athiest vs agnostic by deffinition

I consider myself an athiest, but I could be wrong by deffinition. I know there are things I don't know and that I will never know. But I also think that no one else knows either. Everything in every religion is fiction and legend as far as I'm concerned. So, does that make me an athiest or an agnostic? What, REALY, is the difference between the 2?

I think an atheist believes that there is nothing supernatural in the world and the material universe is the only thing which exists. This not only rules out God but ghosts, demons, spirits, miracles and any other aspect of religion or the numinous. An atheist believes by definition that the majority of humanity has been insane on some level because the majority of humanity has believed in the supernatural (like believing in an imaginary friend and basing your life on it). I think an atheist consciously believes this and does not allow for any alternative.

An agnostic, which you seem to be, allows that there may be a God or Reason or something behind the universe but that humans have no real way of knowing.  In truth agnosticism is not a firm belief in the way the universe actually is, but rather an allowance of both possible outcomes.  By this I mean that the universe is either random and natural and there is nothing supernatural or there is something behind it and one or some or many of the religions of the world are correct.  Agnosticism is basically the acknowledgement that we don't know and can't know. 

  I can respect an atheist and a religious person but I have never understood the agnostic position.  It would seem that if anything in your mind allows for even the slightest possibility of the supernatural you would pursue that "hint" and either expand on it or reject it as false.  I think this is why you often see a religious person become an atheist or vice versa but it seems more rare for either of them to stop in the middle ground of agnosticism.  Some might disagree.

   You say that religion is fiction but I am not sure what you mean by that.  Based on the general definition of a fiction (as opposed to a class of literature) it is something made up or imagined which the person making it up knows to be made up.  Are you implying by your use of the word that all people who have ever held to any religion knew it was made up or are you saying that the people who founded the particular religions knew it was made up or are you saying that religion is simply all untrue and that all followers of religion were either insane or fooled by falsehood.  If you did mean fiction in the sense of a literary class please give some examples from history and why they are fiction, which as far as I know didn't really exist until the 18th century? 

    Also, when you use the term legend are you implying that all legend is false?  My understanding of the definition of legend is that it is a story handed down through the ages which is believed to at least in part be true.  Certainly the use of the term does not negate truth inherently.  If you believe all legends to be false can you give some historical examples and how they were definitively proven false?

And of course there are different type of agnosticism. The way I learned it was hard and soft agnosticism. Soft agnostics are fence sitters- waiting to make up their mind, or waiting for evidence to show itself. Hard agnostics realize the limits of our knowledge, and that proving the existence or non-existence of something supernatural isn't possible. Therefore, while they reject the notion of a personal god that's active in our reality, they can't reject the existence of one that's not, like an Atheist would.

I'm of the latter mindset, personally.

Bludhall,
I think your definition of agnosticism is more like deism. How could you seek a connection to a "godhead" which may or may not exist?

   I understand your point about human knowledge being limited but what you are really saying is that all religion is made up rather than statements based on the experiences of people who have really seen the evidence of God or felt it very intensely.  You would trust in the knowledge and interpretations of sailors of they had to ferry you across the ocean but you make out like religion is just a bunch of false information.

  Will you at least agree that the nature of the universe is either the atheist's picture or that of some religion (at least in part) and that the two world views are mutually exclusive?

her name was Lola....

Bludhall,

 Actually the dividing line I am trying to make is between the atheist view that nothing supernatural exists and the religious allowance that it does.  You are not separating the facts of the universe from the views of the universe.  It is either one way or the other in fact and no amount of belief will change that fact.

  You are saying that all experience of the numinous is personal and culturally bound but I would contest the idea that other men from other cultures can't understand that kind of experience.  Consider the spread of the major world religions and their ability to transcend culture for proof.  

   You are also ignoring the universality of the Moral Law (which despite a popular misconception has been very similar throughout the ages from culture to culture) and the fact that all humans appear to fail in obeying this culturally transcendent law.  That is why the early Greek converts of Christianity were converted so rapidly.  Despite not coming from a Hebrew tradition they knew the Platitudes of their own religious and philosophical traditions and they knew that they had failed to obey them.  

