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Wertbag

How do you define knowledge?

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23 hours ago, disillusioned said:

I don't see any need at all for a special definition of knowledge to treat claims about the existence of God.

 

Exactly. Even atheists are prone to make special rules when it comes to discussing God because a long history of theist domination has skewed our very language and thought process.

 

There is more evidence for Bigfoot than there is for God, as the term is defined by most people. Everything is a probability, not an absolute certainty, and popular beliefs about gods, fairies and Bigfoot are technically possible to be based in fact, but we live and make decisions on probabilities. Given that, I'd believe in Bigfoot before I'd believe in Jehovah. Hell, it's technically possible that we are in a simulation or that we are the result of seeding by an alien race and it's possible that all of you are figments of my imagination. Those possibilities are very highly unlikely and not worth seriously entertaining, and even if true would make no difference in our daily life. The God concept is not special.

 

 

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14 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

That’s just it, the term gnostic was coined with knowledge synonymous with certainty. Knowing god exists meaning certain that god exists. 
 

It would be helpful to define a gnostic theist or atheist as certain god does or does not exist, because that’s the whole idea. The atheist merely shadowing the theistic claim 180 degrees the other direction. 

 

I propose abandoning the word “gnostic” in this context because the concept has turned into something completely misleading which asserts something that most atheists do not assert.  To say that one is an atheist does not imply absolute certainty or any special form of knowledge apart from normal human reasoning.  When I say that I do not believe that there is an ancient race of humans living beneath the surface of Mars, I am not claiming certainty, I just have no reason to believe it and it is therefore not part of my belief system.  And, most importantly, I am willing to go ahead and say that I do not believe it; I am not deferring the question because of lack of knowledge.  Now, someone else could come along and say, “We do not really know for sure whether or not that ancient race exists,” and describe himself as an agnostic on the issue.  I would answer, “You are technically correct, but the concept is so bizarre, and the likelihood so small, that I am going to make a decision on the issue and say that I do not believe it.”  I am not mirroring his position just because he defined a new position on the issue, the agnostic one.  And something could come along and change my mind, such as someone waving at the camera of a martian rover.

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On 3/18/2020 at 12:37 PM, TEG said:

 

I propose abandoning the word “gnostic” in this context because the concept has turned into something completely misleading which asserts something that most atheists do not assert.  To say that one is an atheist does not imply absolute certainty or any special form of knowledge apart from normal human reasoning.  When I say that I do not believe that there is an ancient race of humans living beneath the surface of Mars, I am not claiming certainty, I just have no reason to believe it and it is therefore not part of my belief system.  And, most importantly, I am willing to go ahead and say that I do not believe it; I am not deferring the question because of lack of knowledge.  Now, someone else could come along and say, “We do not really know for sure whether or not that ancient race exists,” and describe himself as an agnostic on the issue.  I would answer, “You are technically correct, but the concept is so bizarre, and the likelihood so small, that I am going to make a decision on the issue and say that I do not believe it.”  I am not mirroring his position just because he defined a new position on the issue, the agnostic one.  And something could come along and change my mind, such as someone waving at the camera of a martian rover.


The main thing here is that most people who would claim gnostic atheism, do know that they’re not certain a god doesn’t exist. So it makes no sense to go there. In the end it defaults us all to agnostic about the existence of god. We’re not certain, we don’t know for sure, and we don’t believe it. 
 

My only point in all of this is to suggest leaving gnostic atheism alone and not trying to claim it or go there. Because it just causes more confusion than anything else. 
 

We either can or can not know for certain, and if not, there’s only one option left standing....

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On 3/18/2020 at 10:59 AM, disillusioned said:

Good. It took a while to get there, but I think we're in agreement now. 

 

I don't think it's possible to claim certainty regarding God's existence. If "gnostic" refers to certainty, then to claim to be a gnostic theist or atheist is a very difficult thing to do.


Yes. It only has meaning in contrast to uncertainty, which is what agnostic presents. 
 

And further, agnostic came as a response to a long standing gnostic position taking. The dominant way was unquestioned certainty on the part of various theists.
 

Until that certainty of gods existence was contrasted by the coining of agnosticism, centuries and centuries after certainty of a gods existence went more or less unquestioned. 
 

Anything that doesn’t involve a certainty claim about the existence of god is automatically uncertainty based, or agnostic based as the term was coined to convey. 

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5 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

We either can or can not know for certain, and if not, there’s only one option left standing....

 

I define agnosticism differently.  The “if you do not claim certainty, you are an agnostic” definition is new to me.  An agnostic is someone who maintains that we do not, or cannot, have enough knowledge to decide the issue of god’s existence.  It refers to the limitations of what knowledge can do, not the quantity of knowledge that we have.  I believe that a rational person, looking at the failed arguments for god, and not seeing any evidence for a divine presence or divine intervention, would conclude that there is no god.  I have.  I do not claim absolute knowledge or certainty but I have enough to justify a (lack of) belief.  I am not “agnostic” on the issue; if I were, I would be withholding judgment.


Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable.  Another definition provided is the view that "human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnosticism

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2 minutes ago, TEG said:

Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable.

The result is a reason for not having a god belief, which down home we simple folk just call "atheism."

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Do we run into the problem that by trying to link it to certainty that you invalidate both positions? Gnostic as a stance makes no sense if knowledge is impossible, and in turn claiming to be agnostic is at best redundant as knowing or not knowing are not valid points. 

If you say there are always doubts like living in the matrix, and give those doubts weight, then knowledge doesn't exist and you can neither have it or not. 

Surely the common standard of beyond reasonable doubt makes more sense? When used, both gnostic and agnostic terms clearly indicate differences in position. Would you have any problem with the statement "I know there is no god beyond a reasonable doubt"? 

