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Richard Dawkins would now rather be called an agnostic than an atheist?

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… because he can’t be sure God doesn’t exist …

Says John Bingham at the Telegraph (February 24, 2012)

He told the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, that he preferred to call himself an agnostic rather than an atheist.

The two men were taking part in a public “dialogue” at Oxford University at the end of a week which has seen bitter debate about the role of religion in public life in Britain.

But this is what he was saying three years ago:

Biologist Richard Dawkins launches into a full-on appeal for atheists to make public their beliefs and to aggressively fight the incursion of religion into politics and education. Dawkins’ scornful tone drew strongly mixed reactions from the audience; some stood and applauded his courage.

One hopes that agnostics will protest. Do agnostics, usually noted for tolerance, wish to take responsibility for the intolerance of Dawkins – and the new atheist crowd in general?

Put another way, do most agnostics want Dawkins speaking for them?

7 Replies to “Richard Dawkins would now rather be called an agnostic than an atheist?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Dawkins has also had momentary lapses of honesty in the past,,

    Richard Dawkins Vs. Ben Stein – The UFO Interview

    ,,seems that being honest and strict atheism are not compatible after all! 🙂

  2. 2
    Bertvan says:

    As a politically liberal, religious agnostic, I don’t feel much in common with Richard Dawkins. I believe Dawkins views nature as “devoid of design or rational purpose“. Evangelical Atheists, such as I’ve always regarded Dawkins, usually accuse anyone sceptical of neo-Darwinism of being “creationists”. (I was once called an “ignorant creationist pig.) I do not believe in a personal god. I do believe volition, consciousness and purpose are innate aspects of living systems. The participation of a deity can never be confirmed not denied. So even creationism equally as scientific as deterministic materialism. Both are philosophical concepts, and everyone is responsible for their own philosophy.
    Berthajane Vandegrift
    A Few Autistic Questions about Freud, Marx and Darwin

  3. 3
    Blue_Savannah says:

    I wonder if those same people will applaud his ‘courage’ when they or a loved one are deemed ‘unfit’ by the elite who wish to re-implement eugenics???

  4. 4
    Larry Moran says:

    An afairyist is someone who doesn’t believe in fairies. Since you can ever prove the non-existence of something, you must be agnostic about the existence or non-existence of fairies even though the probability of their existence is very close to zero.

    An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in any of the gods. An agnostic is someone who thinks you can’t prove the non-existence of gods. Since we all know that it’s impossible to prove a negative, we are all agnostics about the existence of gods. That includes strong atheists like Richard Dawkins and me. Dawkins has always said that he is as agnostic about the non-existence of gods as he is about the non-existence of fairies.

    Now you may or may not agree with how some of us define atheism and agnosticism but you do a great disservice to your readers by interpreting the words of Dawkins in a way that conforms to YOUR definition of agnosticism and not his. Most atheists I know are agnostic atheists. Agnostic and atheist are not mutually exclusive categories.

    When you understand that, you will understand what Dawkins was saying and why it’s not such a big deal. And you will understand why the statement in the Telegraph is a lie.

  5. 5
    kuartus says:

    Whats this nonsense about not being able to prove a negative? Thats complete hogwash. If I say there is no teddy bear in the box, all someone has to do is take a look inside the box and see there is no teddy bear, therefore proving the negative statement about the non existence of the teddy in the box. Seriously, is this what atheism does to peoples brains?
    Lord have mercy!

  6. 6

    Didn’t Dawkins also implicitly support the — what was it again? — “blasphemy challenge” or something? His writings and speeches have also been quite clear about his absolute disdain for anyone who could be so stupid to take the idea of God seriously. His past actions have not been agnostic in any reasonable sense of the word. Further, he has not even been simply atheistic. He has been aggressively anti-theistic for a long time, actively fighting against the scourge of theistic belief.

    However, in recent years he has had to acknowledge that his strongly atheistic position is its own version of “blind faith.” As a result, if he is now leaning toward more agnostic tendencies, that is great news and I, for one, would welcome it. It remains to be seen whether he is sincere in his agnosticism, or whether his flaming anti-religious rhetoric will continue and he is only seeking to be called “agnostic” to distance himself from the more radical atheistic elements.

  7. 7
    Bantay says:

    Mr Moran, you are simply, patently wrong. For one, you framed the statement about not being able to prove a negative around the definition that atheists believe there are no gods, which would be a plural, universal negative. However, Christians do not make isolated, exclusive claims that other gods do not exist, or that fairies do not exist…only that the one, true, Biblical God does exist.

    So, to re-frame your argument properly, the atheist position, when talking to a Christian, is that the Christian God does not exist…which would make it a singular negative. Like Kuartus teddy bear in a box example, is entirely testable and provable, even if it has not been to date. Since you are wrong about being unable to prove a negative, your conclusion drawn from it is also equally flawed. You are definitely an atheist, looking for a back door. Dawkin’s chose to distance himself from the term atheist, and you are following in his footsteps.

    Regarding the Biblical God, to prove His non-existence, all you have to do is show that the universe and time itself could not possibly have come from an immaterial, eternal, extra-dimensional, non-natural, intelligent and powerful cause. When can we expect some positive evidence of that?

    Also, under the circumstances, I find it quite the double standard to have you accuse people here of doing readers a “disservice” by (allegedly) redefining terms like atheism and agnosticism, when you yourself insist on redefining terms in a manner that alleviates you from having any burden of providing a single shred of positive evidence, much less the much higher standard atheists hold theists to, to provide proof. You do your readers a disservice by being so manipulative, dishonest and basically not having anything better to offer on behalf of atheism.

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