In my “What I Think About” series, I am providing a compendium for my blogging up until now on key issues in atheism, philosophy of religion, and moral philosophy. In each post, I provide a short summary of my key positions and then offer links to the posts where I argue in greater depth for their truth. So far I have posted about how I think values are an objective part of nature and about my view of faith as the core problem with religion.
This post is about what I think about the existence of gods and how I situate myself with respect to other non-believers:
I am a gnostic atheist, not an agnostic one.
I recognize you can be an atheist even if you only lack a belief in gods but are not willing to metaphysically commit yourself to saying that you know or, even, believe there are no gods. Those people I call agnostic atheists. They are agnostics on the knowledge question (i.e., they think knowledge or justified beliefs of any kind are impossible in questions of gods, or of metaphysics more generally) but they default to atheism because it is improper to them to believe anything that cannot be known or justified.
I though am a gnostic atheist. I think that I can know there are no personal gods. I do not mean I am incontrovertibly certain. I am open to hearing new arguments and considering new evidence. But Yahweh, Jesus, and Allah (the gods most people I know believe in) are as obviously fictional to me as Zeus or Aquaman. Just as I do not merely lack belief in Zeus or Aquaman I do not merely lack belief in Yahweh, Jesus, or Allah.
There is no positive reason to believe in them and there is overwhelmingly good reason to think they are the fictitious products of human minds. Even were a personal god possible, I think the arguments from the existence of evil decisively prove that there is no omnipotent, omnibenevolent, or omniscient god. Again, I am open to new evidence and arguments if necessary, but without it, I feel fully justified in making a certain enough belief claim such that I can say Iknow just as I know many many other things that could be false but there is no reason to think are false.
I am also not against all metaphysical beliefs in principle as some skeptics are. I am not an atheist because of skepticism alone. Biographically, I did become an atheist through skepticism and an anti-metaphysical reorientation of attitude. But even after becoming more open to the value of metaphysics, I remain an atheist on slightly altered grounds.
I am an agnostic adeist.
Metaphysically I rule out personal gods not because I rule out the possibility of some “ground of all being” distinct from the universe in some discernible and important way. Obviously something about reality is eternal and not caused by the kinds of causal interactions that specific beings we experience in reality are. Something just is. Or some things just are. I cannot say I am justified enough in my rejection of deism to say I know there is no metaphysical “god principle”, some one aspect of reality upon which all else reality rests. I lack a committed belief either way on this. This makes me an agnostic adeist. I lack belief in deism.
But, again, since I know there are no personal gods (and theism refers to personal gods), I am still, compatible with this agnostic adeism, a gnostic atheist. Even were deism to be vindicated by science or an airtight metaphysical argument, I would have as little reason to think that the distinct part of reality which existed eternally and accounted directly for all other reality and was worth calling a metaphysical “god principle” would in the greatest likelihood not be any more personal in nature than it would be citric tasting or red and plump like a tomato. It would not likely be composed of the kinds of parts or matter out of which personal beings we know about are. It would be an impersonal metaphysical principle and no more capable of thought or intentions than the law of gravity or the number 3 or the concept of a universal, etc.
Posts in which I elaborate on these views (and provide actual refutations of the existence of personal gods sometimes) are: