Late last night on Twitter, I had a debate with an agnostic. Oh, I didn’t plan on it, I just stumbled into it when @LogicalBeing from the Reason Being Blog included me in a tweet discussion that I sort of took over. I tend to have that happen a lot, people who get frustrated in a debate will just mention me and silently drop out of the fray. I have no idea if that was the case this time but anyhow, that’s how I got involved.
So anyhow, this woman, I’ll assume it was a woman based on her Twitter avatar, was an adamant agnostic with wrong ideas about pretty much everything. The religious were all dangerous fanatics, lunatics who were going to destroy us all. Atheists were just behind them with fanatical disbelief. The only way to go was agnosticism for the win!
Yeah, except it doesn’t work that way. For anyone who has read this blog for a while, you’ll know I’ve had to spell out the difference between agnosticism and atheism many times because most people just don’t get it. Agnosticism is not some magical mid-way point between atheism and theism, where people who feign ignorance can hang their hat. Agnosticism and it’s counterpoint gnosticism, deal with an entirely different question, that of the availability of knowledge. Is it possible for an individual to know anything about the existence or characteristics of gods? Atheism and it’s counterpoint theism deal with belief in one or more gods. Not only is it possible to be one option in both positions, it’s necessary, absolutely everyone is, yet far too many people, afraid of embracing the “atheism” label, have taken to stamping the softball label of “agnostic” on themselves to keep from pissing off theists.
I spent a good half hour trying to calmly explain to this woman that agnostic didn’t mean what she insisted it meant and that atheists were not dogmatic fanatics who hated imaginary friends. It did utterly no good, it was no different than debating a theist who couldn’t see the forest through the trees of their own indoctrination. Therefore, I foolishly tried another tack. She kept stating that the only honest answer was ignorance, that we simply could not ever know anything about gods. Alright, let’s try that one. I asked exactly how she came to the conclusion that we could not ever know anything about any gods? I pointed out that there are primitive cultures that worship nature, bow down to trees and offer sacrifices to rocks. We certainly can be sure those gods are real, can’t we? No response. Not even an attempt. Okay, second shot. I asked her how she knew that gods were unknowable? What evidence brought her to that conclusion? Again, not even a feeble attempt, just more repetition of the same initial claim. Sounds very theist-like doesn’t it?
That was pretty much when I gave up, although she feigned being tired because I was asking questions that were too hard for her tiny little brain and then went on for another 20 minutes with her original “we’ve got to stop the fanatics!” nonsense. I didn’t care, I was done.
I learned a couple of things from this little encounter. First, that there are a lot of crazy fanatics out there and they fall into all categories. It’s not just the lunatics who believe in imaginary friends, it’s the lunatics who have complete and utter faith, for no good reason, that nobody can know anything about gods whatsoever too. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, that I wasted a ton of time explaining the same old tired nonsense over and over and over again. I tend to have to do that a lot because I talk to a lot of different people. I do get tired of having to explain what an atheist is for the 5,231 time, to people who are going to send it in one ear and out the other, wholly unprocessed by their few working brain cells. So what do I do?
Well, I figured I could host a general-purpose “Answers to Commonly Asked Questions” section, if such doesn’t exist elsewhere, where I and others could submit articles that explain, in detail, with references. I know that doing so risks theists completely ignoring it, but hey, at least we don’t have to waste time typing it in over and over and having the same thing happen.
So, anyone else want to help, or at least talk about it, or is this just a colossal waste of time?