Wertbag

Gnostic Atheist

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I thought having a rant about my personal label as a “gnostic atheist” will help me get all of my reasoning in line and let me consider the discussion as I write. 

 

So why gnostic?  To my mind the argument is whether you don’t believe in God because there is no evidence for Him, or whether you know there is no God because the evidence is clear that such a being does not exist.  I fall into the second camp, in that I believe there is so much evidence against a God existing that I cannot hold on to any doubt.

Dan Baker said it very well in this 18 min video:

 

Basically saying that the very concept of a God, especially the Christian God, is so contradictory as to be an impossibility.  I think the one related point which he doesn’t mention, which was a glaring contradiction to my mind, was the lack of communication with any God.  As soon as you claim that God wants us to know Him, then it all falls to pieces.  He is all-powerful, so if He wanted us to know Him we would.  There would be no confusion, He would simply make Himself known.  The fact is all the big religions claim this personal God and yet can’t get Him to show Himself.

 

I’ve heard it described as scales, balancing the evidence for the two views.  On one side you have science, reason and understanding, on the other you have religion.  We all know there is zero evidence on religions side, but it is worse than that, in that every argument that they have ever thought of has been so thoroughly torn to pieces as to be a negative on their side.  The God of the gaps has retreated from the advancing sciences until the gaps He can fill are nothing more than irrelevant edges of our knowledge.

 

Perhaps we should consider a statute of limitations on such claims?  After tens of thousands of years of spiritual beliefs we are still left with absolutely zero evidence of any supernatural beings.  As is often said there are thousands of Gods which have been discarded over the centuries, none of which anyone alive today would show the slightest concern for.  In fact we can say 100% of claimed supernatural abilities, events or creatures have been shown to have natural reasons for them.  Whether that be psychics, special powers, healing touch, good luck charms, speaking to the dead or astral projection, it is always a case of people being convinced that natural events are actually supernatural. What we have clearly shown is that humans have a great capacity for self-deceit and, on mass, are easily lead to ridiculous beliefs by charismatic leaders.  You only have to look at a relatively modern religions like Mormonism or Scientology to see how one con-artist making a claim can grow into a religion followed by millions, or look at the cults able to convince hundreds to commit suicide or destroy their lives based on nothing more than one mans unsupported claims.  

 

Is destroying Christianity enough?  Well, apart from Christians doing this to themselves with the in-fighting, lack of unity and mixed messages all claimed to be divinely inspired, really we have to say that Christianity is the biggest religion that has ever existed.  They have more followers and more wealth than any other.  If there was one religion for which a claim of divine help could be made it is this one.  So what do we see?  Christians have the same life expectancy, suffer the same levels of crime, suffer the same amount of illness and injuries, pay the same insurance premiums and are struck down by terminal illnesses at the same rate as everyone else.  So looking across the world at all the different groups, all the different beliefs and rituals, and yet none of it makes any difference to our physical lives.  There is absolutely no input from magical sources to make their lives better.

 

So can you disprove God?  Yes, if the God in question is given characteristics that can be tested or if it is claimed that God interacts with the physical world.  As soon as a claim is made that God is more than an irrelevance then those claims can be tested.  Does He perform miracles?  Does he talk to people?  Does He take physical form?  Does He write His thoughts down?  Does He answer prayers?  Any such claims can be investigated and disproved.  All such claims ever made have been shown to be false.

 

So what are we left with?  We know religion is created by humans, we know the books are written by people, we know there is no such thing as supernatural events, there is zero evidence for any of the ridiculous claims and we can see new religions created before our eyes.  There is no mystery to how we got to where we are and no special people able to do what the rest of us cannot.  Really the only type of God that is harder to disprove is an irrelevant one.  A God who lit the fuse on the big bang then ran away and hid.  Yet even such a God, for who there are almost no claims made, is still clearly an invention of human minds, a mere God of the gaps being put in the last spot that science hasn’t yet reached.  When the definition of God is no more than a force of nature, something without form and without function, then any one of a dozen natural forces could fit that description.  You would be no longer talking of an intelligent being but purely of an event, one for which natural causes explain better than the need to introduce the supernatural.

 

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I was working on this a while ago, in a discussion about atheism. 

 

The dictionaries generally give a double definition for atheism, listing both agnostic atheist and gnostic atheist views by defining atheists as those who lack belief in gods, or those who believe that gods do not exist. So atheism is generally defined as either agnostic or gnostic atheism. I came in behind that and suggested that (and largely due to all you've listed above) instead of squabbling about whether atheism should be defined only as agnostic and bounce the gnostic definition, as the atheist organizations have wanted to do, we may as well embrace gnostic atheism all the way until we reach it's 'stopping point', and then simply embrace agnostic atheism the rest of the way. 

 

You may be thinking, "what do you mean, 'stopping point' for gnostic atheism?" 

 

It doesn't matter how much knowledge we have about gods being mythical and man made. You technically can't claim to have knowledge out to infinitely beyond observation and / or the ability to know.

 

This is a general limitation of knowledge and knowing itself, which therefore applies to all aspects of knowledge and knowing, including gnostic atheism. We can not claim to know 100% what may or may not be out there, somewhere. This is the stopping point and abrupt limitation for gnostic anything, including gnostic atheism. 

 

So that's why agnostic, anything, always has the ability to go beyond it's gnostic counter parts. You don't claim to know, that which is impossible to claim to know, in other words. You admit that you don't know, you're agnostic about this or that. 

 

We simply can't know 100% that gods do not exist somewhere out there. So we shouldn't claim to know, that which can not be asserted to be known. 

 

So we can be gnostic as far as knowledge can take us, and then agnostic the rest of the way beyond that point. 

