Non Belief or Unbelief? Does it really matter?

I stumbled across this YouTube video earlier today of Stephen Fry being interviewed on Big Think. The title “The Importance of Unbelief” left me pondering whether there is a difference or distinction between Unbelief and Non Belief, and whether it really matters in the larger scheme of things.

On the surface it appears that any distinction between Unbelief and Non Belief is merely semantic, but the antagonism towards New Age Atheism in recent years made very public by the Internets, seems to indicate that the difference is worth investigating, or acknowledging at the very least.

Now, I’m no philosopher or epistemologist or linguist even, but I have unwittingly placed myself in the centre of this apparent wrangle simply because I have chosen to label myself as an Atheist these many years. It used to be that being an atheist was pretty straightforward, but like with so many other things, the modern world contrives to complicate everything. Where once it was grudgingly accepted that there were shades of grey, it seems there is now shaded shades of grey.

In the quest for answers, I tried to follow this debate Does “Atheism” mean “unbelief or lack of belief in God” or “there is no God” ?, and I confess to being more bewildered than ever.

From what I can gather, Unbelief is closely associated with agnosticism, which is harshly regarded as the fence-sitter position. Non belief on the other hand seems to indicate a positive position which is more assertive and based on either certain knowledge, or rejection of asserted knowledge. I do admit that this I have adopted the latter position, not on the basis of certain knowledge, but on the rejection of positions asserted by those who do claim to have such.

But is the rejection of asserted knowledge enough to formulate a belief? Do I now also have to assume the burden of proof? But proof of what since the whole God concept is not clearly defined?

See, here I was thinking that atheism had simplified my life immeasurably, but actually thinking more deeply has opened up a whole new complication. But I guess such is the bane of introspection.

Does this mean that I will go back to believing because it is much easier? Hell no!

Preparing to come out

Strangely, I didn’t anguish about it. It just seemed like a natural progression.

Recovering Agnostic

It all started with the best of intentions.

First, there were a lot of issues that were flying around my head. My previous beliefs were becoming ever less secure, but I’d been through this before. Most people find their beliefs wax and wane, so this wasn’t anything I was going to bring up out of nowhere to people who I wouldn’t normally be discussing my theological positions with. It was just business as usual.

Coming OutThen I started to drift away, losing my fear of unbelief and increasingly exploring those areas and imagining a life without religion. It was different, but possibly no more than increased empathy and openness to different arguments. I stayed put in the church, and nothing really changed. Still nothing that was worth specifically mentioning to anyone.

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