So you are saying that the nature of reality may be that there is both a supernatural and not a supernatural aspect, that God both exists and does not?

What I said was that the Greeks were convicted by the fact that they already knew their was a transcendent Moral Law and that they had failed to obey it.  You totally glossed over that.  You also shifted from saying that a person could have a dynamic religious experience but he would chain it to his culture such that people from other cultures would not understand it then you shifted your view the second you were faced with the phenomenon of religion spreading across cultures.  So which one is it?

"are you implying that all legend is false"

no, are you implying that all legend is true? certainly there could be some truth to some legends, but mostly whatever did happen becomes hollywoodized.

and yes, I am saying that religion and especially the bible could have been made up knowingly that it is fiction solely for the purpose of entertainment like "the matrix" or "shakespear", or possibly for the purpose of manipulating others like "communism" or "capitolism".

"You would trust in the knowledge and interpretations of sailors of they had to ferry you across the ocean but you make out like religion is just a bunch of false information"

Sailors were impecceble sea travelors and yet they were convinced that the world was FLAT, that they have sighted 1st handedly MERMAIDS and SEA DRAGONS, not to mention other false interpretations of experiance and legend.

Basicly, people are horrible sources of information and are not to be trusted at face value.

The term "gnosic" is latin for knowledge. The "a" in front of it is an alpha-primative for that word meaning "un"... When combined to make the word "agnostic," it simply means "unknowledge." So to proclaim to be "unknowledged" is okay I guess, but some day you'll need to research your stance and find out exactly what you would lable yourself.

J

Didn't Socrates say that what makes him infinitely wise is that he knows abslutely nothing for sure?

"The only thing I know for sure, is that I don't know anything for sure." Socrates

You could use that as an easy cop out and excuse for ignorance, but if you truly search, listen and dig for information and truth it becomes more and more true. Knowledge is useless when it comes to life, God, the universe and the supernatural mostly because it's always hear-say information.
Even scientific knowlede has its limits beyond the practical. Theories without substance and proof are as worthless as used toiletpaper, not always wrong but useless nonetheless. Just because something is written in a book doesn't make it true. Stephen King could just as easily have written a book that people follow as the word of God. People seem to jump at the opportunity to throw away their horrible burden of being responsible for their own ideas, thoughts and decisions. And commercial organizations, churches and governments love to take advantage of those people. What realy sucks is that thinking for yourself can be just as worthless. It gets you nowhere anyway so whats the difference?

I understand where you're coming from... However, I believe that with enough study you can attain a point of better understanding where you know what you believe to be the truth. While studying the word of God for example, it's easy to conclude why a man or group of men could have never written it without a divine author. There are many things that can't be explained even with the level of information we have available to us today.

J

"The only thing I know for sure,is that I don't know anything for sure." Socrates

You could use that as an easy cop out and excuse for ignorance,but if you truly search,listen and dig for information and truth it becomes more and more true.

I believed the same thing until it was revealed to me that Jesus is indeed real.You CAN know something.I do know that Jesus is real and this is the only thing that I know.It is funny that the only thing that I know is something that was revealed to me and not something that I figured out on my own.Contrary to the popularly espoused belief that Christianity is based on blind faith,it's actually the result of God revealing a truth to you.This truth is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and I don't mean maybe.It is not a "I believe" opinion of mine.It is a fact and you can KNOW it as well.It may be the only thing that I know,but it is the only thing that is important.

ruthlesstoothless,

What you you think Paul (of NT fame) had in terms of a motive for his fictional epistles about Christianity?  My understanding is that he was never rich (he made tents for a living), that he was frequently imprisoned, beaten, sometimes shipwrecked, and eventually killed for his farce.  What exactly do you think he was manipulating people for?

I never said that all fiction is for manipulation. I said that some is, but even more fiction is usualy for intertainment value I. E. drama, horror, action etc. Hell, some people write fiction, claiming its true just to feel important. Just look at Castaneda.
I'm not sure what you mean by Paul. You mean the bible Paul? If that's what you mean, then how do you even know he wrote it? The bible was strewn together many years after Jesus's death by members of the church. Their motives for manipulation are political as church and state were not seperate entities in those times.

ruthlesstoothless,

I already told you that fiction as a class of literature would not exist for centuries after the NT was already formed into a canon.  The short story and the novel are late breaking phenomena in the history of world literature.  Didn't you come across the info in college?