 

Such as knowing that mythical gods are man made, across the board, due to scholarship, research, discovery, and common sense. But not knowing if some unknown gods may exist out there somewhere beyond our ability to know that. But at the same time, not believing that gods do exist somewhere out there beyond our ability to known, without some credible evidence to suggest that they do. You can be a gnostic and agnostic atheist all at the same time, in keeping with the way in which dictionaries tend to double define it. Depending on whether we're talking about that which can be known, or that which can not be known. 

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Careful there Josh, or you might wind up not knowing anything at all.  That is my problem with this line of reasoning.  If you can't know gods are imaginary then what can you know?  Can you know your own name?  Can you know what you are holding in your hand?  Sorry but you can't.  That God that might exist could be tricking you. 

 

 

Regarding the 100% standard for knowledge, there is no way to know anything in the real world 100%.  All real world data has outliers.  Gods should be held to the exact same standards as any other kind of knowledge.

 

 

 

 

(Edited for clarity)

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3 hours ago, Wertbag said:

Really the only type of God that is harder to disprove is an irrelevant one.  A God who lit the fuse on the big bang then ran away and hid.  Yet even such a God, for who there are almost no claims made, is still clearly an invention of human minds, a mere God of the gaps being put in the last spot that science hasn’t yet reached.  When the definition of God is no more than a force of nature, something without form and without function, then any one of a dozen natural forces could fit that description.  You would be no longer talking of an intelligent being but purely of an event, one for which natural causes explain better than the need to introduce the supernatural.

 

Excellent points.  It isn't enough that somewhere out in the multiverse there is some strange being who's nature we are not able to understand.  In order for that thing to qualify as a god it must have either created our universe or else it must be interested in us.  Everything we have learned about the origin of our universe points to a natural cause.  We might uncover three new mysteries for every one we solve but every solution turns out to be natural so that trend is likely to continue.  Why would a strange being from deep in the multiverse take an interest in human lives?  that seems incredibly unlikely.  Gods come from the human ego.  We have a hard time imagining that we are not the center of attention.

 

I like to think of gnostic atheism in another way.  If a child were having trouble going to sleep; they are afraid that a monster might be under the bed so they ask you to check.  Of course if you look under the bed you will only see normal things that you would expect to find there.  Would you tell the child there is no monster?  Or perhaps would you tell the child there is no way to know that a hungry monster isn't there waiting to eat them.  All the apologetics that apply to God also apply to magic monsters that can teleport under the bed.  And you can never be 100% sure.  But children stopped getting eaten by monsters back when humans stopped living on the savannah.  Religion is a weapon that manipulates our emotions to take advantage of an entire population.  It's time to stop helping the manipulators.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

We can not claim to know 100% what may or may not be out there, somewhere.

I think it can be broken down to "All man made Gods do not exist.  All Gods are man made, therefore all Gods do not exist".  Probably overly simplified but really gets to the core of the matter.  We can know 100% of Gods are man made, and we can know that 100% of man made Gods do not exist.  The agnostic view is taking these man made concepts and running with them to a level never claimed by the religious.  It creates gaps to fit a God into that the creators of Gods never even thought of.  I see no reason to expand a bad idea to make it unknowable when the very idea is clearly a meme existing solely in our minds.

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7 hours ago, Wertbag said:

I think it can be broken down to "All man made Gods do not exist.  All Gods are man made, therefore all Gods do not exist".  Probably overly simplified but really gets to the core of the matter.  We can know 100% of Gods are man made, and we can know that 100% of man made Gods do not exist.  The agnostic view is taking these man made concepts and running with them to a level never claimed by the religious.  It creates gaps to fit a God into that the creators of Gods never even thought of.  I see no reason to expand a bad idea to make it unknowable when the very idea is clearly a meme existing solely in our minds.

 

For all intensive purposes, gods do not exist. 

 

But you can't get away with that in a philosophical debate. That's what I'm talking about. The same criteria that won't allow an absolute statement about the non-existence of gods applies to monsters, a celestial teapot, or any other thing. It's about being intellectually honest in a debate with theists. That's what agnostic atheism is. 

 

Not claiming to know that gods don't exist (agnostic), but not believing that they do either (atheist). 

 

You'll get stuck with only applying gnostic atheism and not allowing it to extend into agnostic atheism. The theist will do their best to hold you to the untenable position of claiming gods do not exist in an absolute sense. Even though their own position is equally untenable, the position that gods do exist. Neither are proven. That's when you make the move to agnostic atheism which then forces them to either take an agnostic theist position to match you, or fall short by not being willing to go there. If they match you, and go for agnostic theism, then they can be seen as intellectually honest because they don't know that gods exist any more than we know for certain that they don't. These are limitations of knowledge. 

 

But regardless of these limitations, that's no reason to believe that anything we make up, like gods, does exist out there somewhere. 

 

So you can believe that gods do not exist (gnostic atheist), and yet also understand that technically you have to leave the door open so to speak (agnostic atheist). Some obscure, unknown god could exist somewhere, but I personally don't believe that any do. 

 

The only reason for all of this is to properly combat theists with powerful argumentation that doesn't leave them any loop holes to exploit against an atheist.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Joshpantera said:

But you can't get away with that in a philosophical debate. That's what I'm talking about. The same criteria that won't allow an absolute statement about the non-existence of gods applies to monsters, a celestial teapot, or any other thing.  

 

In my opinion the theists have poisoned this issue long before we were born.  Knowledge isn't absolute.  And no other claim about knowledge is held to an absolute standard.  Knowledge is about what the objective evidence demonstrates and what objections are reasonable.  We don't accept unreasonable objections in other fields of study.

 

2 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

It's about being intellectually honest in a debate with theists. That's what agnostic atheism is. 

 

Not claiming to know that gods don't exist (agnostic), but not believing that they do either (atheist). 

 

You'll get stuck with only applying gnostic atheism and not allowing it to extend into agnostic atheism.

 

 

I don't think we need agnostic atheism when we use the standard "reasonable doubt".  There is a mountain of evidence that humans create gods; about as much evidence as the evidence that supports evolution in biology.  Every god in every religion needs humans to speak for it, humans to write for it and always wants things humans would imagine.  An open minded person should approach each god claim with the null hypothesis.  It's false until the believers prove their god is real.  But failure after failure for thousands of years forms a consistent pattern.

 

The objections to atheism are not based on evidence.  Sure we can dream up a hypothetical god and stick him in one of the gaps in our knowledge.  But why should we think that hypothetical god is real?  It has no supporting evidence.  It isn't suggested by anything we have learned in the last hundred years.  The objection is unreasonable.

 

 

 

2 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

The theist will do their best to hold you to the untenable position of claiming gods do not exist in an absolute sense. Even though their own position is equally untenable, the position that gods do exist. Neither are proven. That's when you make the move to agnostic atheism which then forces them to either take an agnostic theist position to match you, or fall short by not being willing to go there. If they match you, and go for agnostic theism, then they can be seen as intellectually honest because they don't know that gods exist any more than we know for certain that they don't. These are limitations of knowledge. 

 

All the theists I have seen demand the criteria "100% beyond all doubt".  I think that is special pleading.  We don't use that criteria for any other kind of knowledge.  For example when geologists first found a rock that was three million years old they published their findings without fear that one day someone might find a rock that was 3.2 million years old.  And scientists had no problem claiming that they knew Earth was three million years old.  As soon as new data became available they adjusted their knowledge.

 

With several thousand false gods in our data set and none turning out to be real we should be able to know there are none until the day a god shows up and introduces herself.  If that were to happen we will adjust our knowledge.

 

2 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

But regardless of these limitations, that's no reason to believe that anything we make up, like gods, does exist out there somewhere. 

 

So you can believe that gods do not exist (gnostic atheist), and yet also understand that technically you have to leave the door open so to speak (agnostic atheist). Some obscure, unknown god could exist somewhere, but I personally don't believe that any do. 

 

The only reason for all of this is to properly combat theists with powerful argumentation that doesn't leave them any loop holes to exploit against an atheist.

 

 

I see it as theists demanding that we never use inductive reasoning because they refuse to accept the conclusion.  We don't need to leave that door open.  Instead the theists need to demonstrate their god is real.  

 

 

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11 hours ago, mymistake said:

An open minded person should approach each god claim with the null hypothesis.  It's false until the believers prove their god is real.  But failure after failure for thousands of years forms a consistent pattern.

 

This is true. And it applies to what I was saying. The onus is on the person making the positive claim. That's why the atheist organizations prefer the soft definition, agnostic atheism, which isn't making positive claims. It shouldn't be up to atheist's to prove that god doesn't exist. But if we claim god doesn't exist, then we're taking on a burden of proof that we don't really need to take on. 

 

11 hours ago, mymistake said:

I see it as theists demanding that we never use inductive reasoning because they refuse to accept the conclusion.  We don't need to leave that door open.  Instead the theists need to demonstrate their god is real.  

 

It's both, if we're sticking to correct philosophical discourse. We have to keep the door of possibilities open, for gods, magical celestial blue marlins, or whatever could exist out there somewhere. And they, the bearer's of the burden of proof would have to prove each of these positive claims. We withhold belief until these burden of proof claims are satisfied - which they won't ever be. We just technically can't close the door of possibilities, even though it's bloody obvious that they're wrong, completely wrong. 

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1 hour ago, Joshpantera said:

 

This is true. And it applies to what I was saying. The onus is on the person making the positive claim. That's why the atheist organizations prefer the soft definition, agnostic atheism, which isn't making positive claims. It shouldn't be up to atheist's to prove that god doesn't exist. But if we claim god doesn't exist, then we're taking on a burden of proof that we don't really need to take on. 

 

 

It's fine if you want to be an agnostic atheist.  Maybe you don't feel comfortable defending the tougher position.  That is okay.  I'm totally cool with taking on that burden of proof.  I think the evidence does the work once I stop the theists from "cheating".

 

 

1 hour ago, Joshpantera said:

It's both, if we're sticking to correct philosophical discourse. We have to keep the door of possibilities open, for gods, magical celestial blue marlins, or whatever could exist out there somewhere.

 

I think this is the core of our disagreement.  You think you must take the middle position to keep the door open.  I think the nature of knowledge automatically keeps the door open.  Again I'm fine with you being an agnostic atheist but knowledge does adjust to new data.  Take astronomy as an example of a field that is growing.  College level astronomy textbooks become outdated just a few years after.  When I took ASTR 101 we had only discovered two kinds of quasars.  Now what is it - five or six?  I can't keep up.  So the way I see it if a god shows up we will turn that into a science as well.  The door is always open, even on things that we know, beyond a reasonable doubt, do not exist.

 

 

1 hour ago, Joshpantera said:

And they, the bearer's of the burden of proof would have to prove each of these positive claims. We withhold belief until these burden of proof claims are satisfied - which they won't ever be. We just technically can't close the door of possibilities, even though it's bloody obvious that they're wrong, completely wrong. 

 

That leads to a world where knowledge is not possible.  Maybe that is your conclusion about knowledge.  I can't accept that.  To me knowledge is real, it has value, it has degrees, it can be overturned and it is limited.  

 

Well, we will probably never see eye to eye on this but it made for an interesting conversation and for that I thank you.

 

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49 minutes ago, mymistake said:

It's fine if you want to be an agnostic atheist.  Maybe you don't feel comfortable defending the tougher position.  That is okay.  I'm totally cool with taking on that burden of proof.  I think the evidence does the work once I stop the theists from "cheating".

I think it also comes down to what you hope to do.  If your opening statement is "the burden of proof is completely on the religious person side, supply the evidence or there is nothing to talk about" then, while that is a completely true statement, all you are doing is shutting down the discussion before it can happen.  If someone is actually open to discussion and asks why don't you believe in God, taking the option of "no evidence" and ending there will not convince them that you have a well considered position.  However if your answer is "I see plenty of evidence that disproves the ideas of Gods put forward such as being man made/no communication/no supernatural/contradictory/vast numbers etc" then you have a list of possibilities that they need to consider and attempt to counter.  They can't just think "well, he's never even thought this through, he can't defend his position".

 

I would argue that in a debate situation you can't take a passive stance.  Saying "we don't know, we can't know, I'm 99% sure but there's always the possibility" is just setting yourself in this incredibly weak position.  Anyone watching will think the religious person is sure of themselves while the atheist appears to be full of doubt.  I agree with your statement that we should take on the burden of proof so we can push back hard and with full confidence.  The evidence is clear and should be presented as such.

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On 4/18/2018 at 12:06 AM, mymistake said:

I think this is the core of our disagreement.  You think you must take the middle position to keep the door open.  I think the nature of knowledge automatically keeps the door open.  Again I'm fine with you being an agnostic atheist but knowledge does adjust to new data.  Take astronomy as an example of a field that is growing.  College level astronomy textbooks become outdated just a few years after.  When I took ASTR 101 we had only discovered two kinds of quasars.  Now what is it - five or six?  I can't keep up.  So the way I see it if a god shows up we will turn that into a science as well.  The door is always open, even on things that we know, beyond a reasonable doubt, do not exist.

 

 

All I'm doing is saying what all of the leading atheist's and atheist organizations have said. Richard Dawkins, for instance, is an agnostic atheist who's just as gnostic about atheism as you are. But he's philosophically disciplined and understands why he has to incorporate agnostic atheism into his position taking. It's the intellectual way to go.

 

And no one is looking at Dawkin's as not being able to hold his own in debate with theists. Or taking a weak position, @Wertbag. On the contrary, he's presenting himself as well educated and well informed. And laying waste to theistic arguments all from a position of gnostic atheism where it applies, and agnostic atheism where it applies. Equally foolish would be to get the impression that I can not hold my own against theists, either, or am weak in some way. Let's test that theory and see how weak or incapable I am. 

 

 

 

This is what a highly well thought out, very experienced, intellectual atheist sounds like. 

 

The problem is that many newbies to atheism are not, and don't get it on these levels of concern. Just curious, I've been atheist since around 1992. 

 

How long have either of you considered yourself fully deconverted atheists? I think that's another factor to consider here about gnostic atheism. 

 

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16 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:

 

All I'm doing is saying what all of the leading atheist's and atheist organizations have said. Richard Dawkins, for instance, is an agnostic atheist who's just as gnostic about atheism as you are. But he's philosophically disciplined and understands why he has to incorporate agnostic atheism into his position taking. It's the intellectual way to go. And no one is looking at Dawkin's as not being able to hold his own in debate with theists. Or taking a weak position, @Wertbag. On the contrary, he's presenting himself as well educated and well informed. And laying waste to theistic arguments all from a position of gnostic atheism where it applies, and agnostic atheism where it applies. 

 

Dawkins is wrong on this point.  He developed a scale where everyone wants to define themselves as 99.99999999 . . . (and so on) sure but that gnostics are defined as 100% sure.  That doesn't make sense.  Nobody is 100% sure of anything at all in the real world.  We can get 100% in idealistic math but nowhere else.  You can't be 100% sure that you know your own name.  Yet you don't let that stop you acting like you know your name.  The philosophers of the past are wrong.

 

I really don't see how an theist could beat me in a debate.  Their only hope is to use fallacies and hope they don't get caught.

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3 hours ago, mymistake said:

Dawkins is wrong on this point.  He developed a scale where everyone wants to define themselves as 99.99999999 . . . (and so on) sure but that gnostics are defined as 100% sure.  That doesn't make sense.  Nobody is 100% sure of anything at all in the real world.  We can get 100% in idealistic math but nowhere else.  You can't be 100% sure that you know your own name.  Yet you don't let that stop you acting like you know your name.  The philosophers of the past are wrong.

 

I really don't see how an theist could beat me in a debate.  Their only hope is to use fallacies and hope they don't get caught.

 

You've missed the point, it's not that you've found something wrong with it. 

 

The point is that theists, will arrogantly take a 100% certainty on the existence of god. Dawkins, however, gives himself a 6 out of 7, on a scale of 1 to 7, concerning disbelief. He's outlining how you can not be a 7 about fairies, or ghosts, or gods. Not from an intellectually honest position. And he's outlining how atheism is not that arrogant, not as arrogant as theists who would profess a 7 out of 7 with respect to god and jesus, etc. 

 

I don't think a theist could necessarily beat you in a debate in the sense of proving god does exist. And no doubt they'd apply logical fallacies. 

 

Quote

Nobody is 100% sure of anything at all in the real world.

 

What they can do is show you how the above means that you can never be 100% sure god doesn't exist, by your own admission going into it. 

 

So the premise of gnostic atheism, knowing or believing no gods exist (#7 strong atheist), is automatically false in the sense that you can not "know" that. There is a problem with the very issue of "knowing," or "gnostic," something which you admittedly can not possibly know. Crossing from #6 to #7 crosses the line of sound logic and reason. And reduces one to the same untenable position as a #1, gnostic theist. Neither are tenable. Gnosticism, therefore, either way, ends in an untenable position taking whether theistic or atheistic. This is why gnostic atheism dead ends itself and can only take you so far before completely destroying your credibility as intellectually honest. 

 

Richard Dawkins’ Belief Scale Scoring Rubric

  1. Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.
  2. De-facto Theist: I cannot know for certain but I strongly believe in God and I live my life on the assumption that he is there.
  3. Weak Theist: I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.
  4. Pure Agnostic: God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.
  5. Weak Atheist: I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.
  6. De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.
  7. Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.

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On 4/18/2018 at 1:08 AM, Wertbag said:

I would argue that in a debate situation you can't take a passive stance.  Saying "we don't know, we can't know, I'm 99% sure but there's always the possibility" is just setting yourself in this incredibly weak position.  Anyone watching will think the religious person is sure of themselves while the atheist appears to be full of doubt.  I agree with your statement that we should take on the burden of proof so we can push back hard and with full confidence. 

 

Again, Dawkins position against theists is not a weak one, it's an intellectually honest one. Which holds more power than an obviously intellectually dishonest one, which is something to consider. The religious person is showing themselves as arrogant, and holding an untenable position which can not be held in reality. That's what people will see. 

 

And also, with what confidence do you propose taking on the burden of proof that gods do not exist? 

 

How do you propose to prove something which is untenable from the outset without making yourself look weak in the process? 

 

 

Again, I don't believe god exists. I don't have to know (gnostic) that god doesn't exist in order to disbelief it. It's complete nonsense to me, so I don't believe it. 

 

I'd love to see you two somehow prove what's impossible to be proven, and gain the sort of conviction you're after. 

 

But it's untenable. 

 

So conviction has to come from something that is tenable. 

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I see a few problems here.

 

The first is this: "God" is not well defined. With respect to any particular theistic "God" that can be named, one may be able to properly be a gnostic atheist. But, since "God" is not well defined, one cannot fully be a gnostic atheist, since there may yet be something (a cause of the universe, a designer, a source of morality, whatever) out there, and this thing may be called "God" by some. This is why ignosticism is an appealing position.

 

Another is that various theistic positions are specifically designed to be tautological. Christianity, for example, may be true. It specifically purports to appear as foolishness to those who are lost. Well then, if it is true, then it makes perfect sense that those of us who are lost would find it absurd, and use reason to conclude that its God does not exist. This reaction is predicted by the religion. So, if it is true, then it must seem like it is false. Ergo, we can't actually conclude it is false with certainty. (Disclaimer: the preceding is not a valid argument that Christianity is true. But it could be.)

 

Another is that we are quite justified, in my view, in questioning whether we can really know anything at all for certain. I'm going to take flak for this, I know. That's fine. But what is knowledge? What is reason? What is logic? How do we know that we can trust these things? These are valid questions. If we are to seriously discuss knowing whether or not God exists, then they are questions that need to be answered.

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3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

You've missed the point, it's not that you've found something wrong with it. 

 

The point is that theists, will arrogantly take a 100% certainty on the existence of god. Dawkins, however, gives himself a 6 out of 7, on a scale of 1 to 7, concerning disbelief. He's outlining how you can not be a 7 about fairies, or ghosts, or gods. Not from an intellectually honest position. And he's outlining how atheism is not that arrogant, not as arrogant as theists who would profess a 7 out of 7 with respect to god and jesus, etc. 

 

I understand his point.  It is wrong.  He defines position 7 as something that does not exist.  He calls position 7 "gnostic atheism" but it isn't.

 

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

What they can do is show you how the above means that you can never be 100% sure god doesn't exist, by your own admission going into it. 

 

Of course I don't know beyond all doubt.  Knowledge doesn't go that far.  Nobody knows anything beyond all doubt.  Is knowledge not possible or is knowledge limited?  If knowledge is not possible then civilization would come to a halt.  Life would be complete chaos.  Clearly the evidence indicates knowledge is limited.  Knowledge is merely beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 So the premise of gnostic atheism, knowing or believing no gods exist (#7 strong atheist), is automatically false in the sense that you can not "know" that.

 

The premise of anything and everything would be false.  We do not live in a nonsensical world.  I know there is no god the same way I can know I am not holding anything in my right hand.  Follow the evidence and don't worry about unreasonable objections.  We can know if the evidence is strong enough and it all points in one direction.  Dawkins is wrong.

 

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

There is a problem with the very issue of "knowing," or "gnostic," something which you admittedly can not possibly know.

 

Sorry, that is not the case.  When you are hurt you go see a doctor because deep down inside you know knowledge is real.  Can you not see that your argument leads to nonsense?  Not only is knowledge possible but it has real value.  It helps us solve problems.  As a non-believer you don't have to go down this road.  You have no religion to protect.

 

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

Crossing from #6 to #7 crosses the line of sound logic and reason. And reduces one to the same untenable position as a #1, gnostic theist.

 

#1 with no evidence supporting and all evidence against I declare that I have special knowledge that allows me to know beyond all doubt that my invisible friend (who is not imaginary) created the universe.

 

Gnostic atheism: with all available evidence indicating that gods are imaginary and no evidence that gods are real, with thousands of years of searching and thousands of gods failing I see a solid pattern that is beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

They don't look the same to me.

 

 

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

This is why gnostic atheism dead ends itself and can only take you so far before completely destroying your credibility as intellectually honest.

 

Come on.  Can you name one field that has to put up with this "beyond all doubt" standard?  You couldn't prove 1 + 1 = 2 beyond all doubt.  So is knowledge not possible or can we know things that are beyond a reasonable doubt?  You have to treat God with the same standard you treat any other kind of knowledge.

 

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.

 

This is a mischaracterization of the strong atheism position.  Dawkins doesn't understand it.   

 

His field is biology.  I bet he wouldn't tolerate this if he was teaching a biology class.  If a student filled out "we can't know because it's never 100%" for the examination answers I bet Dawkins would mark the answer as wrong.  Science does find knowledge even if science can't get beyond all doubt.

 

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46 minutes ago, disillusioned said:

The first is this: "God" is not well defined.

 

God started off very well defined.  When the cult leader gets his (or her) revelation God is immediately understood by the leader.  I believe the gods only became poorly defined when science, technology and the age of reason took away most of religion's tricks.  When the gods didn't have so many good hiding places that is when god became philosophical.  I really think we should stick to the defintion of gods that are provided by the scam artist or religious leaders claiming they have God's message.  But if you want to define gods better than that then I would define them as "imaginary beings that humans use to control other humans".  Why is it that we don't have these kind of debates about whether or not cartoon characters are real people?

 

54 minutes ago, disillusioned said:

 

Another is that various theistic positions are specifically designed to be tautological. Christianity, for example, may be true. It specifically purports to appear as foolishness to those who are lost. Well then, if it is true, then it makes perfect sense that those of us who are lost would find it absurd, and use reason to conclude that its God does not exist. This reaction is predicted by the religion. So, if it is true, then it must seem like it is false. Ergo, we can't actually conclude it is false with certainty. (Disclaimer: the preceding is not a valid argument that Christianity is true. But it could be.)

 

You mean approach religion like a conspiracy theory?  Usually religions are at odds with all we have observed regarding the laws of physics.  Perhaps there are a few that are not but most religions fly in the face of reality.  So I would judge a religion on that criteria first.  (But hey, maybe a wizard is using magic to trick me, we would never know.  😀  )

 

 

57 minutes ago, disillusioned said:

 

Another is that we are quite justified, in my view, in questioning whether we can really know anything at all for certain. I'm going to take flak for this, I know. That's fine. But what is knowledge? What is reason? What is logic? How do we know that we can trust these things? These are valid questions. If we are to seriously discuss knowing whether or not God exists, then they are questions that need to be answered.

 

I think Josh was in that camp as well.  That whole "knowledge is not possible" game can be fun but if tomorrow you get an e-mail from the former prince of Nigeria will you consider helping him out?  You can't know it is a scam if knowledge is not possible.

 

But you do use knowledge to protect yourself.  When somebody tries to scam you then you use knowledge to see through the ruse.  If you think about it in the real world we have to operate on partial knowledge and limited knowledge.  You know that knowledge is possible.  The world would be nonsensical otherwise.

 

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Okay how about this as a thought experiment:

 

You are watching a video.  There are two things on the screen.  The first is a clock that includes a second hand.  Thus you know the video is not on a loop.  The second is a close up view of a hand that is flipping a coin.  You can see the result of each flip.  And while you are observing the coin always lands on heads.

 

How many times must you watch the coin land on heads before you can know that it isn't a normal coin?  The result of heads nine times in a row would be very rare but in large sets it would happen.  On an infinite scale there are bound to be a few strings of many head results in a row.  And you can't watch the video forever so you will never know 100% beyond all doubt.  Can you know when you are only 99.999999999% sure?  No matter how many times it flips we will never be 100% sure.  If you try to watch the video for ten minutes strait your concentration will start to fade.  By then wouldn't you be sure it isn't a normal coin?  Or would you be worried that if you blink it might land on tails and you might miss it?  I think you can know, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the coin is identical on both sides.  Six or seven flips should be all it takes to know.

 

Granted, I realize that the existence of God isn't a 50/50 coin flip.   Of course coin flips also don't have to account for miracle powers.  In other words if we use a coin flip to describe something then no unreasonable objections will be considered.

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29 minutes ago, mymistake said:

 

God started off very well defined.  When the cult leader gets his (or her) revelation God is immediately understood by the leader.  I believe the gods only became poorly defined when science, technology and the age of reason took away most of religion's tricks.  When the gods didn't have so many good hiding places that is when god became philosophical.  I really think we should stick to the defintion of gods that are provided by the scam artist or religious leaders claiming they have God's message.  But if you want to define gods better than that then I would define them as "imaginary beings that humans use to control other humans".  Why is it that we don't have these kind of debates about whether or not cartoon characters are real people?

 

Well, if you define them as imaginary, then obviously they don't exist. But there are those who still take these issues seriously. It can be done. Maybe "God" used to be well defined. But here we are. Right now, I don't think "God" can be properly said to be well defined, except in the context of a very specific belief system. In this case, I think that "You're not making any sense" is a much stronger retort than "You're absolutely wrong!".

 

29 minutes ago, mymistake said:

 

You mean approach religion like a conspiracy theory?  Usually religions are at odds with all we have observed regarding the laws of physics.  Perhaps there are a few that are not but most religions fly in the face of reality.  So I would judge a religion on that criteria first.  (But hey, maybe a wizard is using magic to trick me, we would never know.  😀  )

 

Yes. In a sense, treat it like a conspiracy theory. We don't buy it. But we don't know it's false. Hence, no gnostic atheism.

 

29 minutes ago, mymistake said:

I think Josh was in that camp as well.  That whole "knowledge is not possible" game can be fun but if tomorrow you get an e-mail from the former prince of Nigeria will you consider helping him out?  You can't know it is a scam if knowledge is not possible.

 

But you do use knowledge to protect yourself.  When somebody tries to scam you then you use knowledge to see through the ruse.  If you think about it in the real world we have to operate on partial knowledge and limited knowledge.  You know that knowledge is possible.  The world would be nonsensical otherwise.

 

Ok. This basically boils down to an argument from utility. ie, it is useful to treat some propositions as really true and others as really false, and therefore they are such. But it doesn't follow that these propositions are necessarily really true or false.

 

Some things are useless, and true. Some things are useful and false. I'm a big believer in pragmatism. It's the basis of science. But it only goes so far. A statement that is useful is not necessarily incontrovertibly true. And a statement that is useless is not necessarily incontrovertibly false. We might not like it, but this is just how things are.

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31 minutes ago, mymistake said:

Okay how about this as a thought experiment:

 

You are watching a video.  There are two things on the screen.  The first is a clock that includes a second hand.  Thus you know the video is not on a loop.  The second is a close up view of a hand that is flipping a coin.  You can see the result of each flip.  And while you are observing the coin always lands on heads.

 

How many times must you watch the coin land on heads before you can know that it isn't a normal coin?  The result of heads nine times in a row would be very rare but in large sets it would happen.  On an infinite scale there are bound to be a few strings of many head results in a row.  And you can't watch the video forever so you will never know 100% beyond all doubt.  Can you know when you are only 99.999999999% sure?  No matter how many times it flips we will never be 100% sure.  If you try to watch the video for ten minutes strait your concentration will start to fade.  By then wouldn't you be sure it isn't a normal coin?  Or would you be worried that if you blink it might land on tails and you might miss it?  I think you can know, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the coin is identical on both sides.  Six or seven flips should be all it takes to know.

 

Granted, I realize that the existence of God isn't a 50/50 coin flip.   Of course coin flips also don't have to account for miracle powers.  In other words if we use a coin flip to describe something then no unreasonable objections will be considered.

 

This is not a good analogy. We know what coins are. We know how they behave. We know what clocks and videos are. We know how they work.

 

We don't know what "God" is supposed to be. Arguments from statistics are arguments from our understanding. What if God is inherently beyond our understanding? His ways are not our ways, and all that?

 

Also, no argument from statistics can ever result in true gnostic atheism. Statistics only ever result in strong belief. Not certainty.

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1 hour ago, mymistake said:

This is a mischaracterization of the strong atheism position.  Dawkins doesn't understand it.   

 

His field is biology.  I bet he wouldn't tolerate this if he was teaching a biology class.  If a student filled out "we can't know because it's never 100%" for the examination answers I bet Dawkins would mark the answer as wrong.  Science does find knowledge even if science can't get beyond all doubt.

 

First of all, this is not a mischaracterization. Strong atheism, gnostic atheism, consists of belief that gods do not exist, along with claiming to have "knowledge" (gnosis) that gods do not exist. There is no field of atheism which Dawkins must belong to and specialize in, in order to speak on behalf of. Nor do I for that matter. 

 

You're trying to take this to a place where it doesn't go. This is not about knowledge being impossible. That's an over reaction on your part. It's about whether knowledge of the existence of god is possible. So it's probably best to keep it there for now. Knowledge itself is big issue of it's own, involving not actually perceiving reality as it is. But sticking to theism only for the time being, it's uniformly known across the board that it isn't possible to know with certainty that god doesn't exist.  

 

1 hour ago, mymistake said:

I understand his point.  It is wrong.  He defines position 7 as something that does not exist.  He calls position 7 "gnostic atheism" but it isn't.

 

5 hours ago, Joshpantera said:
  • Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.
  • De-facto Theist: I cannot know for certain but I strongly believe in God and I live my life on the assumption that he is there.
  • Weak Theist: I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.
  • Pure Agnostic: God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.
  • Weak Atheist: I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.
  • De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.
  • Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.

 

The problem here is that you're trying to argue on behalf of #7, when you're simply a #6 like me, or Dawkins, or any number of atheists.

 

7 is certainty that god doesn't exist. You admit that that's not possible, but continue to think that you're an agnostic atheist anyways when you probably aren't in the grand scheme. Strong atheism, gnostic atheism is very unreasonable, and yet, people are claiming it. You two have tried to claim it, when it probably turns out that neither of you actually believe strong or gnostic atheist assertions. 

 

And that's what the point is. Clarity. Knowing and understanding where you actually are on atheist position taking. If you're not actually gnostic atheist's, well then there's no sense in claiming that you are and accepting these untenable positions when you need not do it. The positions of #2 - #6 are varieties of agnostic theism and agnostic atheism. Only the two extremes are gnostic. And that's just it, gnostic in the sense of god and religion are extreme, and untenable positions to take on. 

 

 

 

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3 minutes ago, disillusioned said:

 

This is not a good analogy.

 

It's not an analogy of God.  It's an thought experiment to see if knowledge is possible.

 

4 minutes ago, disillusioned said:

Arguments from statistics are arguments from our understanding.

 

Again, not an argument about the existence of god.  I am addressing the problem of "is knowledge possible".

 

5 minutes ago, disillusioned said:

What if God is inherently beyond our understanding?

 

A being that is beyond our understanding wouldn't mean anything to us.  However in order for something to qualify as god I think it must have either created our universe or it must take an interest in humans and interfere in our lives.  If it didn't create the universe and it isn't interested in us and it doesn't change what happens to humans then it can't be god no matter how fantastic it is.

 

9 minutes ago, disillusioned said:

Also, no argument from statistics can ever result in true gnostic theism. Statistics only ever result in strong belief. Not certainty.

 

Certainty and belief are emotions.  I'm talking about evidence leading to a conclusion and there is no reasonable alternative to the conclusion.  Can't that be knowledge if the evidence is strong enough?  

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1 minute ago, mymistake said:

 

It's not an analogy of God.  It's an thought experiment to see if knowledge is possible.

 

Ok. What is knowledge?

 

1 minute ago, mymistake said:

 

A being that is beyond our understanding wouldn't mean anything to us.  However in order for something to qualify as god I think it must have either created our universe or it must take an interest in humans and interfere in our lives.  If it didn't create the universe and it isn't interested in us and it doesn't change what happens to humans then it can't be god no matter how fantastic it is.

 

Interesting, but why does what you think need to matter when we are considering a hypothetical God? He's supposed to be GOD. Your thoughts (or mine!) aren't really relevant.

 

1 minute ago, mymistake said:

 

Certainty and belief are emotions.  I'm talking about evidence leading to a conclusion and there is no reasonable alternative to the conclusion.  Can't that be knowledge if the evidence is strong enough?  

 

The conclusion needs to be made by someone. On what basis is the conclusion reached? Will everyone necessarily agree? If not, then I don't think it can be called knowledge. And even if so, what if everyone is wrong?

 

Again, I want to emphasise that this is not how I go about living my life. For all practical purposes, we can treat some things as true, and some other things as false. We can even speak of knowing such things to be true and false. But when we are speaking of God, we are not speaking of practicalities. This is a theoretical question. Theoretically, it remains possible that God exists. I don't see how this can be disputed.

