I don’t know anything. But I still have opinions.

On another post today, a few of us agnostic unbelievers were met with incredulity: How could we be making arguments about something when we acknowledge up front we don’t know? Why do we even bother to discuss something we don’t believe in? This OP is an attempt to answer those questions.

I am an agnostic gnostic agnostic atheist. I came up with this formulation in response to an OP a long time ago that asked not only what we believed, but also what we believed about belief. It amused me (and still does) that this preposterous formulation actually makes sense. You have to work backward from the end:

Atheist: I don’t believe in any God.

Agnostic: I don’t know that there is no God.

Gnostic: I feel certain that nobody actually knows.

Agnostic: I acknowledge that despite my feeling of certainty, I really don’t know that nobody knows.

Around my senior year of college, I became an epistemic nihilist: I came to believe that I don’t know anything. It was a bitter pill to swallow–I was lost, unable to answer the basic questions, “What is true?” “What is good?” One option would have been to shrivel up and die. But I didn’t know that that would be any better than to keep going. And to keep going, you have to function. To function, you have to have opinions. “I believe that when I see a red light, I should stop!” Can’t prove it, but it’s a useful opinion. 

So gradually, I became comfortable having opinions despite believing that I don’t know a damn thing. Actually, I grew to really like it. Being liberated from the expectation that I shouldn’t have an opinion I didn’t know was right, I found I could have opinions on just about anything. What delight! And arguing–arguing is a total delight when you don’t have to be right. For one thing, I can share my own opinion without needing to denigrate an opposing opinion. I can be perfectly comfortable believing one thing and having a delightful conversation with someone who believes the opposite, without needing to show I am right and they are wrong.

Why argue about God and religion if we don’t believe in God? Lots of reasons: For one, we even if we don’t believe in God, we do believe in religion–i.e., that it exists (insofar as we can be sure of anything our senses tell us). Second, religion is impactful. Third, religion deals in interesting questions. The questions can be interesting, even to those of us who do not believe in definitive answers. Even the tentative answers can be interesting. So here we are.

Obligatory question for discussion: What the heck?

Opine away!

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