 In terms of when the books of the NT were written the oldest part of a manuscript we have seems to date to about a hundred years after Jesus' death and that is a copy of an earlier work.  That's a long time before Constantine adopted the Christian Church.

  Furthermore, the style of the NT is not entertaining at all.  It is reportage and epistles to specific churches with no apparent awareness that future generations would read it.  Also, when the Roman Catholic church was most abusive in their power the laymen didn't read the scripture at all.  Now if it was written for manipulation why would they hide it?  In fact, the reading of NT scripture is what drove Luther to break from the church.  The idea of mass literacy for the common man stems from the Reformation desire to check the power of the clergy.

    If you don't believe any world religion is true then I can understand that.  If you are saying that some people use religion for temporal gains in power, wealth or pleasure then I would agree with you. Some also give their whole lives for religious belief and gain nothing from it in this temporal world.  If you are saying that much of religious belief in the world is unfounded and false I would also agree.  What I can't agree with are the generalized statements that start with "all religion is ______".   The very fact that religion exists at all in the context of an evolutionary model of existence should give every atheist or agnostic pause.   

Ridgeback

Mass littericy or not, the power and ideals of the scriptures were enforced upon the people as law. How can you not call that manipulation? Any idea or practice not in conjecture with the church was heresy and punishable by burning at the stake. Stupid things like mathmatics, the idea of the earth revolving around the sun, pegan beliefs, whatever. Witches and demons were apperently everywhere . Strait up political manipulation. Anyone who stood in the way of the church in anyway could immediately be disposed of.

Anytime anyone starts a sentence with "all "...." are "...." then they're makeing an imcomplete generalization. I agree. But I'm in disagreement with the "evolutionary model of existence". People have and always will be jealous, greedy, self gratifying and self righteous bastards including myself. There is no evolution of humanity. If anything there is a de-evolution. Weak and stupid people with no sence of responsibility or compasion breed freely every second of every day to pollute our gene pool. The only thing evolving in this world is technology and our ability to seperate ourselves' from responsibility and reality.

ruthless,

People have and always will be jealous, greedy, self gratifying and self righteous bastards including myself.

I am glad you can see this. It is a core tenet of Christianity.

But chritianity suggests that we repent for our evil ways and that we require salvation. If God did indeed create us, faults and all, why in hell would we need salvation from the very evil that he endowed us with? That's like a programmer writing a computer virus and getting agry with the virus for infecting software.

ruthlesstoothless,
That is a common question but I think it is based on the assumption that man had to fall from grace, that Adam and Eve had to eat the forbidden fruit if you believe that sort of thing.

I believe that God made humans with the capacity to freely love and obey him.  If they are able to freely love then they have to have the capacity not to.  The capacity to turn away from God and try to set up their own selves as gods is different from being created that way.  The Bible never says that Adam was created evil from the start.  By all accounts sin did not have to enter the human race and man did not have to be separated from communion with God.  

 Of course the next argument might be that it is easy for God not to sin because he is God and he never had to endure what it is to be human.  This all dries up with the story of Jesus and the event of his crucifixion.  God took on flesh and showed us how to live.  Beyond that he gave us a way back to him.  All of the sins of the past are washed away and he promises to change you and make you perfect so you can be in his presence and share in his kingdom.  

   I think that sometimes it seems like God is saying love me or burn in hell.  That is a very simplistic way to interpret it and perhaps the fear it brings serves a purpose for some people but I think the real issue is that left to our own devices we will make our own hell.  Even now, if you were deprived of your body and a space to move around in and friends to interact with you would be in hell just by being left alone in your own mind.  

    If you are interested I would suggest a book called "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis.  It is actually a fictional tale of a bus ride out of hell to the entrance of heaven.  It does a good job of describing how some people may never accept heaven even if given every possible chance in the world.  I think after reading this book you might at least entertain the idea that God is doing everything possible to save souls but if he can't force them to be good, because that would make them mere robots, then the possibility of them truly being lost becomes real.

Good post Ridgeback.