Atheism vs. Theism vs. Agnosticism vs. Gnosticism

James Ford is one of my favorite bloggers. He’s a Unitarian Universalist minister AND a Zen Buddhist priest, and his blog-site is called Monkey Mind. He featured a cartoon by Pablo Stanley in his August 3 post:

Stanley’s cartoon pictures an atheistic-agnostic, a theistic agnostic, an atheistic-gnostic, and a theistic gnostic. It’s a bit odd to use the ancient term “gnostic” in this context; he just means someone who is dogmatically certain of being right.

Check out this theological quartet and see how they look to you. I think both agnostics seem weak and wishy-washy. They need a button I’ve seen that reads: “MILITANT AGNOSTIC – I don’t know and you don’t either.”

It’s amusing to see that both of the dogmatic fellows have their eyes closed.

James says he mostly identifies with the two atheists – the one who admits he might be wrong and the one who says theism is stupid. He reports that he floats between these two alternatives “depending on various things, but mostly who is annoying me at the time …” I can relate, James!

Roger Christan Schriner

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Is Atheism a Faith?

I was involved in interfaith work for quite some time, and I’ve quoted atheist Chris Stedman who has been very active in interfaith groups and wrote a book called Faithiest. One question that often comes up is whether atheism is a “faith,” and I’ve recently read some wise words about this issue from the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist blogger James Ford.

Ford mentioned an interfaith meeting at which “a colleague I really like offered how she told a mutual friend who is a prominent local Humanist that he has a “faith” as well. … Her description of faith was something I was familiar with from seminary. Faith is a verb, it speaks to an active engagement with one’s experience. … I offered that she had re-defined that word faith in that very attractive way, but also one that ignored ordinary use. And by ordinary use, … our mutual friend is not a “person of faith.”

Rev. Ford concludes that pinning the “faith” label on someone who doesn’t want it blocks “any hope of genuine understanding …”

James’ post includes a lot of other ideas which are well worth reading. See

So what do you think? Should we redefine faith more broadly? My main comment is that whenever we use incredibly vague terms from religion and philosophy, it’s important to clarify what we mean with a brief elaboration or a helpful example.

Yes, this takes more time. But it saves SO much wasted breath by lessening the chance that people will experience the illusion of communication when actually they’re talking right past each other!

Roger Christan Schriner

To subscribe to Theists & Atheists: Communication & Common Ground, click the “Follow” link on the upper left.