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50 minutes ago, TEG said:

I define agnosticism differently.  The “if you do not claim certainty, you are an agnostic” definition is new to me.  An agnostic is someone who maintains that we do not, or cannot, have enough knowledge to decide the issue of god’s existence.  It refers to the limitations of what knowledge can do, not the quantity of knowledge that we have. 

 

Not differently, that's part of the meaning of agnosticism. We do not or can not have enough information to decide the issue of god's existence means that uncertainty is at the base of the position. Limitations of knowledge have to do with our quantity of knowledge, which, in both cases, are found lacking for certainty based assessing. 

 

50 minutes ago, TEG said:

I believe that a rational person, looking at the failed arguments for god, and not seeing any evidence for a divine presence or divine intervention, would conclude that there is no god.  I have.  I do not claim absolute knowledge or certainty but I have enough to justify a (lack of) belief.  I am not “agnostic” on the issue; if I were, I would be withholding judgment.

 

You are actually agnostic in that you've just described the position of "agnostic atheism." That's the problem here. We have agnostic atheist's getting confused and thinking that they are not agnostic atheists, when by their own admissions that's exactly what they are. It's a confusion issue. 

 

You don't need absolute knowledge or certainty to justify a lack of belief, none of us do. I don't. The lack of belief is justified simply by our lack of belief, for whatever the reason. We simply don't believe the claim that god exists. That's the atheist part. The agnostic part only means that we acknowledge that we don't have absolute certainty (referred to as knowledge) at the base of our lack of belief. 

 

Agnostic (don't know if a god exists) Atheist (don't believe that a god exists). 

 

 

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51 minutes ago, Wertbag said:

Do we run into the problem that by trying to link it to certainty that you invalidate both positions? Gnostic as a stance makes no sense if knowledge is impossible, and in turn claiming to be agnostic is at best redundant as knowing or not knowing are not valid points. 

If you say there are always doubts like living in the matrix, and give those doubts weight, then knowledge doesn't exist and you can neither have it or not. 

Surely the common standard of beyond reasonable doubt makes more sense? When used, both gnostic and agnostic terms clearly indicate differences in position. Would you have any problem with the statement "I know there is no god beyond a reasonable doubt"? 

 

Thanks for coming back in to this. My wife is an attorney, I've just consulted her on the legal angle you're trying to take here. She says that you ought to read, "The Divinity of Doubt," by Vincent Bugliosi. He puts up god on trial as a thought experiment. Finds agnostic conclusions to be the only reasonable conclusions via courtroom thought experiment. 

 

You have to qualify the statement. If 'knowledge of the existence of god' is impossible, meaning gods existence is not certain or absolute, does that invalidate both positions?

 

I'd say no, it only invalidates the gnostic position.

 

Because it's a tradition with a history of certainty based belief in the existence of god. Not courtroom trial or reasonable doubt. It comes to us from people who didn't conceive otherwise - who thought that world could not exist without a creator. That existence is impossible otherwise. That's what frames the gnostic theist position. And mystical Gnostic for that matter. It starts with the assumption that a god exists then moves forward. 

 

Do to the advancement of thought and gathered knowledge about the natural world, this assumption that the world could not exist without a creator came under question. We went from a certainty position to an "uncertainty" position. The uncertainty has to do with thinking further about the situation and realizing how much we do not know in reality. And then likewise, the more we've probed into the ground of existence through science, the more uncertainties we realize about the ground of existence that were not previously realized before a greater focus came along. 

 

So there is always the possibility that what ever knowledge we do have is skewed at best and completely irrelevant at worst. It's foundation based from the ground up concerning existence itself. It doesn't matter whether it's practical to face this fact or whether it sits well, it's just the revealed reality of existence through philosophy and science.

 

The alpha dog is always uncertainty with respect to questions of absolutes and ultimate's. 

 

If there were a default position that wipes everything else out, I don't see what else it could be aside from "not knowing" every time we face ultimate questions, like does god exist. Reasonable doubt factors in down wind of these source oriented factors. 

 

By way of reasonable doubt, you lack god belief. So do I. But that doesn't mean that we know that our lack of belief is correct. It may not be. We just go with gut instinct based on whatever we have available to make judgement. We could be incorrect. But feel confident that we have it right. That doesn't make anyone "gnostic," though. And I think that's where the confusion is. 

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1 hour ago, Joshpantera said:

You are actually agnostic in that you've just described the position of "agnostic atheism."

 

1 hour ago, Joshpantera said:

The agnostic part only means that we acknowledge that we don't have absolute certainty (referred to as knowledge) at the base of our lack of belief.

 

Like I said, this is not my understanding of agnosticism.

 

I’m done.

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5 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:
1 hour ago, TEG said:

 

 

Like I said, this is not my understanding of agnosticism.

 

I’m done.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnostic_atheism

 

Quote

Agnostic atheism is a philosophical position that encompasses both atheism and agnosticism. Agnostic atheists are atheistic because they do not hold a belief in the existence of any deity, and are agnostic because they claim that the existence of a deity is either unknowable in principle or currently unknown in fact.

The agnostic atheist may be contrasted with the agnostic theist, who believes that one or more deities exist but claims that the existence or nonexistence of such is unknown or cannot be known.[1][2][3]

 

I've been using this term without citing it. Sort of assuming that it's a given. Probably best to cite it anyways. 

 

 

Quote

 

If a man has failed to find any good reason for believing that there is a God, it is perfectly natural and rational that he should not believe that there is a God; and if so, he is an atheist... if he goes farther, and, after an investigation into the nature and reach of human knowledge, ending in the conclusion that the existence of God is incapable of proof, cease to believe in it on the ground that he cannot know it to be true, he is an agnostic and also an atheist – an agnostic-atheist – an atheist because an agnostic... while, then, it is erroneous to identify agnosticism and atheism, it is equally erroneous so to separate them as if the one were exclusive of the other...[4]

In 1885 Robert G. Ingersoll, popularly known as "The Great Agnostic", explained his comparative view of agnosticism and atheism as follows:[5]

The Agnostic is an Atheist. The Atheist is an Agnostic. The Agnostic says, ‘I do not know, but I do not believe there is any God.’ The Atheist says the same.

