David Mitchell Doesn’t Understand Atheism (And Neither Do Agnostics)

David Mitchell Doesn’t Understand Atheism (And Neither Do Agnostics)


So I’ve squandered way too much time debating
whether or not I should talk about David Mitchell’s views on atheism, or respond directly to his
views (like an open letter), but finally, after the better part of a morning and several
cups of tea, I’ve decide that it should be both… That I should start by talking about his views,
and then directly respond to his views (so yeah, I’m talking to you David – that
is, should enough people tweet this at you to get your attention… but I’m also talking
all those who currently share your views on atheism, and so even if this video fails to
find you, it will still serve its purpose). This, is David Mitchell Doesn’t Understand
Atheism. In 2012, Mitchell published his autobiography
by the title Back Story, and like pretty much all of his work, I thoroughly enjoyed it and
found many segments delightfully insightful and extremely funny. In fact, before I move on, I want to make
it abundantly clear that despite the criticisms that follow, I’m truly a massive fan of
his work – to the point that he’s genuinely my all time favourite comedian. His use of ‘angry logic’ and sharp wit
is brutally hilarious – in fact, so much so, that I’ve simply got to share a relevant
example with you. “This is Mathew. When we were nine years old we cofounded an
atheists club. David’s team, who would you like to start
with? Richard! Yes. Atheist’s club. Yes. Well there’s an obvious question isn’t there? At what point did you decide to lie about
your atheism just to earn money from the Church of England?” Now after seeing just this clip, let alone
any of ones in which he obliterates other pseudoscientific nonsense, such as horoscopes
and homeopathy “For 6 months I wrote horoscopes for a women’s magazine–doesn’t know anything
about star signs, nothing that would make them go David is the man– no I shouldn’t
be doing it – they should’ve got a qualified charlatan, but no…” “Two more homeopathic lagers please. Woo… that’s strong stuff!”, one could
easily make the assumption that he describes himself as an atheist… but he doesn’t,
and unfortunately, it’s because he doesn’t understand what atheism is. “You know, I’m not personally annoyed
by atheists, but a lot of people assume I’m an atheist, and sort of draw no distinction
between being an atheist and an agnostic – and there’s a sort of, particularly among, you
know, basically rational comedians like me, there’s a lot of atheism going on – and…
and I don’t accept the argument that atheism is the most rational response to the world
as we see it. I think agnosticism is.” This criticism of atheism (which, as I’m
going to show, is a criticism of a strawman of atheism), is the crux of Mitchell’s confusion,
but before I address it, here’s how he expressed the same sentiment but in greater detail in
chapter 19 of his book: “What I don’t understand is why so many people, the religious
and the irreligious alike, have swallowed the idea that atheism is the most rational
conclusion to draw about humanity’s position and state of grace. Even those who oppose atheism do so in terms
of its being too rational: lacking imagination or faith. ‘Just because there’s no actual reason
to believe in something doesn’t mean it can’t be there,’ they say. But atheism isn’t the most rational approach
– agnosticism is. You can’t know, so it’s irrational to
say that you do. An atheist or religious observant might counter
that agnosticism – saying you don’t know if there’s a god or gods – isn’t a conclusion
at all. They’d have a point – but in that case,
I say it’s irrational to draw a conclusion. We don’t know and we can’t know.” So to respond David, you are of course correct
when you say that those who assert that they know for a fact that no god or gods exist
are being irrational, but here’s the thing – that’s not what atheism asserts. Atheism is merely the observation that the
claims of theism have not met their burden of proof, just as a-fairyism is merely the
observation that the claims of fairyism have not met their burden of proof. To put it clearly, theism and atheism address
what you believe while gnosticism and agnosticism address what you assert to know, and so if
I ask you “Do you believe in a god” and your answer is “no” then you’re an atheist;
and if your answer is (as is the case with yourself) “I don’t know” then you haven’t
answered my question. You either believe or do not believe (that
is, you’re either a theist or an atheist), and how certain you are of your belief (that
is, how gnostic or agnostic you are) is a completely different question – and so since
you don’t believe in a god or gods, you are, just like myself and Dawkins, an atheist. Granted, you’re far most agnostic than us,
because we regard the existence of a god with the same level of agnosticism as we do with
the existence of fairies, but make no mistake about it, you are an agnostic atheist David
– and that’s why so many identify you as such. Now you might want to counter me by asking
“Who’s to say what the definition of atheism is? Why’s the definition that you’ve just
presented more valid than the one that I use?” But in response to this I have two answers. The first is that the word ‘theist’, which
comes from the Greek word ‘theos’ literally means ‘god’, and the prefix ‘a’ literally
means ‘without’, and so the word ‘atheist’ literally means ‘without god’ (not ‘there
are no gods’). And the second (and far more important) is
that it stands to reason that the definition of an endorsed label should accurately describe
those who identify by it, and since the vast majority of atheists use the definition that
I’ve just presented, this at the very least makes it the definition that critics should
address, lest they want to commit a strawman fallacy. “Atheism also requires a leap of faith,
albeit a nihilistic one. It might as well be a religion – many of its
adherents evangelise about their philosophy and beliefs as much as the religious do. They claim their opinions to be certainties. They viciously criticise those who believe
