Understanding the Atheist or Agnostic Around Us
Why Knowing The Difference Between The Two Beliefs Can Help You Understand Someone Better
Closing our eyes and trying to not understand the world around us makes us a generation of Christians, who will not be able to reach anyone. Jesus did not look away or spend time only with Christians. He made sure that he saw the world for what it was and went out to help the lost. As Christians we want to point our finger and tell others what to do, without understanding the foundation behind what they are doing. When did our arguments come from emotional stand points or one tiny line in the Bible? When do we start to back up our statements with logic, facts and ideals from God, that everyone can wrap their heads around?
An atheist is someone that has no belief in God or gods. A better way of saying this is a lack of belief in a higher power. They do not believe that this world was created by any superior being of any kind. Atheism is not a form of religion. They do not have a common belief system, a sacred scripture that they follow, or a pastor to believe in.
In ancient Greece, the word aethos meant, “godless.” They used the term to label someone as acting “ungodly.” By the 5th century BC, the meaning of the word atheist began to change. It started to imply someone’s belief of denying that there is a god. Cicero transliterated the Greek word into the Latin atheos. 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 English version of aethist came from the French word atheisme, meaning one who denies there is any god. The word aethist began being used as early as 1577. The use of the word was to imply that someone did not believe there was a god. During the 16th century the term atheist was an insult. Nobody would have wanted to be called an atheist. From this word, later came, deist, deism, theist, and theism.
Today there are millions of people worldwide that claim they are atheists. In some countries, to claim that you are an atheist, is to join the majority in their thinking. “There’s absolutely more atheists around today than ever before, both in sheer numbers and as a percentage of humanity,” says Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, and author of Living the Secular Life. According to a Gallup International survey of more than 50,000 people in 57 countries, the number of individuals claiming to be religious fell from 77% to 68% between 2005 and 2011, while those who self-identified as atheist rose by 3% – bringing the world’s estimated proportion of adamant non-believers to 13%. It is of no surprise that these numbers are on the rise in countries with economic, social, and educational stability are prominent. Countries like Canada, UK, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, France and Uruguay. These were countries that only a century ago held religion in the utmost highest esteem. Now they are the places that atheism is rising the fastest. Additionally, non-believers often lean on what could be interpreted as religious proxies – sports teams, yoga, professional institutions, Mother Nature and more – to guide their values in life. As a testament to this, witchcraft is gaining popularity in the US, and paganism seems to be the fastest growing religion in the UK.
Definition from the Merrium-Webster dictionary is : a person who does not have a definite belief about whether God exists or not.
It is someone that believes in a higher power, but not in details behind that power. It is hard for them to commit to what the higher power really is or where it comes from. They do believe that it is impossible to prove that there is a God. Agnostics have an equally hard time with Aethists (non-believers) as they do with Theists (believers). They do not want to side with aethists because they believe that there is a higher power, but they definitely do not side with Theists (believers of one God), because they do not believe that you can prove that there is one God or a set of gods.
The word “agnostic,” is a pretty new word. It started in 1869 by a man named, Thomas Henry Huxley. He first used the word at a party at James Knowles’s house on the Clampham Common. He also said, “It [agnostic] came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the ‘gnostic’ of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant….” (Huxley, Thomas Henry. “Agnosticism” The Nineteenth Century. February, 1889, p. 183. The term agnosticism would come to be used in many different forms from then to present day. The rise of the this term took a sharp incline when Charles Darwin first introduced his theory of Evolution.
It is no coincidence that Thomas Henry Huxley, originator of the term agnosticism, was also known as Darwins Bulldog for his fierce defense of evolution and attacks on Christian intolerance. Intellectuals, philosophers, and people from all walks of life were finding the dominance of Christianity to be stifling, while the discoveries of science and technology were taking on their own air of transcendence and promised salvation.
In a recent Pew poll, it found that more than one third of Americans, ages 18-29 claim that they have “no religious affiliation.” With this rise of unbelief in America, could we be the next country to throw religion down the drain?
Answers to Others Around You
The problem with understanding all of this is realizing the uphill battle you face when talking with someone who is an aethist or agnostic believer. So many Christians want to push their ideals on someone who does not believe the way that they do, only to push that person further away from God. You see, every human being was born with the ability to have free will. We are able to question the world around us and come up with answers that meet our expectations. Sometimes the answers are based on scientific facts, while others are on emotional feelings or an opinion expressed that they like. Overall we are not capable of truly changing someone, especially their views on religious belief or lack there of.
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed,
which a man took and planted in his field. Though it was the smallest of all your seeds,
yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds
of the air come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32).
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small
as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will
move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20-21).
How easy it is to push someone to see your view as the right view. I know as a wife, it is so easy for me to want my husband to see things my way. I will push so hard sometimes, that he will actually start to go the other way, away from my view of what is right, or what I want. So I have learned to be someone who chooses their words wisely. Someone of fewer words and more praying. Our job as a Christian is not to arm wrestle the atheist or agnostic into believing in God. Our job is to be the salt and light in the world. To the point of others wanting what we have. Maybe all we need to do is plant the mustard seed and let God do the rest.
How much do you push others to see things your way? How is it working for you?