There is a joke I have about engineers: The pessimist views the glass as half empty. The optimist views the glass as half full. And the Engineer views the glass as containing half the volume in liquid of it’s total capacity.
I am neither an agnostic atheist or a gnostic atheist as Pablo Stanley’s cartoon breaks it down.
I am the Engineer Atheist: I do not have sufficient evidence to believe in God, nor do I behave in any way as if God exists. And I believe that no one may claim existence of anything without providing concrete evidence ruling out all other possibilities. Though they can certainly speculate and hypothesize all they want. And they can go on their hunches all they want.
Agnosticism is, in my opinion, an ineffective paradigm for viewing theism. Rather than putting the onus of proof on the people claiming existence, it puts the onus on proof on those denying existence. But I really just don’t need to furnish proof if I opine that I THINK UNDERPANTS GNOMES DON’T EXIST AND ARE NOT, IN FACT, STEALING MY UNDERWEAR AT NIGHT.
Here’s a better paradigm: A person either behaves as if they believe in God or not. And a person behaves according to their stated morals or not. Really, I’m more interested in the second of these two axes, though the first often informs the second as we have been debating about Islam.
Claims are only one aspect of a person’s behavior. And though they sometimes get that person attention because they are obnoxious or outrageous, it’s often a lot of hot air. You need to look at a persons actions to understand what they truly believe about the world and the nature of existence. Though I argue that you really don’t even need to know that if they’re assholes or they kill people.
Look… here’s why we care whether or not someone believes in God or doesn’t. Beliefs make us powerful or poisonous. They shape everything about who we are and what we can and cannot permit ourselves to do. And when we see someone acting in a completely incomprehensible way, we want to fix that problem at what we perceive to be the roots.
I’ll take up the challenges of fighting bad ideas some other time. It’s a big topic.
Photo Credit: John T. Spencer