Tuesday, June 29, 2010

On Rosenbaum's Agnostic Manifesto

On An Agnostic Manifesto by Ron Rosenbaum:

This article is frustrating. An excerpt:

In fact, I challenge any atheist, New or old, to send me their answer to the question: "Why is there something rather than nothing?" I can't wait for the evasions to pour forth. Or even the evidence that this question ever could be answered by science and logic.

I… I didn't know that was a thing that atheists were concerned with this. Do atheists, in general, say that we know why there is something rather than nothing? They certainly don't infer an unknown cause and call it God.

It's amazing how the New Atheists boastfully stride over this pons asinorum as if it weren't there.

Rosenbaum uses a latin phrase to make atheists look unsophisticated. He's made the discussion between agnostics and atheists boring, because he's removed it from what human beings are concerned with, meaning, morality, purpose, joy, and posed the labels in terms of an obscure philosophical problem.

I've heard various self-described agnostics describe their label as any combination of the following:

  1. I have no knowledge of any God.
  2. I don't know if a specific God exists.
  3. I don't know if an unspecified God exists.
  4. I don't know if something exists that someone calls God.

I use the first definition. I don't mind atheists calling me a "weak atheist" and lumping me in with them; ever since I was kicked out of the bat club in first grade, I've been looking for acceptance. Rosenbaum seems to follow 3 and 4. I'm sure that Rosenbaum and I agree about most things about magic and meaning. The divergence between agnostics and atheists is a subtle philosophical one. We have the same challenges, it is sensible for us to be cultural allies. Rosenbaum's critique of atheism is nit-picky and detracts from this cooperative relationship.


  1. yeah, the whole "new atheists are just as dogmatic and religious as religious believers" is such a dead horse, but i am glad that this guy refuses to be called an atheist. i wouldn't want someone like him dragging the team down.

  2. Interested readers should consult MC Graham's post on the same article:
    Matt Morrison's comment is also insightful.

  3. Incidentally, I found Graham's article to be absolutely laugh-out-loud funny.