otherwise. They are, in some cases, emotionally attached
to the idea that there’s no god and dislike being gainsaid as much as the Pope or an Ayatollah
does.” This, again, is born of your misconception
of atheism. The reason that I (for example) so furiously
oppose religion actually has very little to do with the fact that I’m an atheist – it’s
because I recognise that beliefs inform actions, that actions have consequences, and that the
consequences of religious beliefs are often deeply and unnecessarily devastating! Or in other words, it’s because I’m a
proponent of secularism and the scientific method. Look, at the beginning of your autobiography
you expressed that: “You’ve probably guessed that all things New Age tend to make me raise
a sceptical eyebrow, and a sceptical fist, which I bang sceptically on the table while
riley starting a sceptical chant of ‘fuck off, fuck off, fuck off’ before starting
sceptically to throw stuff and scream ‘you can shove your trendy scientifically unsubstantiated
bullshit up your uncynical anuses!” Which, I must say, is a sentiment and reaction
that I equally share, and from what I can tell, it’s for the precisely the same reasons. As you’ve pointed out before, New Age nonsense
isn’t just nonsense… it’s dangerous, because if someone tries to heal their child
with, say, crystals rather than medicine, then the result has a fair chance of being
devastating… but this is also true of religion, and I would argue even more so because it’s
shielded by not only the religious, but by otherwise rational and sceptical people like
yourself. Parents have, and continue to, pray for their
children’s health rather than seek medical help. My point being is that if you replace the
word ‘New Age’ with ‘religion’ or ‘god’ then you’ve got my position exactly. “They then wrap up this annoyance as anger
at the terrible suffering religion has brought to the world – as if they truly think it’s
the religious beliefs themselves, rather than humanity’s in-built urges to kill, persecute
and suppress, that led to the Crusades or the Troubles or the failure to address the
AIDS Pandemic. Don’t they get it? Humans will always find an excuse. The avowedly atheist communist states of 20th
century killed greater numbers than any regimes before or since and needed no religious justification
– a politically ideological one served just as well. Humans don’t kill or boss each other around,
or say sex is evil and should be controlled, or that certain people are wicked and should
be oppressed or that certain clothes are inappropriate or compulsory because of their religious beliefs…
we do it because some of us want to, and religion is a convenient excuse. Atheists are being incredibly naïve if they
think that in the absence of religion other reasons won’t be found for disguising violence
as virtue or indeed that atheist belief systems aren’t just as potentially susceptible to
murderous extremism as any of the religions they oppose.” Now I’ve got to be honest David – this
is by far the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard you sincerely say. Seriously, I don’t know where to start. If this is what you really believe atheism
asserts, or at the very least what most atheists think, then it’s you who’s being incredibly
naïve… in fact no, you’re being incredibly obtuse. I mean, what atheists have you met in order
to muster this outrageous strawman of us? Seriously, have you even had a conversation
about atheism with a self-described atheist? First and foremost, and as you actually said,
the communist regimes of the 20th century were the result of political ideologies, and
so why exactly you added the word ‘atheist’ is baffling. Why didn’t you also add the word ‘afairist’
or ‘afootballer? That’s right, because a lack of believing
in fairies and a lack of playing football had fuck all to do with it – just as atheism
had fuck all to do with it. Sure, the leaders may’ve been atheist, and
their ideologies may’ve necessitated atheism, but that doesn’t mean that these reprehensible
regimes were somehow inherent, or a consequence of, a lack of a belief in a god… and you’re
more than smart enough to know this. To make it clear, what you’ve done here
is commit a Fallacy of Division; you’ve implicitly asserted that something true of
a whole is also true of one of its parts – that because these regimes caused millions of deaths,
and because these regimes necessitated atheism, atheism therefore caused millions of deaths. Which is as fallacious as asserting that because
Nazi Germany caused millions of deaths, and because Nazi Germany necessitated European
and Western Asian heritage, European and Western Asian heritage therefore caused millions of
deaths. And secondly, I don’t think I’ve ever
met an atheist whose so naïve as to believe that without religion humans would all of
a sudden cease extorting, exploiting and murdering one another. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure one exists
(because the world is full of stupid people, theists and atheists alike), but I know for
certain that most atheists wouldn’t make this silly assertion. We’re quite aware that with or without religion
good people would be doing good things and bad people would be doing bad things, but
we recognise that if you want a good person to a bad thing (such oppose equal rights)
then religion is sure-fire way of achieving it. So there’s my response you David, and to
all other agnostics who share your current misconceptions. In truth, I doubt you’ll ever watch this,
but if you do and you’re both willing and able to respond, then here’s my email – I’d
genuinely love to read or hear your reply. And again, despite this disagreement, know
that I’m a huge fan of your work and that I sincerely hope your happiness and career
continues to prosper. Anyhow, as always, thank you kindly for the
view, and an extra special thank you to my wonderful patrons and to those of you who’ve
donated via PayPal. Without your help, videos such as this almost
certainly wouldn’t exist. Stay rational my fellow apes!

