Not THAT A word.
Let us consider the appropriateness or otherwise of someone (call him ‘Philo’) describing himself as a theist, atheist or agnostic. I would suggest that if Philo estimates the various plausibilities to be such that on the evidence before him the probability of theism comes out near to one he should describe himself as a theist and if it comes out near zero he should call himself an atheist, and if it comes out somewhere in the middle he should call himself an agnostic. There are no strict rules about this classification because the borderlines are vague. If need be, like a middle-aged man who is not sure whether to call himself bald or not bald, he should explain himself more fully
For a long time I labeled myself as an agnostic. Agnostic was a safe word for me. A good place to hide and heal.
People, particularly Christian people, were willing to give me some space, the benefit of the doubt , when I said I was an agnostic. Perhaps they thought agnosticism was just a temporary state. Perhaps they thought I was riding the fence and would, in time, come back to them.
It is time for me to come out of hiding and own up to the truth that I am an atheist.
Practically, I live my day to day life as an atheist. (but then so do many Christians) I don’t pray to a deity. I don’t study a religious text. I don’t check in with God before I do something. I live my life in such a way that God never enters the picture.
Richard Dawkins aptly describes my view:
I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.
I have learned that most people misunderstand atheism. They think atheism is akin to Satan worship. Oh my God, you don’t believe in God! For some reason people believe the worst about atheists. They have no reason to so so. Atheists are like many groups of people, diverse and resistant to stereotype.
For me, the God question is about probabilities. Can I state with certainty there is no God? (using the word God in a generic sense) Of course not. But, I can not make an absolute statement about anything. I don’t possess complete, absolute knowledge of anything. Even if there was proof of the existence of a god how would I determine which god is the real God? Humans believe in a plethora of gods. Which god is the true God?
Atheists are skeptics. Claims of certainty, like the claims of Christianity, are viewed with suspicion. The Atheist says “prove it.” Appeals to faith or the supernatural have no effect on atheists.
When I told people I was an agnostic I often had to explain what that meant. By labeling myself as an atheist I no longer have to explain myself. When I say I am an atheist people know I don’t believe in God. Of course, calling myself an atheist brings a whole new set of cultural and social problems that I have to deal with.
I am the same Bruce, just with a different label.