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HAT Forum - "Agnostic vs Atheist"

  • The 519 Rm 304 (check lobby screen to be sure) 519 Church Street Toronto, ON, M4Y 2C9 Canada (map)

“I honestly think atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method. … It’s a declaration. But in science we don’t really do declarations. We say, “Okay, you can have a hypothesis, you have to have some evidence against or for that.” And so an agnostic would say, look, I have no evidence for God or any kind of god … But on the other hand, an agnostic would acknowledge no right to make a final statement about something he or she doesn’t know about. “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and all that.”  – Marcelo Gleiser, theoretical physicist, recipient of the 2019 Templeton Prize in Scientific American, March 2019

“Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious. In fact, 'atheism' is a term that should not even exist. No one needs to identify himself as a 'non-astrologer' or a 'non-alchemist.' We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.”   – Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

Einstein called himself an agnostic rather than an atheist, stating: "I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal god is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being."  – Gilmore, Michael R. (1997). "Einstein's God: Just What Did Einstein Believe About God?" Skeptic 5 (2): 64

The views of Gleiser and Einstein contrast with “The Four Horsemen”: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett. These ‘new atheists’ “advocate the view that superstition, religion and irrationalism should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever their influence arises in government, education, and politics.”

1.      What do you think is the difference between atheism and agnosticism?

  2.      Is the difference absolute, or is it a question of degree between the two ideas?

 3.      How can we end the debate between atheism and agnosticism? Or should we?

One of HAT’s 7 acknowledged principles is:

The Natural World: The physical world is the world in which our ethics must operate, rather than in any imagined Utopian societies or afterlife. Because the physical world is the only one of which we have empirical knowledge, it is irrational to sacrifice benefits in this world for supposed gains in imaginary ones.

Open to all. Come and join the discussion.

NOTE: The HAT Forum adheres to the City of Toronto Policy on Non-Discrimination (http://www.the519.org/public/content/policy-files/The519SpaceUsePolicy.pdf)