How "Atheistic" Are You?

TheHonestAtheistSeptember 8, 2016

Although the believer will say Dawkins knows nothing about philosophy (I beg to differ and may make a future post about it), Richard Dawkins has proffered an excellent schematic of beliefs that can help ascertain one's beliefs.

The scale is mainly meant for belief in a theistic deity rather than a deistic belief. Pantheism and nihilism don't really apply.

  1. Strong Theist. Absolute certainty of a god or gods. As C. G. Jung spiels:

    I do not believe, I know.

  2. De Facto Theist. Not absolute knowledge that a god or gods exist, but live in such a way that he does.
  3. Theistic Leaning. A leaning towards theism, not high enough to conclude a certainty or high probability that there is a god or gods, but definitely a majority of belief in.
  4. Agnostic/Impartial. Unable to swing one way or the other whether a god or gods do or do not exist.
  5. Atheistic Leaning. A leaning towards atheism, not high enough to conclude a certainty or high probability that there is not a god or gods, but a definitely a majority of belief that there is not.
  6. De Facto Atheist. Not absolute knowledge that a god or gods do not exist, but live in such a way that he does not.
  7. Strong Atheist. Absolute certainty that there is no god or gods.

Dawkins has called himself a 6.9, and some have attempted to place others in the scale as well, based on the quotes they have made:

Martin Luther King Jr., 2.8

A physical heaven and a physical hell are inconceivable in a Copernican world ... for us immortality will mean a spiritual existence.

Blaise Pascal, 3.4

If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having, neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is. You must wager. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then without hesitation that he is.

Woody Allen, 3.9

If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name in a Swiss bank.

Albert Einstein, 4.0

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

Thomas Jefferson, 4.2

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.

John McCarthy, 5.4

An atheist doesn't have to be someone who thinks he has the proof that there can't be a god. He only has to be someone who believes that the evidence on the God question is at a similar level to the evidence on the werewolf question.

Carl Sagan, 5.5

An atheist has to know a lot more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no god. By some definitions atheism is very stupid.

Penn Jillete, 5.9

You don't have to be brave or a saint, a martyr, or even very smart to be an atheist. All you have to be able to say is 'I don't know.'

Christopher Hitchens, 7.0

Once you assume a creator and a plan, it makes us objects in a cruel experiment whereby we are created sick and commanded to be well, and over us to supervise this is installed a celestial dictatorship. A kind of divine North Korea.

This scale is an attempt to pin down the claims based on epistemology, or the study of knowledge. This is not really a declaration of certainty (i.e. a 6.9 does not mean one has suspicion that there could be a god, just not absolute knowledge). In reality, no one can claim a 1 or 7, but that is just philosophy talking. When it comes to what we lay claim to as knowledge, that is where this scale can be applied. If you're claim to what justifies knowledge is what you experience, then you may fall into the "1" category because you were "abducted by an indignant god who wanted you to believe in him." If you believe that nothing can be known, you will be a pure 4. If knowledge is only what affects your every day life, you might easily say "7."

For myself, I define knowledge to be a justified true belief (a philosophical term of that which can be rationally believed about reality). Such a belief is not the same as a religious belief. According to this standard of knowledge, I can claim I know there is no god and call myself a "7." I think Hitchens had a similar understanding of knowledge. For me, this does not mean I discount all evidence of a god or gods and dispel any such proposed evidence; it means, that I have such certainty that there is no god, that the idea of a god is not worth pursuing and will have little or no effect on my life. This is hard for my Christian acquaintances to grasp.

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