So I was watching the excellent program The Atheist Experience on youtube the other day and am very impressed with how much scope they give their callers to explain their viewpoint and beliefs. But in one of the discussions it struck me how sick I am of the standard weak response by atheists to the question of the existence of god. Atheists usually respond that they don't believe in god(s) as there is no evidence for their existence but don't go the next step to deny the existence of god(s) because there is neither evidence for or against them. Weak. And I believe the reason for the weak response is that atheists particularly in America want to sound "sane" and "reasonable" for fear that they will be labelled as madmen by the theocratic republic of America.
Well, thankfully I am not American so let me be quite blunt about my atheism:
A creator-god being responsible for creating the universe and life itself does not exist.
I state that god(s) do not exist with the same conviction that I can state that pink flying elephants do not exist.
I state that god(s) do not exist with the same conviction that I can state that pink flying fairies at the bottom of my garden do not exist.
I state that god(s) do not exist with the same conviction that I can state that flying spaghetti monster does not exist.
I state that god(s) do not exist with the same conviction that I can state that the Great Green Arkleseizure does not exist.
I state that god(s) do not exist with the same conviction that I can state that the [insert Santa Claus, the easter bunny and any other imaginary creature here] does not exist.
You get the idea. It's ok for an atheist to admit that god does not exist. It's not illogical, it's not irrational and it's not going too far.
If (a) god(s) existed, they'd have to be ever-shrinking "gods of the gaps". Certainly they wouldn't be sources of any sort of objective or "superior" morality, and they wouldn't be worth praying to.
I live my life with the conviction that we don't have to worry about imaginary sky-fathers or heaven or hell -- the same as the conviction that we don't have to worry about the Coming of the Great White Handkerchief.
Agree with everything you say. So I take it you don't have a problem declaring to xtians that god does not exist - categorically and unequivocally.
People can claim evidence for all sorts of things but the reality is that there is no evidence. Evidence would prove the existence once and for all because it means that it would be verifiable by anybody.
True. And anyone can have a legitimate hypothesis about the nature of reality. Lacking evidence doesn't make the hypothesis illegitimate; it just means that it's not a supported theory. If someone comes at me with a God hypothesis I'll say "cool -- how does that work?" If they come at me with a God theory, well then I need to see the evidence. If they come at me with a claim of revealed truth I just tell them to fuck off.
One of the central tenets in my personal belief system is that absolutes (probably) don't exist in nature. I've been a convinced atheist at least since I was 6 years old (having just read and discussed the whole damn Bible at Mom's insistence). I'm not an agnostic who can as easily swing one way or the other. I'm sure enough for my purposes that gods don't exist, but still -- no absolutes. I don't sit around wondering if maybe, just maybe there is a god; I'm sure enough that there isn't, and so the idea is of no personal concern. But if evidence strong enough to convince me that it's proof one way or another showed up, I'd have to alter my belief.
And so when I talk with theists I don't say that I know that their god is imaginary. I say that it's my considered opinion that it is. To do otherwise would be a proclamation of faith -- that is, pretending to know something that I don't. We could have pissing contests until the cows come home, employing our respective armories of what we consider evidence, but to what end?
If God exists in the mind of a theist, then it exists. It's a real thing -- a play of synapses. That it doesn't exist in my mind doesn't negate that it exists in theirs. I'm not implying that their view is as legitimate as mine, but then I'm biased toward my own perception of reality. I will not proclaim to my religious friends & neighbors that their god is imaginary, though I might (maybe after a few beers) tell them that I think that it very probably is. I had this same conundrum in the first grade when I talked with my classmates about Santa Claus. It's a little sad and a lot interesting that we're still having that conversation some 60 years on.
TF - "And so when I talk with theists I don't say that I know that their god is imaginary. I say that it's my considered opinion that it is. To do otherwise would be a proclamation of faith -- that is, pretending to know something that I don't."
So when you talk to xtians would you state that you know fairies are imaginary or would you say that it is only your considered opinion?
PS, thanks for your detailed and considered reply. I enjoyed reading your reasoning and your atheist experiences from a young age.
Yes I would merely say that it's my considered opinion for exactly the same reason. I don't leave room for the existence of fairies or gods or bigfoot in my head. They are all equally legitimate hypotheses with no evidence of their reality. But there's no reason for me to try to refute them until and unless those who take such unfounded hypotheses as truth also take actions that I deem as harmful to others. An example of that harm might be trying to convince children that the universe is centered on them and is just 6,000 years old. Another example would be flying airplanes into buildings.
One of my dearest friends enjoys toying with the idea that bigfoot is real. Fine, as long as you don't put out bigfoot poison that kills something else. Another friend is sure that God is real and that our nation should support moves by Israel to bring about the End Times. That's a whole other bucket of fish, and needs strident refutation.
You know, that's fine to let people believe in fantasies that are not harmful to other beings but I don't think that I should be forced to soften my understanding of reality just because another person states a particular belief position. Someone may believe in fairies but I know that fairies are an imaginary concept and therefore don't exist in physical reality.
Now that I think about it, I am trying to make this distinction because a softer stance tends to give credence to fantasies. Maybe it's more about my inability to accept non-reality.
I don't know quite how anyone could force you to soften your understanding of reality. If they did, that would likely meet my definition of doing harm. I guess a cult leader like Jim Jones or David Koresh or Rush Limbaugh would fit that category. We each have our personal realities because none of us is privy to the whole enchilada. How those diverse realities conflict/compliment each other is part of what makes society interesting. Any claim of absolute truth is antisocial.
One of my dearest friends enjoys toying with the idea that bigfoot is real.
I was a sasquatch (Bigfoot) hopeful for awhile. If you look at the pro-Bigfoot evidence, it can look pretty good (National Geographic documentary investigating the Patterson-Gimlin film and concluding it's an authentic sasquatch, etc. etc.)
But then the geneticist Bryan Sykes journeyed around the world investigating Bigfoot/yeti sightings via DNA testing.
He DID find evidence of a previously unknown subspecies of bear in the Himalayas, which is pretty exciting.
But what he did NOT find, was evidence of an unknown species of great ape, anywhere.
The "Bigfoot" samples from North America that Bryan Sykes looked at, all turned out to be known mammals - possums, bears, etc.
So I thought, despite all the hype about Bigfoot being on the verge of existing, if the Bigfoot researchers' best samples are all duds, it looks like it's only hype ...
And I saw a short movie of a man who claims he was the creature in the Patterson-Gimlin film - damn it, but he's huge and tall, AND he has apelike proportions! - very short legs, long arms. Very weird-looking guy. And he can walk like the creature in the film, too.
This entire discussion is based upon a misunderstanding of two things:
1. a misunderstanding of “god”
2. a misunderstanding of atheism.
First: god is, unlike anything else, nothing more, or less, than an object of faith. The existence or nonexistence of an object of faith is not arguable. Once you understand the uniqueness of this object of faith, you will realize that proof is irrelevant. There is no more proof that god does not exist than there is proof that god does exist. That unique nature of an object of faith makes its existence or nonexistence inarguable. So, stop it.
Second: Atheism transcends this silly argument about the existence or nonexistence of an object of faith, by simply rerecognizing not having faith. Atheism is not some sort of intellectual or scientific or even philosophical pursuit. Atheism is nothing more, or less, than an absence of faith.
There are countless things atheists believe in.
There is nothing that atheists have faith in.
1. Exactly. God is an imaginary being. So there should not be a problem for an atheist to state this clearly. God is imaginary and does not exist.
2. Atheism is the absence of faith in a god, not just the absence of faith.