100 Replies to “David Mitchell Doesn’t Understand Atheism (And Neither Do Agnostics)”

  1. Okay, so in response to some of the comments, I thought I'd clear up a distinction: I recognize that there are several definitions of the words 'atheist' and 'agnostic', and in hindsight I perhaps should've made this clearer within the video. However, this video is not an assertion of what the definition of atheism is, it's a reply to someone who strawmanned atheism. Whether you think that atheism is the positive assertion that there is no god, or the observation that the claims of theism have not met their burden of proof, assertions such as 'atheists think that without religion everything would be wonderful' or / and "the communist regimes of the 20th century are an extension of atheism' is indeed a strawman (this is true whatever definition you use).

    Furthermore, while most religious people (and agnostics) define atheism as 'the positive assertion that there is no god' (or something similar), most atheists define it as 'the observation that the claims of theism have not met their burden of proof' (or something similar), and so if someone wants to criticize those who call themselves an atheist then they must address what they actually assert to believe… See Dawkins' Spectrum of theistic probability for details.

    I'll create a video in the future dedicated to the definition of atheism, where I'll explain this in greater detail.

  2. I think this is your weakest video by far. Etymology is not meaning, it is wrong on several fronts. I enjoy your videos but this one failed.

  3. All of your argument will fall smack on its face if he said (or if you considered that he meant) "most self-described atheists".

  4. What about scepticism? Probably closer to Karl Popper, when it comes to managing conjecture and refutation. While positions are tentatively held, these temporary positions can be strong and be enduring. My view is Science diminishes the probability of the existence of God; while, History diminishes the probability of the of Religion. Historians can explain a Religion, as readily as a physicist can dissect an atom.

    A quick peek at an etymological dictionary finds, a-theism means without god as far back as the 16th century. The Ancient Greek nomenclature was “atheotes” meaning ungodliness.

  5. Yes atheism is irrational-
    Who assigns themselves terms based on the lack of belief in a supposed fictional character-
    that would be atheists 😂😂 Atheists logic-
    I lack belief in Harry Potter so I’ll give myself a term based on Harry Potter. your all dumb and the irony of it, is what makes you all look delusional. Because no one assigns themselves as lacking belief in Harry potter😂😂
    Even anti theists are just as delusional- opposing a supposed fictional character.
    Time for a new term
    You delusional bunch
    Of fictional character doubters.

  6. If rationality rules, you should go vegan. Otherwise irrationality rules. To understand what I mean watch "dominion" https://youtu.be/LQRAfJyEsko

  7. I believe there are no gods…They are all created by mankind, there is no evidence to prove otherwise. Atheism is a rational position, and if you identify as agnostic, you are an atheist.

  8. The problem is that the current Atheism movements definition (and arguments) are just as valid as those religious people's that claim that "theory"only means an opinion. You are confusing an everyday usage with a formal one and you are therefore wrong.
    The Etymology of the word is irrelevant to it's formal use in philosophy.

  9. The thing is, if you get rid of religion, you’ve gotten rid of another “justifiable” form of human oppression.

    It’s not just the case that humans will continue to oppress each other (as we probably would), it’s removing “religion” as a perceived justification.

    If the world was atheist certain forms of oppression would end overnight, like male and female circumcision. Deaths in Africa through “exorcisms” would also end.

    There would still be a lot of evil in the world. But a lot of evil would be removed, and a potential justification of further evil will have been taken off the table.

  10. A healthy, functioning society incorporates mechanisms to limit or punish abhorent behaviour and foster good behaviour, but where dogma and fanaticism are allowed to take hold these mechanisms can be subverted to encourage atrocity and punnish virtue. This is because dogmatic ideas are being held to be more true/important than observed negative outcomes and personal feelings of moral revulsion. Religion is dangerous precisely because it employs dogma and holds it to be virtuous, opening the door to fanaticism. You don't need religion to have this problem, just a powerful set of ideas held to be irrefutably true, but religion is the most widespread and accepted example of such a system. Someone once said (I forget who) that "Guns don't kill people… but they make it a hell of a lot easier." Similarly, fanatisim can take root in civilization without Religion, but Religion provides circumstances that make it more likely.

  11. You got David’s point about the soviet thing all wrong mate, be rational and think instead of defending atheism and all costs…

    Btw I’m an atheist but I also think criticising religion in the angry way people like you do is just stupid. The fact is for every bad thing that comes out of the bible, there are plenty of good things too, and there are plenty of people that can ignore these stupid and completely outdated “bad things” and be socially liberal and religious at the same time! The basic “love” values of the bible can still exist if god is a complete fantasy, and if religion makes people feel better, then leave them be! You can’t be socially liberal except when it comes to religious people!

  12. Agnosticism is a non position. It mixes knowing with belief. Two totally different positions and mutually exclusive. To "know" something means there is evidence to support it. Belief is what we have when there is no evidence or proof. Logically, the proper response is to ignore claims that are unsupported by any emperical evidence.

  13. As far as I can tell he didn’t make the argument about those ideologies causing trouble to atheism causing trouble. His argument was that there isn’t any criticism of the idea that atheism would lead to such killings. The opposite is a no-true-Scotsman fallacy. The idea that atheism or religion has anything to do with these urges is misguided – people will always find excuses.