 

 

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On ‎3‎/‎20‎/‎2020 at 2:37 PM, Joshpantera said:

I don't see what else it could be aside from "not knowing" every time we face ultimate questions, like does god exist. Reasonable doubt factors in down wind of these source oriented factors.

Sorry for the late reply, with the death of my brother and the virus shenanigans I've not been back here to carry on this conversation.  Hopefully I can spend a bit more time here from now on.

 

I would like you to clarify the category of absolute questions.  What questions fall into this category and what criteria is used to determine if a question is absolute?  Are there other questions that you believe fit these criteria and if so can you give examples?  Or is the question of god the only absolute question?

 

I hear you say that Christians have mis-used the term knowledge in the past, claiming to be gnostic theists when in fact that was incorrect.  Surely the fact they are using an absolute definition incorrectly is a sign that we should not use that terminology but look to something that better clarifies what is really meant?  The purpose of communication is to clearly transmit ideas, and any terminology that doesn't match what the majority of people understand it to be, seems to be a term that needs to change and be clarified.

 

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Sorry about your brother, Wertbag. I hope you're doing alright. 

 

12 hours ago, Wertbag said:

I would like you to clarify the category of absolute questions.  What questions fall into this category and what criteria is used to determine if a question is absolute?  Are there other questions that you believe fit these criteria and if so can you give examples?  Or is the question of god the only absolute question?

 

God and existence itself are the two examples that come to mind. But anything that is claimed to be infinite and eternal, no beginning or end, etc., etc, is an absolute question. The questions are forever out of reach. It comes down to chasing after an answer for something that can be projected out away from you forever. With answers forever out of reach. Like why does existence exist in the first place? You can't go beyond existence to find something external to existence that can give it a fixed meaning. It's very absolute in that way. 

 

It's silly, but the same is true of anything similar.

 

Let's make something up and I'll name it, "Bugaloo."

 

Bugaloo is infinite and eternal, no beginning or end. No one can disprove Bugaloo. Or know for certain whether Bugaloo exists. Bugaloo could be a metaphorical name for something that does exist but is beyond ever knowing or understanding. So even though it's stupid, and I just made it up, philosophically it can be treated as agnostic due to the technicalities of not being able to prove it wrong. Or claim to know absolutely that Bugaloo doesn't exist - as literal or metaphorical for something real

 

. The only reason for the agnostic position is to be on the correct side of a debate, basically. It would fall incorrect if I asserted that Bugaloo can be disproven or if I know for certain that Bugaloo does not or can not exist. No matter how stupid Bugaloo is or the fact that I just made it up. It could refer to something real that I have to refer to by way of metaphor because there's no direct language in which describe Bugaloo as side from metaphorically. These are the levels to which liberal theologians can argue for god. I think it's pretty dumb and irrelevant when they do it. And I don't find any of it convincing. 

 

But if a I take agnostic atheist position against them rather than a gnostic atheist position against them that I have far less, if anything at all to lose in a debate with them. And I can keep them against the ropes as long as they insist on any gnostic theist position, holding them in the "burden of proof" end of the ring. 

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19 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

The only reason for the agnostic position is to be on the correct side of a debate, basically. It would fall incorrect if I asserted that Bugaloo can be disproven or if I know for certain that Bugaloo does not or can not exist

Surely this comes back to a definition of the thing/deity you are discussing?  The only deity that would be completely non-physical and non-interactive is by definition imaginary.  There is nothing that such a claim can be based on.  Such a deity would be little more than a natural force of nature, setting off the big bang but doing nothing else.  This definition is not one that should be applied to a god, that being an intelligent entity.  This would seem to fall clearly into the unreasonable doubt category, when imagination is given such weight as to make "knowledge" impossible.

 

In regards to eternal questions, is eternity even a valid idea?  We know of nothing that is eternal, perhaps the universe is in some unknown way, but the idea cannot be based on anything as we have no examples.  If there is no time outside of the universe, time needing matter, then a time before or after is an illogical idea.  To claim anything is eternal is something which is impossible to know.  So to claim a god is eternal begs the question "how do you know?"  

 

How does this change when the god being discussed is the Christian god?  For whom many claims are made including his characteristics, his interactions with the real world, his plans and his methods of communication.  In such a case we are no longer talking about a nebulous uncaring energy, but something with clearly defined scope.  Would it be acceptable to say gnostic in regards to the Christian god but agnostic to the vague deist god?

 

19 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

But if a I take agnostic atheist position against them rather than a gnostic atheist position against them that I have far less, if anything at all to lose in a debate with them.

If you take the gnostic position, and put forth arguments against god but are then proven wrong, the position you would then be falling back to is agnostic atheism.  Disproving a gnostic isn't proof of god, the burden of proof is still with their claim.  Of course in a real debate the ideas of gnostic vs agnostic are not commonly known or brought up.  The arguments for and against remain the same either way.

 

One thought, if you say I've proven 10 religions wrong and someone says "yes, but this next one...".  So you go on to disprove a thousand religions, and someone says "yes, but this next one...".  So you disprove ten thousand religions, and yet again the same claim is made.  So what are we up to now?  Some people say as many as thirty thousand religions have come and gone.  At some point you will have to say "Look, these are all the same, man made and clearly as false as each other.  My pool of data is deep enough for me to reach a well supported conclusion."  Sure, by a philosophical viewpoint you can't know for sure the next one really isn't true, but from a beyond reasonable doubt standpoint there should be a point where you say to put any weight in the same claim yet again is unreasonable.  Certainly the quantity and quality of that evidence would have to be subjective, but with an ever growing pool of data the claim would be an ever decreasing likelihood.  It would never reach zero, but should reach a point where it is considered so vanishingly small as to no longer be reasonable to give the claim any weight. 

