What I Think About The Existence of God

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.

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.

So, I am open to deistic speculation about what the eternality of reality is like. But I am wholly convinced that whatever that metaphysical principle is, or principles are, I am nearly certain there is no personality there.

Posts in which I elaborate on these views (and provide actual refutations of the existence of personal gods sometimes) are:

How Belief In “Theistic Evolution” Is Nearly As Much A Denial Of Science As Creationism

No, I’m Not An Atheist By Faith, Here Are My Arguments.

Beyond Agnosticism: More Details About How I Know Various Kinds Of Gods Do Not Exist, Based On Scientific And Philosophical Reasons

The Cosmological Argument, The Composition Fallacy, And More Reasons Not To Believe In God

Do New Atheists Unjustifiably Shirk Their Burden For Evidence?

Disambiguating Faith: How A Lack Of Belief In God May Differ From Various Kinds Of Beliefs That Gods Do Not Exist

Distinguishing The Atheist Agnostic, The Theist Gnostic, The Atheist Gnostic, and The Theist Agnostic

Agnostics Or Apistics?

Atheists Have Affirmative Positions On The Status Of Evidence And On The Standards Of Belief

On The Possible God Of Philosophy And Cosmology Vs. The Personal, Historical God Of Faith

It’s Atheism, Not Adeism

On God As The Source Of Being But Not Of Evil

Atheism Is Not Just A Subset of Skepticism
 

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • drlake

    I can see I should have continued my studies in philosophy, instead of doing a Ph.D. in political science. :) I’ve described myself in the same way, without knowing (or using, obviously) the terms.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Then you didn’t need the PhD in philosophy if you got there without it, you just needed a quick read of my blog ;)

      What is your focus in poli sci?

    • drlake

      International relations. Most of my research is on conflict and security issues. These days I’m working on a paper on the decline of interstate war (and its shift away from conquest towards intervention) and another on how the search for qualitative supremacy through technology is making the US military more fragile.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      both sound like fascinating topics

  • Mark Plus

    I’ve wondered why some atheists have tried to define “atheism” as a mysterious void in the universe, like the “absence of X” people. They might as well define “atheists” as mysterious holes in space-time with boundaries shaped like human bodies.

    That doesn’t reflect how people use the word “atheism” in practice. In its street-level usage, “atheism” means something like “the criticism of, or skepticism towards, theism and related beliefs.” When you go to the chain bookstore and ask the clerk where to find the books about atheism, for example, she doesn’t show you an empty shelf, or the shelves where the bookstore puts the blank journals on display.

    Atheists often have things to say against the belief in a god, in other words, because “atheism” in its popular understanding has positive content, as opposed to the misleading “void atheism” making the rounds these days.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      There’s atheism as a philosophical position, which is pretty straightforward and simple and does not have much to it, and then there is atheism as an identity and/or a movement and/or a pivotal distinguishing influence on one’s views on a number of areas.

      In the above, I’m just talking about it in terms of what my narrow philosophical position is and my justification for it and not getting into all its other implications or the importance or lackthereof in affecting the rest of what I think. In a post tomorrow, I will talk a bit about it as an identity though.


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