In recent weeks, a YouTube poster with the user name HeyRuka has been held up among a few bloggers in the race realist blogosphere. As someone with a pseudonymous blog, it is heartening to see a young woman who is willing to argue against the conventional wisdom on racial matters and on video, no less. However, as Unamused points out in a recent post, her main focus as a video blogger is on atheism. For example, here she is riffing on antitheism:
While as per my initial post, I consider myself to be an agnostic atheist, I can’t say that I endorse many of her statements. I personally find the religious thinking to be overly superstitious and I don’t partake in religion myself, but I cannot deny that religious people tend to be more charitable than the nonreligious or that religion provides an important social bond for societies around the world, a fact reflected in its etymology:
From religiōn-, the stem of the Latin religiō (“scrupulousness”, “pious misgivings”, “superstition”, “conscientiousness”, “sanctity”, “an object of veneration”, “cult-observance”, “reverence”), from religō (“I bind back or behind”), from re + ligō (“I tie, bind, or bandage”).
Nonetheless, I consider myself to be an agnostic atheist and I put emphasis on the atheism. When I brought that up months ago in a comment on hbd chick’s blog, she gave the following reply:
i’m an agnostic atheist, too, more-or-less. my gut tells me there is no god, but my head tells me that we can’t be sure. but, if i were interviewed for the gss i would definitely respond #2 [NO WAY TO FIND OUT, the GSS option for agnostics].
I respect that viewpoint, but I’d like to use the rest of this post to discuss why given the choice of identifying as an agnostic or an atheist I choose atheist. As Unamused aptly pointed out, a discussion of atheism cannot be productive unless the ground rules are set. I also liked Unamused’s definitions of theism and atheism, so I’ll quote them here:
Theism means belief in the existence of gods, so I define atheism, sensibly enough, as lack of belief in the existence of gods.
I would further add, in the same vein, a definition of agnosticism as lack of a knowledge claim concerning the existence of gods.
The reason that I primarily identify as an atheist rather than an agnostic is that identification as an atheist says something about one’s view of reality while agnosticism says something about one’s view of the state of one’s knowledge. While I do think that acknowledgment of the limitations of one’s knowledge is important and that an atheist who is certain that no being that would qualify as a deity exists is foolish, I think that it is more important to emphasize one’s view of reality over one’s view of knowledge if a choice must be made.
To be clear, I have a basic view of reality that does not include any deities. I acknowledge that I do not know that I am correct my exclusion of deities and I further believe that, barring the emergence of extraordinary evidence provided in favor of a deity’s existence, it would be impossible for me to determine whether or not deities exist to an extent that would satisfactorily qualify as knowledge. Nonetheless, it seems to me that quirks of the human mind are a more plausible explanation of the widespread existence of mystical beliefs than the actual existence of God or lesser deities and that given the knowledge presented by modern physics and biology, no deity is necessary to explain the current state of the Universe.