Is It Just A Mystery Whether God Exists?

Robin: Jaime, what bothers me about your atheism is that it’s so dogmatic. You claim to know there is no God. That’s so arrogant.

Jaime: Yes, I claim to know there are no gods. But I don’t claim it dogmatically or arrogantly. I claim it based upon the fact that the evidence is overwhelmingly against the proposition that there are any gods.

Robin: But you can’t know there is no God. To know that there was no God you’d have to have complete certainty. But to know with certainty that there was no God anywhere in all existence, you would have to know all there was to know about all existence. But to know everything that there is about all existence you would have to be omniscient. But if you were omniscient you would be God! So the only way you can say you know God does not exist is if you were God! So, it is impossible for anyone to truly say they know God does not exist since that person would be God and would exist!!!!1!

Jaime: That is absurd. First of all, theoretically an omniscient being could be possible without it being a god (or your specific god, even). An omniscient being would not have to be the Christian god at all and it would not necessarily have any of the other attributes of “the god of the philosophers” that philosophical theists believe in. But second of all, knowledge does not require absolute certainty. We all justifiably think we know plenty of things that we do not know with absolute certainty. I know my address. I could be wrong about what it is if my memory happens to falter or, more extremely, if somehow I am being deceived by the Matrix. But that does not matter. There is no evidence I’m in the Matrix being deceived. It’s not at all the most probable explanation of my experience or my memory. My best inference is that I know my address. I see it all the time, I get my mail there, my friends who I give it to all arrive at my door. I know this. And countless other facts. So, I can know things even if theoretically they can possibly be wrong.

Robin: But you can’t know there is no God the way you know your address!

Jaime: Well, no, it’s a different kind of knowledge, but it’s still knowledge. It is an inference to an overwhelmingly likely metaphysical explanation.

Robin: But it’s not “overwhelmingly likely”. How could you even judge such a thing?

Jaime: By many means. Would you mind if we just take one and focus on it without deviating to side topics?

Robin: Sure. Give me your best supposed proof there is no God and I’ll refute it in detail.

Jaime: I don’t know if it’s the best proof but it’s one of the most central. As far as I can tell the concepts of the Christian god and the philosophers’ god are both incoherent. Specifically, their overlapping idea of a timeless being that performs actions is fatally contradictory. Such a being cannot be made intelligible and, as unintelligible, cannot be thought to be in any way even a plausible candidate for existence, let alone a likely one.

Robin: Well, I admit that there are some mysteries we have to face when we think about God’s timelessness. But God is not impossible.

Jaime: Appeals to mystery are special pleading. Either the concept is internally rationally coherent and therefore understandable and, so, meets the minimum criterion for being rationally considerable at all, or by failing to meet such standards, it is one we can dismiss as meaningless at best or impossible at worst. If I show you contradictions in the concept and you just say “that’s not a contradiction, it’s a mystery”, then you’re asking me to just accept a contradictory concept for no better reason than you are used to believing in it and have a religious investment in believing in it. Any non-religious concept that made no rational sense, you would readily join me in saying was nonsense that one could know was either false or meaningless. Asking me to ignore the impossibilities connected to your concept of god is asking me to suspend normal standards of rationality. I don’t have to do that for you. I can say, I know that since there is no good reason so to suspend the standards of rationality, that there is good reason to think that any concept those standards rule out (including your god) is false (or meaningless).

Robin: Okay, okay. But I still don’t think you can know that we can know all there is or know that there are not aspects of reality which exceed even our finite minds’ best abilities to grasp.

Jaime: There very well seem to be many aspects of reality which even in principle exceed our grasp but (a) rational scrupulousness requires that we must be silent about such things and not claim to know them as you claim to know your god and (b) whatever realities exceed our knowledge cannot contradict what we do know, but must be compatible with it.

Robin: Okay, first of all—I don’t claim to know there is a god, I admit I have faith. I am honest about that, unlike you making knowledge claims where you really only have faith too.

Jaime: Hold it—you cannot have this both ways. You worship this god, you live your life around your beliefs about this god and what you think it wants you to do, and you try to get me to believe in and obey this god. You claim all the time to know this god intimately, to have a personal relationship with it, and to know its will. To claim that you don’t act like a person who thinks they know is disingenuous. You’re not living in a humble middle ground like the kind of agnostic who refrains from believing, consistent with their belief they cannot know enough either way to commit to belief or disbelief. You constantly talk and act just as someone would only if they truly thought that they knew there was a god. I mean, how can you say you have a deep and intimate personal relationship with someone one minute and then turn around and the next minute say you’re not claiming to know that person even exists! What kind of an intimate personal relationship is that? Finally, I don’t have faith beliefs here. I admit it’s always possible I’m wrong, but I make my judgments based on my assessment of the preponderance of the evidence. Even if I misjudge the strength of the evidence or make mistakes in my argumentation, etc., unlike you I am unwilling to deliberately commit to believing against (or beyond) what I think the evidence indicates. I am open to changing my mind if you can dissuade me with evidence and logical arguments. That alone makes me not a “faith believer”. A faith believer in principle refuses such changes of mind.

Robin: Regardless of whether you think you’re only believing proportioned to evidence, you’re not. The evidence can never be as conclusive as you think. For example, to address your second claim before—the one about how the reality we cannot know must not be able to contradict what we do know… You cannot know that. There could be an apparent contradiction from our limited perspective that is resolved by a third factor that is unfathomable to us but which is nonetheless true. Assuming that an apparent contradiction in our understanding of the nature of God  (from our limited human understanding!) makes God impossible assumes we know everything about what is possible or impossible. That’s arrogant! We have no idea about so much! There could be a way that any paradoxes you might raise are resolved even if no human can resolve them. You cannot claim to know that there are not ways to resolve them! These are mysteries!

Jaime: But there is no genuine mystery! A genuine mystery is when there is some known phenomenon that demonstrably exists but which has no clear or decisive explanation for how it exists. When everyone (or everyone competent to understand in the cases of more complicated phenomena) can grasp that something does exist even without knowing how or why, then there is a real mystery to solve. We know there is this thing or this set of things relating in some way, etc., and yet no one can give an account of how or why. When that happens, we cannot just dismiss our confusion as most likely a mental mistake on our part. We have to admit that there is something we do not know how to reduce to simpler, better known, explanatory terms. But when you propose without evidence the existence of a fantastical being, the concept of which is self-contradictory in numerous respects, and I point out those contradictions, you cannot say it is simply a mystery “how this being exists despite these apparent paradoxes”. That assumes there is some independent and clear reason to accept the existence of the being even though we cannot understand how or why it is real. But without any independent evidence for your god, we do not need to puzzle how or why it can be but rather we can simply infer, based on the contradictions in the concept, that it does not exist at all. It is not a mysterious concept, it’s a badly formed one which is completely unlikely to refer to any true reality. That’s totally different from a true mystery—i.e., a well recognized, rationally coherent, and verified reality which all competent knowers agree exists, but which nonetheless relevant experts have no solid account for.

