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May 11 2013

I Get Mail – Questions for An Atheist

I get mail from someone who doesn’t understand atheism as a “Christian”.

1.       Define Atheism…

Atheism is an absence of belief in any deity.

2.       Give an argument for atheism, not agnosticism

The argument for atheism and agnosticism are “linked”.

There is no empirical unbiased or scientific evidence for a god. There is nothing to infer the existence of one or more gods and the mere existence of one creates so many requirements that believing in one is simply an exercise in fantasy. As there is no evidence for one the appropriate way to live one’s life is to say “I don’t believe in a god”.

Now, you may say that we “don’t know” what exists but that’s like saying that we don’t have any evidence for the existence of fairies so we must be fairy agnostic where we genuinely regard the possible existence of a fairy as an equal stance as not believing in them.

I think the argument for agnosticism is intellectually not rigorous.

Your god may exist, but the chance of it existing is vanishingly small. It’s just as vanishingly small as the gods of other faiths. To live our lives according to the rules of a creature that may or may not exist is an exercise in madness. And if you basically state that your gods exist prior to the “Big Bang” then my response is “We Do Not Know”. We don’t know what was there before the Big Bang. No one does. We can imply what was there through mathematics but the options are NOT mathematical model vs. existence of a magical being.

3.       Define God, if any based on their Ideology

A god is an entity or entities that exists outside the boundaries of the universe that is fully capable of breaking all known laws of physics using what can only be defined as “magic”. These may or may not pay attention to humanity but universally seem responsible for various forces of nature including the “ultimate” force which is the force of the creation of the universe.

That’s really it. It’s not a mystery. It’s sensible answers to silly questions.

11 comments

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  1. 1
    SallyStrange

    3. Define God, if any based on their Ideology

    Ha. Why is it my job to define what I don’t believe in? I never define god or gods, I let others offer definitions. A lot of times, when you ask someone to define the god they believe in, you get a lot of vagueness, like, “God is love.” Okay, then, love exists and I believe in love, but why are you calling love “god”? There’s no reason to. Similarly, “God is the ground of all being.” That’s nice, but what does it mean? What is being and how have you established that it has a ground, and why are you calling that “god”? “God is everything that exists.” All right, then why not just call it “everything that exists”? No need to call it god, which adds connotations that “everything that exists” has a singular mind which uses telekinesis to answer prayers and whatnot.

    Gods with a useless, vague, unverifiable definition? I can’t tell them apart from gods that don’t exist.

    Gods with a useful, specific, verifiable definition? Have been shown to not exist.

    And that’s the case against agnosticism. If you’re going to be agnostic about god then the only logically consistent position is to be agnostic about pretty much everything you believe.

  2. 2
    Kevin

    1. Ditto.

    2. Quantum field theory. (Seriously. If you don’t know what I mean by this, head over to Sean Carroll’s blog and learn something). Quantum field theory dismisses — positively without agnosticism — anything “supernatural” that interacts in the Earthly realm. We didn’t spend $9 billion on the Large Hadron Collider for nothing.

    3. Imaginary agents made up by primitive people who didn’t understand the weather, later co-opted as a means to control the population and give the smart guys a nice inside job instead of having to work in the fields.

    Yep. Pretty simple.

  3. 3
    Kevin

    I do hope the Christian who wrote you the letter sees this post, and chimes in. Because I have some questions for him/her:

    1. Why should we believe in the stories of series of 2000-year-old “miracles” that left behind no trace evidence, and not one eyewitness account? (Hint: the “gospels” were not written by eyewitnesses but were written down decades to almost a century after the alleged time of the alleged events. But as a Christian, you should know that).

    2. How do you reconcile Jesus saying “turn the other cheek” in one verse, and “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” in another? Was he lying about peace, or about the sword?

    3. If the final accomplishments of Jesus have not happened (ie, Revelation), then how do you reconcile not following all of the Jewish laws and Commandments, as in Matthew 5:17-20? After all, not following the Jewish laws is specifically prohibited by Jesus in those verses – with dire consequences – until everything is accomplished.

    4. Since masturbation is prohibited, and since Jesus said “cut off thy right arm if it offend thee”, why are all Christian males not left-handed and nicknamed “Stumpy”?

