A Zeus Agnostic

I was having a conversation with a friend who expressed his belief to me sometime back that he did not believe the Bible to be literal. We have had conversations several times since. I thought we were on the same page and slowly revealing to each other our atheism. I finally told him I was atheist and he was shocked. After some discussion, I concluded he had settled on being a deist with no clear definition of what or who god was.

Our most recent conversation began with him asking “Are you an atheist or agnostic?”

I told him it depended on with what frame of reference he was considering the answer I was about to give him. I went on to explain it depends on what definition you give to each word, what dictionary you use, and how you understand the words.

If you believe that an atheist says “There is no god!” and understand an atheist to mean there is no possibility of the existence of god. Then I am not an atheist, I am an agnostic in that view. I do not “believe” or “disbelieve” there is a god. I simply see no evidence that any concept that anyone has presented as god truly exists. However, if I was presented with evidence for a god that was convincing then I would accept the existence of that god.

I added. If you understand an atheist to be someone who does not believe in a god then I am an atheist. He seemed confused by the difference.

I explained it this way:

ME: Do you believe in god?

Him: Yes

Me: Do you believe that Zeus is that god?

Him: No, of course not.

Me: You do know that many people really believed in the existence of Zeus, right? You do know that there were many writings about Zeus? And are you aware that there are still people today who genuinely believe that Zeus exists and is a god?

Him: Yeah I knew that, but I didn’t really know people still believe that. It seems odd.

Me: Let me ask you this, can you prove that Zeus does not exist? Can you tell me why he cannot be god?

Him: (looking quite surprised and a bit confused) actually no I cannot.

Me: Well then are you a Zeus agnostic? or a Zeus atheist?

Him: I don’t know

Me: I suspect you are a Zeus atheist.

Him: I may be a zeus agnostic.

Me: I am fine with that, but here is how I see it. In day to day living I find no reason or evidence to believe that Zeus is god. I live as though he is not. I am a Zeus atheist in my real day-to-day life regardless of how you view the technical definition of the terms “atheist” and “agnostic”. I feel the same way to every other god I have studied as I do Zeus.

Me: I will tell you this, I would gladly accept the existence of a god should there be real, convincing evidence for one. I truly have no disposition against god.

I think he may be rethinking his view on god and agnosticism.

54 comments

  1. john zande · October 26, 2015

    Sound arguments.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ · October 26, 2015

    I second what John said. Excellent post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. archaeopteryx1 · October 26, 2015

    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
    — Steven H. Roberts–

    Liked by 2 people

    • adisillusionist · October 26, 2015

      I have heard that many times and agree, but I think many people cannot truly understand it so easily. That is why a tried to walk my friend through it in the manner I did.

      Like

  4. Violet · October 26, 2015

    I had a similar type of confusion with my husband. I went from devout catholicism to atheism…I thought he had always been an atheist, and couldn’t understand why our religious views *still* didn’t mesh. Upon more intense questioning it turns out he’s closer to a deist. People use the words atheist/agnostic/ (and sometimes) deist in ways that are conflicting. The labels somewhat help, but as you can see they can also cause confusion.

    I call myself an atheist because I believe there is a .ooo1% chance there is a god. I live my life like there is no god, however, if evidence were to present itself, I would change my mind. Generally I’ve found people who label themselves agnostic say, “if there is a god, there is nothing that can be known about it’s nature.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • archaeopteryx1 · October 26, 2015

      In my terminology, a Deist (and I still have my Army dog-tags inscribed with that) is one who believes in a generic god. An agnostic is on the fence, and an atheist will disbelieve in any gods until shown evidence to the contrary.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. archaeopteryx1 · October 26, 2015

    “I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot prove that Satan is a fiction. The Christian god may exist; so may the gods of Olympus, or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon. But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other: they lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them.”
    — Bertrand Russell —

    Liked by 4 people

  6. ratamacue0 · October 26, 2015

    a deist with no clear definition of what or who god was.

    My first thought was, “that just seems so useless!”

    Second – maybe it’s a way to hold on to hope of an afterlife, cosmic justice, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

    • adisillusionist · October 26, 2015

      I agree. I really believe it is because he is in the infancy of his disbelief. It is bridge from Christianity to his final stop on his change in world view.

      Like

      • Violet · October 26, 2015

        I have been surprised at the number of people who actually come to a full stop at deism, and never talk it all the way to atheism.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Violet · October 26, 2015

        Sorry, that was meant to say “never TAKE it all the way to atheism.” Damn typos.

        Like

      • adisillusionist · October 26, 2015

        It’s OK. I am bilingual, I read auto-correct.

        Liked by 3 people

      • adisillusionist · October 26, 2015

        People need to believe there is more than “just this”. It makes them feel better. I do not feel that need, but I see it in others.