Robin: But we do know God exists without understanding the mysteries of His nature. We know He exists from His creation and from experiences of Him. I mean, those of us who know Him understand this—even if you will always doubt us. So, since we know God inferentially from the world and experientially from our own lives, God is a known reality, even though there are some mysteries about His nature which can never be unriddled completely by our finite minds.

Jaime: But that begs the question! How the world exists is a genuine mystery. It is one of those things that we cannot give anything like a satisfactory account for. The god of philosophical theism is not known to be its cause. Such an inference cannot be made “just by looking at the world”. That god hypothesis is just one of numerous hypotheses which could be proposed for how there is a world. It is a proposed way to solve the truly mysterious question of how the world exists. But we do not need to accept it as a good proposal when it itself is a concept riddled with contradictions and holes. And your subjective experiences which you interpret as “God” are not proof of any being beyond the natural realm causing them. And, by the way, you’ve gone right back to claiming you know there is a god, this time by cosmology and direct experience. So much for claiming no one knows anything unless they are “god”! I guess, you are god then? No wonder you know god exists in that case!

Robin: Well, I can’t “know know” that God exists, but I know by faith. It’s hard to explain.

Jaime: You “know by faith”? You mean you know because you made an arbitrary, unjustified, willful decision to simply claim you know despite your lack of evidence? A being you posit so dogmatically cannot be one that we think of as so well known that we must persist in believing in it even when contradictions in its basic conceptual structure are raised. When we discover contradictions in a concept you made up as part of your faith then those contradictions are not “mysteries that exceeds human understanding”. The contradictions are perfectly explicable—they are explained by the fact that the concept is a logically badly formed wish projection that is only believed because of an act of will to believe or because of tradition, and not because of any commitment to evidence. When you arbitrarily posit a being, and then it has contradictions in it, those contradictions are not true mysteries. They are evidence of your incoherent imagination. And they expose the falsehood of your beliefs.

Robin: Alright, enough of these claims that the concept of God is contradictory. I mean—FINE. I’ll show you that God is not a contradictory concept—even if there are some mysteries. I mean, of course there will be mysteries when we’re dealing with God. We’re not gods. How could we fully grasp what divinity is? But everything we do know about God can be seen to be self-consistent, even if explaining how God exists or where He comes from will remain impossible for us and, so, a genuine mystery. God is not impossible and is therefore a candidate for explaining the mystery of the world. And He is the best candidate for explaining it, even if there are some mysteries about Him. God can be shown to be a coherent concept that is most likely to be true.

Jaime: Those are big claims. Are you sure you can back them up?

Robin: Try me.

Jaime: Alright, are you still willing to focus in on one issue and not evade its problems in any way—especially by trying to change the topic.

Robin: I’ve got nothing to run from and no need to hide.

Jaime: Okay, let’s talk then about the idea that your god is supposedly timeless and see if we can find any way of thinking about it that makes any coherent sense at all.

Robin: Perfect. Let’s do this. Bring it on.

Continued

Your Thoughts?

__________________________________________

Previous Debates Between Robin and Jaime:

Hell as the Absence of God

God and Goodness

More Debates Featuring Jaime:

A Debate About The Value of Permanent Promiscuity

Moral Perfectionism, Moral Pragmatism, Free Love Ethics, and Adultery

On The Ethics of “Sugar Daddies” and “Sugar Babies”

A Debate About the Wisdom of Trying to Deconvert People

Atheist Fundamentalism?

Bullying or Debating? Religious Privilege or Freedom of Speech?

 

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.

  • ACN

    God does not exist since that person would be God and would exist!!!!1!

    The ’1′ made me burst out laughing. If one of my students asks me why there are coffee marks on his paper, I’m going to have to come up with something good.

  • unbound

    My thoughts? Robin clearly isn’t listening to the arguments put forth by Jaime. This isn’t a debate. This is Jaime putting forth rational statements and arguments while Robin is largely just pontificating.

    By failing to address the “Hold it” paragraph of Jaime, it becomes evident that Robin has no interest in a logical debate. It seems to be coming down to the typical (sadly) approach of Robin believes because Robin wants to believe. Jaime is talking about verifiable facts which Robin has no interest in, which, in my limited understanding of philosophy, means Robin isn’t really interested in the truth.

    I would expect that the follow-up will continue the mystery theme that we can’t really understand everything therefore unicorns…er, god!

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Having had the mystery appeals dispatched with, Robin has resolved to focus on rational consistency in the next phase of the debate.

    • Artor

      I know Robin is a fictional construct, rather like the God he argues for, but even so, does he have the basic ability to “focus on rational consistency?” I think he’s demonstrated that he doesn’t.

    • Decnavda

      I do not believe the mystery appeals have been dispatched with, as you can have rationally consistent beliefs about mysteries. The first person to see a bacterium split in two through a microscope could say that bacteria reproduce “asexually”, even if they had no idea how anything could reproduce without sex. Physicists can describe many things about the nature of dark matter and dark enegry even though “dark matter” and “dark energy” are basically labels for “we don’t know what this is”. Time and space are dimentional atributes of our universe. The cause of the universe would have to have existed “before” (in a causal if not chronological sense) the universe, and therefore “before” time and space, and therefore the cause of the universe – whatever that cause is – must lack the attribute of time and be “timeless”. I do not have to be able to conceive of how something can be timeless to make that determination.

    • Rosemary

      It is a knight’s jump thought to then assert that whatever existed outside of time and space could exist IN time and space, or interact with it. That is the basic assumption of the “intervening god” idea that underlies the conceptions of creating gods that then care for the things they have created.

      There is also the problem of asserting an invisable, bodiless, brainless, timeless, unchangeable, generally non-intervening entity which is indistinguishable from nothing to everyone but those who have been indoctrinated or emotionally converted into a belief system that includes the existence of an entity with these characteristics. (Take a deep breath now. Long sentence.)

