Sunday, April 3, 2016

Agnosticism is bullshit (by anon)

Agnosticism is an intellectually lazy/dishonest view, not to mention it is literally contentless (or arbitrarily contentful) when taken seriously. 

There is nothing wrong with doubting things. I doubt things all of the time, like if I locked my door, if I will get into Stanford, if you will read this post charitably, etc. However, if I claim to doubt, on the basis that I do not have the resources to verify one way or the other, the existence of something as polemical as fucking GOD, what exactly is it that I am doubting, or relegating to the realm of “the unknowable”, and why do I care to proclaim such a neutral-sounding judgment about this entity in the first place?

Agnosticism is (according to the Google dictionary) the view/belief “that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena.” In short, the agnostic thinks it is impossible to know whether or not God exists, thus they suspend judgment, and inevitably concede to believing that God might* exist.

Now, what does it mean to believe something like this? It goes without saying that there is a plethora of predicative concepts that could saturate the subject-name “God”. We might be talking about any one of the religiously affiliated or otherwise mythical gods across the entire cultural board, from ancient times to present. We might be talking about god in a Hegelian, transcendental way, as simply “The Absolute”, “Spirit”, perhaps “Nature”. We might be talking about a new age, quasi-scientific conception of God, such as “Energy” or “Universal Force”. We might be talking about personal gods (yes, people, even smart people, admit to having these). So, when an agnostic says, “God might exist, I can’t know”, what are they really saying?

Let’s say we choose a specific conception of God, which has specific properties, and attempt to claim that we just can’t know whether this God exists. The problem here is, I can come up with a million different entities, with all kinds of specific properties, which “might exist” (if only I had the supernatural resources to find out…), entities in which one might say I have no reason not to believe, as they lie outside of the material world and are immune to scientific investigation, and thus I ought to suspend judgment. But just what is the point of being skeptical about something that we have no good reason to bring our attention to in the first place? I may not know whether or not I am a brain in a vat, but who fucking cares? Granted, we are in a time where culturally and historically speaking, it is within a broad tradition to consider certain supernatural entities as (at least possibly) existing, but this is no reason to feel obligated to give two shits regarding the status of anything we might call “God”. 

A point here is just that if I’m agnostic, what I am actually claiming to be uncertain about could be virtually anything. If I let it be the case that any particular conception of God is unknowable, can’t I then say that any particular instance of any supernatural entity is equally unknowable, and thus I would concede to saying there might be angels, devils, ghosts, demons, fairies, trolls, quantum snakes, parallel universes, and whatever else I care to dream up? Why concede to a view that allows for this kind of explosive arbitrary content? A worse problem is that under agnosticism, any supernatural entity eventually starts to look more and more like just that which is unknowable in principle, and if I claim to not be able to know anything about said entity, which is by definition, unknowable, then, haven’t I just stated a tautology and gained nothing?

Here is my view. I am an atheist. I do not doubt whether or not any god exists, not because I lack spirituality, or because I am a crude, arrogant materialist, but because to invoke any belief concerning “what might exist”, I’m going to demand specific content, and good evidence for that content. Sure, all metaphysical claims are at bottom, unknowable, but at least they can be evidenced and well argued for. Since the existence of any God-like entity is always poorly evidenced at best (and never well-argued for), I find that "God" is not even a subject worthy of a skeptical judgment, much less a positive one. 

Do I have a metaphysical view? Absolutely! Can I know this view is correct? No, of course not. But is it necessary for me to suspend judgment then? Fuck no. I can give evidence for my metaphysical view, and I can argue for it. This, I don’t think agnostics are ever willing to figure out how to do. In fact, their passivity seems to be a requirement of the position they're in. What's worse is that at bottom, it seems that agnostics clearly just want to keep the possibility open that something beyond them is out there. But I wonder about what really motivates this idea, and whether or not agnostics will ever admit that their stance is merely a bullshit guise for nothing more than shallow, wishful thinking.


  1. You're a big excuse for a hater of atheists and agnostics.

  2. "What are they really saying?"

    Saying one is an agnostic is a polite way of telling fanatics (both atheist and religious) that you don't want to engage in bullshit. It's like telling a salesman you're not interested before you even hear what he has to sell you. Agnostics don't want to have the conversation. Why? Because they aren't interested in what either side is selling.

    One could argue that an agnostic is actually a much more healthy and resolute form of atheist.

    The agnostic says, "I don't care about the question of god(s) to the point that I can't even be bothered to think about it for two seconds." That's hardcore dismissive.

    Additionally, saying "maybe there is, maybe there isn't" is just a way of placating both sides by politely betting a conversational dollar on each of their horses, even though the agnostic finds the whole race absurd and has no plans to watch it. It's quite patronizing and insulting if you think about. I find that hilarious.

    I'll end with three points:

    * If a Downton Abbey fan asks you if you think Lady Popplecrutchley's extraordinary feather hat was fake, given that it survived such scandalous treatment by the cleaners, and you say, "Uh, I don't watch that show, but yeah, maybe. I don't know. Could go either way. No way to tell really", it doesn't mean you're intellectually lazy, or shallow. It means that you don't care about ridiculous questions, but unfortunately, you have a superfan in your face just waiting to tell you their opinion, and because you're not a dick, you choose to say something noncommittal and inoffensive in reply. Some people don't care about your arguments and evidence around the composition of the hat, and those people are called agnostics.

    * Everyone wants to right some wrong in the world, and they get pissed when others don't care about it to the degree that they do. Everybody wants to raise awareness about some evil, like you're doing here (I'm guessing you find religion and the institutionalized lack of reason to be extremely harmful). But I can't think of a single case where writing ragey posts like "People who just aren't sure about climate change are assholes!" or "Fuck people who think the immigration issue is complex and aren't willing to commit 100% to what I think about it!" can have any kind of outcome that will help your cause.

    * Your self righteousness and certainty make you sound just like a religious person. Applying fanaticism to an opposite cause means you're still a fanatic. I suggest that you'll have more peace once you stop obsessing over weird questions about sky fairies or whatever. That said, if you're trying to violently destroy old beliefs, you're doing the right thing. Keep going. It's worth it.

    1. I don't think you know how hypocritical you sound. Here are how you're hypocritical:

      1. You claimed that Critically Pissed is self-righteous when you sound self-righteous yourself.

      2. You claimed that by destroying beliefs, Critically Pissed is doing the right thing when it really isn't.

      For your information, you're just as much of a bigot as the maker of this blog is. And so, I insist that you shove your anti-religion bias up your ass.

    2. Dear, Anonymous April 17, 2016 at 3:22 PM.

      I very much enjoyed your response. Could you please elaborate?

  3. "something as polemical as fucking GOD"

    Thank you for the laugh. That line can read many ways. (Careful with your use of vulgarities, especially if you want to be taken seriously.)

    Anyway, I'm going to play devil's advocate and say that your statement is the opposite of reality. Agnosticism is for the intellectually curious.

    The atheist doesn't believe Idea A exists (unless for some reason they accidentally stumble upon it. Why test for it then?

    The believer is convinced Idea A exists regardless of evidence or lack of. Why would they look?

    The agnostic has the imagination to entertain both probabilities and thus be best to test for either result.

    And heaven forbid we start discussing the 4th dimension, Schrodinger's Cat, what insects can see vs humans, the spin of atoms in quantum physics... we'd probably blow some minds here.

    Then again, I love the topic of Schrodinger's Cat.

    1. Now now is that anyway to handle this blog?