There is nothing more aggravating than being in the middle of a discussion about the parameters of what constitutes a God, and another atheist in the discussion says to you,"You are being intellectually dishonest by saying deities absolutely do not exist. You cannot know 100% for sure if a god exists or not. You're making our cause look as stupid as that twat you are talking to."
This is a frequent sticking point betwixt the religious and atheists, as well as between atheists and their fellow atheists! It's a frustrating topic, but I would put forward that it doesn't have to be so long as you have a lot of patience, and are tolerant of those who are really being intellectually dishonest. You can say with clarity and in proclaiming tones of confidence,"Gods do not exist! 100%" if you lay the appropriate foundation for understanding in your conversation.
First things first, there is an equivocation problem with the concept of god in the religious and atheist communities. The concept that there are mysterious beings/forces/entities in the Universe we have not yet discovered that might possess amazing powers of healing, immortality, and psychic afterlives, is not far fetched. In fact, it is impossible to say with 100% certainty that they do not exist. But the statement "Gods do not exist! 100%" has absolutely nothing to do with fantastically powered beings that watch you masturbate, and cry for your wasted semen in that kleenex.
Godliness has to do with worship, dogma, reverence, and sovereignty. We are not going to automatically worship the wonderfully different creature that just made that amputee's leg grow back. It's still just an alien of sorts. When this thing crosses the threshold of awe and brings the euphoria of worship, then you have a god. But how does it cross that threshold of importance? Well, it is an individual decision that one embraces after a certain level of criteria has been met emotionally, as well as intellectually.
As you can see, there is a very obvious difference between god and an all powerful being somewhere in the Universe. Yet the religious, and many atheists, tend to equivocate the two as one and the same, and it just isn't so. This equivocation is actually the intellectual dishonesty here, and you have to be clear about where you are coming from because many really cannot wrap their heads around the difference. Quite literally, the two concepts share similarities, but are most certainly not the same. You will need to point this clarification out in your conversation if you hope to get them to quit classifying these two different concepts with the same label.
It is a vexing conversation, causing a lot of sideways looks of disdain, frustrated commentary, and incredulous criticism at one making the declaration that deities are not real, and 100% not real on top of that. That is why, yes, all powerful beings could possibly exist. No, deities do not exist until you accept them as such in your mind. Agnostic atheists really seem to have a tough time with this one, and the best solution is to put it in a different frame of thought. Make sure you differentiate between the status of godliness and a not yet discovered being with power beyond our understanding. Make sure you differentiate between reverence and worship. More importantly, I think you need to get clarification from nay saying atheists if the trait of godliness is inherent or given. If they agree it is given, your discussion will be a lot easier.
"I am not 100% sure there isn't something in the Universe I wouldn't consider worshiping."
This sentence is what the discussion should really be about. It's about personal accountability instead of shifting choices on to other manifestations and ideologies. This sentence doesn't say "Yes, deities might exist." It says one is willing to consider giving that reverence to something in the Universe if the appropriate amount of personal standards are met. Too often, many people, even famous writers and historians, have a tendency to round up their belief system to the next qualifier, misunderstanding that what they perceive as a small leap in reasoning is actually a very large one.
"Maybe it's because we like to make things simple. 9/10ths of a pie is almost a whole pie. 99% is almost perfect on a test. We say "eh, close enough". Some possible being out there who we don't understand, and who may have powers we don't understand - if we ever found one of these beings, a lot of us would also say "eh, close enough", and round "mysterious powerful being" up to "god", and then start worshiping it. This is laziness, and you will find it all over the place in the religious and atheist communities." (via L. Megan)
And why would all these mainstream intellects like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitches, or Sam Harris just "round" things up? Maybe because they haven't taken the time to learn the difference.
Now, if you are unlucky enough to run into an atheist that has the attitude that the trait/status of godliness is inherent? That brings up a whole other conversation for another day regarding absolutes and how they just don't work, and we will touch on that later next week on this blog.
I will part with these final words on the existence of gods.
I'm not atheistic about whether there are mysteriously powerful beings in the Universe. I'm atheistic about godliness.