What kind of atheist?

An atheist is just an atheist, right?

Well sure. An atheist declares:

  • that there are no gods, or
  • that there is no evidence for gods.

I prefer the second of these. It’s more consistent with Science which is willing to declare that things can be unknown in fact because of a lack of evidence.

To say that there is no evidence for gods seems reasonable, just as there is no evidence for many other potentially imaginary entities.

The first formulation declaring that there are no gods leaves one open to the charge of overconfidence.

In recent years we have heard of the rise of the so-called new atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens (sadly gone since 2011; the world could use his sane voice right about now). Some of them have even been considered to be militant atheists.

So we can apply the adjective militant to the noun atheist.

The first time I heard the adjective agnostic applied to the noun atheist, I thought: “that doesn’t seem right”. Others I’ve spoken to have had a similar reaction. And yet, that’s more or less my preferred atheist variant at this point.

The agnostic adjective declares that the existence or non-existence of gods is:

  • currently unknown in fact or
  • unknowable, even in principle

The first seems uncontroversial and I personally think the second is too. It simply asks the question: what would count as evidence in support of a deity? The answer seems unclear at best.

While it has to be admitted that agnostic atheist is a bit confusing, the exact description of anything should be open to refinement, as with Science.

A parting thought is that Christopher Hitchens called himself an anti-theist, not only because he was an atheist, but because of the great harm he thought religion does, even if only to lead people to surrender their reason (but he also thought it was worse than that).

Perhaps I should refer to myself as an agnostic atheistic anti-theist. Too much? 🙂

3 Responses to “What kind of atheist?”

  1. Archon's Den Says:

    Never too much! Go for it. 🙂

  2. Frank J Peter Says:

    Not too much for this boy.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: