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Friday, June 8, 2012

Agnosticism, Atheism, and Antitheism

I've gotten some interesting feedback from people as I've been presenting my 'Levels of Belief' chart:

So far, nobody has really taken issue with it, though I have been asked explain my definitions more thoroughly.

By definition, an Agnostic is someone who both has some beliefs and yet is not entirely sure of them.  He can go either way, and so I placed him in the middle at the 50/50 position.  To go in either direction means that his certainty as to what he believes increases, either in favor of God or in favor of materialism and himself.

An Atheist is certain there is no spiritual world, so there is no God to worry about.  This position requires 100% certainty.  This is different from an Antitheist, who is someone who is angry at the idea of God.

This is where people get hung up.  They ask, "Why do Antitheists score higher than Agnostics in terms of belief, when they hate God?"

Hatred of God is a type of belief in God.  You cannot hate something you do not believe in.  In fact, the most hateful thing you can say is that something is not real.  Do you remember the schoolyard taunt... a faker?  It does not make sense to say that God is faking being God, but you can say that the who proposition is fake.

The 'upper' stage of Antitheism is the belief that God is real and that He is also bad.  He allows suffering or even creates it.  Teenagers or those emerging from Agnosticism will usually go through a stage where they become aware of both God and human suffering, and automatically assume that God, being all-powerful, is also all-responsible.

The difficulty here is that if God is all-responsible, then people have no freedom to choose.  The infant that is born with a horrible disease is the byproduct of a choice by at least one person (in the case of rape) to have sexual intercourse.  Babies don't just happen.  The moment someone decides to have sex with functioning gametes, they are creating the potential for new life and also the potential that this new life will suffer.  God did not make that choice.  God has set the rules that there are diseases and suffering in this life until the Parousia, and it is we humans who roll the dice.

The Antitheist does not except this proposition.  He at once wants his choices AND protection from them going wrong.

The Atheist accepts life's rules without anger at God because he does not believe at all.  He looks at the sins of religion and equates them with all the rest of the excuses people give when caught acting selfishly.  They don't blame God for religion or religious people.  They blame the people themselves for abandoning common sense.

True Atheists can appreciate religious art for its artistic merits.  They can cherish churches and temples for their beauty.  The Antitheist would see those same things and seek to desecrate them.  The Antitheist sees a power in those images, a power over people that they hate.

The Antitheist may deny God's existence, but in the end he still hates God.  Many an Antitheist will get the foolishness of this hatred of what is not real and refine the argument to say that he hates the people who follow religions.  Then I reframe the question, "But, if the God these people preach were to actually be proved real somehow, would you not also hate Him?"  It points back to the problem: the end-point of the hatred ultimately points back to God, because he is at the core of the proposition.

Again, you cannot hate what you do not think is real.

Another example of Antitheism is the old Soviet Union.  Look at the pictures of the church desecrations from the 1920s and the thousands of people who gathered to watch... many of whom were 'pious Orthodox Christians' a matter of weeks earlier.  How could they go from believing to disbelieving?  The truth is that their anger shows that they did still believe, but they were angry because they began to blame God for the oppression of the Tsar and their poverty.  Peasants were promised a materialistic salvation in place of a religious one, and they chose what seemed easiest.  But, that did not root out their old beliefs.  So, rather than looking at their churches as beautiful but meaningless art, they blew them up in their rage against the God that let them so often suffer, ignoring the fact they they were largely responsible for cooperating with their suffering by not revolting against their oppression sooner.  The peasants have always outnumbered the lords.

Their hatred was not that big of a jump.  It would take several generations to create true Atheists in the Soviet Union, but the continuing hatred of religion by Soviet authorities shows this method was of forcibly removing religion did not work.

Nowadays, Atheism has come through wealth and comfortable materialism.  Northern Europe, coddled by decades of wealth and technology, has largely abandoned God but not gone around and blown up its churches.  Throughout Europe, people proudly show off their churches as museums, all the while believing that there is no God.  This is the 'true Atheism.'

Along the way, many Europeans have taken up the eclectic belief systems of Gnosticism.  Europe had long ago fallen prey to superstition and then fundamentalism (known as the Reformation/Counter-reformation), and so it is not dying out as utterly atheistic.  Americans are following a similar path.

Yet, the great numbers of Antitheists, both in Europe and America, should give us hope.  There still is belief, though it is distorted.  However, it is easier to take someone one step up the ladder than three or four at a time.

If someone is angry, they still believe.  A slight adjustment and one can move much closer to God.

So, we should not get angry when someone says they hate God, but affirm their belief.  We should also be willing to accept the times we are afraid or are angry at God.  Why?  Because we are still living in reference to Him and closer to Him than someone who is practicing witchcraft or adjusting their chakras.

Anger is a sign of belief.  


  1. One problem I have with this chart is that it depends too much on what YOU mean by the labels, regardless of what most people -- even most well-read, thoughtful people -- would take them to mean. Another is that it is easy to find people who strongly mix elements from opposite ends of the chart -- for instance, a vegan whose "asceticism" is the result of a superstitious conviction that all animals have "equal rights", or an "ascetic" whose practices are derived from an ill-conceived idea (which I think you would call fundamentalist) that God can be controlled through the observance of a few strict rules. Finally, it seems wrong to imply that the most important characteristic of a Saint is belief; it should be Christian charity instead.

    By the way, am I right in assuming you would label Satan as an anti-theist, and thus more than halfway up the graph?

    1. Oh, sure, people these days in the age of deconstructionism can play all kinds of games with meaning. However, I have tried to use these words largely according to their dictionary meanings. You can come up with all kinds of exceptions, but I think you get the general drift. Now, as to Christian charity, we believe it cannot be done by the force of the will, and that only complete reliance on God produces the 'fruits of the Spirit.' Belief is not merely an opinion, but a complete surrender to God. Certainly, Satan 'believes' in the ens that he has no doubts about the existence of God. Only man can deceive himself into these lower categories.