Agnosticism And You - What Do Words Mean Again?
Because every time I read the #atheism tag, I am seriously annoyed by the grievous misuse of the word agnostic. People seem to think it means some sort of middle ground in belief. Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no middle ground in belief, it’s a binary position. You either do or you don’t. 95% of the people using the word on tumblr use it incorrectly. They you say they don’t believe in god, but they don’t believe there is no god either. Re-read the first part of that statement and try to tell me that isn’t the very definition of atheism. They don’t believe in god, end of story.
Agnosticism hasn’t even got to do with belief, it has to do with your position regarding knowledge pertaining to god. An agnostic believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a god. That’s the claim you’re making when you use that word to describe yourself. I’ve never met an atheist who claimed to have knowledge that god didn’t exist, or that such knowledge was even possible, but I’ve seen plenty of theists making the claim that they know for certain. And I think gnosticism is a really egotistical position to take. Imagine the head on a person who thinks god chose them over everybody else to reveal the truth, because they are special and the rest of us aren’t(it doesn’t help that such claims are usually coupled with downright condescension regarding how sincerely one may have believed, as though they’re somehow better at believing in god than you are on top of it all), but I digress.
So why do people do this? Is it because the word atheist carries a serious negative connotation in American society, and you’d rather not be lumped in with all those “negative nancies that don’t want kids being instructed to praise god in schools”? Is it because by avoiding the label of atheist, you think you’re putting yourself above both theists and atheists by not deigning to enter the fray at all? Or have you just been woefully misinformed about the meaning of the word so far?
And before anyone tries to sell me the idea that “language is fluid and definitions change, so they can use words however they want :D”, I want you to stop and think about people who misuse the word literally(i.e. “I literally shat my pants it was so scary!”), or the word ironic(i.e. “You two know each other from high school? Talk about irony!”), or if you’d ever tolerate someone describing your very red car as being yellow, and when called on it tell you that “you can’t own words. It’s up to us to find our own definitions”.
This whole thing was set off by an anon asking someone “Why are you an atheist? Did you ever think to just be agnostic?”. They probably meant no harm, but it comes across as a very judgmental question. As though he’d gone too far by declaring his atheism, and that it was unreasonable. Atheism doesn’t mean you believe there is no god. Atheists can certainly hold that position, and if you hold that position you definitely count as an atheist, but that’s not what atheism means.