    5. Why do you care about gay marriage when Paul told virgins they should probably not marry? And why care about sex in general, since Paul said that it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman? Shouldn’t all Christians be unmarried virgins? And therefore unconcerned about the marriage rights of non-Christians?

    I think that’s enough for now. Eagerly awaiting the answers.

  4. 4
    irisvanderpluym

    Nice post Avi. I wonder what your correspondent would answer if you turned it around: Define Christianity. Give an argument for (your version of) Christianity being true. Define the Christian god. I am pretty certain much hilarity would ensue.

    Speaking of certainty…

    @Sally Strange:

    If you’re going to be agnostic about god then the only logically consistent position is to be agnostic about pretty much everything you believe.

    But isn’t “agnostic” the intellectually honest position to hold about everything one believes? I agree the chances of gods being real are vanishingly small, but they are not zero. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence against a proposition we can never be 100% certain it is false, just “close enough to 100% certain for all practical purposes.” Or am I just unnecessarily splitting hairs here and “close enough to 100% certain for all practical purposes” about the non-existence of gods is what you mean by “atheist” as opposed to “agnostic”?

  5. 5
    mikmik

    Agnosticism is about knowledge, and atheism is the belief that is based on that knowledge.
    Also, the sum of an infinite series is finite. The series I am talking about is the probability that some God exists, and there is less and less possibility that God exists with more and more knowledge gained.
    The limiting factor being approached is zero(0), and the sum of an infinitely disappearing possibility is equal to zero. Therefore, the mathematically honest position is that God doesn’t exist.
    This is how one can be honest, in an agnostic sense, and not believe in god. Every bit of knowledge gained, archeological, historically, rationally, logically, scholastically, philosophically, scientifically and on, reduces the possibility that there is a god. We are ever closer to that limiting factor, the sum of disappearing probabilities, of zero.
    Even agnostics have to give in to common sense. It makes no sense to keep options open when their probability is virtually zero.
    Being agnostic does not automatically create the possibility that there may be a god, it creates the false belief that there may be a god.

  6. 6
    SallyStrange

    But isn’t “agnostic” the intellectually honest position to hold about everything one believes? I agree the chances of gods being real are vanishingly small, but they are not zero. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence against a proposition we can never be 100% certain it is false, just “close enough to 100% certain for all practical purposes.” Or am I just unnecessarily splitting hairs here and “close enough to 100% certain for all practical purposes” about the non-existence of gods is what you mean by “atheist” as opposed to “agnostic”?

    Yes, you are unnecessarily splitting hairs. That’s exactly what I’m saying. We don’t have 100% certainty about anything. But only on the question of god do people act as if this niggling 0.01% possibility that we are wrong is good reason to withhold judgment.

  7. 7
    Indigo

    I always find it truly astonishing how people can demand to know how I can be so “certain” about the non-existence of *their* god when most of them don’t spare even a passing thought for the number of gods *they* don’t believe in. “Aren’t you afraid of going to hell?” Exactly as afraid as you are of being reincarnated as a mealworm for your failure to follow the Eight-Fold Path.

  8. 8
    fentex

    I think the argument for agnosticism is intellectually not rigorous.

    When the term Agnostic was coined by Thomas Henry Huxley in the 19th Century it was to express a position not-gnostic.

    It wasn’t so much a claim about not being decisive about the existence of god but of it being impossible to know either the mind of god or to make claims about gods will and desires.

    The fairly common modern meaning of not holding an opinion is a sorry shadow of it’s coined intent and little more than an atheist saying “I don’t want to argue”.

  9. 9
    hoary puccoon

    “Close enough to 100% for all practical purposes” can be said a little more elegantly with an application of Bayes Theorem:

    The probability of a god* existing is so low that the effort to look for one x the possibility of failure is greater than than the benefit of finding one x the possibility of success.

    *Somewhat like Avicenna, I define a god as a being who can, at will, override the laws of physics.

  10. 10
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    So you say you don’t believe in dluglatches? How can you, when you can’t even tell me what one is?

  11. 11
    pietro

    Sono stato molto contento di aver trovato questo sito. Voglio dire grazie per il vostro tempo per questa lettura meravigliosa! Io sicuramente mi sto godendo ogni post e ho gia’ salvato il sito tra i segnalibri per non perdermi nulla!

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