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2 hours ago, Wertbag said:

Surely this comes back to a definition of the thing/deity you are discussing?  The only deity that would be completely non-physical and non-interactive is by definition imaginary.  There is nothing that such a claim can be based on.  Such a deity would be little more than a natural force of nature, setting off the big bang but doing nothing else.  This definition is not one that should be applied to a god, that being an intelligent entity.  This would seem to fall clearly into the unreasonable doubt category, when imagination is given such weight as to make "knowledge" impossible.

 

I think deism is unreasonable, myself. But the god in that case is an intelligent entity existing beyond our universe. It's something with intelligence that sets the universe into motion. We can't go beyond the universe to disprove it so we can't get away with arguing that's it's disproven. And we can't claim to know that it doesn't exist, any more than the deist can claim to know that it does. In both cases it boils to belief or faith that such and such doesn't exist or does exist. Because because knowing for certain. And the deist may draw on subjective type reasoning, but that doesn't make it objective truth. 

 

These are some of the issues that an atheist faces in debate. 

 

2 hours ago, Wertbag said:

In regards to eternal questions, is eternity even a valid idea?  We know of nothing that is eternal, perhaps the universe is in some unknown way, but the idea cannot be based on anything as we have no examples.  If there is no time outside of the universe, time needing matter, then a time before or after is an illogical idea.  To claim anything is eternal is something which is impossible to know.  So to claim a god is eternal begs the question "how do you know?"

 

I'll stick to a fact based analysis. 

 

How do you know that there is no time outside of the universe? Or matter? That's a an assumption on your part. And as it goes, the only beginning of the universe theory that I'm aware of is the Hawking-Penrose singularity theory from the 70's, which, was falsified as a theory in the 90's when a positive cosmological constant was discovered. What the means is that we don't know if the universe had a fixed beginning. That's the fact based analysis. It's unknown. We're agnostic on the issue per science. 

 

Also, theories now suggest a multiverse of universes like our own extending out forever beyond our own universe. If that were the case then space and matter and time would exist beyond our range of perception, our visible universe merely being a range of perception around the earth in which we can observe. The rest of the universe extending beyond. More and more beyond that. These are not proven, so, all does it outline more and more reasons why "agnostic" position taking in a religious or even scientific setting stands out as dominant time and time again. The reason being is that as we push towards these big issues knowledge wanes more and more. Till we end up completely, "not-knowing," by the time we reach the biggest questions of all. 

 

Also, there's a default issue going on here. 

 

The universe or multiverse or however we view it, becomes necessarily eternal. Because any beginning given then requires the question of what was before that beginning? If you push back a series of beginnings that require something before each beginning, the beginnings were never really beginnings and the past becomes "past-eternal" anyways. So there's a lot going on with these ultimate type of questions. This isn't even getting into god yet, just mere existence, the universe and so on. The natural order of things has inherent eternal necessities outside of any god belief. Default past-eternal reasons is always a glaring issue when go down this path. 

 

2 hours ago, Wertbag said:

How does this change when the god being discussed is the Christian god?  For whom many claims are made including his characteristics, his interactions with the real world, his plans and his methods of communication.  In such a case we are no longer talking about a nebulous uncaring energy, but something with clearly defined scope.  Would it be acceptable to say gnostic in regards to the Christian god but agnostic to the vague deist god?

 

 

It's still not that easy. Because the christian god is placed transcendent of our visible universe. Outside of proving or disproven, basically. They claim subjective communication. We can't very well disprove their subjective communication or knowledge claims. Or know that someone else's subjective experience is certainly false. I strongly think that it is, but it's beyond my knowing for certain. Same with ghosts or whatever. I think people are making it up. But I can't know that absolutely. There's a margin of error to be recognized. 

 

With gnostic position taking it requires a narrow focus and a neglect of acknowledging many of these surrounding issues. I'm holding that gnostic position taking is ill-advised due to a lot of experience with these kind of debates and discussions. Gnostic position taking has a lot of handicaps involved either way. It's about trying to prove things which are essentially beyond proving. 

 

That being the case, a lot of us prefer to admit that we don't know with certainty in order to keep to what we can honestly claim. And lack belief in god because it's nonsensical to us like anything else that's nonsensical - keep to an agnostic-atheist position. We're not up against any pressing burden of proof. Because we're not trying to prove things beyond proving. As it stands, this is what I see as the most intellectually honest and intelligent way of positioning oneself in the god debate. 

 

Disagreements? 

 

 

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5 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

I think deism is unreasonable, myself. But the god in that case is an intelligent entity existing beyond our universe. It's something with intelligence that sets the universe into motion. We can't go beyond the universe to disprove it so we can't get away with arguing that's it's disproven. And we can't claim to know that it doesn't exist, any more than the deist can claim to know that it does. In both cases it boils to belief or faith that such and such doesn't exist or does exist. Because because knowing for certain. And the deist may draw on subjective type reasoning, but that doesn't make it objective truth. 

 

 

5 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

That being the case, a lot of us prefer to admit that we don't know with certainty in order to keep to what we can honestly claim. And lack belief in god because it's nonsensical to us like anything else that's nonsensical - keep to an agnostic-atheist position. We're not up against any pressing burden of proof. Because we're not trying to prove things beyond proving. As it stands, this is what I see as the most intellectually honest and intelligent way of positioning oneself in the god debate. 

 

 

I've often thought that an honest appraisal of the evidence leads inevitably to agnostic atheism or non-theism, just as water inevitably flows downhill and reaches the sea.  Many of us, myself included, were unable to go from Christianity to non-theism in one step, but once we had reasoned that Christianity was not credible, our new mode of rejecting faith as a way of knowing what is true eventually overcame our residual theism.  And not only is agnostic atheism the most intellectually honest position as Josh said, but it is also a very stable position: it requires no dogma but merely the view that "I can't be certain but I find the various god claims unconvincing".

