10.20.2009

The Dawkins Scale, or What kind of atheist am I?

Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion, gave the following scale for describing how strong your belief or non-belief is:



  1. Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung, 'I do not believe, I know.'
  2. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. De facto theist. 'I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.'
  3. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. Technically agnostic but leaning towards theism. 'I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.'
  4. Exactly 50 per cent. Completely impartial agnostic. 'God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.'
  5. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. Technically agnostic but leaning towards atheism. 'I do not know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be sceptical.'
  6. Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. 'I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.'
  7. Strong atheist. 'I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung "knows" there is one.'
I am a 6. So is Richard Dawkins. Yes, even Darwin's Rottweiler. Why is he a 6? Because like any good scientist he will change his beliefs viewpoints to fit new evidence. If compelling evidence for the existence of god arises, hey, I'm all in. So far I have seen nothing compelling, only appeals to emotions. 


People I have met that claim to be a 7, frankly, piss me off as much as those who are a 1. For the 1s, how can you "know" something that must be taken on faith? Faith is belief in something without proof. If I question your 'knowing' you will fall back on faith, saying you don't need proof. I have only met one 7 in my life. I get the impression that people who are 7s are very angry at the church or other authority figure. I think they arrive at their conclusion based on emotion, not reason. 


I think this is an issue for atheists. We need to get the word out to the public that we aren't saying we know god doesn't exist. I would say I find the existence of god extremely unlikely. You may call me a religion atheist and a god agnostic. I have always drawn a distinction between the idea of god and the man made construct of religion. I'm ok with that. I don't have to fill in unknowns in my life or in the universe with something. Unanswered questions make life interesting. 


What I'm not ok with is personal belief being used to exclude people. I'm not ok with being told that questioning someone's faith is offensive. I'm not ok with politicians pandering to the religious. I'm not ok with important decisions being made based on religious grounds. I'm not ok with religion being used to justify horrors. I'm not ok with being told that I'm going to hell because I'm an atheist.