Religion is a topic of conversation capable of generating the most heated discussionsBut we often forget that there is no one way to believe that there is one or more gods.
Like virtually all psychological characteristics associated with belief systems, there is a spectrum of intensity ranging from obsession with the idea of the divine to complete lack of belief, through various states of uncertainty.
It is this idea that we believe in the gods following a continuum that led the biologist Richard Dawkins to create a scale, which is known as a theistic probability spectrum. Let’s see what this concept consists of in his book The Mirage of God and how it helps us to position ourselves vis-à-vis religion and belief in a god (or more than one).
What is the theistic probability spectrum?
The basic idea behind creating the theistic probability spectrum, also known simply as the “Dawkins scale”, is that we can use extreme values in the intensity with which it is possible to believe in one or more gods, using these ends as a reference and creates intervals between them, to place oneself on this scale which goes from the total certainty that the divine exists to the total certainty that it does not exist nothing that can be qualified as such.
Thus, the Dawkins scale goes beyond the dichotomous idea that one can be a believer or not, and establishes several intermediate categories. In the same way, its design makes it less likely to be defined as purely agnosticSince there are more options to choose from and therefore the chances of not leaning towards theism or atheism at all are reduced.
Degrees of belief in God according to the Dawkins scale
Below, we will examine the categories proposed by Richard Dawkins to establish this scale between theism and atheism. Keep in mind that it still applies to any theistic religion, it was designed with specific Christianity and Abrahamic religions in general and its concept of God in mind.
1. Strong theist
This end of the Dawkins scale expresses the absolute certainty that God exists. It’s still a belief, but it’s a belief that there is hardly any doubt or moment of hesitation.
2. De facto theist
In this second degree of theism, less extreme than the previous one, there are certain doubts about the existence of God, but they are insignificant enough that in practice, the person is defined as a theist without any problem, And generally acts as if the deity exists.
3. Agnostic close to theism
It is a form of weak agnosticism in which there are serious doubts that God exists, but he is considered more likely to be a deity than the opposite.
4. Completely impartial agnostic
It represents a category completely equidistant from the extremes represented by theism and atheism. One thinks that there are the same possibilities that God exists because there are none.
5. Agnostic close to atheism
Following the symmetrical structure of the theistic probability spectrum, we can already guess that this category corresponds to those who believe that there are more possibilities that God does not exist than there areBut it is not far from the 50% who represent the completely impartial agnostic.
6. De facto atheist
There are doubts about the non-existence of God, but in general it is experienced as if the divine only existed as a historical and anthropological phenomenon, And not beyond nature.
7. Strong atheist
It is the second category located at one end of the theistic probability spectrum, and represents the complete absence of belief in God, or what is the same, the certainty that God does not exist.
The characteristics of this gradation
It should be noted that the Dawkins scale it is not a tool to measure the intensity with which a person adheres to the rules set by a religion or by ideologies contrary to any religion. In any case, it serves to measure the intensity with which one believes in the existence of one or more gods from a theoretical point of view, without more implications than that.
Therefore, it cannot be used to establish whether a person is more or less fundamentalist, If he wants to impose his religious or anti-religious dogmas on others, and so on.
On the other hand, if we judge the theistic probability spectrum as a tool available for use in psychology, it is easy to find many problems with it.
First, they are the typical limitations of instruments based on introspection and self-assessment. For example, it is not the same to say that you are totally agnostic as it is to behave like a totally agnostic person. Between ideas associated with self-concept and actual behavior in specific contexts, there is a distance to consider.
Second, the Dawkins scale it is based on such abstract concepts that it is very difficult to understand exactly what each person is thinking when he answers what he answers.
For example, some may try to place themselves on this scale with a very traditional and humanized version of the Christian god in mind, others may do so assuming that the Christian god is something much more abstract and removed from the realm. human understanding., and others may do so by assuming that “God” simply means a form of intelligence capable of conceiving nature and indifferent to notions of good and evil.
On an equal footing, depending on what the concept “God” is supposed to represent, it will be easier to answer one thing or another, Since some versions of the deity have more characteristics associated with it and others have less (making it less likely to be wrong if it is declared to exist).
Thus, the theistic probability spectrum serves more as a tool for reflection, and not so much as a resource for obtaining meaningful statistics.
- Dawkins, R. (2013). The mirage of God. Barcelona: Booket.