Why I Am Not an Agnostic

Mr. Gruff
Mr. Gruff, the grumpy atheist goat

Upon hearing me say I’m an atheist, several people have asked, “Now are you an atheist or an agnostic?” Which is sort of like asking someone who just told you she is a lesbian, “Now are you a lesbian or are you just experimenting?”

Obviously they want to give me—a person who seems nice—a nicer word. Atheist connotes a sneering cynic who thinks believers (and possibly love and puppies too) are stupid.

Also, atheism is a full-time job. No time for sports, kids, or cooking. Atheists spend their days making fun of believers, making up snarky aphorisms about religion, and complaining about the Pledge of Allegiance.

An agnostic, on the other hand, is just a regular person humble enough to admit what he doesn’t know. He’s not sure there is a god, but he’s not sure there isn’t. Believers with even the tiny bit of doubt can relate to the agnostic, which is why they sometimes helpfully offer me that label. They want me to be someone they can understand. They want me to be someone they can like.

First of all, I appreciate the effort. Second, I am tempted. Agnostic does suit my personality. I’m friendly. I appreciate the virtues of religion, and have no interest in convincing others not to believe. I tend to see all sides of an argument. I am keenly aware of the laughable difference between all that I know and all there is to know.

So why don’t I call myself agnostic? Because I see absolutely no reason to think that there might be a god. None. I don’t see some evidence for and some against. I see no evidence for and plenty against.

To be clear: I really don’t think much about whether god exists. I enjoy those British-accented books in which brilliant evolutionary biologists (for example) brilliantly articulate arguments against god. I’m grateful they did the work, grateful that all that complex reasoning sits on my shelf, like a little intellectual battery pack. But for my own beliefs, I don’t really need it. My atheism derives naturally from a few simple observations.

(1) the Greek myths are obviously stories. The Norse myths are obviously stories. Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard obviously just made that shit up. Extrapolate.

(2) life is confusing and death is scary. Naturally humans want to believe that someone capable is in charge of everything, including an afterlife. But (2a) wanting doesn’t make it so.

(3) the holy books that underpin some of the bigger theistic religions are riddled with “facts” now disproved by science and “morality” now disavowed by modern adherents. Extrapolate.

(4) child rape

 As for the argument that “god” isn’t an actual being capable of or interested in preventing (4) but instead is a sort of cosmic life force, well . . . then we’re not really talking about theism anymore.

That’s it. Not some long, tortured debate. To me it’s clear there is no god. Or rather, it’s clear that god is made up. Of course God exists—He’s the most powerful, most fascinating, most cited, most represented fictional character ever created.

So I guess what I should really call myself is a . . . mytho-theist. Does that sound better?


  1. Thank you, Kate! I have sent this out to all the people who are conflicted about their warm, friendly feelings for me, on the one hand, and their puzzlement that they can actually like an ATHEIST.

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