  14. Lets just pin this down right now its almost impossible to know everything about atheism and other things realating so its clear you are talking of atheism as you would know it from what you have experienced

  15. To understand Atheism is like trying
    to understand that God does not
    Exist.But God does Exist.I Truly
    and Really feel sorry for Atheists.
    A person said me that Atheists
    have a screw missing.That person
    was an Atheist as well.I am not
    going to argue with that.❤️.

  16. There's really only one question and one answer regarding what makes an atheist.

    "Do you believe that god exists?"

    If you answer "yes", then you are a theist.

    If you answer ANYTHING ELSE ("no", "I don't know", "I'm not sure", "maybe", "we can never know for sure"), then you are not a theist and therefore you are rejecting the claim made by a theist, therefore you are atheist.

  17. brevity and resume is a must, and you are lost in synonyms.please learn to erase, to shut up. because if you talk at infinitum you are as bad as religious wasting time neverending studying nonexistances. it is easier than that. the evidences are self explanatory, doesn't need a youtube channel blabbing.

  18. Talks about why he has such a strong voice because of the dangers of religion, then when Mitchel disgusses why this is complete b.s. Then you get butt hurt because he called you out on the exact thing that you just said and claim that he doesn't know what he is talking about…… Even though you specifically stated that exact thing as a reason for your entire reason for being an atheist you tuber.

  19. An atheist definition is- someone who disbelieves or lacks belief in a God/s
    How can you disbelieve or lack belief in God
    Have you accessed all knowledge???
    Have you accessed all evidence???

    You haven’t have you
    therefore you have no valid reason to lack belief
    Because you don’t know what that knowledge or evidence holds that you haven’t accessed so are
    You now agnostic
    Or you are crazy to stay an atheist.

    Atheists-

    If you haven’t accessed all knowledge and you haven’t accessed all evidences.
    are you justified in lacking belief?

    If your in a court case and you haven’t got all the evidence & info should you convict?

    Stop being delusional And presuming you have any warranted justification for lacking belief, when you know
    you haven’t accessed all knowledge or all evidence

  20. Mitchel is correct in the statement that we cant know. As plato most famously quoted or at least socrates wrote down. "All i know is that i know nothing"

  21. why do you assume that people are naturally good ? If someone is that easly influenced by lets say islam and willing to kill people for their beliefs was it the religion that made them do it or them ? I would say both but the burden is more on them for not seeing why it is wrong .nobody is truly good there is no person without dark fantasies.

  22. IRRATIONALITY RULES

    ATHEISTS

    The reasonable standpoint is agnostic.
    not lacking belief!!!
    Because to lack belief requires reason, you can’t have reason to lack belief if-
    1. You haven’t already understood & looked into the proposition
    2. Have accessed all evidence
    3. Made the choice to lack belief
    4. Because a lack of evidence
    5. Because insufficient evidence
    5. Both are choices because you know you haven’t accessed all the evidence.
    6. Because no one has accessed all evidences.
    7. You are now blindly disbelieving.
    8. Without a warranted justification.
    9. Because you haven’t accessed all evidences
    10. Are you blindly disbelieving or are you open to new evidences

    If you are blindly disbelieving- you are irrational

    If you are open to new evidences- you are agnostic

  23. Depending on the definition of "god" one can absolutely state it exists or not.
    And this is where the entire discussion misses the point.
    Claiming a supernatural definition is pointless because the supernatural is imaginary and therefore doesnt exist.
    So the discussion should only consider things that are real.
    And I have faith in reality. I believe in its existence.
    Reality is my god and cannot be denied.
    I dont need a discussion about things that, by definition, are not real

  24. Don't say you don't believe in Faeries in Iceland…! You're very articulate and not too verbose. This one was very good 🙂

  25. Which part of England do you guys come from that add an "r" to words that don't have an "r"? For instance …draw … you both say "drawr". I'm just curious…

  26. The violent oppression of Non-Muslims by Muslim extremists is because Islam condemns people who follow other religions as Kafirs (which you have rightfully asserted when condemning Islam).. but the Anti-theist beliefs of the Communist Party has nothing to do with the violent oppression of Bhuddhists, Muslims, Falun Gong by the communist party, according to you, how?… I mean Communists believe that religion is dangerous, backward and holds society back, which is why they oppress people with these beliefs… So how exactly do you come to conclude that that their anti-theism has nothing to do with their oppression of religious groups… I don''t know what this fallacy is but it is definitely a big one.. They oppress religious people because they are Anti-theist, you make videos against Religion because you are Anti-theist, while the scope of your actions are different your motivations are the same, the elimination of religion… I really don't see how you are managing to not see this..

  27. Atheist – a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.

    No one believing in SCIENCE can be an atheist.

    Science say God can exist, we can not prove God doesn't exist, neither can we prove God exist, but the Atheist CLAIM he knows God doesn't exist.

    All true scientists is Possibilitist, they believe that God is possible, but they also believe that it's possible God is not needed to make the universe work.

  28. I'm atheist but I say I'm Agnostic to avoid wasting my time arguing with people who never see it my way regardless of logic. Unless they come to the conclusion themselves.

  29. I understand your points and agree with many commenters in saying this is mostly about semantics, and not agreeing in the definition of certain words.
    I personally have had the same issue, especially as a native Spanish speaker, as in Spanish, the official dictionary definition of atheist (ateo) is "someone who denies the existence of gods". I think my stance is somewhat close to David Mitchell's, and as such I would rather not be called an atheist as that may lead people to misunderstand what I think/believe about that subject.
    And I think it's my own right to choose which labels I feel apply to myself, even if other people don't agree.

  30. "(And Neither Do Agnostics

    Yes we do. It is quite the other way around. Atheists either don't understand or deliberately lie about Agnostics. Not all Atheists just those that lie that its fence sitting or wimpy.

    "(and agnostics) define atheism as 'the positive assertion that there is no god'

    BS and that isn't true even in England. Do I believe in a god, I don't go on belief. So no I don't believe in one. But Atheism is NOT limited to that position. Very often an Atheist has a DISBELIEF that there can be a god. See Aron Raa for an example. He often says Atheism is just a lack of belief but then claims that gods are impossible.

    Take it up with his sort of Atheist. That sort of nonsense is why I call myself, correctly, an Agnostic.

    Damn fool idiots that don't know who came up with and defined the word. Thomas Huxley, AKA Darwin's Bulldog.

    "Agnosticism is of the essence of science, whether ancient or modern. It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe."[1]

    Thomas Huxley AKA Darwin's Bulldog

    “”I do not consider it an insult, but rather a compliment to be called an agnostic. I do not pretend to know where many ignorant men are sure — that is all that agnosticism means."

    —Clarence Darrow during the Scopes trial

    There MAY be a god but all testable gods fail testing. Do let me know when anyone figures out how to disprove a Deist god. Now a LOT of people that label themselves as Atheists think EXACTLY that way.

    Join the few, the rational, the Agnostic
    Ethelred Hardrede

  31. I don't like the new age crap either honestly. It's harmless for the most part until people spend all their money on treatments that are scams in disguise.

  32. Is this not just an argument about semantics rather than addressing the views expressed by David Mitchell under his own understanding of the term 'atheist'?

    Unusual as it may be for an infamous pedant like David Mitchell to apply an incorrect meaning to a word – if indeed he has – then if what David Mitchell means when he uses the word 'atheist' is someone who states as an unshakeable fact that there is no God, then his arguments remain valid.

    The act of those who do not believe in God, who then go around determined to convince and recruit others, could easily be compared to a religion.

    Religion has indeed convinced good people to do bad things, but people could just as easily be persuaded that, because there is no God, then life is therefore meaningless and that the killing of others is inconsequential.

    You give the game away by including the word 'rules' in the name of your channel, which is an earmark of a dogma and suggests that those who wish not to be excluded, must adhere to them – Also comparable to religion.

  33. "We don't know, and can't know if there is a god."
    False.
    If God gives a press conference on the Whitehouse lawn.. that is proof.

  34. I remember making these same mistakes when I first shed my Christian faith. I denied being atheist for years and claimed agnostic until I realized the points you made.

  35. May I say how much I enjoy your videos in celebration of rationality. I would however like to put words into David Mitchell’s mouth in response to your critique of his position. I’m sure he would say that your 2d diagram of atheism/theism versus agnosticism/gnosticism posits agnosticism as a continuum. His position would be that he doesn’t bother to think about the existence of God, and if anywhere it would be at the origin of the agnosticism/Gnosticism axis, and so claiming grades of agnosticism misrepresents his position. 2d diagrams with mutually perpendicular axes automatically biases interpretation into the arena of rationality. He would place his gnosticism on another now-3d axis rising perpendicularly out of that origin into areas of non-theistic interest.
     
    I cover this in the short video I produced on my similar take on agnosticism:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyzhJ4jSHD8

  36. I've never heard a more emotionally charged argument about atheism, even by theists.

  37. This is all one big sticky miss-understanding. I've read some of the endless arguements in the comments, but had to stop at some point.

    First of all – you are arguing about the definition of the word. Not mitchells point of view… Mitchell decides mitchells point of view… I thought it was clear.
    Arguing about the definition is well and good, but definitions are not empiric… The best thing to do is to pick one for the sake of the argument, in order to get somewhere. For example, to define ones views. But you are arguing over views of someone not present in the argument, so to me it does'nt seem very fruitful.

    Second – understanding that, we can talk about what mitchell actualy says, which is that the assertion that god does not exist is irrational. There is a very wide movement of over-confident atheists, I think its fair to say since Dawkins and Hitchens started speaking in public about these issues. I want to add, that this branch of atheism is not just atheism, it is also a total negation of all mysticism and everything that is not scientiflcly detectable – until it is detectable. You might call it "pure rationalism".
    I think its great, by the way, and its an excellent counterpart for fascist religion, and a brave endevour by Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris and more.
    I think what mitchell is trying to say is, and I agree, that he does not claim to conclude to any side, because he has no confidence in the issue. And it certainly disqualifies him as a believer, but does not out him with the likes of Dawkins, I would say.
    So in conclusion, it DOES matter what definitions you use, because apperantly there is more then one used.
    And more importantly I would say, it matters less under what criteria he falls, since he layed out his views completely…. That should be more sufficient then one word. So why all the hustle?

