Atheist, Agnostic or Believer?

NPR.org has an article up on a new book called Doubt: A History by Jennifer Hecht which traces the force of skepticism.

The article contains a small quiz you can take to determine your ‘Scales of Doubt’ to see what kind of atheist, agnostic or believer you are. There are 13 questions which you answer yes, no or not sure to.

Me, I answered ‘no’ to all 13 questions which makes me “a hard-core atheist and of a certain variety: a rational materialist.” No big surprise there. The book itself looks pretty interesting and I think I’ll add it to my wishlist.

16 thoughts on “Atheist, Agnostic or Believer?

  1. I answered no to every question but 12. I believe that there are too many things that cannot be known about the world. For example, human history. Can we ever precisely know without doubt, every step of the development of language? What was the first word? How do you say it. Who created it? Did they have a name? Was that the word? If so, what was it? It seems that without a written record there are too many things that cannot be known about our history. What was the first religion. Who started it? Why, When. Religion, politics, war, peace, etc. of prerecorded history are completely lost and unrecoverable by humans. So are a shit load of other things, unless one could go back in time, and the last time I checked that kind of thing is impossible.

    If the question really meant everything around us, then I should answer yes. Maybe our brain has limits and therefore there are things we cannot understand. Maybe our senses and sensor machines will eventually meet their limits, making us unable to be aware of some thing’s existence and therefore we cannot even begin to understand it. (By thing I mean anything, being, object, force, whatever) I guess I have to say yes to 12 because I am skeptical. I answered no to every other question because I am skeptical and do not want to agree with an answer that cannot be proven without some validity. The odds seem too great against the world being COMPLETELY known by humans.  All it takes is one thing that is unknowable for me to be right. I’ll tell you what though, If we end up figuring it all out than I promise to change my answer to no and apologize for my lack of “faith”.

    PABLO

  2. I had mostly no’s and a few not sure’s and yes on the question of knowledge, for same reasons as above.  Also on the question of persistence:  Matter is neither created nor destroyed, therefore something remains of a human being after death, even if it is not recognizable as distinctly “human.”  Seems to me that the quiz pertains primarily to the Judeo-Christi-Islamic tradition, however.  Not all formal religions believe in a so-called ‘sentient’ god.  I would probably label myself as a pan-theist.  There is clearly something that distinguishes living things from non-living, and several forces that can be observed to unite all things, living or not.  The true nature of the universe, if such a thing exists, is most likely well beyond human comprehension

  3. Hard to answer “no” to this one, but it doesn’t mean you believe in god.

    3. Is there an identifiable force coursing through the universe, holding it together, or uniting all life-forms?

    It’s called “gravity.”

    Something remains after death?  Sure, like a RAM module still exists after you cut the power – but the information it contained is GONE.  Even more so, because that particular module begins to degrade the moment the power is cut.

  4. I personally consider atheists and religious people to be in their own group, aside from agnostics.  If you are certain you know the answers to the origin of life and the universe, you are MUCH different than an agnostic.  Our civilization doesn’t know all there is to know about the human brain (sleep, dreams, sub-conscious), it boggles my f&$%ing mind that people actually think we know the answers to the entire universe.  Some of the greatest minds ever known to our civilization have tried to answer these questions, who is anyone to be sure?

  5. One night wondering, “What could I find?”
    With this Tool tuned towards such things I mind,
    A store, a story, a philosophy resigned,
    An end to a finish of a polished blind.

    I have calibrated too much, I have found this end,
    I have carried myself around the bend and I-
    I want more…I need more, but greed is caustic,
    I resign to sign my stone “agnostic”.

    And so the people on a Sunday trip,
    Walk solemnly past my lonesome grip,
    But, no—
    My stone will stay to strive,
    If nothing else resides alive,
    It will stay until the day it be demolished,
    Forever “agnostic”, however unpolished.

  6. I personally consider atheists and religious people to be in their own group, aside from agnostics.  If you are certain you know the answers to the origin of life and the universe, you are MUCH different than an agnostic.

    Uhhh, AA, where did you get that definition of “atheist”?  No one knows the answers to the origin of life and the universe.

    “Atheist” may mean many things, but it has nothing to do with certainty.  The simplest definition is “believing in no gods”, and that’s me.

  7. Indeed. While there are certainly many atheists as well as theists who will claim to know definitively whether or not there is a God, that isn’t necessarily a requirement for them to be classified as such.

    I’m an atheist, but I admit there is a possibility that a God could exist and that I don’t know for certain. I just find the whole proposition as so improbable that I don’t believe it to be true. The only real difference between an Agnostic and an Atheist is that the latter aren’t so wishy-washy as to not make a call based on the available evidence.

  8. I read an essay to clear this up in my mind, as I’d thought the main “theme” of atheism was certainty of a lack of God.

    http://www.geocities.com/inquisitive79/agnovsath.html

    So replace “agnostic” with “agnostic atheist” in my post if the above essay is true.  Which, after reading the definitions of the words with it in mind, I believe it is.