      Then there is the problem of explaining why this entity exists, fully formed with no past, no birth and no development. This is the opposite of everything we know about how the universe works, except for extremely small and simple things like potential energy sparks.

      This raises the further problem of why this entity is conceived (by humans) to have a brainless, matter-less Mind that is hugely more complex than anything humans have ever seen or experienced. Worse, the concept of a complex Mind that arises fully formed without evolving from something extremely simple is the exact opposite of how we know the universe works. In our universe, complex minds are only housed in complex physical brains with complex physical bodies that evolved from simpler things that began, eons ago, as star dust from exploding supernovae. A Mind that skipped these natural processes would be truly miraculous – or an extremely unlikely notion dreamed up by people who want to believe in something more advanced than themselves.

  • eric

    I don’t know whether you’re going to get into the double standard in part 2, but a standard Robin strategy when discussing “knowledge” is to demand near absolute certainty before accepting any scientific conclusion that contradicts faith, while not requiring anything near that level of certainty for the faith conclusion itself. A Robin e.g.: before I infer that abiogenesis happened in the past, you will have to show me a videotape of what occurred in the past. With a fossil of the first organism for verification. To infer design, I only need to note that organisms today appear (to me) designed.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    I’ll wait until the next part to talk about the argument about timeless, but I personally see some big problems making that argument stick (I foresee that I’ll be able to question concepts of time and action so that it isn’t obviously incompatible, and you won’t know that the concepts must entail what you need it to entail to make your case stick).

    Hold it—you cannot have this both ways. You worship this god, you live your life around your beliefs about this god and what you think it wants you to do, and you try to get me to believe in and obey this god. You claim all the time to know this god intimately, to have a personal relationship with it, and to know its will. To claim that you don’t act like a person who thinks they know is disingenuous. You’re not living in a humble middle ground like the kind of agnostic who refrains from believing, consistent with their belief they cannot know enough either way to commit to belief or disbelief.

    Hold on here — agnostic theist here. I do indeed act as if I believe that God exists because, well, I do. So I do those things you cite … well, kinda, since I have odd beliefs. I don’t claim an intimate connection, though. But being an agnostic does not mean that one has to be neutral in terms of belief. Believing and knowing are not the same thing. I call it unknowable, but believe, and philosophically think that staying neutral on any important proposition is a really bad idea. And you can have an intimate relationship with something and not be able to justify to the level of knowledge — which you’re right is short of certainty — that it exists or specific details about what it does and why it does it.

    Even if I misjudge the strength of the evidence or make mistakes in my argumentation, etc., unlike you I am unwilling to deliberately commit to believing against (or beyond) what I think the evidence indicates. I am open to changing my mind if you can dissuade me with evidence and logical arguments. That alone makes me not a “faith believer”. A faith believer in principle refuses such changes of mind.

    “Deliberately” is a bit strong here; while I agree that having faith means holding the belief stronger than the evidence would strictly dictate, I’m not sure that that has to be deliberate, even in the case of religious believers. They ask that people “have faith”, but that might well be a simple description of state than of any real admonishment. But even putting that aside, having faith does not mean that there is no way that your mind can be changed. It would be faith if you hold the belief even a smidgen over what would justify it, and so there may be still be thresholds of evidence that could convince you otherwise. So that you consider yourself open to changing your mind does not mean that you don’t have faith, or that people who use faith might never change their mind.

    (Personally, I have to concede that I don’t have faith; I believe I hold it precisely to the level justified. Which means that my actions are limited to attending services irregularly and talking about it on the Interwebs [grin]).

    On knowledge: with faith I argue you can have a feeling of knowledge without actually having it. This is a way for Robin to feel that he/she knows without being able to know know: he/she has the internal feeling but not the justification, which fits nicely into the definition of faith that I hold and you seem to be talking about.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      But I’m not understanding how you can have an intimate connection to a being you don’t know exists. I can understand how it could feel like one, but in your self-awareness that it is possible that it is entirely false, isn’t the awareness that it could be all one-sided feeling with no object undermining of the very nature of intimacy?

      As for whether faith involves deliberately believing unproportioned to evidence—there are believers who admit flat out to me that nothing will change their minds. There is religious pressure to fight doubt as a matter of principle. Lip service about the value of doubt is only addressed to cases where the dialectic of doubt and faith can make faith gain its unique character (i.e., were there no doubt, there’d be no room for faith) but the prospect of genuine doubt that involves genuine leaving is never celebrated within a religion. Apostates are forsakers, betrayers, sinners who couldn’t hack the moral code, intellectually corrupted, etc. The abandonment of the commitment to believe irrespective of evidence is seen in negative moral terms and rarely respected by believers.

      Some believers are more philosophical and less authoritarian in temperament of course and might realize that an honest atheism won through much fear and trembling could be a good spiritual and moral accomplishment. But few are this able to see beyond their insistence everyone maintain the religious identity and keep the faith.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Well, that’s the discrepancy. When someone is in the state of that connection, there’s no doubt and they really feel like they have that connection. It’s only later when it gets analyzed logically that they note that the feeling is vague enough that it could be a simple psychological state, and so, as you say, attach to no object at all. So, what you have is:

      1) If there is that object and they have that connection to it, they have an intimate connection to God.
      2) If that object does not exist or they are not connected, they don’t.
      3) They don’t know which is actually the case.

      So, you can have a connection to something and yet not know — ie have a justified true belief — that you have that connection to that thing. In practical terms, it’s like Hume’s or Russell’s skepticism that they academically understand but immediately give up once they go out into the world again.

      As for faith, that they won’t change their beliefs isn’t a quality of faith as you defined it, but a quality of the person. Robin, then, need not admit that nothing could change his/her mind and considering the discussion, probably won’t actually say that (or else what is he/she doing arguing for it in this way?).

    • Decnavda

      Don’t many hardcore fans of fiction like Star Wars, Star Trek, LOTR, Harry Potter, etc. have intimate relationships with beings they *KNOW* do not exist and they themselves do not actually believe in? Could an agnostic theist choose to have a similar, more intense, relationship with a being they *HOPE* exists?

    • Rosemary

      ‘……you can have an intimate relationship with something and not be able to justify to the level of knowledge — which you’re right is short of certainty — that it exists or specific details about what it does and why it does it.”

      I can hardly believe that you said that!

