Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What I Believe, Don't Believe, and Know

It's said that roughly ten percent of conversations among atheists and agnostics involve arguing over the definitions of atheism and agnosticism. Sometimes I'm inclined to think that number is too low by an order of magnitude.

At any rate, the following is a brief explanation of my position and what I call myself, if such labels are truly necessary.

First, I do not know if God exists or if there is any such thing as a supernatural realm. By this statement, I consider myself to be an agnostic. However, I do not know if the question of whether God exists is knowable, which makes me a empirical agnostic (or "weak agnostic"). Ask me if God exists, and I'll say, "I don't know." Ask me if it can be known if God exists, and I'll say, "I don't know that, either."

Second, I do not believe that any of the gods offered to me as "Exhibit A" by various people past and present qualify as God or anything else supernatural. They all fail for one reason or another. Either they are a part of the universe (like a wooden idol) or they are physically incoherent (like Jehovah being a spirit but with nostrils to smell the savor of a burned sacrifice) or they are logically incoherent (like an omnibenevolent being in a world with pointless suffering). Everybody does not believe in one god or another--I just round down to zero. By this, I consider myself to be an atheist, more specifically, a weak atheist.

Third, I believe that God does not exist. I base this belief on the lack of evidence for the existence of God, combined with the inordinate amount of evidence that various gods do not exist. In other words, my lack of belief in all the various particular gods leads me to believe--but not conclude--that no god exists. Naturally, all it would take for me to believe that God exists is reliable, firm evidence.

So in summary, I don't know if God exists; I don't believe that your God exists, and I believe that no God exists.

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