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View Diary: Why I Call Myself Atheist Instead of Agnostic (150 comments)

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  •  I see myself as a "Strong Agnostic" (11+ / 0-)

    "I don't know whether a God exists--and neither do you."

    •  I always say that we can't know whether (6+ / 0-)

      there is a god, not just that we don't know.

      No War but Class War

      by AoT on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 08:10:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  How come? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AoT, pvasileff

        Just curious. I read this sometimes and I am never sure why we can't know. I.e., might it not be possible for a god to demonstrate its/his/her existence to us, if it wanted us to know that it existed?

        •  the problem is (4+ / 0-)

          what would count? While Star Trek V was a pretty lousy movie, it did have one good scene, as Kirk-Spock-McCoy confronted the alien who claimed to be God. Kirk wanted proof, not just an assertion. But what would count as proof? Doing powerful stuff like moving a planet around would certainly be impressive, but how would we know this wasn't simply incredibly advanced technology? When Jean-Luc Picard snapped at Q "You're not God!" Q slyly replied, "How do you know?" And since Q appeared to be omnipotent, this was a fair question.
               I can't think of anything that a being who claimed to be God could do that wouldn't in theory be do-able by an alien with advanced technology. (Imagine someone from the ancient world watching neurosurgeons cut into a brain while the patient experiences no pain...wouldn't he view this as god-like?).  You or I, if challenged, can always whip out a driver's license or passport, but God....

          "Something has gone very wrong with America, not just its economy, but its ability to function as a democratic nation. And it’s hard to see when or how that wrongness will get fixed." Paul Krugman and Robin Wells

          by Reston history guy on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 12:01:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  True but (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            AoT, pvasileff

            it's a god! Surely it can think of something... :)

            •  True, if there is an all-powerful, all-knowing god (3+ / 0-)

              then surely that god could figure out a way to prove its existence.

              No War but Class War

              by AoT on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 12:06:43 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  it could sign 'God' on the paperwork. nt (3+ / 0-)
              •  well, maybe, but (1+ / 0-)

                remember, it isn't as simple as this all-powerful being simply making everyone believe he/she/it is God. Yes, an all-powerful being has the power to do that, but that isn't proof.  We are not all-knowing, but proof involves a rational and logical argument supported by evidence which we or any rational being could accept as constituting proof. So if we can't think of such an argument---and remember, this argument has to show both that (a) there is a God AND (b) that this particular being is the God proved in (a)----then I am not sure God's superior knowledge will help.
                     Even omnipotence and omniscience have limits---God cannot do the logically impossible like make round squares, nor can he know what cannot be known such as the highest number. God would, I suppose, have certain knowledge of his own identity himself, but we, I think, would pretty much just have to take his word for it.

                "Something has gone very wrong with America, not just its economy, but its ability to function as a democratic nation. And it’s hard to see when or how that wrongness will get fixed." Paul Krugman and Robin Wells

                by Reston history guy on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 12:20:57 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  If the gode is all powerful and all knowing (1+ / 0-)

                  then it will know the proof or be able to create a proof.

                  Even omnipotence and omniscience have limits---God cannot do the logically impossible like make round squares, nor can he know what cannot be known such as the highest number.
                  That's not necessarily true. If logic is internal to our world and god is external then god could most certainly do things that we think are logically impossible.
                  We are not all-knowing, but proof involves a rational and logical argument supported by evidence which we or any rational being could accept as constituting proof. So if we can't think of such an argument---and remember, this argument has to show both that (a) there is a God AND (b) that this particular being is the God proved in (a)----then I am not sure God's superior knowledge will help.
                  So because we haven't figured out a proof then an omnipotent being couldn't figure out a proof? I find that a bit hubristic.

                  No War but Class War

                  by AoT on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 12:26:21 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  logic is not internal to our world (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    pvasileff

                    it is internal to our language, if anything.  "God cannot make a round square" is not, strictly speaking ( I phrased it carelessly earlier), a limit on his power. It is equivalent to "God cannot make a xy#%%cv". That is, logical contradictions are not things that are really tough to make, they are merely gibberish by the rules that underlie human language.
                      It is also not easy to see how God, if truly "external" to the universe, could affect anything in the universe. "God created the solar system" would be the same sort of pseudo-sentence that "4-3 got out of bed" is (4-3 being numbers, not a name for anyone). It looks like a sentence, but it has no meaning. Think of Jabberwocky, "Twas brillig, and the slithy toves".  It is gibberish arranged in such a way as to appear to be language.
                       But my central point was that an argument, however brilliant, would have to persuade us. And an argument that we can grasp would be--I don't think this is hubris, merely a judgement of probability--one that someone would have come up with in 2500 years of trying. But so far no one has come up with a proof that God exists...and some being showing up claiming to be God ...well, maybe he/she/it could indeed prove his identity to us. Maybe. I don;t know of any way to prove that other people besides myself are conscious, or that trees are not conscious. I just bumble along with assumptions. Maybe that would be good enough if a God-candidate showed up.

                    "Something has gone very wrong with America, not just its economy, but its ability to function as a democratic nation. And it’s hard to see when or how that wrongness will get fixed." Paul Krugman and Robin Wells

                    by Reston history guy on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 12:58:06 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Language is internal to our world (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      pvasileff

                      so if logic is internal to language it is internal to our world. Since we haven't left our world, or universe to be more broad.

                      It is also not easy to see how God, if truly "external" to the universe, could affect anything in the universe.
                      Indeed. That's a problem for the existence of god.
                      But my central point was that an argument, however brilliant, would have to persuade us. And an argument that we can grasp would be--I don't think this is hubris, merely a judgement of probability--one that someone would have come up with in 2500 years of trying. But so far no one has come up with a proof that God exists...and some being showing up claiming to be God ...well, maybe he/she/it could indeed prove his identity to us. Maybe. I don;t know of any way to prove that other people besides myself are conscious, or that trees are not conscious. I just bumble along with assumptions. Maybe that would be good enough if a God-candidate showed up.
                      If there is a god then that god should be able to prove it is a god. To persuade everyone that it is god. As far as I'm concerned it isn't much of a god if it can't do that.

                      No War but Class War

                      by AoT on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 01:02:53 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I don't know---couldn't it be analogous to (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Reston history guy, AoT

                        one of those Sims games or whatever?  Assume the sims one day somehow acquire sentience and rational thinking.  We created their world--we can intervene, or not--choose haphazardly whether to respond to their requests to build a colosseum or provide some hot dates for them, and if we showed up in their world, gave them everything they asked for and said 'oh, hi, we made you'---is there any way we coudl prove it to them?  It would look like powerful magic--which they could believe or not.

                        In this vein, too, ever read Flatland?  Similar concepts.

                        Obviously the we-might-be-one-giant-simulation is hardly a novel concept, but it does seem to provide some useful/fun thought experiments that I don't see all that much of in the dkos religion debates.

                        •  Except that we are in fat a part of the (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Namazga III

                          world of the sims, and they are a part of our world. The separation is one of perception.

                          We created their world--we can intervene, or not--choose haphazardly whether to respond to their requests to build a colosseum or provide some hot dates for them, and if we showed up in their world, gave them everything they asked for and said 'oh, hi, we made you'---is there any way we coudl prove it to them?  It would look like powerful magic--which they could believe or not.
                          The irony there, and what makes it especially appropriate, is that if we showed up and said we made their world we'd be lying. We organized a few things in their world but someone who we've probably never met, or a team of someones, actually made the world.
                          Obviously the we-might-be-one-giant-simulation is hardly a novel concept, but it does seem to provide some useful/fun thought experiments that I don't see all that much of in the dkos religion debates.
                          It does and it's an interesting debate.

                          No War but Class War

                          by AoT on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 01:59:19 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                      •  we agree (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        AoT

                        I suppose I am just more pessimistic than you about the possibility that any such god-being could pull off the persuasion, but of course we are unlikely to ever get the chance.  I have a hard time even seeing that omniscience and omnipotence can co-exist logically. Suppose one asked "Can God know that there is something he cannot do?" If yes, then there is something God cannot do and hence he/it/she is not omnipotent. If no, then there is something God cannot know, so he/she/it is not omniscient. It would all be academic anyway...if some hugely powerful being showed up, claimed to be God and vaporized the Fox News organization as proof, I would not be in any hurry to tell that being I didn't accept his divinity.

