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Ask the Patriarch 151
Are Atheism and Deism subsets of Apathetic Agnosticism?

from: Will Petillo

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Are Atheism and Deism subsets of Apathetic Agnosticism?

I considered the Articles of Faith from some different perspectives and came across some surprising conclusions.  I would like to hear your response to them.

  1. An atheist is not entirely certain of God’s nonexistence would have no problem accepting the three Articles of Faith.
  2. Anyone who accepts the three Articles of Faith is an Apathetic Agnostic.
  3. Therefore, (non-dogmatic) atheists are Apathetic Agnostics.

Also,

  1. A Deist who is not entirely certain of God’s existence and does not believe that people will receive eternal reward or eternal suffering simply for their belief would have no problem with accepting the three Articles of Faith.
  2. Anyone who accepts the three Articles of Faith is an Apathetic Agnostic.
  3. Therefore, such Deists are Apathetic Agnostics.

Is there something wrong with the Articles of Faith, are they meant to be this inclusive, or am I missing something?

The Patriarch replies:

Will:

It all depends on what definitions you are using. The meaning of words varies with usage and a word which may have a clear and distinct meaning to one person, may have a different shade of meaning to another. And while definitions may indicate a clear and concise meaning, the words in everyday usage cover a spectrum of ideas. Overlaps result.

There are any number of individuals who call themselves atheists who also consider themselves Apathetic Agnostics. It is not something I get bent out of shape about. But when I was much younger, atheism was considered to be a clear statement that god does not exist. That is considered strong atheism today, as opposed to weak atheism. A strong atheist would not accept our first article of faith.

As for deism - as far as I am concerned that is a claim that the initiation of the universe and everything was the act of a deity, who then did not interfere further in the process. To make that claim requires a claim that a deity exists, and a true deist would not get past the first article of faith. Further, I would suggest that the discussion to the second article of faith would be rejected by a true deist.

Labels for our beliefs are slippery things. I grew up in the Church of England / Anglican (or Episcopal) tradition where until recently a remarkable diversity of views was accepted at even the highest levels of the clergy. With that background, I can understand that a person might consider herself to be a Christian, and still accept our articles of faith.

Nevertheless, the words of the articles of faith, in the meaning I would assign them, should rule out strong atheists and all deists and theists. But I am not about to give everyone who applies to join a three hour examination to dertermine if their interpetation is precisely the same as mine.