      How can you have an intimate relationship with something you are not sure exists? Or are you saying that you are tentatively prepared to concede that this “relationship” might be purely imaginary and the result of the many known cognitive deceptions, perceptual distortions and attributional fallacies?

      How could you distinguish this “relationship” from you own normal internal dialogue? Does the Object of this relationship ever challenge your most cherished beliefs and values? Do you know any real physical person who agrees with everyone you believe? Does your Object disagree with the differing opinions and beliefs of billions of others who also believe they are having an “intimate personal relationship” with this particular god? Why would everyone else but you be wrong about the exact characteristics and opinions of the god you believe you know intimately?

      How do you determine what is correct about your perception of this Object and what is not? If you decide this on the basis of what the Voice of this relationship object is telling you in your head, you will disagree with the Voice in the head heard by millions of others. Why is every person’s version of the god they claim to know extremely well a virtual mirror of the values and beliefs held by them and most of their significant others? How is it that each person’s beliefs about the characteristics and values of this god change as they mature? Or didn’t you realize that they had?

      Since your particular intimate personal experience of this god varies over time (as you develop) and differs markedly from the experience of other people, how can you trust the validity and reliability of your perceptions of this relationship at any one time? How do you explain why your Relationship Object fails to correct your misconceptions clearly and immediately? Why does this Object lack the directness and educatative aspects of external relationships with physical people? Does it suffer from Cosmic Alzheimers Syndrome?

    • eric

      Rosemary:How can you have an intimate relationship with something you are not sure exists?

      I’m going to come to VS’s defense on this one. I’m only a layperson when it comes to neurology, but my understanding from some very basic reading of the literature is that false memories and similar ‘false’ experiences can provoke exactly the same neural firing as real ones. Your brain cannot always tell the difference.

      So, as odd as this may sound to us, someone can experience real trauma from an unreal alien abduction. And if that can happen, I see no reason to believe a person can’t have an intimate, real, emotional reaction to an imaginary being.

      This makes sense if you try and argue the opposite. In order for us not to have such responses, our brains would have to be metaphysical truth-o-meters, endowed with the capability to always detect fact from fiction. This is obviously not true. So it should be no surprise that our brains sometimes respond to a good trick identically to how they would respond to metaphysical reality.

  • nemothederv

    Robin: I’ve got nothing to run from and no need to hide.

    I’m sure she believes that which is why she doesn’t realize she’s doing it.

    This line is also classic:

    Robin: Well, I can’t “know know” that God exists, but I know by faith. It’s hard to explain.

    I’ve come to see “know by faith” as code words for I want it to be that way so I’ll claim that it is.

    It’s all about what she wants to be true.
    God loves me. What’s not to like about that?

    It would be interesting to point out to her that even if she did know that god existed she would still have to substantiate a thousand or more pages of dogma that claim to come from him.

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM

      Faith is filling in the evidence gap with wishful thinking. “I really, truly, earnestly want God to exist, therefore I have faith he does exist.”

  • http://www.travisjmorgan.com Travis Morgan

    Right off the bat I was uncomfortable with how Jaime handled Robins concern with epistemology. Robin said, “You claim to ‘know’ there is no God.” But instead of Jaime disputing this, Jaime attempts to defend the position.

    I am an atheist, but I don’t claim to “know” there is no god. I simply don’t “believe” theists claim that there is a god. I agree with Robin that there is a problem if you claim to “know” there is no god. You can’t “know” this. It is not falsifiable. You can only have an absence of belief in the theist claim that there is a god. A-theism isn’t a belief, it is an absence of belief, particularly in the claim that there is a god. Atheists don’t “believe” that.

    Robin falters too, first claiming to only have “faith” in god, but later takes it further and claims to “know” god exist – “But we do ‘know’ God exists without understanding the mysteries of His nature.” Theists that claim to “know” there is a god and that we must all follow certain rules set by god and that humans are the focus of the universe and such are the arrogant ones.

    Anyways, I was disappointed that you did not address Robin’s concern in this manner. Instead, you attempted to defend your so-called “knowledge” that there is no god instead of making it clear that you don’t believe the theist claim that there is a god due to a lack of evidence and that there are better explanations for the formation of the universe, etc…

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Jaime just disagrees with you and thinks atheism can be a matter of knowledge and not just lack of belief.

    • Enkidum

      “Know” is only ever used, in actual discourse, to mean something like “99% sure”. Because we can never know anything at all if your standard is perfect knowledge. Like Jamie says, the Matrix, or the first book of Descartes’ Meditations. So we can know there is no God in precisely the same way we know there is no Loch Ness Monster.

    • Travis Morgan

      I “believe” the Loch Ness Monster doesn’t exist. See, it’s not that hard.

      If I said I “know” i will lose the lottery because I am 99% certain I will lose given the odds of winning are less than 1% yet I happen to win because my ticket happened to be the one winning one out of 100,000,000 tickets then I really never “knew” did I? To be intellectually honest and accurate I should have said, I “believe” I will lose the lottery.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      We know the Loch Ness Monster does not exist. Knowledge claims can sometimes turn out wrong. That does not mean we should avoid them altogether. Otherwise I can’t say I know anything. And that’s absurd. I know my name. I could theoretically get it wrong on some occasion for some strange reason but that does not downgrade my belief to “not knowledge.” My belief about what my name is is so good that it is also knowledge. So are our beliefs about the non-existence of the Loch Ness.

    • Sqrat

      There are a variety of possible definitions of the word “know.” I’ll toss this out for discussion: You can reasonably claim to “know” something if:

      1. You strongly believe something to be the case.

      2. You have good reasons for your belief, and

      3. Your belief happens to be correct.

      Given this definition, you could know that the Loch Ness monster does not exist if

      1. You strongly believe that the Loch Ness monster does not exist.

      2. You have good reasons for believing that the Loch Ness monster does not exist, and

      3. The Loch Ness monster does not exist.

      For “Loch Ness monster,” substitute “God,” and you could know that God does not exist.

    • Travis Morgan

      @Sqrat, How do you know (Plato’s #3. it must be true) – 3.The Loch Ness monster does not exist” is the case? Has it been proven that the Loch Ness monster does not exist? Can it be proven? Can something be proven not to exist? Then how do you know it is the case? #3′s criteria hasn’t been met. Then you can’t “reasonably claim to ‘know’” the Loch Ness monster does not exist.

    • Travis Morgan

      I shouldn’t say #3′s criteria hasn’t been met, perhaps it is met, but the thing is, we don’t know if it is met or not. But if we are evaluating the criteria to claim to know something, we need to meet the criteria before making the statement, if we cannot verify the criteria of #3 has been met than we cannot reasonably claim to know.

    • Sqrat

      What you seem to be arguing, Travis, is that the verb “to know” can only mean “To strongly believe something that has been proven to be the case,” not, as I have suggested, “To strongly believe, with good reason, something that is the case.” But can you prove that your definition of “to know” is the only reasonable one? If not, then by the terms of your own argument you can’t claim to know what “to know” means, you can only have a belief about what “to know” means.

    • Travis Morgan

      “To strongly believe…” Oh, to “strongly” believe as opposed to just “believe,” in that case… LOL. Also, by your definition, #3′s criteria is it must happen to be the case. How do you know the criteria of #3 has been met? If you don’t, then by your definition you can’t reasonably claim to know.

    • Sqrat

      If (1) I strongly believe that God does not exist, (2) I have good reasons for that belief, and (3) God does not actually exist, what meaning of the word “to know” are you proposing that would make it inappropriate for me to say that I “know” that God does not exist?

      Suppose I am wrong and it can be demonstrated that God does exist. In that case, then I would admit that I was wrong to claim that I knew that God did not exist — I only believed it with good reason.

      As for insisting that one should “strongly” believe something in order for one to be able to say that one “knows” it, isn’t that just the way most people use the English language? If I believe something to be the case but remain somewhat uncertain about my belief, I would be misusing the word “know” to apply it in that situation. For example, if I believe there are five pairs of socks in my sock drawer, but I’m not sure, I’m not inclined to say that I “know” how many pairs of socks there are in the drawer — or even to claim after I looked in the drawer and found that, sure enough, there were five pairs in there, that I “knew” it before I looked.

    • Travis Morgan

      “I only believed it with good reason.” Very good. I think that statement is reasonable and is how we can be intellectually honest given that in most cases one does not know if the criteria of #3 is met to claim to know.

      Here is the thing. Lets say all 3 criteria are met. But we don’t know #3 is met. It happens to be met, but we don’t know it, and perhaps may never know it. In this case since all 3 criteria are met, we “know.” We just don’t know we know because we don’t know #3 is met. And if we don’t know we know than it isn’t reasonable to claim we know. So it’s seems correct and honest to say “I believe this with good reason.” But it may happen that you do in fact, know. :)

    • Sqrat

      I don’t think that criterion 3 is as problematic as all that. Rephrase it as a hypothesis: “God does not exist.” This is a reasonably “good” hypothesis in the sense that it is, in principle, easily falsifiable: “OK, if this is a false hypothesis, demonstrate that it is false by showing good evidence for God.” If you cannot show me such evidence, then my confidence in the hypothesis “God does not exist” is strengthened. In effect, your inability to provide evidence for the existence of God adds to my stock of good reasons for believing that God does not exist and gives credence to my claim that I don’t just “believe” that God does not exist, I “know” it.

    • Travis Morgan

      Since nobody can provide evidence of gods existence it may very well strengthen your “belief” that there is no god (or my absence of belief in god). Maybe you went from being 97% sure to 99%. However, absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence. This does not change that our knowing is still dependant on whether or not #3 happens to be the case.

      @Enkidum, please read carefully. I working with the model of knowledge proposed by sqratplato. According to this model if all three conditions are met, then one “knows.” I accepted the model and am working with it. The thing is with this model, knowing whether or not the third condition is met. In many cases we don’t know if that condition is met so we don’t know we know or not. And if that is the case to maintain our intellectual integrity it is reasonable to say we “believe” with a certain level of certainty instead of claiming to know something we don’t know we know.

    • Enkidum

      Well according to your standard of knowledge, we don’t know anything at all. Again, take Descartes’ first meditation (or, if you’d rather update it, take the Matrix). Is there anything at all (with the possible exception of your own existence) that you know, according to your definition?

      Look, I know I’m going to take the bus at around 4:30 today. I know my parents are coming to visit me in March. But do I really know that? Of course not, if your standard of knowledge is total certainty. The bus might break down, my parents might have a sudden emergency and not be able to come, an asteroid might hit the earth, or all my understanding of reality might be a lie because I’m being deceived by an all-powerful demon/computer, and there are no such things as buses or parents at all. So what?

    • Enkidum

      Travis: if your definition of knowledge doesn’t allow any uses of the word knowledge at all (or possibly no uses outside of logic/math), it’s a shitty definition. We use the word all the time, I suppose you can argue that we use it incorrectly, but at that point you sound more like someone railing against split infinitives than anything else.

      So, if you insist, translate “I know there is no God” to “I am as entirely sure that there is no God as I am of any other empirical state of affairs in existence.” But you’re just being pedantic.

    • http://flipc.blogspot.com/ FlipC

      Gee I thought I’d pointed out the semantic arguments @7, but obviously not ;-) . So to condense and in order of reliability:

      I know
      I think
      I believe
      I have faith.

      So for the visit to Enkidum from his perspective roughly speaking:

      I know my parents are visiting because they told me.
      I think my parents are visiting because they told me they might.
      I believe my parents are visiting because they told someone else they were.
      I have faith that my parents are visiting because I hope they will.

      Therefore to me as an atheist I can’t say I know, I think or I believe there’s no god because there’s no evidence to support that. I could say I have faith there’s no god, but that’s weak so all I can say is that I have concluded there is no God, or that I understand that there is no God, because there is no evidence of such a being.

      Now sure when it comes to casual conversation I might say “I know” or “I think”, but using that in terms of discussion is where the theists chip away by asking for evidence of that “knowledge”. So don’t use it.

    • Sqrat

      You can only have an absence of belief in the theist claim that there is a god. A-theism isn’t a belief, it is an absence of belief, particularly in the claim that there is a god. Atheists don’t “believe” that.

      There are two types of atheists: Type 1, those who believe that God does not exist, and Type 2, those who DO NOT believe that God does not exist. I have no reason to doubt that you are a Type 2 atheist. However, it seems to me that you are being rather arrogant in claiming that Type 1 atheists do not even exist. Do you actually know that, or do you just believe it?

  • http://flipc.blogspot.com/ FlipC

    I’m going to go along with Travis on this; there seems to me to be the same semantic disconnect in place as when creationists state that evolution is “only” a theory.