                        "Something has gone very wrong with America, not just its economy, but its ability to function as a democratic nation. And it’s hard to see when or how that wrongness will get fixed." Paul Krugman and Robin Wells

                        by Reston history guy on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 02:03:41 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Given that I don't believe in god (0+ / 0-)

                          I think that there's no way anything could pull off such a persuasion.

                          Suppose one asked "Can God know that there is something he cannot do?" If yes, then there is something God cannot do and hence he/it/she is not omnipotent. If no, then there is something God cannot know, so he/she/it is not omniscient.
                          The easy answer there is that god can know that there is something it cannot do but does not in fact know it because there is nothing to know. The ability to do things can be infinite while the actual doing is not.
                          It would all be academic anyway...if some hugely powerful being showed up, claimed to be God and vaporized the Fox News organization as proof, I would not be in any hurry to tell that being I didn't accept his divinity.
                          True.

                          No War but Class War

                          by AoT on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 06:26:52 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                      •  Mathematical abstractions (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        AoT

                        Many (quite possibly most) mathematicians and computer scientists are Platonists with regard to mathematical abstractions (including symbolic logic). From that perspective, these abstractions exist independent of language, of time and space, and of God(s), and are discovered or revealed, not invented or created.

                        God (assuming one exists) could create a reality so that the mathematics describing physical reality was different, but that wouldn't invalidate our current mathematics, just make it inapplicable.

                        And (nearly) all mathematicians would agree that God couldn't make a geometrical object that was both a sphere and not a sphere--although according to one philosophy of mathematics He/She/It/They might be able to make a object that was neither a sphere nor "not a sphere".

                        •  Most philosophers of Math are not platonists (0+ / 0-)

                          And there are no small number of mathematicians that agree. Strangely enough, if mathematicians are correct and numbers have a real existence of some sort then they could have been created and they are internal to the world.

                          Logic and numbers have an abstract existence, unless you're really old school, but they still exist inside the world. There's no reason to assume that logic as it exists in our universe would also exist in the same way in a different universe and there can be no proof that it must exist as it does in every possible universe.

                          And (nearly) all mathematicians would agree that God couldn't make a geometrical object that was both a sphere and not a sphere--although according to one philosophy of mathematics He/She/It/They might be able to make a object that was neither a sphere nor "not a sphere".
                          Given the known constraints of our universe and logic, yes, but if god does exist outside the universe then god could alter the universe and rules of logic in such a way as to make it possible.

                          No War but Class War

                          by AoT on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 06:21:33 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

        •  First and foremost because there is no (2+ / 0-)

          definition of god. Without knowing what we're looking for we can't know if it exists. Second because by definition god exists outside the natural world, so god would not be bound by the rules of the natural world so there's no reason to believe we could use any truth determining process to figure out if god exists or not.

          I.e., might it not be possible for a god to demonstrate its/his/her existence to us, if it wanted us to know that it existed?
          Possibly, yes. But how would that be different from some other powerful thing? What would god do to prove it exists that some other thing couldn't trick us into thinking it had done?

          No War but Class War

          by AoT on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 12:05:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I see myself as a strong b eliever (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cjo30080

      And I say you're right on both counts.

    •  Labels, shmabels (5+ / 0-)

      I claim myself to be a 'Christian' because I am deeply involved in the life of my (quite progressive Presbyterian) church and seek (notably unsuccessfully) to live by the teachings of Jesus, which I admire tremendously. Yet it could very well be said that I am an atheist; I don't believe in some big bearded guy with sandals up in the sky, who regularly pokes sticks into the ant hill of humanity just to torment us or because he woke up on the wrong side of Heaven this morning. I don't believe in Heaven, nor Hell (except those which we fashion for ourselves). I don't believe we should stone disobedient children to death. I do believe that the Bible is a wonderful work of history, poetry, metaphor, and guidance, tainted (as are all books) by the weaknesses and prejudices of its authors.

      Over a lifetime I've had many other self-professed 'Christians' assure me that I am not a Christian. To hell with that. I, in turn, sometimes assure such people that they sound more like Paulists than Christians to me.

      It is what's in your heart, and your hands, that makes you who you are, not what's on your tongue.

      And ambiguity is good. Certitude, not so much.

      Gun rights? OK, let's start this discussion with the same words the 2nd Amendment does: "well regulated"

      by DocDawg on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 10:47:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  God does exist (0+ / 0-)

      It's name is Higgs Bosum

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