I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts recently. Trying to work through the backlogs of both ‘Unbelievable?‘ and ‘The Thinking Atheist‘ especially. I love these two podcasts, as they draw in a variety of guests, ideas and discussions. I also enjoy having one Christian podcast and one Atheist podcast – feels like a fairer listening schedule. No one should repeatedly back up their current position for fear of being wrong. We are all wrong about something, we just don’t know what we are wrong about right now.
One of the things I have noticed during my transition out of faith is how many different views of the term ‘Atheism’ there are. There are those like Jordan B Peterson who claim that those wielding the term Atheist are ‘soft atheists’, unable to stand by the ‘hard atheism’ of the Soviet position, that ‘there is no God’. Others like Matt Dillahunty or Sam Harris, for example, believe that there is no way we can definitively say there is no God, rather using phrases such as ‘I’m not convinced there is a God’, over ‘I am convinced there is no God’.
I recently listened to Douglas Murray on the Unbelievable? podcast talking about why he classes himself as a ‘Christian Atheist’, expressing that it would be very hard to be an atheist with the ‘self-evident truths’ that we claim are all around us, without inheriting them from Christianity. Almost like we have carried the morality and worldview we had across with us into atheism, but now obviously reject the Creator who people used to believe gave them to start with.
It’s really interesting how people define their belief system. It used to be really easy to tell people, ‘I am a Christian’, it made sense and people could identify with at least the core belief that the claim entailed. These days terms like Atheism or Agnostic seems too confusing or uncertain. Decades of language and belief shits have caused people to coin their own phrases and people like me feel like they have the need to explain what they are now calling themselves and why they are calling themselves that.
I personally tend to agree with Matt Dillahunty. I don’t think we can be certain that there isn’t a God. I don’t think we can deny that there could be a God and we just need the evidence to be strong enough to convince ourselves that He is real. But that doesn’t mean this God would be the Judeo-Christian God, and it also doesn’t mean that just because we can’t prove He doesn’t exist, we should act like He does and worship Him.
You see, I used to believe in the Judeo-Christian God, but over time as I read, listened and thought, it became apparent that I no longer did believe in Him. I don’t think that we are able to control what does and does not convince us of something but rather are carried by the pieces of evidence we view as most likely to be true.
I have mentioned this before, but I think it is worth re-hashing. People have told me to ‘just believe’ or to have ‘faith’ and carry on. But I want you to try something for me. Can you ‘just believe’ that Islam is correct and therefore worth following? Can you have ‘faith’ that Joseph Smith was correct and live like that from now on? No, of course, you can’t.
You see you require a certain level of evidence or proof that the claim is true before you believe it, and I am fairly sure you don’t actually control the tipping point upon which that level needs to reach before you are convinced of something enough for it to be ‘believable’.
Say deism is true, let’s say a God created the universe and then stopped engaging with it. Arguably, you could get to a position where you believed this was at least possible because we don’t have enough evidence to show that it is false. We can’t get back past the big bang to see, so we can assert whatever we want into that space, and people do just that. But say you do establish a deistic God, as Christopher Hitchens was so well known for saying, ‘All your work would still be in front of you’. You would now need to establish philosophical and scientific arguments and theories to establish a theistic God who was, is and will interact with this universe and us on personal levels.
To date, I have not come across evidence that convinces me enough to step back into a theistic belief system I held. But I am searching, questioning and wondering. It would be foolish of me to hang up my walking boots, sit back in my chair and claim ‘I am convinced there is no God’, how could I ever prove that claim is correct? It would be naive and ignorant of me.
Rather I claim that ‘I’m not convinced there is a God’, because of the evidence and how it makes sense to me. Lots of things play into this. How I was taught to view evidence at school and beyond, how I have navigated challenges and thoughts in life. Moral systems, belief systems, coping strategies, reasoning skills, communicating skills… all of these link and feed into how I used to, and still do rationalise and navigate what is in front of me.
I am aware there will be many people who think it is foolish. I am agnostic because I don’t know or think I can know anything for certain. I am Atheist in the ‘I am not convinced there is a God’ way, a soft atheist in Jordan B Peterson’s eyes, maybe. I feel like the term Agnostic helps to reinforce the uncertainty, the searching and the thinking.
I hope at least, that helps you understand why I currently call myself an Agnostic Atheist – ‘I’m not convinced there is a God’, which is very different from ‘I am convinced there is no God’.
I wonder, what do you call yourself and why?
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Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It has taken me a few years to get to a place where I am able to share my loss of faith and to start writing about the journey that I am still on for you all. I hope you find it useful.
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