    P.S
    I am an agnostic. I dont believe in a god, because I recognize "belief" as an act of will to assert something that is unknown, and having some integrity, I do not.
    However, I have the intuition, joined with some very bizzare experiences that I had, that something else exist beside the physical plane. And the reason I dont place myself with pure rationality, is because I cant even begin to understand it, yet I dont question its relevance on one side, and on the other, I don't put much emphasis on my own interpretations of it (god, ferries, aliens, ultimate self, whatever).
    In other words, I litteraly doubt everything in the same measure, reserving judgment, regarding the unproved.

  38. The skeptic YouTube community routinely repeat capitalist imperialist propaganda about Stalin and Communism generally. Could it be that all professional atheist are brainwashed on this issue only? It is interesting that although property ownership is at the root of almost everything biblical, never have I heard these skeptics go after that unjust aspect of religion.

  39. No God = there are no gods. It’s simple logic. Because someone who is atheist in Japan is differently then someone in Europe. We have 1 god, they have many. It depends on the religion. But in every religion or better culture to be more accurate, it means the same: not to believe in divinity. It’s something that comes with believing in god/gods. It’s like saying that people a racist because of the skin color. It’s something what comes with the skin color (mentality, culture etc). So when you say “I don’t believe in god but I believe in Gods from other cultures) then you’re not an Atheist. Sometimes a word is not representing everything. Atheist is born in Greece where there were multiple gods. Saying back then you’re atheist, it’s that what’ve said. People back then died for it. You’re doing as if Atheism is something from the Abrahamism. It’s the only logic I’m seeing here (not only you btw).

  40. I will say, watching the Atheists in Austin attack you drove home the point that any dogmatic thought, even if hiding behind a facade of rationality, can cause harm.

  41. David Mitchell: "[Atheists] claim their opinions to be certainties."

    Which actually looks more like Mitchell claiming that his opinion that atheists claim their opinions to be certainties to be a certainty, when in fact it's merely his unsupported opinion.

    Michell: "[Atheists] viciously criticize those who believe otherwise."

    Seriously, is Mitchell really this idiotic? First of all, viciously criticizing has ZERO to do with defining something as religious or making it irrational. Second, by way of example, if I viciously criticize a antivaxxer for being unscientific and for peddling pseudoscience, does that magically make the defense of science "religion"?

    "[Atheists] are, in some cases, emotionally attached to the idea that there's no God…."

    I'm emotionally attached to my motorcyle – well, to the experience of driving it. So now that's a "religion" too?!? Again, another idiot remark from Mitchell.

    "[Atheists] dislike being gainsaid as much as the Pope or the Ayatollah does."

    Wow, he goes from idiot to worse-than-idiot. Dislike something doesn't make you religious. Disliking being disagreed with doesn't make you religious. And then there the simple fact that Mitchell's brush is so crazily broad that he's not even talking about atheism per se, but is talking about the personalities of merely some individuals. Are people who are atheists perfect? Of course not. So what? What does that have to do with demonstrating that atheism is irrational in believing in unsubstantiated (and often unsubstantiable) fabrications?

    I wish these 'agnostics' who don't believe in any god (and so are atheists) and who actually consider religious belief to be tripe just as much as any other atheist but think that spouting off silly irrational remarks makes them seem more intellectually sophisticated would active a few brain cells before they open their mouths.

  42. My def.
    Atheist-does not possess the belief that there is a God/gods but can be convinced
    Agnostic-says neither could be known
    Deist-believes in a God or believes one probably exists
    Theist is obvious.

  43. OK, you're fucking annoying me now. David Mitchell didn't say that "atheism asserts" anything. He didn't deal with the philosophy that arises from atheism. He referred only to the PEOPLE that CLAIM to be atheists – who do indeed regularly claim to be the epitome of rational. So he didn't create a strawman – you did, at 4:02.

    Downvoted again.

  44. Quick, I see a loophole than needs to be covered: what if a witty theist answers "then what does it take for a evil person to do a good thing, if not religion?"
    Finishing with a witty sentence is not winning a debate. Dropping the mike is being out of arguments 😉

  45. Maybe David has had a discussion with an Atheist who sent out a wrong message to him and failed to make clear what an Athiest stands for….as you say in your video the dictionary def is what it is and ergo irrifutable…….erto Davids misunderstanding was through poor enlightenment of the definition?

  46. Answering “I don’t know” to a question of belief is absolutely a valid answer. “I don’t know if I believe or not” is a valid statement of belief and self awareness.

  47. You, and many other Atheists make it seem like there is nothing between an Agnostic Theist and an Agnostic Atheist.
    If someone has heard a lot of points from both sides, finds many of them valid, and hasn't come to a conclusion about what to believe, can't this person just be an Agnostic and nothing else?
    Why does one have to decide? Why is there such a clear line for someone who is, by definition, not sure?
    Or, alternatively, how would you classify Edward from this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2JoR2LzHw0

  48. The way I understood David Mitchell is, when, at 8:25, he mentioned that the communist states of the 20th century are atheist not because he asserts that Atheism made them do it.
    In fact, he spent the entire section saying the opposite, namely that, in his opinion which you accurately responded to, neither religion nor the lack of religion is the cause of any of it.
    Instead, he mentioned the atheism to prove that religion is not the cause of these things. Therefore, while the rest of your video is correct, the FALLACY OF DIVISION was not committed by him and is instead a misunderstanding (or strawman) on your part.

