Agnosticism, Atheism, and Religion

I was recently reading over a discussion about the whole “Spiritual, but not Religious” identification.  Many religious people and many atheists called it a cop-out, and I particularly enjoyed this response to a Christian’s claim that agnostics and atheists are self-righteous a**holes…

“I’m not being arrogant when I say this- religious thinking is inferior.

It’s not about who is right or wrong, it’s about the process used to get an answer.

For example, imagine there are a group of people standing around a big box, like a treasure chest. It is locked tight, no one can open it, and it’s too heavy to lift, and no one saw it get delivered- but there it is, a box.

One person, let’s call him Bob, says it is filled with digital watches.
He has absolutely no evidence to suport that it is filled with digital watches, he just believes it. It could be true, it could be false, but jumping to the conclusion itself is irrational.

Frank says it contains a two ton purple elephant with wings.
He also has no evidence to suport that notion.
Plus, there is no evidence to suport that there ever has been a two ton purple elephant with wings ever in existence.
Plus, even if a two ton purple elephant with wings DID exist, it would be way too big to fit in that box.

Alex says the box is empty.
Yes, that is also an irrational jump, since it could contain something.

And the last person, well call him George, says: we don’t know what’s in the box, and we have no way of knowing what’s in the box until the locksmith comes next Tuesday between 2 and 6.

Now here is the rub- how these people live their lives.

Bob spends the day researching how much he can get selling digital watches on eBay, because he has CONVINCED himself that there MUST be digital watches in there, and that he will benefit from it. He still leads his life almost normal, but with the belief that just around the corner he is going to be a watch mogul.

Frank starts booking shows in Vegas, certain that he will be exhibiting his two ton purple elephant with wings in a show that would make Siegfried and Roy green with jealousy. He is planning his whole life around this elephant being in that box. He quit his job and dumped his wife because that elephant now rules every aspect of his existence. If anyone even suggests that an elephant can’t fit in a box that size he has a fit.

Alex and George are leading their lives as they always have, based on the stuf they know, not based on the stuff they don’t know. The box and what’s in it are just a curiosity, nothing more.

Yes, Alex the Atheist made an illogical jump that George the Agnostic did not do, but the distinction is minimal. At least they are not wasting their lives like Bob the Believer and Frank the Fundamentalist.”

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