hey everyone, I'm an agnostic atheist. Is anyone of you a gnostic atheist? if there is, would you share your view please? cause i would really love to have some kind of definite answer, but i'm just not there yet for considering myself as a gnostic atheist. so..opened up for discussion! :)
I thought you were either agnostic OR an atheist. Hmmmm.
Agnosticism isn't a middle-ground between "belief in" and "non belief in". There is a difference between "belief in/non belief in" and "know/not know" (absolute certainty/non absolute certainty = gnostic/agnostic).
Gnosticism/agnosticism isn't exclusive/inclusive by necessity for belief/non belief, they're different aspects of epistemic knowledge.
So you get gnostic atheists from two camps (mostly), those who subscribe to Ayn Rands misapplication of tautologies (A = A …well d'uh), or who subscribe to the belief that science deals in 100% certainties with regards to existential claims (it doesn't - see "argument from ignorance").
That's why I answered:
There are also those who change the definitions of things like belief-non belief/know/certainty, in order to justify their position, but this is just "moving the goalposts".
I like the Venn diagram which shows the possibilities very concisely.
Definite answers are kind of a tall order. :) Sodahead has an interesting discussion about this. I lean toward #4. How can #1 or #3 have credibility without evidence?
As others here point out, the question "Is there reason to believe that there is a God?" is different from "Is there reason to believe that there is no God?". You can have positions on both issues, and the gnostic positions for either demand argumentation or evidence. So "There is a reason to believe in God" needs substantiation and so does "There is a reason to believe that no God exists".
Now as a matter of fact, I think that a case can be made not only that there is no reason to believe in a God, but actually that none exists at all. I think about it in terms of Russell's Teapot: it's obvious that there's no reason to believe that the teapot isn't actually circling Jupiter at this moment, but really, we can more than that. We can say with very high certainty that such a teapot does not exist, because (i) we are not in the habit of releasing teapots into high orbits or bringing it outside of our atmosphere and (ii) matter elsewhere in the universe doesn't spontaneously coalesce into porcelain teapots.
So these are reasons to believe that no teapot actually exists at all, rather than simply that its existence has not been substantiated (which would be achieved simply by pointing to the lack of evidence).
Ditto for God. Since we have so many different kinds of religions on Earth, and modern psychology so clearly shows that our religious impulses can be traced back to various cognitive intuitions (the belief in agency, just world theory, etcetera) and ancient rituals like rain dances, and that our universe shows no sign of being created, we can actually say that God is simply a human illusion, rather than simply something we don't have reason to believe in yet.
I like what you've said here, and I think I almost entirely agree. The problem I'm having is simply the comparison of God to Russell's teapot (maybe you weren't even comparing, but simply applying the same train of logic, I'm not sure).
I would claim, like you seemingly have, that it's nearly impossible for me to conceive of a scenario where I could accept (or even entertain) the idea that a God from any religion could be anything more than a pacifier to deluded self worshipper's who cannot reconcile their own mortality (to be concise haha). At the same time, though - for me, anyways - I almost see the teapot illustration as a non-sequitur, but not in the strictest sense, either. I'll explain.
The way I look at it is very similar to the house builder allegory that I've heard far too many preachers use:
"If you see a house, you know it had a builder. Therefore, when you see creation, you know it had a creator". This is basically just a different, more simplistic take on the watchmaker.
Obviously, this argument is flawed in many ways, but the one that sticks out to me is the fact that the only example we have of buildings are those that have been built. We have never come across a building that wasn't built. The reason I consider this to be a very obvious non-sequitur, is because we only have one example of nature. We lack any other metric that we could compare it to, so to simply call it creation doesn't follow, because we have no examples of nature not being created, or being created.
Now that I've bored you to tears with that explanation, what I'm trying to get at is that the only examples we've ever seen of teapots, were those which have not orbited Jupiter. I'm sure there must be a Quantum Physicist out there somewhere who would state (probably while sporting a chubby :P) that this is entirely possible, but again, we have no examples of teapots occurring by any other means. Likewise with my prior example, we don't have any instances of measuring God/a lack of God - so to me, it's essentially the same. I feel as though we have as much reason to doubt God based on the comparison to the teapot, as theists have reason to accept the God hypothesis based on the comparison to the buildings.
I hope I've made sense throughout, and I in no way intended to be combative if I've come off that way. Again, I think in almost every way I agree with you, I've just never cared much for Russell's teapot argument, and I do think it's a conversation worth while. :)
All the best, look forward to chatting again!
I think you might be looking at the teapot argument from the wrong angle. It is not about whether objects are man made or not (would a space unicorn orbiting Jupiter make you feel differently?) it is about evidence and what forms the basis of beliefs.
I see the theist argument as saying: look at a house. It is complex, made up of complimentary parts, would not be fit for purpose if one of many things were missing and therefore couldn't have come about without a builder. (And since we know houses have builders, this is consistent and what we expect to find).
Now look at our planet and organic life. It is complex, made up of complimentary parts, would not function if one of many things were missing and therefore couldn't have come about without a creator. Since we know houses have a builder, we must have had a creator.
Where this view fails, is by assuming that order, complexity and interdependence require intelligent design. A snowflake is ordered, complex and each one nearly unique, but no-one believes that a snow flake fairy makes them, because science has shown how natural processes do it.
Conversely if you see a hill (simple, interchangeable parts, would still be a hill if you removed some dirt), you assume that it is just a feature of the landscape when in fact it could be artificially built. You would need information to find out what the truth is.
In order to start seriously considering an idea at all (e.g. a god exists), there needs to be
some reason or evidence to support this idea otherwise you are just believing in something simply because you feel like it or because other people feel like believing it and tell you it's true.
