Recently Eldon wrote about his difficulty in settling on a position in his faith or, more succinctly, his lack of faith. Like many of us leaving behind what we once believed he isn’t sure how to label himself or just exactly which philosophy best describes his position. I’m not sure why a label matters so much except that we’ve had one for so long we believe we should call ourselves something. Maybe we’ve lived in the black and white for so long we think we should know more than we do. We should be…certain.
I’m not sure why it is that some atheists seem offended if one says they’re agnostic but don’t identify themselves as atheist. It’s as if they have as much of an agenda as fundamentalist Christians. I’m agnostic. I’m really not sure what I believe in regards to a higher power, some energy force, call it what you will. Is there really no evidence for any of these? I can understand how folks come to that conclusion, but I’m not there yet.
I’m leaning toward and, practically speaking, atheist. I don’t pray, I don’t worship a god, and I don’t follow a religious philosophy unless you can call the golden rule religious. I wouldn’t even know which god or if any currently conjectured god, is real. How does one worship a god they can’t even identify?
Some people have never believed in a god. I can see how someone who has never believed would not be able to relate to the journey of those recovering from religion. There are others who seem to have lost their faith overnight. Something just clicked with them and, poof, there went their belief. I’m not contending it was a small something. Maybe they learned just one part of what they’d believed wasn’t true so they couldn’t trust any of it anymore. It isn’t right or wrong. It just is. But there are others who take a lot of time in coming to a decision about their faith, who are slow to adopt the name atheist.
In part we are slow to adopt that as our moniker because it is such a loaded term. At least it is around these here parts. Being openly atheist makes you untrustworthy, unfaithful, unscrupulous, and, in the opinion of a lot of people, quite possibly unhinged. I know, I know. I’m not responsible for what other people think. I can’t control what other people think. But I can control what they know about me.
According to one commenter on Eldon’s blog:
“The problem with saying that you don’t define yourself by what you don’t believe and saying that you are uncomfortable with the term “atheist” is to miss the point of what atheism is all about. The stance of not believing in something, per se, is not important. But the lack of belief in certain ideas which have incredible power, authority, and influence over cultures throughout history has a different matter. Te identification has socio-political import, hence the conversation.”
But why does the identification have socio-political import? Is it that big a deal what we call ourselves? Somehow I just don’t think so. What is important is taking a position on those certain ideas the commenter refers to. Though he didn’t go into detail about what those are I can’t help but feel that there are a lot of progressive/liberal Christians who take the same exact stance that atheists do. I just don’t think I have to label myself to be a good person, to oppose the oppression of those who need a voice, to stand up for human rights.
I see the point that if more people came out as atheists maybe…maybe…others would become more accepting. Maybe more people would realize that atheists aren’t such bad people after all. But judging by what I know of the fundy believers who hold such disdain for atheists I highly doubt it. They’d either be in denial of said atheism or they’d assume Satan himself had possession of the atheist. Evangelicals believe in that sort of thing, y’know.
I’ve been told that my logic about the whole atheist/agnostic terminology is confused and misinformed. But truly it is not. I’m quite well aware of the difference between agnosticism and atheism. Advocatus Atheist has a pretty good article about that very thing. A quote from the article:
- Agnosticism deals with knowledge.
- Atheism deals with belief.
I’m not conflating the terms. I’m not misinformed about the terminology. I simply haven’t felt like I had enough knowledge to form a belief. I’ll readily admit that part of not forming that particular belief has been emotional in nature. If a Christian can say I’ve walked away from God because of disappointment or anger then I suppose an atheist could say that I won’t just let go of God because because I’m afraid or I need a crutch or some similar emotional reason. And maybe they’d partly be right.
Grundy at Deity Shmeity asks the question, “What the Hell Am I?”, and makes some pretty good points. According to his article I’d probably label myself an Agnostic Atheist. That is, if I wanted to label myself with, y’know, a label. But to be honest I really don’t give a rip about labeling myself. I’m not ready to call myself atheist. Maybe I’m still trying to resist any remnant of my former fundamentalist behaviors. Feeling a bit rebellious I suppose. *grin*