  49. Lets not pretend that science hasnt been (and isnt currently being used )to justify some pretty terrible shit. It might have been bad science but thats a hindsight.
    Not saying religion is ok. Just saying, there certainly is a potential for any group to justify the ends. Its really important to know your shit and be careful with what you are reading, and more importantly, inferring from data.
    Great vid

  50. Your last argument was a strawman, ironically. David never said that atheism itself caused millions of deaths (atheism isnt s moral philosophy). His point was that violence and immorality have the same positive probability of being committed by those without religious beliefs as those with religious beliefs.

    Your examples of "afootball" and "afairy" are false equivalencies, and people frequently use this fallacy to argue against God's existence.

    The problem is that footballers or fairies in your garden aren't defined as being something that is maximally powerful and is the absolute arbiter of morality. The object matters because it has to do with the existence of an objective standard of morality or a subjective morality in its place. Atheists, who are essentially ethical nihilists (the rejection of absolute morality in place of social, evolutionary and emotive pressures) CAN justify any act, as morality is entirely subjective. Utilitarianism is quite popular among those with secular beliefs.
    Likewise religious people can justify any act that they believe is objectively good or evil according to the words of their God.

    Both belief systems can faciliate good or evil, which was his entire point.

  51. I think David Mitchell just doesn't understand that atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive from one another. I'm an atheist, but I'm also agnostic. Atheist, meaning that I don't subscribe to any of the religious ideologies because they haven't fulfilled their burden of proof. And agnostic, being the epistemological view of knowledge, and how we validate it. Atheism and agnosticism are not at odds with one another. In fact, if someone is non-religious then they are indeed an atheist. They just may not admit to it. I find this to be intellectually dishonest.

  52. I'm actually slightly surprised that Mitchell could be so mistaken about all those points. He almost sounds like a theist.

  53. You must be extremely ignorant to deny the fact that religion is the cause of millions of deaths and wars. Religion is a divisive agent and serves as an initiative for wars. If you doubt the part religion plays in deaths and wars, you merely need to read the doctrines of Abraham's religions to find out. I understand that men have an innate desire to kill and plunder, but men wrote the doctrines of religions and hide their dark desires to destroy behind religions which serves to reinforce their desire under the guise of a God. A few con men with blood lust is enough to employ millions of fools to act on their behalf. Religions unite and shine a clearer initiative for men to kill.

  54. The common denominator of virtually all religious and politically extreme belief systems is dogmatism. I guess on your chart that would place them all at one extreme of the gnostic/agnostic scale, a belief that they have access to an unquestionable greater Truth, whatever that truth happens to be. So it's on that axis and not the theist/athiest axis that the damage is done. Skeptical thinkers on the other hand embrace the value of doubt, regardless of their beliefs and so must be far less prone to committing atrocities. A person has to be pretty certain of their righteousness to start slaughtering others.

  55. There clearly needs to be a word to describe people who believe there is no god or afterlife though, as there are people with this belief which is completely distinct from people who's answer simply is "I don't know". What if I say I am bang in the middle of this chart between atheist and theist, according to this system there is no word to describe that.

  56. I think you missed David's point. (he said "atheistic belief systems are just as susceptible to murderous extremism as religious" – he added the word atheist because that's what they identified as. fundamental to the ideology was a godless paradigm… fairies or whatever had nothing to do with the issue. this is because at the heart of the ideologies in question, was morality – right and wrong – and looking to justify certain actions.
    You said that "doesn't mean that the actions were inherent or a consequence of atheism" (one could make the same claim about some religions, eg. the Crusades and see that the actions were in stark contrast to the teachings of Jesus.
    applying it to atheism, "beliefs inform actions, actions have consequences, and that the consequences of (those) beliefs often are deeply and unnecessarily devastating".
    I think you make the mistake you accuse David of making- but with regards to religion. Its like saying "there are bad leaders… hence all leaders should be opposed, lets do away with all forms of leadership" (baby and the bathwater)
    SO in short, he doesn't commit the fallacy because he groups everyone together. "these regimes caused millions of deaths, and these regimes necessitated atheism" – its to do with (and I believe you intentionally avoided the point) morality, and justification for certain actions. The "necessitated European and western Asian heritage" comparison fails because that was built upon/ justified by a prior belief. The one was used to justify the other… i.o.w. We want a society that "necessitates (insert heritage here)", we will need to perform certain ("unpopular/despicable") actions; so which belief system best informs (allows for) these actions: atheism (conveniently suits my agenda).
    So David is claiming that neither religion nor atheism is the cause, people are. People are the common denominator, and we use whatever means to further our agenda.

  57. I'm with Mitchell. The definition of atheism has a problem when to comes to defining "God", which is at the very least, somewhat nebulous. Do I believe there's a Guy in the Sky as described by the world's mainstream religions? No. Is there some higher force out there in the Universe which our monkey brains can't understand? I don't know. Nobody does, or will.

  58. The only reason communists were atheists was cuz Zarist Russia was hyper religious. Their atheism was born out of egoic hatred of what came before, ie irrationality. Their atheism was not based on science, logic, reason etc.

  59. Almost sounds like David was referencing Nazis and Hitler as atheists..,.. I may be wrong but Hitler and Nazis were CREATIONIST!! Religious creationists!!

