Monday, 16 July 2007

The Intellectual Dishonesty of Agnosticism

As an atheist, I find the agnostics position to be the flimsiest of all positions. While I am of course in total opposition to the theistic position, at least the theist has the courage of his or her convictions, to decide one way or the other. The agnostic reminds me of a political liberal in politics, who is never quite sure on anyone issue and spends much of the time 'fence-sitting'.

The intellectual agnostics, that is the academics, are the worst of all and can be extremely exasperating. Listening to them in debate or reading them in print, they spend much of their time in apology for the worst elements of religion, but they will rarely push it as far as condemnation.

While claiming not to be religious themselves, they make claims that we should however keep religion going for the good of society. They claim that they can live without it, but the "intellectually unwashed" general public cannot: A classic example of this thinking came from the Spanish-American biologist and philosopher Francisco Ayala, at the 2006 Beyond Belief Conference. The same position was further promulgated at the same conference by Melvin J. Konner, the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology, Neuroscience, and Behavioral Biology at Emory University.

The theistic position, though I believe it to be untenable in the presence of reason, is at least a position based on a one or the other choice. Agnostics on the other hand, though claiming to have made a choice, have really copped out of having to make any choice whatsoever.

The atheist has decided based on probability, that the God concept is improbable. That improbability is based on the same reasoning, that most of us do not believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. They are simply mind-spun speculations and are disconnected from any evidence that could begin to even lead to probability.

The theist on the other hand (and here I am referring to monotheism in particular), believes in God not based on probability, but simply because they have faith and it's 'supported' by a long history of tradition.

But what of the agnostic. On what basis have they even proposed that the God concept should be at least considered a possibility, however remote that possibility is. Well, it is not a position based on faith, if agnostics could be convinced based on faith, then they wouldn't need the 'crutch' of agnosticism. On the other hand how can they come to a conclusion of holding God up, in the realm of maybe, however small that maybe is, if there is no evidence to support that position.

Agnosticism then, seems to be a none decision, it is really intellectual weakness and dare I say cowardice. It is a position based on an inability to make a choice one way or another. Now when I say cowardice, I am really talking about that of the 'intellectual elite', the one's who push the agnostic position at the expense of reason and indeed, often in defense of religious extremism. Not necessarily openly, but it is implicit in the very protection of the agnostic position. Of course I am not saying that agnostic intellectuals support religious extremism directly or even deliberately, but what I am saying, is that the agnostic position does often give shelter to the more extreme position and it particularly does; when these agnostics refuse to condemn the extreme violence perpetuated in the name of religion.

When one asks a simple question, one comes out with a startling answer: What two groups are most openly condemning of religious extremism? is most often atheists followed by religious moderates, the ones for the most part who are apologetic in the name of religion, are the agnostics and they are most often the one's that refuse to condemn religious extremism. Their basic argument seems to be that it is offensive to criticize someone else's religious belief. This is the very cover that is indirectly supportive of extremism and helps it 'tick-along'. There are of course religious moderate apologists too.

There are those, outside of the intellectual boundary of the 'elite'. The average person who simply considers himself or herself agnostic, for no other reason than not having given it much thought. These individuals, are usually the most likely to be converted to religion or become atheists. Richard Dawkins has made the point in his book: 'The God Delusion', that he is unlikely to convince, what he calls "dyed in the wool faith heads'.

What is particularly frustrating about the 'intellectual elite' that wish to keep religion 'ticking-over', is that in doing so they are simply saying that humanity cannot live without religion. It is better to be a 'woolly headed' believing theist or a 'middle-of-the-road' agnostic, anything is better than an 'out-of-the-closet' atheist.

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