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22 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

I think deism is unreasonable, myself. But the god in that case is an intelligent entity existing beyond our universe

Except that is an impossible claim to make.  As soon as you say the entity is not here and not communicating, then it is impossible to claim any characteristic, even intelligence.  This is why religions claim a personal god, a god who takes part in human endeavours and communicates in some fashion, as without that you cannot claim anything that would put this entity separate from an unthinking force of nature.

 

22 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

It's still not that easy. Because the christian god is placed transcendent of our visible universe. Outside of proving or disproven, basically. They claim subjective communication. We can't very well disprove their subjective communication or knowledge claims. Or know that someone else's subjective experience is certainly false. I strongly think that it is, but it's beyond my knowing for certain. Same with ghosts or whatever. I think people are making it up. But I can't know that absolutely. There's a margin of error to be recognized. 

It is often said the Christian god has many contradictions to the claimed characteristics.  That the version of god put forward is not logically sound, and an illogical god is an impossible one.  If god is not logically consistent, then He cannot exist.

 

I think my discontent with the philosophical definition of knowledge comes from the three points mentioned:

- There are other definitions (common, legal, scientific) which would work perfectly fine and would give a more universal definition rather than changing based on the subject.  So its not a case of attempting to create a new definition from scratch, but to use the existing ones.  I readily admit that in religious discussion circles the philosophical definition is the current standard, so any use of "knowledge" will by default be compared to that understanding. I would therefore never delve into this subject with a theist.

- From a utility standpoint "beyond reasonable doubt" seems a much more useful standard.  The philosophical definition basically makes gnostic impossible and agnostic irrelevant (if there is only one position that is possible, then stating you are the only thing you can be is of no value).  With the common/legal definition a gnostic atheist would be one who has studied the subject, heard the arguments and from the evidence gained come to a fact lead conclusion.  An agnostic atheist would be those would do not believe but have not researched the subject, which would include African tribesmen who have never heard the idea, children who have not been indoctrinated, and those who are simply apathetic to the whole idea.  Under the philosophical definition Dawkins, Harris, Dillihunty etc are given the same label as the ignorant African tribesman.  It simply tells you nothing about a persons position by limiting possibilities.

- The definition loses nuance by having no weight or consideration of the arguments.  When you can say someone's admittedly imaginary friend has enough weight to make knowledge impossible, then all claims are being treated equally, when not all are created as such. The Christian god with thousands of years of history, hundreds of books, thousands of hours of apologetics and organisational structures that dwarf countries, is considered equally impossible to disprove as Bugaloo.  There is no consideration of the quality of the claim, the source of the claim or whether there is any reasonable basis for the idea put forward.  The common/legal definition has this weighting built in, in that an understanding what is reasonable vs unreasonable requires much more deep consideration of the points, rather than a blanket "no".

 

I completely realise that even if everyone did agree with this view it wouldn't actually matter.  Its not like I could change the well ingrained ideas that have been in play for decades now.   Such discussions are purely for the mental workout and enjoyment of delving into complex subject matter.  If nothing else, its been fun :)

 

I also quite agree that in a debate situation you wouldn't even delve into knowledge, it would be purely theist vs atheist, and any attempt to direct discussions to such definitional topics are usually seen as moves to derail the conversation.  I've seen debates where the two opponents started with definitions, failed to find agreement, then spend their whole time arguing over these details.  The end result was they never got to the subject on the cards, and from a spectator perspective it was a very dull affair.

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On 4/4/2020 at 7:18 AM, Wertbag said:

Except that is an impossible claim to make.  As soon as you say the entity is not here and not communicating, then it is impossible to claim any characteristic, even intelligence.  This is why religions claim a personal god, a god who takes part in human endeavours and communicates in some fashion, as without that you cannot claim anything that would put this entity separate from an unthinking force of nature.

 

They have no problem making impossible claims. We can dismiss the claims but trying to return with a claim that we know in certain terms, which is what the word gnostic is in context, that they are false goes beyond what can be substantiated. 

 

On 4/4/2020 at 7:18 AM, Wertbag said:

It is often said the Christian god has many contradictions to the claimed characteristics.  That the version of god put forward is not logically sound, and an illogical god is an impossible one.  If god is not logically consistent, then He cannot exist.

 

Brahman isn't as internally inconsistent as YHWH. So trying and play with that for a while. How do you dismiss Brahman if he's not logically inconsistent? Remember, Brahman is impersonal, immanent and transcendent informing consciousness, framed as the very fabric of existence itself. The contradictions of YHWH being omni-present, but not actually omni-present, for instance, don't apply to YHWH in the same way. 

 

On 4/4/2020 at 7:18 AM, Wertbag said:

I think my discontent with the philosophical definition of knowledge comes from the three points mentioned:

- There are other definitions (common, legal, scientific) which would work perfectly fine and would give a more universal definition rather than changing based on the subject.  So its not a case of attempting to create a new definition from scratch, but to use the existing ones.  I readily admit that in religious discussion circles the philosophical definition is the current standard, so any use of "knowledge" will by default be compared to that understanding. I would therefore never delve into this subject with a theist.

 

Yes, that is the traditional context of gnostic versus agnostic. Changing that context changes the whole thing. The argument for gnostic atheism involves changing the traditional context around for the sake of claiming gnostic instead of agnostic atheism. But it hardly seems worth all of the jumping through hoops and trying to change the context and everyone's understanding in order to attain it. 

 

On 4/4/2020 at 7:18 AM, Wertbag said:

An agnostic atheist would be those would do not believe but have not researched the subject, which would include African tribesmen who have never heard the idea, children who have not been indoctrinated, and those who are simply apathetic to the whole idea.  Under the philosophical definition Dawkins, Harris, Dillihunty etc are given the same label as the ignorant African tribesman.  It simply tells you nothing about a persons position by limiting possibilities.