    Again to me (because unlike religions I can’t claim to speak for a group) the word “believe” is used for an understanding based on second-party evidence. For example I could state that I believe that this parcel contains a set of perspex dividers based on its weight, shape, and the return address.

    This leads to the word “know” which I use for an understanding based on first party evidence; this time I know the parcel contains a set of perspex dividers because I’ve opened it and looked at them.

    In both cases I can be wrong. What I believed might be my delivery might be sheets of metal of the same size. What I thought I knew to be perspex may be glass. My level of belief or knowledge increases as the evidence accrues.

    How does this apply to the notion of a god or gods? Well there is no evidence of such so to me use of “believe” or “know” is incorrect and simply plays into the hands of theists who either state that ours is a belief the same as theirs or ask for the evidence of our knowledge.

    In a weak point we could state that “I think there is no god or gods” but perhaps the strongest would be “I conclude there is no god or gods” with the latter being based on the lack of evidence and the application of Occam’s Razor.

  • Kevin

    At the risk of raising the woo quotient…

    Quantum theory basically rules out the possibility that one can known anything with complete certainty. Just ask Heisenberg.

    And yet, its tenets get us to the moon, allow me to communicate instantly with everyone everywhere around the world, and on and on.

    The obverse of the argument would also be true — if you can’t know anything with certainty, then you can’t be certain that your god exists. The likelihood of your god being the correct god would then be a function of the number of gods currently believed in, the number of gods that used to be believed in, and the number of gods that are yet to be believed in. Choosing the “correct” god has a very very low probability of success, especially since there is no real way of choosing a god except blind chance. There’s no mechanism to weed out the false gods from the true god(s). It might be that the ancient Egyptians had it right in the first place — Ra is the true god.

    • Artor

      May the Flying Spaghetti Monster strike you down! Heretic!!!1!

    • josh

      Just to head off any woo:

      Heisenberg says you can know with certainty that the average spread of momentum and position measurements of a particle, multiplied by each other, is greater than a very small number (h-bar over 4 I think). The uncertainty principle is not really a statement that you can never be certain, it’s more like a consequence of asking the wrong question. Basically it’s like asking ‘what is the position and momentum of this wave’, to which the reply is ‘waves don’t have a singular position and momentum’.

      Okay, so QM does say that for certain measurements you can’t predict the outcome even with theoretically perfect knowledge beforehand, although you can know the probabilities. Except, maybe what it is really saying is that you can exactly predict the outcome, but the outcome is that ‘you’ are replaced by ‘two’ yous with different experiences.

  • Yellow Thursday

    You mean you know because you made an arbitrary, unjustified, willful decision to simply claim you know despite your lack of evidence?

    I usually find that this is the point where the theist calls me rude, closed-minded, and/or disrespectful, and refuses to continue the argument.

  • peterh

    There is/is not a god(s). The Universe exhibits nothing relevant to the “problem.”

  • GregFromCos

    I must admit that I’m relatively new to your blog. But I’m really enjoying your entries.

    But why jump into an issue that uses Faith as it’s cornerstone? Why not try to drive the conversation to Faith itself first?

    I know for myself, it was not until I’d thrown Faith out the window, that i was willing to honestly look at they other “proofs for god” and tossing them out one by one.

    Did other deconverts have different experiences? Maybe you’ve addressed this before.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Faith is hardly the cornerstone here. The issue is that Robin is starting from a position of considering faith a viable option. Jaime in the above convinced Robin to try to make a case that at least meets one key non-faith standard, rational coherence. Now in the next debate that option for the concept of the Christian god will be explored.

      But if you want my attacks on faith, I’ve written dozens of them. They were THE major focus of my blog in my early days. This post http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2011/08/04/disambiguating-faith-how-faith-poisons-religion/ summarizes and links to many of those criticisms.

    • GregFromCos

      I’m interested to see how it continues. But to me it seems she is falling back on faith anytime she is logically cornered.

      Will look at that former blog when I get a bigger chunk of time.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Yeah, my idea here was to explore the tension between mystery claims and knowledge claims and it seemed natural that Robin would take recourse to as many faith and mystery options as were available until Jaime made clear that none were going to hold water. Then it felt like Robin’s frustration opens up the opportunity for Robin to want to prove the case can be made rationally and not with mystery dodges.

  • Rick

    I would love to hear Jaimie’s reply to Anselm’s ontological proof of God. My apologies if you have covered this before.

    • Sqrat

      The Ontological Argument is just plain, well, dumb. To illustrate, consider the following Ontological Argument for the non-existence of God:

      God is said to be a perfect being.

      Nothing that is perfect can actually exist in reality.

      Therefore, God does not exist.

      Or, “My God is better than your God because my God does not actually exist.”

      QED

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Sqrat,

      For the first case, you need to justify that second premise, or at least attempt to (which those people who use the ontological argument at least somewhat try to do).

      For the latter, you need to define “better”. I’ve seen Gasking’s attempt, and it fails in a very obvious manner if you understand Kant’s objection to the Ontological Argument.

  • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

    I think there are two things:

    1. First there is the idea of what is “TRUE” as in, known with total certainty. The answer to that is really “nothing can be known with absolute certainty.” But you cannot function if you have to have absolute certainty, so when an atheist says she is sure there is no god, it’s a certainty in the same way I am sure that there is no tooth fairy, that I will plummet if I jump out a window and that I shouldn’t mix bleach and ammonia. There is a functional truth that helps us make choices and interact with the world. Those truths are not tied to any dogma, per se. I used to think santa brought gifts on christmas eve and then I got more information and now I know my parents gave me those presents. I used to think that I could predict my future with palm reading and then I got more information and now I know that no such thing is possible. What I believed to be true, changed with better information. This is the opposite of faith.

    2. One need not go through all these hoops to justify not believing in a particular religion, one need only ask the other person to consider the arguments for a religion whose existence could only be true if this person’s own religion is false. Ask them if they believe in the Hindu god, Ganesh. If not, ask them if it’s possible that Ganesh could be a true god. If they say it’s possible, ask them why they do not believe in Ganesh, since they cannot prove he is not real. Whatever they say is an argument against their own religion and you have proven the first point.

    If they flat out reject the idea that Ganesh could be real, ask them on what grounds they make that assumption. Whatever they say can be equally applied to their own god and once again you have proven the first point, that one functions with an understanding of “truth” based not on absolute certainty but on an understanding of the world around you.

