Chris Kluwe, NFL Punter and American Atheists 2014 Convention Speaker, is Actually ‘Cheerfully Agnostic’

When NFL punter and LGBT activist Chris Kluwe (pronounced CLUE-wee) speaks at American Atheists’ 2014 convention this April, someone should ask him about this excerpt from his book Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies in which he declares his agnosticism while tossing in a few atheist stereotypes:

Atheists confuse me. It takes just as much faith to claim something unknowable isn’t real as it does to proclaim it’s real. The only way you’d know for certain, one way or the other, would be to step outside the universe so you could see how everything ticks along and how it all fits together, and at that point, you’ve effectively become God. It’s a little like opening the box with the crowbar packed inside it.

Me? I’m cheerfully agnostic. I like to look at the universe and learn new things, and the only way I can do that is by keeping open the possibility that I just may be terribly wrong about everything I thought was right. I have faith in the ability of the universe to constantly surprise me, to throw my mental gears for such a loop that the only response is to laugh at the wonderful absurdity of it all. Just the other day, I learned that a person’s colon can explode during a colonoscopy. How is that even a thing?! What will I learn tomorrow?

My religion is doubt. I believe with all my heart that I will never know everything, that the decisions I make will necessarily be flawed by the imperfect assumptions I base them on but that the only way to keep learning is to change those assumptions when faced with new evidence.

He sounds like an atheist who’s been tricked into believing the fallacy that atheists must have absolute knowledge in order to declare that God doesn’t exist. He makes it sound like you have to be arrogant in order to be an atheist.

Well, we don’t need absolute knowledge to dismiss something that absurd. The burden of proof isn’t on us.

I don’t fault Kluwe for saying these things. He’s a professional athlete, and I doubt he spends his time reading up on religion. He can be forgiven for making those mistakes. But as someone who has internalized and spoken so eloquently about LGBT issues, you hope that by this April, he’ll learn not to take his talking points from Christian apologists.

(via NBC Sports)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • 3lemenope

    Everything else aside, that cover is made of win.

    • Gus Snarp

      Yeah, this totally makes me want to read his book, which I didn’t even know existed before. Then I read the about the author for it on Amazon and want to read it even more:

      Chris Kluwe grew up in Southern California among a colony of wild chinchillas and didn’t learn how to communicate outside of barking and howling until he was fourteen years old. He has played football in the NFL, once wrestled a bear for a pot of gold, and lies occasionally. He is also the eternal disappointment of his mother, who just can’t understand why he hasn’t cured cancer yet. Do you know why these bio things are in third person? I have no idea. Please tell me if you figure it out.

      • Tainda

        It’s good. He’s a unique sparklepony that is for sure!

      • starmom

        It’s a great book; I’ve read it twice now. He really is very intelligent and articulate.

        • Len

          The chinchillas were good teachers.

    • enuma

      The whole Chris Kluwe thing has been extra funny for me because for YEARS I have been naming my fantasy football team Princess Sparklepony, just for the fun of seeing people lose to a team called Princess Sparklepony.

      I may just have to make Kluwe my kicker this season.

      Edit: Although I may have to change my team name now that people will think I’m copying off Kluwe. I’m thinking either Senorita Sprinklepuff or Rainbow Glitter Party.

  • Michael Mock

    Yeah, pretty much – I’m not sure the problem here is the stereotype so much as just different people using words in different ways. He’s using it to mean “someone who absolutely denies the existence of God”. He might or might not be surprised to discover that a great many people who consider themselves atheists (myself included) are cheerfully agnostic as well.

    • Art_Vandelay

      I’m not sure the problem here is the stereotype so much as just different people using words in different ways.

      No, the problem is that he’s using it in an absolute wrong way. In other words, he doesn’t even know what it means. Then calling himself “cheerfully agnostic,” as opposed to simply agnostic while comparing it to atheism is simply a way to make atheism look like some sort of dark, empty, hopeless position. As Hemant said, this is what Christian apologists do.

      • Michael Mock

        Meh. Yes and no. The problem is, I’ve heard it used that way far too often to consider it “absolutely wrong”. Overly narrow, yes; absolutely wrong, no. Since he seems to be using the word in that narrow sense as a way of saying, “I don’t believe that God exists, but I don’t speak with absolute certainty either,” and since his book almost certainly wasn’t written with a predominantly atheist audience in mind, I still think we’re basically arguing over semantics.