In my view, to adopt an agnostic position on an issue (defined as we do not or can never have enough knowledge to show it true or false), you must first have enough evidence for the issue to be worth considering as true.
Logical reasons supporting the existence of gods (e.g. science shows the universe had a beginning so what caused it as we can't have come from nothing) can equally be used to support the existence of currently unknown natural processes, or any supernatural entity such the magical asteroid/leprechaun/teapot etc that fulfills the same function as a god.
Throughout history, religion has had to correct itself on many topics (earth being flat, cause of lightning) as science has uncovered the reality of the situation via evidence. Therefore I find it more logical to believe that an unknown natural process causes something (as we keep discovering new natural processes) than a supernatural cause (which has never been shown to cause anything, or even exist).
A lot of good things said here as well and actually, Lucas - I think what you've added about the unicorn acts as a perfectly corrective measure for the problem I saw with the teapot. Matt may end up thinking I'm being a pedantic goofball (or maybe not) but I certainly wasn't trying to be. I was simply trying to play the devil's (or God's) advocate and I certainly do think the teapot metaphor is analogous to a proper "God" case. I was attempting to imply that a naturalistic subject is something that's always going to draw consternation because it is an item that we can identify and understand, as opposed to going right to the flying spaghetti monster, unicorns as you said, etc, etc, etc. It could well be that I'm subconsciously rejecting a comparison of God to anything real at all, and maybe unnecessarily so, mind you. I guess, in a nutshell, I understand the argument and am probably being nit-picky about it.
"In order to start seriously considering an idea at all (e.g. a god exists), there needs to be
some reason or evidence to support this idea otherwise you are just believing in something simply because you feel like it or because other people feel like believing it and tell you it's true."
I like this, because although one could build the case that humans are cursed to being agnostic about absolutely everything, that very few things can ever be truly "known" (particularly because knowledge is mainly a sub-set of our belief systems) - it's a good point that agnosticism should come with the caveat that, bringing up an idea automatically requires it to be an idea that is even worth thinking about. It's almost as though some myths have so much familiarity and tenure with us, that we forget that they aren't any more likely than anything we can pull out of our proverbial asses. Example: Zombie Jesus is a preposterous notion, but theists frequently get agitated and call me ridiculous when I tell them I can neither disprove him, or the teeny tiny elephant that is latched onto their large intestine and feeding off of their nutrients. *I realize I've made a hypocrite of myself from my prior post, because I'd have to argue that my analogy isn't strong enough, because the only example we have of elephants don't live inside people ;) - thanks for setting me straight haha*
"Throughout history, religion has had to correct itself on many topics (earth being flat, cause of lightning) as science has uncovered the reality of the situation via evidence. Therefore I find it more logical to believe that an unknown natural process causes something (as we keep discovering new natural processes) than a supernatural cause (which has never been shown to cause anything, or even exist)."
You know, I've heard theists challenged with the statement that the bible has been altered and/or rewritten so many times that any merit or credibility it may have had (if any) has diminished. I've heard the figure that the catholics alone have made over 600 significant revisions over the last few hundred years, for example. I'm no history buff, so am unsure if this is an accurate figure, but I'm perfectly willing to accept that it could be close.
I've heard the same theists reply to this charge by pointing out how frequently scientific "theories" (I use the colloquialism in quotations because most theists don't understand the distinction at all) are modified or expanded. It should go without saying that pointing out our scientific shortcomings in no way strengthens the case for religion, but what I've found the most intriguing about this lacklustre argument is that it ignores the fact that science is virtually always the cause for change in the biblical text (and supernatural claims) in the first place. So in a way, I'm almost fine with such a ridiculous argument, because if God is just an ever shrinking representation of scientific ignorance, then.... well.... there's not much else to say in it's defence, particularly if their only case is to attack science.
Personally, I like that fact that scientific theories often get modified. It shows that we are willing to learn from new information and old mistakes, and the amazing technological advances we have made in the last couple of centuries show what happens when cultures promote evidence based knowledge. (Many ancient cultures also benefited from this).
It is interesting to contrast to the bible, which most christians would say has been unchanged since it was written, since christianity has changed its mind on things like:
- slavery (at one point justified with bible quotes in various pulpits across the US)
- celebrating christmas (Oliver Cromwell, a famous puritan, made christmas illegal)
- who can read the bible (for many years only priests were able to)
- purchasing forgiveness (indulgences)
Not to mention current disagreements on wealth, women priests, when the world will end, modern day "miracles" etc.
* Given the number of bibles and biblical manuscripts that existed at the time, I find it hard to believe that any significant changes took place within the last few centuries that affected anything outside the sect making the change. It seems too implausible for all/most of these documents to have been altered. However, I don't really know.
Well said. It's almost as though they think they have a patent on absolute truth, but many don't realize that this "word of God" has been modified time and again (God changes his mind a lot).
I would add to your list things like homosexuality (which is still a very divisive topic in the US, but the progress is obvious over time, and a few branches of where I am in Canada even allow homosexual ministers) and women's rights. Massive changes in the latter of those two. I like the point about wealth - many more people who are supposed to exemplify christian charity are far more representative of Ayn Rand's objectivism.
*I should have clarified that many (if not all) of the changes in the bible have to do with translation error/removal of books by catholic and protestant branches. For example, I'm told the orthodoxy has kept all of the books, the catholics have whittled out many of those, and the protestants a few more yet, as best I understand it. A tertiary lesson from Professor Google could probably do me wonders, but it's difficult to find time to read about all the things I'd like to :S
"I would add to your list things like homosexuality and women's rights"
Absolutely agree. My list was not intended to be exhaustive.