    Both the believer and non-believer function largely the same for the myriad religions that are now and have ever been known to men. The only differences is the non-believer doesn’t make a special exemption for one arbitrary religion.

  • Anri

    Another interesting tack to take in this sort of argument is to ask if the theist is comfortable taking moral instruction from an imaginary entity. After all, every bit of uncertainty they are willing to admit to about the existence of god is the extent to which they are willing to base their lives on a fairy tale.

    I’m assuming this is where you were going with the ‘intimate relationship’ buisness – it’s worth noting that this isn’t just a snuggling on the couch-type relationship – it’s supposedly instructive. It’s easy to point out to a theist that in denying knowledge for faith they are admitting – in so many words – that they may be taking directions from voices in their head.

  • Sqrat

    I mean, how can you say you have a deep and intimate personal relationship with someone one minute and then turn around and the next minute say you’re not claiming to know that person even exists! What kind of an intimate personal relationship is that?

    A stalker is a man with an unjustified belief that he has an intimate relationship with a woman with whom, in fact, he does not have an intimate relationship. A theist is sort of like a stalker who thinks that he has an intimate relationship with an entirely imaginary woman.

  • http://b.rox.com/ Editor B

    Fascinating. This gets at something I’ve been thinking about lately. Jaime claims to “know there are no gods,” but then goes on to discuss only two cases: The Christian God and the philosopher’s god. Does this mean Jaime’s arguments are limited to these cases, and if so what about all the other cases? This is why I’ve resolved to ask for definitions before I engage in any argument about the existence of gods. Such words can mean such different things to different people. Given the vast variety of conceptions of the divine, is it possible to “know” there are no gods?

    • Dalillama

      Yes, it is. None of the other concepts of the divine have any more evidence in their favor, nor any greater explanatory or predictive powers as models of the universe. Therefore, they can be eliminated by Occam’s razor at the same time as the Christian and philosopher’s gods.

    • http://b.rox.com/ Editor B

      But how can we know this if we have not examined them? How can we judge a concept we have not examined?

    • Anri

      Because we can often generalize.

      Evidence against the existence of pink unicorns works almost as well against the existence of purple unicorns, or pink unicorns with purple spots, or orange unicorns with green spots. We don’t have to consider each case as a seperate, unconnected entity.

      This is not a perfect logical operation, of course – just because the vast majority of salamanders lose their gills before sexual maturity does not mean that there isn’t one that keeps them. It does, however, mean that it was reasonable to believe that they all did until one was shown to do otherwise.
      Just as soon as a theist can demonstrate that their concept of god has evidential support, we’ll take a good look at it.

      Until then, we can safely consider god-concepts as nonsensical.

    • http://b.rox.com/ Editor B

      What you’ve said makes a lot of sense to me as I work to clarify my own thinking. So, thank you for that. One more question, perhaps. What if I said, for instance, “Logic is my god.” Does such a statement require separate consideration, or is it subsumed under the generalized dismissal? (If I’ve even phrased that correctly.)

    • http://purl.org/NET/JesseW/SundryStuff/ JesseW

      (reply to Editor B, avoiding excess nesting)

      That would be dismissed by noting that it’s purely a renaming of an existing concept, and so makes no substantive claim. If I call a rose a tree, that means nothing about the concepts of roses or trees.

      If I was in such a dialog, my next question would be: “And what distinguishes your god from logic, that you choose to give it a distinct name? And what, if any, overlap does your god have with common meanings of the term (i.e. omni-max, non-material, creating the world, etc.)?”

      Your thoughts? (I’ve stolen this way of ending posts from our gracious host.)

    • http://b.rox.com/ Editor B

      @JesseW

      If I was in such a dialog, my next question would be: “And what distinguishes your god from logic, that you choose to give it a distinct name? And what, if any, overlap does your god have with common meanings of the term (i.e. omni-max, non-material, creating the world, etc.)?”

      I don’t really have an answer, since this is a hypothetical thought experiment. I just wanted to say I appreciate your reply, which has given me something to think about. Thanks.

    • Travis Morgan

      There is evidence to suggest the idea of gods were created by men, that the universe formed naturally, and there is no evidence in favor of any gods existence, etc… All evidence and lack of evidence leads us to “believe” gods do not exist.

    • http://b.rox.com/ Editor B

      I agree, and yet I don’t agree. Yes, there’s evidence gods were created by men. But that would mean they do have some existence, yes? This statement seems logically problematic to me: “We created them, therefore they do not exist.” Do you see what I’m driving at?

    • Travis Morgan

      That would mean the concept or idea of them exist as much as our concept or idea of flying pink unicorns exist.

    • http://b.rox.com/ Editor B

      It’s interesting you mention the “concept or idea” of them existing, because that’s very much what I’m thinking about. A fictional character might be a better example. Does Scrooge exist, for example? Yes and no. Certainly the idea of Scrooge exists. In our culture, we can refer to him and discuss him and understand one another. He has certain attributes and characteristics, which are familiar even to those who’ve read no Dickens. And that’s funny considering the fact that, in some senses, he doesn’t exist. In some senses, he does exist. If enough people spend enough time and energy talking and writing and philosophizing about flying pink unicorns, then they might be said to take on the some sort of existence. I think we’d agree there are different types of existence. That’s why I think defining terms is important, especially terms like these.

    • Dalillama

      @Editor B says:
      February 16, 2012 at 3:36 pm
      Quite a lot of concepts of God exists,but a concept does not have to have any external referent. God exists to exactly the same extent that Sauron does, or Scrooge. I would not have any more respect for a policy based on the sayings of Ebenezer Scrooge than I would for one based on the sayings of God, and I would consider someone who was afraid of being visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future to be a delusional fool.

    • karmakin

      I do think that defining terms, or the lack there-of is really the primary issue here, as is normally the case when discussing the topic of theism as a whole with more “squishy” believers.

      I think that what’s really going on is that Robin is jumping back and forth between a definition of “God” which is more in line with an actual deity and a definition of “God” which is the concept of a vague “higher or greater power”.

      It’s jumping between an idea of a deity which speaks directly to people and intervenes in our world and the idea of a deity which is so mysterious and nebulous that you can’t really define it as anything more than a vague feeling, thus the agnosticism.

  • http://www.l-a-s-h.blogspot.com Eric

    Good debate, Jaime! You’re responses and propositions are very well articulated and thorough. It’s entertaining to see the level of confidence she maintains through the end despite you extinguishing her illogical “fires”. I very much look forward to your continuation with great anticipation.