 

It means what it means. It could mean new born babies and infants too. Don't know and don't believe can mean any numbers of things in reality. The point is to not try and act as if it doesn't. Theists hate this. They were not born theistic, it was learned. Their children are not born theistic, either. None of us were. We lacked theistic belief until someone specifically taught it to us. It's not different than with tribesman or any similar example. 

 

What you're reaching for here is something I've called, "intellectual atheism." That clearly distinguishes between raw, natural atheism and atheism of an intellectual variety.

 

A baby or tribesman isn't an intellectual atheist, no. But Dawkins, Dillihunty, you, and I are intellectual atheists. I'm taking an intellectual, agnostic-atheist position in fact. It's all described, quite frank, quite clever, and to the point. And at no point do I have to try and change context, bring in modern varieties of definition completely out of context to the traditional issue at hand, or any of these other handicaps along the way in order to use gnostic atheist to describe something who is honestly agnostic at the bottom of it, and intellectual about their atheism. 

 

On 4/4/2020 at 7:18 AM, Wertbag said:

The Christian god with thousands of years of history, hundreds of books, thousands of hours of apologetics and organisational structures that dwarf countries, is considered equally impossible to disprove as Bugaloo.  There is no consideration of the quality of the claim, the source of the claim or whether there is any reasonable basis for the idea put forward.  The common/legal definition has this weighting built in, in that an understanding what is reasonable vs unreasonable requires much more deep consideration of the points, rather than a blanket "no".

 

That's it in a nut shell. 

 

It's impossible to disprove YHWH, Santa, Nessy, Bugaloo, or whatever else you'd prefer as an example. You could have just missed Santa, Nessy, Bugaloo or whatever else. It's an impossible situation to take on the burden of proof any which way it's spun. And that gives all imaginary suggestions an equal footing. But that's the argument. God is just as ridiculous as Santa, Nessy or Bugaloo. God has no better footing as any of these. And how foolish are these suggestions? Pretty foolish, I'd say. So is god by the same exact standard. 

 

It's a way of not fighting an up hill battle. Sure, god 'could" exist, but so what? It's not compelling. There's no good evidence. And there's little reason to take it seriously, just like these other examples of equal things that are beyond disproving. 

 

On 4/4/2020 at 7:18 AM, Wertbag said:

I completely realise that even if everyone did agree with this view it wouldn't actually matter.  Its not like I could change the well ingrained ideas that have been in play for decades now.   Such discussions are purely for the mental workout and enjoyment of delving into complex subject matter.  If nothing else, its been fun :)

 

It is fun. 

 

On 4/4/2020 at 7:18 AM, Wertbag said:

I also quite agree that in a debate situation you wouldn't even delve into knowledge, it would be purely theist vs atheist, and any attempt to direct discussions to such definitional topics are usually seen as moves to derail the conversation.  I've seen debates where the two opponents started with definitions, failed to find agreement, then spend their whole time arguing over these details.  The end result was they never got to the subject on the cards, and from a spectator perspective it was a very dull affair.

 

That's what can happen from trying to debate the meaning of "knowledge." We know that the traditional terms mean by it. And they didn't mean legal or some other non-philosophical meaning. That confuses the situation from the outset. Both the gnostic theist and the gnostic atheist seem to have to try and change the goal posts in order to find a way of presenting their arguments. Where the traditional, philosophical definition is set aside and what is essentially an agnostic position (not certain) is labeled as gnostic anyways, even though it's founded on uncertain oriented knowledge. The certainty of the claims goes so far then falls apart. 

 

 

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6 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

They have no problem making impossible claims. We can dismiss the claims but trying to return with a claim that we know in certain terms, which is what the word gnostic is in context, that they are false goes beyond what can be substantiated. 

But this is where "beyond reasonable doubt" should kick in.  If the claim being made is blatantly impossible, then it is automatically an unreasonable doubt.   

 

6 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

Brahman isn't as internally inconsistent as YHWH. So trying and play with that for a while. How do you dismiss Brahman if he's not logically inconsistent? Remember, Brahman is impersonal, immanent and transcendent informing consciousness, framed as the very fabric of existence itself. The contradictions of YHWH being omni-present, but not actually omni-present, for instance, don't apply to YHWH in the same way. 

Sure logical inconsistences may not apply to all definitions of god, but if the question is "can you be gnostic in terms of the Christian god?", and we can agree that the Christian god is illogical, then this would seem to be a more easily grounded example?  It would not get you to gnostic in terms of all gods, but only of a specific, clearly defined and logically inconsistent one.

 

6 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

What you're reaching for here is something I've called, "intellectual atheism." That clearly distinguishes between raw, natural atheism and atheism of an intellectual variety.

Yes, that's a good term.  It does feel like the standard definitions used are missing this piece of the puzzle.  There are also many religions who do not believe in god (some versions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and the like), so are literally atheists but would bulk at being called such.  Any survey taken would count them in the religious category, but religious and theist and not necessarily the same.  Maybe a "non-theist" or some such? 

 

A passing thought, is there any other context where gnostic/agnostic is used?  Theoretically the terms are about knowledge, and yet it appears in common usage they solely get applied to the question of religion.  While it should be fine to say I'm agnostic in regards to yetis, I can't think of any examples where I've seen it used as such.  Perhaps the terms are so loaded with history now that they aren't actually meaning knowledge anymore but specifically religious knowledge?  If someone says they are agnostic, it shouldn't actually tell you anything about them without clarification of what subject they mean, and yet you would be pretty safe in guessing they mean they don't know one way or the other about god. 

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15 hours ago, Wertbag said:

But this is where "beyond reasonable doubt" should kick in.  If the claim being made is blatantly impossible, then it is automatically an unreasonable doubt. 

 

That's where trying to determine what we can honestly claim is impossible comes in to play. I think it's pretty hard to declare something impossible. Not likely, sure. But impossible seems difficult. Maybe we can look at some more examples of what can honestly be claimed as impossible and by what standards we can make those claims. 

 

15 hours ago, Wertbag said:

Sure logical inconsistences may not apply to all definitions of god, but if the question is "can you be gnostic in terms of the Christian god?", and we can agree that the Christian god is illogical, then this would seem to be a more easily grounded example?  It would not get you to gnostic in terms of all gods, but only of a specific, clearly defined and logically inconsistent one.

 

The thing about the christian god is that it's like what I just made up with Bugaloo.

 

It's pretty clearly made up and there's very straight forward evidence of it evolving and changing over time. It wasn't universal from the outset. There was polytheism and monolatry along the way. It was changed, gradually, in stages eventually leading to universal god status. Most atheists these days are familiar with the archaeological record and mythic evolution of YHWH.

 

Here you look to have the closest case for a gnostic argument.

 

But even then, I would still proceed with caution. As much as we do know with pretty strong certainty, the question becomes could we be wrong for any reason at all? Dawkins seems very keen on this. That's why he openly goes as agnostic and atheist. Leaving a small margin of error. Never crossing a certain line when it comes to claiming more knowledge than can be claimed. 

 

15 hours ago, Wertbag said:

Yes, that's a good term.  It does feel like the standard definitions used are missing this piece of the puzzle.  There are also many religions who do not believe in god (some versions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and the like), so are literally atheists but would bulk at being called such.  Any survey taken would count them in the religious category, but religious and theist and not necessarily the same.  Maybe a "non-theist" or some such? 

 

I call those types, "spiritual atheists."

 

Spiritual oriented with an absence of literal god belief. The meditation and approach towards nature and pantheistic philosophy is their spiritual attitude. Many Buddhist's and Hindu types could fall into this description. But it's not literal god belief. 

 

Another example are people who lack belief in god for no particular reason. Just because they happened to grow up without belief, or weren't raised theistic. They are a type of atheist, but it's not intellectual or spiritual atheism.

 

I think a good description is, "default atheism."

 

New born babies, toddlers, and tribesmen isolated from theistic experience would be of the same description. They operate by default, with a lack of god belief. They could expand from there into intellectual or even spiritual atheism. All of these can flow from one variety to another. Or make for a big combination thereof. 

 

15 hours ago, Wertbag said:

A passing thought, is there any other context where gnostic/agnostic is used?  Theoretically the terms are about knowledge, and yet it appears in common usage they solely get applied to the question of religion.  While it should be fine to say I'm agnostic in regards to yetis, I can't think of any examples where I've seen it used as such.  Perhaps the terms are so loaded with history now that they aren't actually meaning knowledge anymore but specifically religious knowledge?  If someone says they are agnostic, it shouldn't actually tell you anything about them without clarification of what subject they mean, and yet you would be pretty safe in guessing they mean they don't know one way or the other about god. 

 

I do say that I'm agnostic about things like ghosts or the historical jesus and things like that. Things that I don't know for sure and that I'm undecided on. There's an indication of what it is that I'm agnostic about. I agree, if someone says agnostic without qualifying the claim then it's not very helpful. If about god, say it. If about Yeti's, say that. If about the historical existence of jesus, say that. 

 

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20 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

Here you look to have the closest case for a gnostic argument.

 

But even then, I would still proceed with caution. As much as we do know with pretty strong certainty, the question becomes could we be wrong for any reason at all? Dawkins seems very keen on this. That's why he openly goes as agnostic and atheist. Leaving a small margin of error. Never crossing a certain line when it comes to claiming more knowledge than can be claimed. 

Could we be wrong?  Well, not if we are talking about a logical inconsistency.  If the Christian god is given characteristics which are mutually exclusive, then the claim is an impossibility.  The bible is claimed to be a true and correct recording of the word of god, and yet we find plenty of contradictory characteristics claimed within its pages.  This is the married bachelor argument, that the very existence of something with logically inconsistent characteristics is impossible.

 

21 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

I call those types, "spiritual atheists."

 

I think a good description is, "default atheism."

I do love having more terms that help fill in these gaps and give a better way to communicate these positions.  The other category I have used is "apathetic atheists", that is like many of my friends, who just couldn't care less about the subject and actively work to avoid any discussion about it.

Thinking about the term "intellectual atheist", it does have the problem of sounding arrogant.  Kind of "if you were smart enough you would understand".  Maybe a term such as "studied" to indicate the research without claiming intellect? Maybe I'm just being pedantic, but I can imagine people getting their hackles up over that term.

 

Back to the question of how do you define knowledge, not just in a religious discussion but in general.  I heard a suggestion:  Data is any information passed to us.  Facts are those data points when they have been validated.  Knowledge is the collection of facts we have gained.

This would make knowledge individual, but also leaves a gap for the subjective validation.  What quantity and quality of validation is required?  Many facts we will be unable to personally validate, so we do need to rely on "experts" to validate the data on our behalf, but which ones and how do you know?  One persons fact could rightly be called an error by another.  Scientific theories have been well peer reviewed and heavily scrutinised, but facts with that level of validation are few and far between.

If that is an acceptable common (non-religious/non-absolute) definition then everything we "know" is by default held to beyond reasonable doubt.  Do you see any issues with using such terms outside of religious discussions?

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On 4/7/2020 at 6:32 AM, Wertbag said:

Could we be wrong?  Well, not if we are talking about a logical inconsistency.  If the Christian god is given characteristics which are mutually exclusive, then the claim is an impossibility.  The bible is claimed to be a true and correct recording of the word of god, and yet we find plenty of contradictory characteristics claimed within its pages.  This is the married bachelor argument, that the very existence of something with logically inconsistent characteristics is impossible.

