What is the difference between an Atheist, and Agnostic and a Humanist?
It is generally held that an Atheist is a person who does not believe in the existence of God, but it should be remembered that there are Atheists who believe in some kind of supreme power, although they cannot accept the concept of God held by most religionists. So the description of an Atheist simply as one who does not believe in God is not an apt one. Only two of the five major religions in the world advocate a belief in something akin to the Christian God. However, the other three religions cannot, in any way, be considered atheistic, far from it. An Agnostic is a person who keeps an open mind on the matter, although some dictionaries describe and Agnostic as a person who, while believing
there must be a God, doubts whether men can ever know of His existence. This, however, runs counter to the principle that nothing which comes within human cognizance can remain forever unknowable. A Humanist is rather more difficult to define because different bodies, in various parts of the world, have from time to time interpreted the word differently. Perhaps a good definition would be that a Humanist is a person who lives according to an ethical code, rather than in accordance with spiritual precepts. Outwardly, in their actions, way of life and relationships with others, persons living according to an ethical code should display the same amount of goodness, integrity and social concern as those who live in accordance with spiritual precepts. Spirituality without ethics is barren. Atheists have problems in two areas, the first of which is faith. The word ‘faith’, as used in most instances in the Bible and the Quran, does not imply the blind faith generally advocated by some religionists today. Such faith is spiritually sterile and leads nowhere. The type of faith referred to in the scriptures just mentioned is akin to the faith required by an inventor or scientist. For instance, Edison persevered with research into the electric light bulb, despite the fact that it was seemingly impossible to produce a suitable filament. He had faith. Marconi was ridiculed when he asserted his belief that words could be conveyed through the air without wires and his family was nearly driven to distraction by his ‘superstitions’. Yet he had faith. If we can differentiate between the two types of faith then a better insight can be gained into the true nature of all religious teachings. It is unfortunate that the original spiritual teachings quickly became dogmatized and errors of interpretation, slight at first, became greatly magnified with the passage of time. Errors, when not swiftly and resolutely dealt with, will always compound themselves. Faith has become prostituted to serve an unprofitable end, instead of being the path towards discovery. Without faith there would be little mental and spiritual progress. Even on the physical level man needs constant faith to go about his everyday tasks; all undertakings, from the smallest to the greatest, require an element of faith. The second stumbling block for atheists is reality. They view the world with objective eyes only and cannot see the reality behind material manifestation. Prior to 1945 the atomic theory was scorned by all rationalistic organisations. Reality, for the rationalist, consists of what he can see and feel or experience through the five objective faculties. Yet we know that these are actually limiting factors, we can experience only a small fraction of what goes on around us. We are oblivious of all except a narrow band of sounds on the sound frequency spectrum. With our physical hearing equipment we can comprehend only just over 2% of the frequencies of the sound spectrum. A very small proportion of reality! Probably the sense which deludes us most is that which also conveys to us
the greatest volume of experiences – the sense of sight. For instance, the eyes do not see a flower for what it really is – a mass of whirling atoms in a molecular structure held together by a specific forcefield and oscillating in resonance with a particular band of the frequency spectrum. We see it simply as a flower and accept it as such. Wear pink spectacles and the environment becomes tinged with pink. A colour blind person sees only a drab world, yet to him or her that is reality. Place a fork in a bowl of water and it will appear bent, through light refraction. All our senses deceive us and obviously the thing we are most deceived about is reality. Religion is the recognition of another form of reality. Philosophy is the contemplation of reality as it manifests. Atheism is the acceptance of the sensory interpretation of reality and the denial of any other. Agnoticism is the belief that man’s capacity for understanding is limited in relation to reality. Metaphysics is the search for an understanding of the reality behind the sensory interpretation.