  9. You might want to try on the label of “apathetic agnostic”:  don’t know, don’t care. grin

  10. …and don’t forget all the meta-agnostics: they’re not sure whether they’re agnostics or not…

    That said, I still think dividing up people based on the certainty they have in their opinions, which would put the hardcore (gnostic) atheists in one group with the fundamentalist (gnostic) theists, and all those wishywashy (agnostic) theists and atheists together in another group, is not a very useful division, especially since the borderline of gnosticism/agnosticism is multidimensional and ultrafuzzy.

  11. AA, that essay does a good job of laying out the differences quite well, yes, but as Zilch points out the lines aren’t quite as distinct for some people as for others.

    Though I’m pretty firmly an agnostic atheist based on the definitions provided in that essay.

  12. I am a believer.
    The English term “agnostic” is derived from the Greek “agnostos,” which means, “to not know.” An agnostic is one who admits, “I don’t know.”
    that was from a philosophy website i went to to search that a agnostic is.
    to me this is saying oyu dont know anything and you are afriad of what is better than u. Ok lets say there isnt a God. How is earth perfect for us? How is there a perfect apmosphere to protect us? How is there water here to drink? Why isnt any other planet like earth? And if we did evolve from apes then why is there still apes? If we evolved then the whole race of apes would evolve. Why havent we found other life forms on other planets with the kind of technology we have now? And if we evolved from omeboa or some bacteria then how do we have every organ to like and we have surpassed the smarts of bacteria and also how does a bacteria infect a bacteria? If we evolved from bacteria?
    One answer
    GOD MADE US
    and if u r gay , what if adam or eve was gay then none of us would be here
    and if u dont believe in God and makin adam and eve then re-read what I typed before.

  13. Almost missed this one in the daily deluge of email…

    The English term “agnostic” is derived from the Greek “agnostos,” which means, “to not know.” An agnostic is one who admits, “I don’t know.”
    that was from a philosophy website i went to to search that a agnostic is.
    to me this is saying oyu dont know anything and you are afriad of what is better than u.

    There’s the first warning flag that you’re completely clueless.

    Ok lets say there isnt a God. How is earth perfect for us?

    Second flag.

    How is there a perfect apmosphere to protect us? How is there water here to drink? Why isnt any other planet like earth?

    Third, fourth and fifth flags.

    And if we did evolve from apes then why is there still apes?

    DING! DING! DING! CONGRATULATIONS! You’re officially a dumbass.

    One answer
    GOD MADE US

    No, the Flying Spaghetti Monster made us. Believe and be touched by his Noodly Appendage.

    In the meantime, go study up a bit before you come back and comment again. We can only take so much dumbassedness at one time around here.

  14. To ‘I love God’

    Even if god did exist we have explanations that suggest he didn’t create things individually, if anything just set the wheels in motion. Whether you believe in god or not evolution is an inescapable consequence of genetics and statistics

    How is there a perfect apmosphere to protect us?How is there water here to drink?

    Look up:
    http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange1/current/lectures/samson/evolution_atm/

    Why isnt any other planet like earth?

    There may well be

    if we did evolve from apes then why is there still apes? If we evolved then the whole race of apes would evolve

    Not all apes will have the same evolutionary pressures, depending on where they lived

    Why havent we found other life forms on other planets with the kind of technology we have now?

    Probably too far away

    if we evolved from omeboa or some bacteria then how do we have every organ to like

    Organs formed gradually, starting only as basic receptors that happened to be probing something useful and that triggered a useful response. Recpetors in mammals trigger nerve signals, which is initiated by a charge distribution by opening ion gates chemically. Taste and smell detect chemicals directly, causing a structure change in the gate, temperature can induce chemical changes or allow refolding after interactions have been broken, sight takes advantage of photochemistry, hearing and balance I know less about, as with touch

    we have surpassed the smarts of bacteria

    The difference between the concious and unconcious is an interesting and sudden leap, and is something that as far as I can gather hasn’t yet truely been programmed into ‘AI’ computers

    how does a bacteria infect a bacteria?

    For size restraints a unicellular organism would have dificulty entering another unicellular organism. However bacteria can be infected by viruses (called phages) that are of interest to mediciene. I would be very interested to know how multicellular organisms made it into evolution – sure you can have mutualism but to program into the DNA of one cell that the new organism should be multicellular, with specified functions for different cell types despite DNA being the same (sometimes it can be activated or deactivated – but I don’t know the route cause)

    and if u r gay , what if adam or eve was gay then none of us would be here

    What problem could you or god possibly have with gay people? They probably have no effect on you and may be nice people, I would expect god would rather us be nice and have reasoned views than follow an arbitary set of rules and use it as an excuse to not be nice

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