 

Well I do use that to argue with christians.

 

Especially where they claim god is omnipresent but then claim that god is NOT everything. That's another logical impossibility. And they have no good way out of it. Like with these other impossibilities. We "know" that the claim is impossible.

 

The only loophole in this situation is one where they claim that god is actually beyond what men claim about god. As in something exists which created everything but we have no direct literal understanding of it. Liberal christians will try and go there. A Jordan Peterson type of liberal christian, for instance. 

 

On 4/7/2020 at 6:32 AM, Wertbag said:

Back to the question of how do you define knowledge, not just in a religious discussion but in general.  I heard a suggestion:  Data is any information passed to us.  Facts are those data points when they have been validated.  Knowledge is the collection of facts we have gained.

This would make knowledge individual, but also leaves a gap for the subjective validation.  What quantity and quality of validation is required?  Many facts we will be unable to personally validate, so we do need to rely on "experts" to validate the data on our behalf, but which ones and how do you know?  One persons fact could rightly be called an error by another.  Scientific theories have been well peer reviewed and heavily scrutinised, but facts with that level of validation are few and far between.

If that is an acceptable common (non-religious/non-absolute) definition then everything we "know" is by default held to beyond reasonable doubt.  Do you see any issues with using such terms outside of religious discussions?

 

The issue here is just that. Many things that we claim as knowledge are essentially unknowns. Such as trusting someone else's scientific research and such.

 

The agnostic discipline pretty much applies across the board. Over riding just about any knowledge claim. For the sake of getting along in life we chose to treat things as knowledge and knowing - even though when pressed and analyzed there is, more often than not, a lack of knowing for certain at the base of most knowledge claims. People let it pass as knowing but a lot of the time we don't really know. 

 

This can make people feel uncomfortable, which, leads to why we tend to give "knowledge" the pass that we do.

 

But it generally plays second fiddle to inherent uncertainties. I remember when I was going through the transition of thinking I knew so many things to realizing and embracing how much of it I actually do not know. And that people in general do not know. It came from reading about science - particle physics and cosmology to be precise. It opened my eyes to living with uncertainty.

 

And that was sort of like a final break away from what religion had done to my mind and perception as a child. It caused me to think that things were much more certain than they actually are in reality. Now the cats out of the bag. I can't return to thinking that I know more than I actually do. About god, or any number of secular issues. 

 

 

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On 4/5/2020 at 11:56 PM, Joshpantera said:

 

It means what it means. It could mean new born babies and infants too. Don't know and don't believe can mean any numbers of things in reality. The point is to not try and act as if it doesn't. Theists hate this. They were not born theistic, it was learned. Their children are not born theistic, either. None of us were. We lacked theistic belief until someone specifically taught it to us. It's not different than with tribesman or any similar example. 

 

What you're reaching for here is something I've called, "intellectual atheism." That clearly distinguishes between raw, natural atheism and atheism of an intellectual variety.

 

A baby or tribesman isn't an intellectual atheist, no. But Dawkins, Dillihunty, you, and I are intellectual atheists. I'm taking an intellectual, agnostic-atheist position in fact.

 


I’ve seen Josh use this term “intellectual atheism” before but misunderstood it.  I remember thinking “I’m an atheist but not well-read enough or maybe even smart enough to be an intellectual atheist”.  So it turns out I AM an intellectual atheist because - like most of us here - I have considered and rejected god claims.  I agree that it’s an imperfect term, but there does need to be a way of distinguishing between the likes of us and the babies or other people who have never thought about gods and whether they exist.  Personally I prefer to reserve the word atheist for those of us who actually reject god belief.  With or without the “agnostic” qualifier attached.  In that definition, babies are not atheists, even though they’re clearly not theists either.  In any case, I don’t get to decide how words are used by anybody but myself, so there’s that...

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14 hours ago, TABA said:

I’ve seen Josh use this term “intellectual atheism” before but misunderstood it.  I remember thinking “I’m an atheist but not well-read enough or maybe even smart enough to be an intellectual atheist”.  So it turns out I AM an intellectual atheist because - like most of us here - I have considered and rejected god claims.

 

Wertbags, "studied atheism" is the same thing I was going for with the intellectual qualifier. I only mean intellectual in the same grain as the term intellectually honest. Or intellectual property. That sort of thing. 

 

Intellectual meaning well read, researched, or studied as opposed to not well read, researched or studied. The "studied atheism" qualifier sounds less snobbish. He's right. And carries the same meaning that I intended by intellectual atheism. 

 

14 hours ago, TABA said:

I agree that it’s an imperfect term, but there does need to be a way of distinguishing between the likes of us and the babies or other people who have never thought about gods and whether they exist.  Personally I prefer to reserve the word atheist for those of us who actually reject god belief.  With or without the “agnostic” qualifier attached.  In that definition, babies are not atheists, even though they’re clearly not theists either.  In any case, I don’t get to decide how words are used by anybody but myself, so there’s that...

 

When I say "default atheism," it helps to read atheism by it's literal definition.

 

Default + not god belief.

 

Default + lack of god belief.

 

That's exactly what we're looking at with new born's or isolated tribesmen that may have never had contact with theistic ideas. By default, they lack in positive god belief.

 

And I think christians do tend to recognize this when they want to baptize babies or children, or wait until a child is old enough to decide for themselves. Or primitive natives or whatever. It hints at our not being born theistic (certainly not believing in YHWH), being born into sin as they would have it. And from sin having to become saved entails taking up theistic belief in 'their god.' And then trying to follow the guidelines they set forward as if from this god.

 

As resistant as christians may be towards the idea of default atheism, I'd think that somewhere in their minds they know it's our basic default, prompting them to try and change that through peer pressure or proselytizing. Even bullying others who don't believe the same. This seems to admit to the default in some way. 

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