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7 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:

 

First of all, this is not a mischaracterization. Strong atheism, gnostic atheism, consists of belief that gods do not exist, along with claiming to have "knowledge" (gnosis) that gods do not exist. There is no field of atheism which Dawkins must belong to and specialize in, in order to speak on behalf of. Nor do I for that matter. 

 

Stop and think about it.  Who should define what gnostic atheism means?  Should it be the people who call themselves gnostic atheists and want the name to mean something that makes sense or should it be a different group that wants the name to mean something nonsensical?  

 

 

10 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:

The problem here is that you're trying on behalf of #7, when you're simply a #6 like me, or Dawkins, or any number of atheists.

 

I am a strong atheist.  I know gods do not exist.  I just use a different reason to get there.  I reject the nonsensical reasoning that others assign to strong atheism.

 

 

11 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:

7 is certainty that god doesn't exist.

 

 

Sure, certainty beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

 

13 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:

You admit that that's not possible, but continue to think that you're an agnostic atheist anyways when you probably aren't in the grand scheme.

 

 

I admit that "beyond all doubt" is not possible.  Not possible for god, nor for any other field of knowledge.  What I ask is that we hold god to the same standard as any other type of knowledge.

 

 

15 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:

Strong atheism, gnostic atheism is very unreasonable, and yet, people are claiming it.

 

I don't see you addressing my point.  If my position is untenable then flatten it.  People are claiming SA because it is well supported.

 

 

 

17 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:

ou two have tried to claim it, when it probably turns out that neither of you actually believe strong or gnostic atheist assertions. 

 

 

I know beyond a reasonable doubt that there are no gods.  Is that actually agnostic atheism?

 

 

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On 4/17/2018 at 10:22 AM, Wertbag said:

I thought having a rant about my personal label as a “gnostic atheist” will help me get all of my reasoning in line and let me consider the discussion as I write. 

 

So why gnostic?  To my mind the argument is whether you don’t believe in God because there is no evidence for Him, or whether you know there is no God because the evidence is clear that such a being does not exist.  I fall into the second camp, in that I believe there is so much evidence against a God existing that I cannot hold on to any doubt.

Dan Baker said it very well in this 18 min video:

 

Basically saying that the very concept of a God, especially the Christian God, is so contradictory as to be an impossibility.  I think the one related point which he doesn’t mention, which was a glaring contradiction to my mind, was the lack of communication with any God.  As soon as you claim that God wants us to know Him, then it all falls to pieces.  He is all-powerful, so if He wanted us to know Him we would.  There would be no confusion, He would simply make Himself known.  The fact is all the big religions claim this personal God and yet can’t get Him to show Himself.

 

I’ve heard it described as scales, balancing the evidence for the two views.  On one side you have science, reason and understanding, on the other you have religion.  We all know there is zero evidence on religions side, but it is worse than that, in that every argument that they have ever thought of has been so thoroughly torn to pieces as to be a negative on their side.  The God of the gaps has retreated from the advancing sciences until the gaps He can fill are nothing more than irrelevant edges of our knowledge.

 

Perhaps we should consider a statute of limitations on such claims?  After tens of thousands of years of spiritual beliefs we are still left with absolutely zero evidence of any supernatural beings.  As is often said there are thousands of Gods which have been discarded over the centuries, none of which anyone alive today would show the slightest concern for.  In fact we can say 100% of claimed supernatural abilities, events or creatures have been shown to have natural reasons for them.  Whether that be psychics, special powers, healing touch, good luck charms, speaking to the dead or astral projection, it is always a case of people being convinced that natural events are actually supernatural. What we have clearly shown is that humans have a great capacity for self-deceit and, on mass, are easily lead to ridiculous beliefs by charismatic leaders.  You only have to look at a relatively modern religions like Mormonism or Scientology to see how one con-artist making a claim can grow into a religion followed by millions, or look at the cults able to convince hundreds to commit suicide or destroy their lives based on nothing more than one mans unsupported claims.  

 

Is destroying Christianity enough?  Well, apart from Christians doing this to themselves with the in-fighting, lack of unity and mixed messages all claimed to be divinely inspired, really we have to say that Christianity is the biggest religion that has ever existed.  They have more followers and more wealth than any other.  If there was one religion for which a claim of divine help could be made it is this one.  So what do we see?  Christians have the same life expectancy, suffer the same levels of crime, suffer the same amount of illness and injuries, pay the same insurance premiums and are struck down by terminal illnesses at the same rate as everyone else.  So looking across the world at all the different groups, all the different beliefs and rituals, and yet none of it makes any difference to our physical lives.  There is absolutely no input from magical sources to make their lives better.

 

So can you disprove God?  Yes, if the God in question is given characteristics that can be tested or if it is claimed that God interacts with the physical world.  As soon as a claim is made that God is more than an irrelevance then those claims can be tested.  Does He perform miracles?  Does he talk to people?  Does He take physical form?  Does He write His thoughts down?  Does He answer prayers?  Any such claims can be investigated and disproved.  All such claims ever made have been shown to be false.

 

So what are we left with?  We know religion is created by humans, we know the books are written by people, we know there is no such thing as supernatural events, there is zero evidence for any of the ridiculous claims and we can see new religions created before our eyes.  There is no mystery to how we got to where we are and no special people able to do what the rest of us cannot.  Really the only type of God that is harder to disprove is an irrelevant one.  A God who lit the fuse on the big bang then ran away and hid.  Yet even such a God, for who there are almost no claims made, is still clearly an invention of human minds, a mere God of the gaps being put in the last spot that science hasn’t yet reached.  When the definition of God is no more than a force of nature, something without form and without function, then any one of a dozen natural forces could fit that description.  You would be no longer talking of an intelligent being but purely of an event, one for which natural causes explain better than the need to introduce the supernatural.

 

Your post is like having a huge sunday roast, with pumpkin pie. It's food for the brain, and I wish I could share this with the Christian's I associate with. But I know what will happen if I do that. 

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