Language is ambiguous, so here is what I mean when I say certain words. My wife thinks this page sounds dickish, but I’m just laying it out so I don’t have to qualify absolutely everything I write in the blog. I will try and be pedantic here so I can hopefully avoid it (too much) in the blog.
An atheist that either doesn’t know it, or is playing politics. I kid, I kid. You fence-sitters are okay with me. I kid some more. Seriously though, I believe agnosticism only has a place in a philosophical discussion, I do not believe it has any practical value. There are no believing agnostics, and when it comes down to it almost all atheists (except PZ Myers), claim some sort of philosophical agnosticism. When T.H. Huxley coined the phrase originally, he sounded pretty darn atheist to me [needs citation 😉 ].
Much like the duality of photons, the term atheism can mean multiple things depending on how you are observing it: when viewed from a philosophical perspective, it may seem to be trying to “prove” a negative; but when viewed from socio-religious perspective it is simply the negation of other’s untenable claims; and yet from another perspective it may be entangled with some sort of belief system such as humanism or naturalism.
I do not believe that the belief spectrum goes: Atheism — Agnosticism in the middle — Belief in god(s). I believe that in the context of organized religion, any specific god or gods, political or social discussion, etc. I am proudly an atheist. Only in the very narrow sense of a philosophical discussion about a potential [god] that could, maybe, possibly, sliver-of-a-chance-in-some-context-potentially-exist would I even care to use the term “agnostic”. But agnosticism, as I stated before, is to me simply theoretical. I say that I will gladly become an agnostic when every believer does the same. Until then, I’m an atheist.
Community (Atheist community, Skeptical community)
This term will always be used by me in the most general sense. The only rule to be in the “club” is to engage in the dialogue and happen to be a skeptic and/or atheist. There is no other criteria you have to meet for me. I don’t think our “community” is large enough yet to have the luxury of some of the schisms and in-fighting that take place incessantly (mostly on the internet). Perhaps when we have enough social change and political influence I will worry more about establishing narrower criteria and setting up “rules” of our community (I doubt it). But for right now, everything is on the table. You want to be fiscally conservative and vote Republican, come on in; you want the U.S. government to collapse into anarchy, come on in; you want our community to ‘act’ religious to replace your lost faith, come on in; you want your brand of feminism to rule the thought of the community, come on in.
Look, I’m not advocating a lack of standards. But in my opinion, we have that standard and the single standard is as follows: Are you using logically, reasoned, skeptical, scientific tools to arrive at your opinions? If the answer is ‘yes’ then we’ve got a discussion. If the answer is ‘no’, then you’re out. It’s that simple. Everything else can be discussed. There will be no shortage of disagreement even among brilliant people using the same skeptical tools, but that’s okay. I think that’s healthy, but many people seem so scared of dissent of any form.
The bottom line is I think a lot of people think many ideas are exclusive of each other, that actually aren’t. This usually happens in a socio-political context. People are not atoms, meaning they don’t have to adhere to universal ‘laws’. People have different needs, wants, desires, aptitudes and (most importantly) different experiences. We don’t have to all be on the same page at the same time. We can love and respect people who don’t arrive at the same conclusions as us. It always amazes me that people who have fought so hard for equal inclusion into society are so quick to then practice exclusion themselves. So my definition of ‘community’ is to not do that: exclude.
This is just for quotes I like.
Pop Culture, culture at large, et. al.
I will generally use this in its original sense “pop” being short for “popular”. Pop and “mainstream” have taken to mean different things over the years sometimes, but generally I use them in the context of “the culture at large” basically meaning “massively consumed”. Popular TV, radio, artists. But also to contrast the religious “culture at large” since here in the U.S. religiosity and god belief is strongly in the majority view.
I don’t use this term with any historical or philosophical connotation as in ancient Greek Skepticism or enlightenment philosophy skepticism (Richard H. Popkin wrote a wonderful book on this kind of philosophical skepticism: The History of Scepticism). When I use this term, I’m generally talking about the modern “scientific skepticism” that is basically and loosely (as opposed to systematically) espoused by groups like the JREF, SGU, and CFI.
Scientific skepticism to me, like science itself, is simply a tool to distinguish among false and true premises and deductions based on the evidence. Basically, it’s using logic and scientific methodology to ascertain a provisional probability of events based on the evidence. I’m what you might call a Podcast Skeptic, where my personal views and philosophical journey had a lonely existence until I discovered podcasts. This is where I found a group of people that share a passion for critical thinking, science, and evidence-based conclusions.
Sometimes it may seem that I use the term “Skepticism” as interchangeable with “Atheism”, and act like the set of these two things have 100% overlay. This is definitely my personal bias. By my definition, scientific skepticism is a tool to be utilized and not a set of edicts. So when that tool is used on religion, religious claims, supernatural claims and other species of similar claims, the religious and supernatural claims have always failed. Always. They have not one single time passed the test. So, I say that I will not and shall not believe such a claim until I’m presented with any kind of evidence that any of that nonsense exists. As Richard Dawkins says, “I’m not an afairiest”. Fairies simply don’t exist. With new evidence I will reevaluate, but until then, I’m not sure why I shouldn’t mix atheism with skepticism until religion has passed a single solitary skeptical test. The standard is equal with Bigfoot or any other claim. I really don’t concern myself with the feelings or rights of Bigfoot believers when discussing such things, so why would religious belief receive special consideration?
Speaking of Bigfoot, ’70’s and ’80’s skepticism is fine: Bigfoot, Nessie, UFO’s. If that’s where one wants to turn their skeptical toolkit, I’m always interested in the results. But my personal interest is religion and god-belief and how it intersects with social mores, popular culture, law-making and politics. That’s generally where my skepticism is going to be directed because that is of interest to me. I think religion gets a pass and is treated as somehow “special” in society and nothing makes me sadder than a skeptic with a double standard.
No questions yet, certainly none that are frequent. Hopefully the Definitions section preempts confusion.