“Give us reliable evidence and we will change our minds.”

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This is a good way to explain the viewpoint known as agnostic atheism. A lot of people don’t realize this, but most atheists are also agnostic, simply because we don’t claim to have absolute certainty that no deities exist. We are atheists because we possess no beliefs in any gods, and we are also agnostics because we are willing to admit that we could, possibly, be wrong.

What’s more, many agnostic atheists find the other type of atheist (gnostic atheists, who are few in number, and who do claim certainty that no deities exist) quite irritating. It simply is not rational to claim that one knows, without doubt, that there are no gods, for one simple reason: lack of supporting evidence. There is no evidence that no gods exist. There is also no evidence for the non-existence of, say, leprechauns.

Something else many people don’t know: theists (that is, religious believers) also come in the same two types. Agnostic theists believe in at least one deity, but don’t claim absolute certainty in that belief. Gnostic theists, by contrast, are believers who do not doubt, nor question, their religious beliefs. They claim to know they are right — and, in that one way, they are just like gnostic atheists. Gnostics, of whatever type, aren’t willing to admit there is the slightest chance that they might be wrong. It’s much easier to have reasonable, productive conversations with agnostics than with gnostics — regardless of whether they are they are theists or atheists. Also, when it comes to debate, there’s simply no point in debating anything with a gnostic. One might as well argue with a rock, for a rock is exactly as likely as a gnostic to have a change of opinion.

(Note: unlike most images on this blog, this picture is not one I created myself. Only the words below the image, in this post, are mine.)

A Look Back at Thanatophobia

Thanatophobia is an irrational, exaggerated fear of death, not to be confused with the healthy biological imperative that compels most people, most of the time, to avoid dying if they can.  I had thanatophobia for as long as I can remember, up until two years ago, when it started to fade from existence.

Not coincidentally, this is also the period when I put aside those “What if I’m wrong about religion?” questions, stopped calling myself, primarily, an agnostic, and, as an atheist, just stopped worrying about post-death judgment.

We get judged by people enough while we’re alive. Adding eternity to that, on the basis on dubious or nonexistent evidence, is unhealthy.

I also must consider this:  the inevitability of my own death means there is some point in the future beyond which I will never experience panic, rage, pain, or hatred. Beyond that point, there are no responsibilities.

I just blew off an entire weekend. I was exhausted, simply needed to do as little as possible (or I was going to end up in worse shape), and proceeded to sleep for 40 of the next 48 hours. I have a lot of things to do, but I did take the weekend off. I don’t remember much about it because I was sleeping most of that time, but it wasn’t unpleasant. The only unpleasant thing about it was having to re-activate myself for the workweek, and the resumption of responsibility that comes with it.

What happens after we die?

I don’t really know, but I have no evidence that it’s anything like Heaven and Hell as depicted in the Bible, Dante’s Inferno, Robert Heinlein’s Job, and numerous other works.

I once heard James Randi give an excellent answer, in the form of a question:  “What happens to a computer when you turn off the power?”

I now have an answer of my own. The workweek ends. Troubles end. Everything that annoys me, won’t anymore. I’m certainly in no hurry to stop existing, but whether I see a triple-digit age, don’t make it to my next birthday, or somewhere in-between (the most likely of the three), death just isn’t terrifying any more. That should make the process of living the rest of my life more pleasant than if I resumed worrying about what happens to me after that life is over.