        Liked by 3 people

      • archaeopteryx1 · October 26, 2015

        I wanted ‘Atheist’ on my dog tags, but was told that was out of the question, so I settled on ‘Deist.’

        Like

      • adisillusionist · October 26, 2015

        hitting the “dislike” button

        Like

      • Violet · October 26, 2015

        I was going to ask you if you’d ever actually been a deist, as I didn’t think you had. I wonder if these days you’re allowed to have “atheist” on your dog tags? How ridiculous it wasn’t allowed when you were in the service!

        Like

      • archaeopteryx1 · October 26, 2015

        I heard something about it frightened the dinosaurs —

        Liked by 1 person

      • Violet · October 26, 2015

        By the way, on my son’s medical records he’s listed as “catholic,” as I am on mine. I have repeatedly submitted paperwork to have us both changed to atheist but it’s not happening, even after phone calls. It just pisses me off!

        Liked by 1 person

      • ratamacue0 · October 27, 2015

        Should’ve opted for “Zeus”.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Violet · October 26, 2015

      I definitely see a deist as attempting to hang onto the hope of justice and the possibility of an afterlife. I also think some deists fear that falling all the way into atheism means they are pessimistic or giving up hope (while I don’t see atheism as either of those things). It’s an in-between position for sure, but I guess it leaves some idea of god intact without all the dogma…that has to be a good thing, even if I don’t think it goes far enough.

      Liked by 2 people

      • niceatheist · October 26, 2015

        Good observation, Violet. Looking back at my two years of deconverting, I can now see that I was probably more of a deist, not a Christian. I had ascribed to the idea of God being light and fluffy, nothing hard pressed because I didn’t want to admit I was losing him. I was trying super hard to see him as Christmas God, a peace on earth and goodwill toward men God.
        (sorry my phone keeps capitalizing the noun)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Violet · October 26, 2015

        How hysterically funny that even phone apps capitalize god!

        Sometimes I wish I could have stopped my fall out of devout religion at deism…but I went smashing past both that and agnosticism, and went straight into atheism. It was a shocking and traumatic experience, and I would have preferred a gentler fall. Alas, here I am at total disbelief. Despite the shell-shock I *will* find my way!

        Liked by 1 person

      • archaeopteryx1 · October 26, 2015

        Tell them how we met, Vi —
        (And I didn’t crumple!)

        Like

      • Violet · October 26, 2015

        I already told them how we met two posts ago. And yes, you did crumple. 😀

        Like

      • archaeopteryx1 · October 26, 2015

        I already told them how we met two posts ago.

        I may have been napping —

        (Didn’t either –!)

        Liked by 1 person

      • adisillusionist · October 26, 2015

        I still find I capitalize god often. Some out of habit and some when I am referring to a time when I believed in god.

        Like

      • niceatheist · October 26, 2015

        Btw, I recently read a Christian magazine article about religion and the military. It states that there are a few hundred more atheists in the military than Southern Baptists.

        Like

      • adisillusionist · October 26, 2015

        Wow. I wonder if that figure is true. Would you be less inclined to take that as factual if they said there was 1000 Southern Baptist for every atheist?

        Like

      • niceatheist · October 26, 2015
  7. KIA · October 26, 2015

    I’m one who is having issues with going full Monte A-Team.
    Not christian anymore, but not ready to positively claim no god exists. I realize that the definition of atheist isn’t necessarily the positive claim, but something makes me want to rest awhile in having freed myself from what I was before defining myself again. -KIA

    Liked by 2 people

    • adisillusionist · October 26, 2015

      There is nothing wrong with that! I don;t know any reasonable adult who believe everything the exact same way they did 5 years ago. So, we are always learning and changing. Some people just don’t change some beliefs for various reasons.

      I especially don’t have a problem with your staying undefined for a while when you are open to future change. You may never feel the need to change, but you aren’t compelled to dig in and refuse to listen to other views or consider changing in time.

      Like

    • niceatheist · October 26, 2015

      And that is your right to do that. Everything in its own time that best suits you and your life. I like your use of the word “rest”. I’m still aiming for rest and clarity three and a half years after my deconversion. Go at your own pace. No one can tell you how you should leave traditional religion behind. I’ve recently learned to be glad I left it when I did. If I had done so earlier while I was still suicidal (10 to 25 years old), I would have killed myself. If I had stayed in the toxicity longer, I would have destroyed my children.

      Here’s to you discovering the best version of you through it all, Kia!

      Like

    • ratamacue0 · October 27, 2015

      full Monte A-Team

      Lol. I love it when a plan comes together. 😉

      Not christian anymore, but not ready to positively claim no god exists.

      Many (most?) don’t make that claim, from what I’ve heard. Not sure exactly how representative i am, but personally, I believe that all “gods” alleged to have been revealed to humanity are false. But could there possibly be a sentient universe generator (a la prime mover)? Beats me. But absent any revelation, there might as well be no gods as far as we’re concerned in this life, IMO.

      something makes me want to rest awhile in having freed myself from what I was before defining myself again.