    I like that Robin stated that in order for you to know that god (I don’t capitalize something unless it’s important like “I think therefore I am”) doesn’t exist you have to be omniscient. “But if you were omniscient you would be God!” Funny enough when you reciprocate the logic, which you did later, it invalidates her argument as she could not use her own logic in this case to “know” god exists. Good comeback.

    Robin goes on to say, “…since we know God inferentially from the world and experientially from our own lives, God is a known reality….” Experientially. That is one of the greatest mistakes the religious believers make. As Bill Maher says, they have the same mundane coincidental lives that everybody else has. They, however, attribute these things to god. They do this because they were taught to. They don’t know otherwise. I have an upcoming article about this.

    When the religious mentality steps on its own “foot” it says things like Robin said, “It’s hard to explain.” Yes. It’s also hard to understand because it’s illogical! That’s what happens when someone has a lower threshold to accept notions like religion. It’s like saying, two plus three equals something or other approximately around the fuzzy number of…..82. When one raises the threshold one considers logic, science and facts and becomes a logical person.

    Robin states, “Okay, first of all – I don’t claim to know there is a god, I admit I have faith.” and later states, “But we do know God exists without understanding the mysteries of His nature.” Uh oh, Spaghetti O! Contradiction.

    At the end she states, “God is not impossible and is therefore a candidate for explaining the mystery of the world.” Okay. As there is as much evidence for the existence of god as there is the following we now have an even playing field for: Santa Clause, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and He-Man!

    Sorry to pick on Robin so much but, “God can be shown to be a coherent concept that is most likely to be true.” ….eyes roll back in head….

  • http://www.reason-being.com reasonbeing

    In typical theist fashion, Robin does not really listen well. Robin also goes in circles between faith and mystery. I hate the fact that the theists require that we (atheists) must have an answer for every possible question while on the other hand, they do not need any concrete answers–faith and mystery will suffice. Furthermore, I hate the fact that my gripe in the previous sentence is enough of an argument against pretty much any theist’s beliefs without my saying anything real substance, yet they fail to even grasp that simple concept.

    I do look forward to reading your continuation, even if Robin’s comments cause my eyes to bleed. (I better go find a rational explanation for that before Robin tells me its god’s punishment or something).

  • Anri

    For some reason, I can’t “Reply” to this post by Editor B, so:

    What you’ve said makes a lot of sense to me as I work to clarify my own thinking. So, thank you for that. One more question, perhaps. What if I said, for instance, “Logic is my god.” Does such a statement require separate consideration, or is it subsumed under the generalized dismissal? (If I’ve even phrased that correctly.)

    You would capture my interest at least long enough to understand if you were using “god” or “logic” in an extremely nonstandard way.

    If you were to say that you considered logic to be an unthinking, impersonal, indifferent force driving the universe, I feel I could safely dismiss your god-belief as irrelevant.
    If you were to say that what you call logic is a personal, warmly loving being with whom you have a deep individual relationship, I’d feel reasonaly safe in dismissing your argument as silly.
    If, on the other hand, you were able to demonstrate that your belief that your god logic was more than just an intellectual construct and had real-world, testable ramifications (for example, if you wrote a proof that waterfowl were impossible and all the ducks suddenly vanished), then I would think you had a claim worth investigating.

    • http://b.rox.com/ Editor B

      I guess the “reply” feature only goes so far because the nesting gets ridiculous.

      This is something of a thought experiment on my part, so thanks for bearing with me.

      What if I said that the statement, “Logic is my god,” was intended as metaphor? Perhaps it conveys some sense of the nature of reality and my orientation to it.

      I guess what I’m wondering is — do poetic modes have a role in this discourse? I think this is an important question, when we are establishing what we mean by terms such as “gods” and “existence.”

    • Anri

      I have no problem with people taking religion as metaphorical or poetic. Atheists, from what I have experienced, generally don’t argue against religion being considered a fictional literary tradition.

      However, as far as I can tell, that’s not the position most theists ascribe to their religion. Most believe – or at least say they believe – that their religion is not a fiction or a metaphor, but a reality.

      There is a substantial difference between someone who draws life lessons from, let’s say, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and someone who actively worships Celestia, and believes we all can get to Equestria by living our lives according to her dictates. I might (or might not) find the former attitude trite, but it’s hard to view the second as anything other than delusional. Making the source material more distantly removed in time, and more widely accepted by the population in general doesn’t alter the level of delusion, although it does provide a little cover.

      So, in that case, it would be the use of god as non-standard… that is to say, most people (claim to) believe in the gods their religion teaches.

    • http://b.rox.com/ Editor B

      Anri, Thanks for your reply. I was a little distracted by something called Mardi Gras, but I did read it — and I found it helpful. I’ve concluded that popular atheistic discourse is primarily directed to critiquing monotheistic, Abrahamic religions, particularly fundamentalist strains therein, with perhaps some attention to other major world religions. This is a much-needed critique. Religious naturalism, metaphoric conceptions of deity, and so forth, are simply outside of this discourse. Is this problematic? I honestly don’t know. This observation is intended to be descriptive, with no value judgment implied.

  • Mike Wagner

    I can ‘know’ that ‘god’ doesn’t exist, because the definition is useless. If you can’t even formulate a concept that you are capable of sticking with, and must move the bar every time a contradiction is revealed then it’s meaningless.
    The dedicated theist makes things even more complicated by assigning layer upon layer of descriptives and history which only makes their claims more ridiculous. I’ve never seen people argue so passionately about their ignorance on a topic except when it comes to their “unknowable” god that they “know” so well. It boggles the mind.

  • http://qpr.ca/blogs Alan Cooper

    This isn’t fair. You are making Robin give it all away by constantly getting distracted into defending the existence and/or logical consistency of his or her own God. Here it is Jaime who makes the claim so it is he who should be put on the defensive by forcing him to identify what impossible characteristic HE believes ALL gods must have (with disjunction allowed, so its ok to say any god must have A or B or…).

    Then (assuming both of them always recognize and agree with correct logic – so there is no disagreement about the actual impossibility of the damning characteristic) it’s just up to Robin to posit a god which does not have it (or to give up and say “Yes, now that you point it out, I do see that all imaginable gods do have a characteristic which precludes their existence. So I agree that there aren’t any after all.”)


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