        That is not, by the way, any sort of disagreement with your points about the Christian apologists’ approach: trying to insist that atheism be held to a higher standard of evidence than anything else is a problem. Defining atheism exclusively as an absolute belief that God does not exist is a problem. However, while Kluwe’s choice of terminology does reflect those problematic views, I don’t think they have anything to do with the point he was trying to make, and as a result I just can’t get all that worked up about his choice of words.

        • Art_Vandelay

          Fair enough. That particular misconception probably rubs me the wrong way like none other. It seems like if you’re going to record this in a book, you should do the minimal research required to discover that agnosticism and atheism aren’t at all mutually exclusive. It’s just kind of sloppy writing, I think.

          • Michael Mock

            As you said, fair enough. I can certainly understand where you’re coming from, too.

  • Dave Muscato

    Well said, Hemant!

  • http://an-expatriate-in-cambridge.blogspot.com The Expatriate

    I agree with him. The fool saith in his heart there is no god. Another fool saith in his heart there is. The truly wise man admits he doesn’t know.

    • Entertaining Doubts

      So can I be truly, truly, truly wise if I also claim I don’t know about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? Cool.

    • UWIR

      How can you agree with him, when you don’t even know what his position is?

    • Edmond

      The well educated (man OR woman) knows that if you don’t hold an active, standing belief in a god, then you’re not a theist, and you’re therefore an atheist, whether you believe that this is information which can be attained or not. It’s possible to be an agnostic atheist who says “I don’t know if there’s a god, and I don’t have any WAY of discovering if there’s a god, but I don’t currently hold a belief in any of the gods I’ve ever heard of.”

    • Goape

      I truly don’t know that my refrigerator doesn’t turn into a 700 pound, purple, scally, undetectable, alcoholic monster that abuses all my other appliances every second that I’m not looking at it or within earshot. (Come to think of it, that would help explain where all of my beer goes—and why all my appliances suck.) Should I be agnostic about this purple-fridge-monster situation that I can’t seem to disprove?

  • Gus Snarp

    Funny, because everything after the word “agnostic” in that excerpt sounds like a beautiful description of my kind of atheism.

    This is a common misconception, whether because people don’t know what it means to be an atheist, or have an over inflated notion of what it means to be agnostic, or they’re afraid to say they’re an atheist. I wish Chris didn’t have it, and maybe he’ll change. But somehow I don’t think he’s afraid, and I’ll still like him, just like I still like Neil deGrasse Tyson.

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      This. I think if someone shows Chris that many atheists aren’t hardcore gnostic atheists, he’ll get it and not use those talking points in the future. He seems like a good guy, just misinformed.

      • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

        Most likely by attending and speaking at an atheist conference, as he is scheduled to do, he will get to meet lots of atheists who do not claim absolute knowledge about the entire universe.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    ……

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      A CaH strip without blood or horrible sexual awkwardness? Has to be a forgery.

  • http://an-expatriate-in-cambridge.blogspot.com The Expatriate

    I don’t see what the issue is, as he’s evidently comfortable enough with atheists to address an atheist conference. Given that he’s probably going to catch flack for that, we should be giving him the thumbs up, not carping about how he chooses to identify.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      It has nothing to do with how he identifies and everything to do with stereotyping atheists using amazingly faulty ideas.

      • Art_Vandelay

        Ray Comfort saying it takes as much faith to be an atheist as a theist…”Intellectually dishonest pig.”

        Chris Kluwe saying it takes as much faith to be an atheist as a theist…”M’eh.”

        Oh, I’m guessing that Ray would be perfectly comfortable addressing atheists at an atheist convention as well.

        • Gus Snarp

          Related: I saw this comment at the NBC Sports article:

          Wow…so he thinks a fish turned into a monkey that turned into a man…or he thinks two random cells exploded and created mankind. Cool story bro. God bless Chris takes more faith to believe that man kind just existed then it does to believe a higher power created us.

          Does that count as irony? I can never tell.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Oh, I’m guessing that Ray would be perfectly comfortable addressing atheists at an atheist convention as well.

          Oh sure, but for totally different reasons. Comfort lacks shame, a conscience, or self-awareness. Those aren’t people he’d be addressing. They’re marks.

      • AxeGrrl

        It has nothing to do with how he identifies and everything to do with stereotyping atheists using amazingly faulty ideas.

        This X 1000.

        I often interact with a self-labelling ‘agnostic’, someone I agree with about 98% of the time…….until he starts spewing false assertions about atheists in order to differentiate himself.

        And every time he tosses out something like the old “I keep an open mind, hence i’m an agnostic”, I call him out for it ~ pointing out that “having an open mind” isn’t something that differentiates agnostics from atheists.