  60. David is going by the original definition of agnostic as defined by Thomas Huxley and since he, Huxley, made up the word and not just the definition you might think he'd be the ultimate authority on the matter, but you have to take into account that he came up with the term at a time when belief in god was the default assumption and not believing in god was literally beyond most peoples comprehension. It wasn't until the first wave of modern atheism (spearheaded by the four horsemen) that we all found how lacking that definition was and we kind of collectively came up with the new definition that Rationality Rules is giving us here (well either it was collectively or whoever came up with it first failed to take credit).

  61. This isn't a 'misunderstanding' of aetheism, it's just a statement of his position. Ok, so he may have got the literal translations of the words wrong, but his position is quite clear and it's one I can wholeheartedly agree with.

  62. i'll have to put my comments into a file and just cut and paste them, cos, i was a doubter from the start, what made me atheist was that my prayer to stop my parents constantly fighting went unnoticed, and as i got older i realised christians tended to be hypocrites, liars and the bible was full of calls to burn people in hell while professing to love me. the only way to be a good christian was to be atheist. since then, and hundreds fo debates and videos and webpages later, no one has convinced me that that there is even the remotest possibility of a god, and if there is a god we should be exercising civil disobedience toward this despot. but the point is, i am my own atheist, i have my own beliefs, my own version of god and i want no part of any gang, especially an army or a cult that tells me what to think. i reckon most atheists are individuals, anyone who lumps me in with a gang is looking for a thick ear.

  63. david mitchell is incredibly funny, and has exactly the sense of humour that i like, but, he can't keep his mouth shut on his shows, he behaves like he OD'd on arrogance and the smug look on his face needs wiping off. other than that, i think he's okay. bit of a know it all, but okay.

  64. I never liked this definition. I have heard so many times, that atheism is a non-position and it shouldnt even be a word… I think you said it yourself Stephen… So WHY do you keep planting your flag in support of the word Atheist as being a good descriptor? It should not exist. Its a bad, BAD descriptor. Just like a-fairyist or a-unicornist… its bullshit terminology. Why defend it? If someone asks me if I am christian, I can answer, that I dont believe in God… Thats it. I dont need a bullshit descriptor, that "shouldnt even be a word"… Right??

  65. I agree Stephen didnt address the communism argument properly, but it is still a flawed argument, because you cant get religion out of the picture like this…. I would claim: 1. Humans are violent in nature.
    2. Religion is a codified doctrine and a product of human nature
    3. Humans use their codified doctrines as proxies for informing their action, without questioning them
    4. Therefore Religion is directly responsible for violence, even though the underlying reason is human violent nature.

    So yes, people can find a different excuse (like an nonreligious ideology) to commit horrible acts, but religion is one of these excuses (a prominent one), while atheism is not. This conclusion should still leave you in opposition of religion, even though you oppose all other excuses for violence, such as totalitarian ideologies. You can oppose all such doctrines at the same time… (and I did not even mention the special caveat of religion having the supernatural promises, which can push people beyond what a non-religious ideology can do)

  66. Neither the atheist or agnostic accept in the affirmative that there IS a god. Both would accept evidence if it could be verified. 
    There is no consequential difference except the agnostic thinks he sounds more reasonable.

  67. Kant showed that god is outside logic to proof. But the same is true for a „cause without a cause“ of the universe aka a complete accident – this is something that we never experienced in the real world and hence can only speculate about just like god. Every position towards god that is not agnostic is hence emotion-based and not logic based.

  68. Hey. I've started a new cult. Wanna join? It's called: 'New non-belief-in-something-no-one-can-even-think-of-ism.'
    It's like 'new athiesm', but without all the references to any religions or any g-ds that may or may not exist, seeing as science can't prove they don't exist. See Pascals Wager as to why this cult has less risk attached and is therefore more rational.

  69. I have sarcastically in one hand a scientific theory of abiogenesis, and sarcastically in the other hand I have evidence that the universe is the result of an unguided random causation and I say…yes…David Mitchell is irrational to proclaim that he believes in the possibility of gods existing and therefore refusing be called an atheist is irrational.

  70. I’m so glad I’ve found this guy. I’ve gone through Hitchens’ stuff and really wanted to be able to listen to brilliant stuff like this.

  71. I'm often entertained, or frustrated at the perceptions of or beliefs about what religious people really believe or think, as if they can peer into their brains. I'm a former religious, now atheist, and what Mitchell says about religious people simply using religion as an excuse to force what they actually desire from their own will, is simply hogwash. I mean, what about those of us who've surrendered those beliefs as well as those insistence's about the behaviors of others? If I had that desire to tell a woman what to do with her unborn child aside from religion, what made me give it up along with religion? He's really too wrapped up in his own head to understand very much beyond its boundaries.

  72. I'm curious about the Agnostic Theist quadrant. Who would fall into the quadrant.

    I mean, most Theists I know would assert having knowledge of God's existences.

  73. this debate turned boring for me the day i asked people how one can gain knowledge about god and how there could be atheism if there was any. turns out, there is none and therefore the only relevant question is, what one is forced to believe… who'd figure? agnostics are only scared of gods wrath which is, if they dont actually believe in god, quite mental.

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