, and I will believe that. Why should I not? It is not half so wonderful as the conservation of force or the indestructibility of matter …”

Of the origin of the name agnostic to describe this attitude, Huxley gave the following account:

“When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; Christian or a freethinker; I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last. The one thing in which most of these good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed from them. They were quite sure they had attained a certain “gnosis”–had, more or less successfully, solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble. And, with Hume and Kant on my side, I could not think myself presumptuous in holding fast by that opinion …

So I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of “agnostic”. It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the “gnostic” of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant. … To my great satisfaction the term took.”

Bertrand Russell even agrees with my definition…

In his 1953 essay, What Is An Agnostic? Russell states:

“An agnostic thinks it impossible to know the truth in matters such as God and the future life with which Christianity and other religions are concerned. Or, if not impossible, at least impossible at the present time.”

My final quote comes from the intro on the Wikipedia page…

“According to the philosopher William L. Rowe, in the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of God, whereas a theist and an atheist believe and disbelieve, respectively.”

I know about Huxley because I studied the history and philosophy of science but my transformation, which I speak about in that blog, was written (not posted) BEFORE I ever read anything Huxley wrote (other than his short definition which was mentioned in a class), oddly enough, our stories are very similar and we come to many of the same conclusions. Like Huxley, the more I learned the more I evolved and the more I realized how much we do not know. I went from being an atheist to growing to the point of understanding that we cannot know the big answer. We both also noticed the “gnosis” in atheists claims. They fight tooth and nail and play semantic games, but many atheists certainly APPEAR to be making a truth claim. Agnosticism is not the same as atheism and Rowe (in the quote above) explains this. Both Huxley and I read much of the same arguments and philosophers, made the same observations, and came to the same conclusion. This is due to my studies in the area and observations of engagements with atheists.

I often hear the term “agnostic atheist,” and I too have used it to describe myself. The important part to that is that I state the “atheist” part is simply my opinion if I were forced to make a guess. It is not based on science. However, I personally do not like the term and I feel the terms are contradictory or redundant when used together.

They are contradictory because agnostic is about not knowing and not being able to know where atheism is essentially making a truth claim. It is literally saying “I don’t know if there is a god or not and I do not believe there is a god. If one does not know, there is no reason to attach the disclaimer that one does not believe. The reason the term agnostic atheist is used is because adding “I do not know” allows atheists to avoid providing evidence for their claim.

Huxley intended, and made clear, that atheism and agnosticism are different. When I say I am agnostic, I do not need to attach another label to the end. I do not need to specify that I do not believe in a god because I have already stated I do not believe we can know. Agnostic is also not the “transition” to becoming an atheist when I reach “enlightenment,” it is actually the opposite.

To suggest that I am making up a definition or using the definition incorrectly is ignorant. It is not that I lack the ability to look at a picture or use a dictionary, simply that I actually understand the origin and meaning of the term as opposed to having abilities limited to looking at a picture or looking up a definition. Use the term as you choose and give it the definition you desire, but do not suggest that my definition is less correct than yours or that I somehow lack your amazing intellect.