        As C.L. said, it’s not about “how he identifies”, it’s about the stereotyping/erroneous claims he makes about atheists/atheism in the process.

  • Tainda

    Now I do remember that part in the book lol Reading retention. I don’t have it lol

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Atheists confuse me. It takes just as much faith to claim something unknowable isn’t real as it does to proclaim it’s real.

    Okey dokey. Just so long as you’re agnostic about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny as well, for philosophical consistency.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    I hope he keeps his mind focused on football this fall and has a great season with his new team, the Oakland Raiders.

    • Tainda

      I’m a Chiefs fan. Don’t remind me that he went to THAT team :(

  • Sqrat

    Plato defined “knowledge” as “justified true belief.” Under Plato’s definition, you “know” something if:

    1. You believe (or strongly believe) it,

    2. You have a good reason or reasons for believing it, and

    3. It’s actually the case.

    Given that definition (which I think is a good one), it seems to me that it’s perfectly reasonable for an atheist to claim that he or she knows that God does not exist.

    To be an agnostic — that is, a person who says that we cannot know that there is no God — you would have to believe that there are no good reasons for believing that God does not exist.

    • thfc1987

      Your post just takes me back to my undergrad Epistemology class and the Gettier Problem. I will now have nightmares for days.

      • Sqrat

        Maybe it is the case that God is not looking for a job and does not have ten coins in his pocket.

        • thfc1987

          AHHHHHHHHHHH

      • GubbaBumpkin

        You’re just lucky you never had to deal with the Gettiest Problem.

    • 3lemenope

      I think the agnostic would retort that we have no access to the third prong and so the claim of knowledge is defective.

      Honestly, if we are to use the technical JTB account of knowledge I am forced to agree with the agnostics.

      • UWIR

        That retort would be silly. If someone is claiming knowledge, then they are claiming that the three prongs are satisfied. If someone believes that God does not exist, then they believe that it’s actually the case that God does not exist. To say that claiming that God does not exist is “defective” because God might not exist is to mangle the concept of a “claim”.

        • 3lemenope

          Claiming knowledge is not the same as having knowledge; a claim can be defective. So the agnostic is pointing out that the atheist can claim whatever they like, but they still do not have knowledge that no god exists under the JTB account. What does the gnostic atheist point to in order to convince an agnostic that the third prong is in fact satisfied?

          • UWIR

            You said ” the claim of knowledge is defective.” What does it mean for a claim to be defective? Does it merely mean that the assertion claimed is false? I don’t think that “defective” has a well-established restriction to that meaning, and if it does mean that, why not just say “the claim is false”? And what purpose does claiming that the it is false serve? If that’s what you mean by “defective”, then you statement reduces to “It is not reasonable to claim that God does not exist, because God might not exist”. But that is silly; it is perfectly reasonable to assert non-necessary claims.

            • 3lemenope

              By “defective” I mean that it is missing one of the prongs, nothing more. It does not bear on the eventual truth or falsity of the assertion at issue. See my response to Sqrat for why the third prong isn’t simply an exercise in reflexivity.

      • Sqrat

        The agnostic’s retort amounts to asking, “But how do you know you know?” I would retort to the retort by saying that, for non-tautological knowledge, we never have access to the third prong. If you want to get that fussy about it, then it seems to me that you would have to take the position that we can’t even “know” that our mental states (including our perceptions of anything and everything that constitutes “evidence” in the world of external reality) aren’t being supplied to us, or manipulated by, an evil demon, or by an alien from somewhere in the Andromeda galaxy (if there IS an Andromeda galaxy).

        But note that Plato’s definition does not require that you have access to the third prong. It only requires that you be right.

        • 3lemenope

          The agnostic’s retort amounts to asking, “But how do you know you know?” I would retort to the retort by saying that, for non-tautological knowledge, we never have access to the third prong.

          No, nothing that stringent, epistemologically speaking. Justification procedures can only ever track some entailments, so the point of justification is to find at least one unique entailment, something that is only true or only false iff the proposition is true.The third prong generally is taken to mean some sort of independent confirmation, usually by tracking the remaining entailments of the proposition. The real “problem” here is that God has no unique entailments, which is something that we atheists complain about rather a lot. No evidence can reveal the existence of a God because there is nothing testable that is true that would be false with a God, and vice versa.

