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View Diary: Why I Call Myself Atheist Instead of Agnostic (150 comments)

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  •  Knowledge, character, and behavior (0+ / 0-)

    In the book Brideshead Revisited, Charles Ryder insists that he is not an atheist, but only an agnostic.  In the movie version made in 2008, Ryder insists that he is not an agnostic, but rather an atheist.

    Perhaps the motive for the change is one of the reasons you mention.  But I am inclined to think that the term “agnostic” has outlived its usefulness, something needed when atheism was not tolerated as much as it is today.  As for using that term nowadays, although it is defined in terms of knowledge, the agnostic saying we just cannot know one way or the other, I think it is more a reflection of character.  There is something lame about agnosticism, suggesting weakness or timidity.  In fact, that may be why Ryder was only an agnostic in the book:  it was Evelyn Waugh’s way of disparaging Ryder, who is portrayed as superficial, someone who lives on the surface of things, loving art and sensuous pleasure, as opposed to Catholics, I suppose, whose lives have depth and meaning.

    Moving to a different point, you suggest that agnostics do not behave differently from atheists.  But then you later point out that atheists often have a similar “set of values and morals” as those who are religious.  The logic of that would seem to be that if actions are what matter, then we atheists might just as well say we are religious.  As for me, I go even further, swearing in court with the phrase “so help me God,” bowing my head when someone calls for a prayer, and even (gasp!) getting on my knees when finding myself in a church for a funeral or something. Unless I tell people I am an atheist, they never suspect.  To borrow your example, I am not a racist, but if I were, I would not drive around with the Confederate flag on my car or join the KKK.  In short, I would not let on except to a close few, especially since it is lot more acceptable today to be an atheist than a racist.

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