Atheist or Agnostic?

In the past, I had often thought a certain way regarding the difference between someone who claims to be an atheist versus someone claiming to be agnostic. My understanding had been that atheism was a very arrogant claim. My understanding was that to be an atheist, one was claiming that there was certainly no God. It seemed to me that this was an impossible claim unless one knew first-hand of the existence of every single thing in the entire universe.

My thinking, therefore, was that one could never legitimately be less than agnostic. In actuality, I still actually think this is true with one exception. I don’t actually think that this understanding of “atheist” is accurate. Coming tot his understanding is a result of, ironically, my studies in apologetics. One main thing that I learned in my studies has been that absolute certainty is not necessary to claim a belief about something.

What I have since realized is that 50.1% certainty is enough to base a belief upon. In this case, to claim to be an atheist, one needs to be no more than 50.1% certain that God does not exist. To be a Christian, one needs only a 50.1% certainty that He does exist. How one comes to this conclusion is based on how one understands the evidence presented and whether that evidence is sufficient to prove or disprove one belief or the other.

It comes down to how one defines “belief.” If by belief one means “knowledge” then we would probably need to be continually agnostic in everything. That is not how we believe other things in our lives works. For instance, if a neighbor reports that a baseball broke their window and our child says that they didn’t do it, we may believe them or we may not believe them based on what evidence we have. If we know that they don’t like to play baseball and they were involved in after-school activities we may believe that they didn’t break the window. We don’t really “know” since we weren’t actually there. But it seems reasonable to believe them at this point.

Likewise, if one finds the historic evidence compelling, one can conclude that God exists. If one does not find it compelling, then it would stand to reason that one could conclude that God does not exist. So, really, being agnostic seems to be a position of indecision rather than intellectual honesty.  Beyond that, intellectual honesty does not always infiltrate all of our regard for what evidence we may have, but at least we have made a decision.

Unfortunately, this happens on both sides. There are Christians who believe in God for bad reasons and there are atheists who don’t believe in God for bad reasons. Others have well thought out beliefs based on an examination of the evidence. But, because we’re human, we can be looking at the same evidence and still come to different conclusions. But, for your own sake, do the thinking. Do the examining. Come to a conclusion.

Grace, love and peace.

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