          • Sqrat

            I take issue with your statement that “no evidence can reveal the existence of a God.” All it would take is for God himself to provide the evidence by revealing his existence in a way that would be obvious to all. That this has not happened, it seems to me, constitutes one of a number of good reasons for believing that God does not exist.

            It is true, of course, that one could argue that God exists but chooses not to reveal his existence. However, that appears to be a patently ad hoc claim advanced to account for the fact that God has not revealed his existence. To take Christianity as an obvious example, its adherents have had 2000 years to devise arguments why there never seems to be a God around when you need one, none of which are particularly convincing. But they have also taken the opposite approach of claiming that God has, indeed, provided evidence of his existence, but that we atheists are simply too dumb or too stubborn to see it for what it is. Our retort to that claim is that they have set the bar for what counts as “evidence” way too low.

            • 3lemenope

              Obviously if there is a God it could reveal itself any number of ways. The situation is, given that such a God hasn’t been forthcoming with solid evidence, we are in a situation where nothing humans can do–no investigation, experiment, or argument–could possibly furnish us with said evidence.

              But they have also taken the opposite approach of claiming that God has, indeed, provided evidence of his existence, but that we atheists are simply too dumb or too stubborn to see it for what it is. Our retort to that claim is that they have set the bar for what counts as “evidence” way too low.

              They generally try to add an entire class of observations, namely, subjective internal experiences, as “evidence”, even though they lack the single most important feature of evidence: intersubjectivity.

      • Ross Thompson

        I think the agnostic would retort that we have no access to the third prong and so the claim of knowledge is defective.

        I was thinking the same thing. For example, if someone tells you “My name’s Dave Smith”, points 1 and 2 would be satisfied, but point three is only satisfied if he’s actually telling the truth. So you don’t know if you his name.

        Linking knowledge to objective facts means that no-one can know anything (outside of logical constructs such as mathematics), because we can never know if what we “know” is actually true; we can say we “know” the Earth rotates around the sun, but unless we know we’re not brains in a jar, we can’t know that…

  • Bad_homonym

    I used to identify as agnostic myself. Primarily because I was apatheistic but didn’t know the word existed. There was a stretch of many years when my answer was i don’t know and don’t particularly care. Just kinda live and let live. I only embraced atheism when I started seeing educational issues arising and started to examine my beliefs more carefully. I think this may be the case for many agnostic claims. Then again I may be full of it!

    Cheers

    • GubbaBumpkin

      The word “agnostic” didn’t exist until the 19th century.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    NBC Sports reports: Chris Kluwe to speak at American Atheists convention

    The comments are a real mixed bag.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      I almost expect to see someone complain that he is parading his lack of belief by not putting Bible verses in his eyeblack.

    • Tainda

      Did you see this one? Crazy! Never seen an evangelical anything say that!

      “I’ve been a conservative evangelical for more than 35 years, and I welcome the contribution of folks like Chris Kluwe. Why? Because it’s refreshingly conversational. Whether you’re a fellow evangelical, an agnostic, an atheist, or a person of another faith, if you’re not open to listening, to being teachable, then you’re not living a meaningful life.”

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    I used to use “agnostic” when I wanted to be non-controversial. It was a way to shut down the conversation on religion when I didn’t feel like having the inevitable discussion that follows from using “atheist”. I also recommended it to my kids for when their schoolmates tried to press them about religion and they didn’t feel like having an argument or getting picked on. I also suggested they use “I’m still a kid and I don’t have to make up my mind about religion yet.”
    Turns out my oldest daughter prefers to be much more in-your-face about her lack of religion that I do. And ironically, it was the religious pressure on my kids that helped prod me into being more of an atheist activist.

  • SansDeus

    Someone will probably correct him about faith. Seeing as he’ll be surrounded by atheists.

  • Doctima

    agree 100% regarding the false appeal of agnosticism, but I have to point out huge, huge numbers of people feel this way, many of whom have thought a lot about religion and faith. If we want to purge the meme that any uncertainty about the basic theistic question makes you an agnostic, we’re going to have to attack it more head on.

  • Robster

    Aw gee, he’s jurst horsin’ around…

  • Keulan

    Someone needs to inform him that agnosticism is not some middle ground between atheism and theism. Atheism and theism are about whether you believe in gods or not. Agnostic and gnostic are about whether you think we can know if gods exist or not. http://freethinker.co.uk/2009/09/25/8419/

  • Hector

    I wonder if indecisive agnostics will ever admit that the Abrahamic god is as mythological as the Greek pantheon.

  • Agni Ashwin

    Would you define an atheist as someone who believes that the idea of God is absurd?


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