      Understandable.

      Liked by 1 person

      • adisillusionist · October 27, 2015

        I agree. I also think that many deist take that position, they just cling to it more tightly.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. pcts4you · October 26, 2015

    “I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.”

    ― Isaac Asimov, The Roving Mind

    Liked by 4 people

  9. nowamfoundatlast · October 27, 2015

    excellent post. really enjoying reading your blog and the comments. i will happily tweet

    Like

  10. Shane · October 27, 2015

    Nice post.

    And I hat to be that guy, but while you can be agnostic with regards to Zeus, you cannot be atheist with regard to one specific god. Christians aren’t atheist except for that one God. The “theist” part is all encompassing and means you don’t believe in any gods. 🙂

    Cheers
    Shane

    Liked by 1 person

    • ratamacue0 · October 27, 2015

      Citation and/or explanation needed.

      Like

      • Shane · October 27, 2015

        On why a Christian can’t be an atheist except for Yahweh? The same reason you can’t be “Vegetarian, except for fish and chicken”.

        It occurs to me that the whole reason atheism is an absence of belief rather than a belief in an absence is because atheism must encompass all theisms, past, present and future, including those with which I am not familiar.

        Sincerely
        Shane.

        Like

      • ratamacue0 · October 29, 2015

        Funny, I understand exactly what you mean if you say you’re a “vegetarian, except for fish and chicken”. Note that this would not classify you as a vegetarian full stop. Still, if you refuse to eat only some meats out of some principle (other than taste or health, given demonstrable differences), that would be stupid – which is precisely the point.

        Atheism (full stop) nowadays generally refers to all gods, but there’s no reason you can’t narrow the scope if you’re clear with your qualifiers. In fact, such narrow scopes are consistent with the history of the term – like when some groups referred to believers in other gods as atheists. From the Wikipedia page on Atheism:

        átheos…was first used as a term of censure roughly meaning “ungodly” or “impious”… The term ἀσεβής (asebēs) then came to be applied against those who impiously denied or disrespected the local gods, even if they believed in other gods… The term found frequent use in the debate between early Christians and Hellenists, with each side attributing it, in the pejorative sense, to the other.

        …The early Christians were labeled atheists by non-Christians because of their disbelief in pagan gods.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ratamacue0 · October 29, 2015

        Almost forgot, here is the history [and context] of the quote you’re disputing.

        Liked by 1 person

    • adisillusionist · October 27, 2015

      I was really just trying to make a point and give my friend perspective on why I am atheist. I also think what you say is more evidence that there is some confusion as to what both of those words really mean.

      Like

      • Shane · October 27, 2015

        Of course.

        Like

  11. Swarn Gill · October 27, 2015

    I like your thinking here. One definition of both these terms that I really liked comes from Michael Shermer in his book The Believing Brain. He says that agnosticism is an intellectual position. Intellectually you can not disprove the existence of a negative (of course it is not the non-believers job to disprove God, but rather the theist’s job to prove God’s existence). And that atheism is a behavioral position. Living your life as if there no God. Maybe I like this, because this defines me, but I know that intellectually I am agnostic. But until evidence is shown so that I can, by evidence, know (not believe) that God exists, I will live my life as if there was no God. Thus I am an atheist. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  12. David Dashifen Kees · November 2, 2015

    As a modern polytheist Pagan who tends to work with the Hellenic gods (like Zeus), I resonate with the statement that one lives day-to-day life as if Zeus doesn’t exist (and I even believe in him). I don’t think a modern person, theist or otherwise, can truly put stock in the ancient tales that we have at our finger tips. In my experience, the gods do their thing and we all do ours and it’s only in highly special (and likely very rare) situations that we interact. Other more mystical types describe otherwise, but I’ve found that I’m about as mystical as a doorknob.

    Looking forward to continuing to hang out here on the site. Hope you don’t mind a polytheist butting in now and again!

    Liked by 2 people

    • adisillusionist · November 2, 2015

      I like it. I think you may be the first person I have interacted with that believes in Zeus.

      Liked by 1 person

      • David Dashifen Kees · November 2, 2015

        It’s not all that uncommon in the Pagan community because of the inspiration that many of us find in the ancient cultural/religious practices of pre-Christian Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

        Liked by 1 person

      • adisillusionist · November 2, 2015

        I would be interested in learning more about your beliefs and how you arrived at them.

        Like

      • David Dashifen Kees · November 2, 2015

        I’d love to chat sometime but respect your need for privacy. Feel free to reach out to me in the way that works best for you. You can find me via dashifen@dashifen.com.

        Liked by 1 person

      • adisillusionist · November 2, 2015

        I may email you. Thanks!

        Like

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