Don’t get stuck under a label: the agnostic/atheist box

In a previous blog I pointed out what atheism was and was not. I also went into the definition of agnosticism. It was pointed out to me that I was too preachy on that subject. And I must apologize for that appearance. My objective was strictly to define the positions themselves, as strictly as possible. This brings me to my point.
Simply because you hold a position does not mean that you must fit neatly within the confines of its definition. Individuals have many different positions and opinions. Some fit within certain category definitions more than others. This is why you see adjectives added to these positions. These adjectives help one more clearly define their individual position. When I define atheism, I am not defining the atheist themselves. When I define agnosticism, I am not defining the agnostic themselves. I am strictly defining the word, or the label, under which they place themselves. Or rather a label that they choose more than another.

Touching back on atheism. I mentioned in the other blog that it is not a belief system. This doesn’t not mean that the atheist can not have a belief system. I avoid the word belief myself because of its implications. I prefer the term acceptance, over belief. “I accept science as the best way to know something, as it tests evidence.” I could say that I believe in science, after all, the first definition of belief is acceptance that something is true or exists. Yet, the second definition of belief, which is trust, faith, confidence in someone or something, has connotations that can be twisted.
I have been debating for a bit over ten years. During that time I have been taken down far too many rabbit holes arguing more about the definition of a word, than the topic itself. I have witnessed far better debaters than myself fall prey to the same rhetoric. My blogs are designed to explain what I have learned, and hopefully improve understanding. As mentioned, I cannot box everyone up and stick a single label o top and call it done. I can, however, help someone stuck under a label realize that they are not really stuck under it. Along the way, I might even get a few theists to understand the position of atheism better also.

2 comments on “Don’t get stuck under a label: the agnostic/atheist boxAdd yours →

  1. It is upsetting how debates can be entirely derailed from the initial subject simply because of individuals nitpicking at the definitions of their counterparts supposed ideology. Language is fluid and definitions change over time, and as you point out people often label themselves as closely as they can regardless of how they fit every definition of that label.

    In a hurry I would consider myself an agnostic simply because to me that means “I don’t know and I don’t pretend to know.” Though, given more exposure to my character would probably illuminate a spectrum of thought that’s not so easily labeled.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I have learned a few things since I wrote the original post. One of them has been that definitions are important in a debate. Labels aren’t, but words are. I’ve found myself “derailed” by assuming that I knew what someone meant by a word, only to find out they used the vagueness of the definition to continually move the goal posts. Now, I do my best not to debate without asking tons of questions to pin the person down to what they really mean. I’ve found that this alone tends to reveal the flaws in their position. In an attempt to clarify their meaning, I’m able to get them to show their hand, as it were. It’s been a valuable lesson for me.

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