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think agnostic – act atheist

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I’m back from London, a trip that finally allowed me to finish The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Airport lounges and the flights themselves were enough for me to put a major dent in it, with only a little left to finish this morning.

The book got a little heavy-going around the middle, but opened up nicely after that, and far more of it is positive and practical than the iconoclastic title would have you believe. It is more of a personal statement by the author than his previous scientific books, but I knew that going in, so the occasional lump of loaded langauge was to be expected.

The heading on this post is my attempt to summarise my position on religion in to a pithy soundbite – a take on “Think Global – Act Local”. I found myself fully in agreement the Isaac Asimov quote that I used here before, which says what I have been saying for years, but more effectively. Prof. Dawkins touches on this in the GD book, under “The Poverty of Agnosticism”: the way I see it, Agnosticism is acceptable as a philosophical proposition, but it just doesn’t cut the mustard in today’s world, where taking a neutral position is seen as passivity, a sign of weakness, a chink in the armour to be exploited by those with strong theocratic agendas they can enact without opposition.

The metaphorical door that could lead to belief in a God or Gods is closed, but not locked. It won’t be falling open by itself, no matter how hard the wind blows. If some agent is intelligent enough to figure out the handle, I will welcome it in for a cup of tea and a chat, but I’m not going to hang around waiting. I have things to do, and I’m going to get on with them.

However, there are dogs at the door: their howling is annoying, they are crapping on my doorstep, attacking my cats and stealing my chickens. I would like to be left alone, but I’m not being allowed to do my work. So: they should not be surprised when I open the door with a shotgun in my hand, and pepper them with rock salt.

I’ve seen some highly complex epistemological arguments about all the relationship between the concepts of Agnosticism and Atheism, but if we’re going to make any impact on the general population, the ones who don’t read Newsweek or The Grauniad, we need a Tabloid headline. I concede that Think Agnostic – Act Atheist might be a bit much, since it assumes people understand those respective concepts, but it’s something..? 😕

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Written by brian t

November 21, 2006 at 11:43 am

One Response

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  1. […] The difference is not as clear, is it? I can say both those things about myself. This is to illustrate how philosophy doesn’t always translate in to the real world as neatly as we might think. So, philosophically, I could use either term to describe myself, but the “catchphrase” I came up with is think agnostic, act atheist. […]


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