Yes, I can say there is no god; An open letter to Atheists

I frequently run into atheists who spout the politically correct dictum that we cannot KNOW there is no god; we see no evidence for one, so we believe that no gods exist — but we remain agnostic to the possiblity
because we have integrity and are openminded to true evidence, should it arise.

Well, I think that’s just bullsh*t coated with a dressing of the fear of being accused of being an absolutist.

But the fact remains, we certainly CAN know, in every commonly used sense of the word ‘know’, that gods do not exist. To presume our own infallibility is another thing entirely. THAT would be irrational and absurd. But there’s no need to extrapolate that to the question of god.

Why?

Do you have any problem saying you know that Superman doesn’t really exist? What about Zeus. Thor. Odin. Isis. Perhaps you’re not too sure about leprechauns, or wood sprites and fairies? Oh, I see, you have no problem stating you know THEY don’t exist. Then why do you not apply the exact same logic to the gods du jour? Why do they get a ‘pass’ on this? They are NO different.

They don’t get a ‘maybe’ from me. I don’t say .... (continued on Examiner page)

Read the entire article here:
http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-44168-Philadelphia-Freethought-E...

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Comment by Jim DePaulo on April 26, 2010 at 2:15pm
As the imminent philosopher, Homer J. Simpson said, " Faith is believing in things that don't exist.'
another favorite of mine is, "things which are invisible are pretty much identical to things that don't exist"
Comment by Carol Everhart Roper on April 26, 2010 at 8:27am
Damn, I see I used the wrong quoting style here.

Becca I posted this from you: where you see the >> Stating that gods definitely don't exist is irrational. Belief without proof/evidence is always irrational.

John BH - I posted this from you near the end of my reply:

If "knowledge" is taken to imply certainty, then I would count myself as an agnostic on almost all subjects. I don't claim to know things, I take working hypotheses. But in ordinary conversation I call myself an atheist, because I'm pretty damn confident that gods are fictional. It is only when someone tries to play philosophy with me that I take the agnostic position.
Comment by Carol Everhart Roper on April 26, 2010 at 8:25am
Hi Becca,
>>

So, you are unsure about Santa Claus? Here's why I don't find it irrational to say I know there are no gods. We know where the entire concept of gods came from. WE humans invented it. As I said, I don't advocate that people who are unsure if a god might exist say what I say... now THAT would be irrational. But for those who do understand that gods are a human construct (and here, this addresses what John BH pasted as well:) we don't need to ask 'define your terms', or 'define your god' - it's pretty simple.

Some people in a desperate attempt to either hold on to a god idea or not be thought of as overly dogmatic redefine 'god is everything' ... well, no. Everything is everything. One dear friend says "I can't be sure that some entirely new definition of god will arise, so I can't say 'know' in that case." Uh, I don't think so. Can you say you know you don't have 14 fingers, or do you say well, I might not think I have fourteen fingers but something else might be called a finger in the future so I better not say I KNOW I don't have them...

My point is SIMPLY and ONLY this - if we can use the term 'know' comfortably on other issues, then we should be able to do so here as well. We shouldn't let THEISTS define our positions with absurd qualifications added in.

I didn't come to this lightly, nor, John B, am I advocating not getting along with those who don't agree with me...though I don't see anyone, believer or not, as the enemy - rather I see the concept of a god which has so captured and enslaved so many for milennia as 'the enemy'.

Thus I eliminate the idea of 'agnostic atheist' regarding untestable gods. . . because the concept is indeed testable. And it's a big FAIL. I went through all the stages you describe before realizing they're just theist backwash, really. A dance by ethical atheists to sound reasonable. But, it's MY position that we don't NEED to do all that.

John, I also hate to see the hostility such discussion seems to bring about. Interestingly, those most adamant against it aren't theists - but atheists. I've been an atheist for over 45 yrs, and have held this position about saying KNOW for at least 20-25 of them. So even though I'm getting some hackles raised still, I find that at least a few others agree with me. That wasn't the case when I began.

The day will come when all gods are considered mythology, and we all know it. Till then...

John BH - thanks for posting all that... I see by your

>>

that you do agree with me, as that's exactly what I said.
Comment by John B Hodges on April 26, 2010 at 3:17am
This debate has arisen many times, so here's a collection of what I've said before.
----------------------

(JBH) For myself, I like the position once presented in American Atheist magazine, I forget by whom: "atheism" is about what you believe, "agnosticism" is about what you claim to know. Thus there are four possible cases. You can be a gnostic theist, claiming to know that there is a god; you can be an agnostic theist, not claiming to know but believing anyway (this position is also called "fideism"); you can be a gnostic atheist, claiming to know that there is no god (for example, by claiming that all concepts of god so far offered are self-contradictory or incoherent); or you can be an agnostic atheist, not claiming to know but disbelieving (perhaps judging that the stories of gods are highly implausible, highly unlikely to be true).

Since many gods, and many different concepts of god, have been offered, the writer proposed that we should be "gnostic atheists" for all testable gods and "agnostic atheists" for all untestable gods.

We could claim to know the non-existence of Demeter and Neptune, since they were supposed to live in a palace on top of Mt. Olympus, and we can check that. But if someone speaks of the Ground of Being, or similar vague and untestable concepts, we remain agnostic but choose to pay it no mind until some evidence is offered.

-------------

To the question "Do you believe in God?" we should reply "Please define your terms... what do you mean by this 'God'? Is your 'god' detectable or testable in any way?" If it is not, we do not claim to know it does not exist, merely that we see no reason to think that it does, and no reason to care.

More important IMHO is the rejection of all claims of "divine revelation" delivered by human beings. This is what was important about Deism, historically. It effectively denied that any human being could speak or act with divine authority, thus denying any moral authority (denying any grounds for temporal authority) for monarchs and organized clergy. This denial is the essential precondition for religious liberty and democratic forms of government.

So, technically, the important rejection, the historically revolutionary rejection, was not of "god" but of "revelation", it was done not by atheists but by freethinkers.

-------------

It pains me to see this debate going on. I suppose it will always return after some interval, like bad weather.

"Holier than thou" is a game that many people play, in many different ways. "More atheist than thou" is a strange way to play it, but some people do. IMHO, I don't think it is helpful.

Nonbelievers have called themselves by many different names- nullifidian, ignostic, rationalist, igtheist, as well as the more common atheist, agnostic, humanist, infidel, whatever.

They are all trying to make fine distinctions, that seem important to them for some reason.

"Theism" and "atheism" are matters of what you believe. "Gnostic" and "agnostic" are matters of what you claim to know. This is a real distinction. Most agnostics are either atheists or "functional atheists". But a few are fideists: "reliance on faith rather than reason in pursuit of religious truth." They acknowledge that there is no proof, perhaps they even acknowledge that there is no evidence, but they believe it anyway.

"Knowledge" and "belief" are not the same things. And what qualifies as "knowledge" is not a simple question. Does "knowledge" imply certainty? Does it imply truth? If you counted yourself as knowing what herbs were good for what ailments, and later found that you were mistaken, does this mean that you really didn't have knowledge, you just believed that you had knowledge? How do you know if you really know or not?

If "knowledge" is taken to imply certainty, then I would count myself as an agnostic on almost all subjects. I don't claim to know things, I take working hypotheses. But in ordinary conversation I call myself an atheist, because I'm pretty damn confident that gods are fictional. It is only when someone tries to play philosophy with me that I take the agnostic position.

----------------

Bottom line: Atheists and agnostics (and infidels and nullifidians and skeptics) should be friends. Sniping at each other wastes our time and weakens our influence. The enemy is the folks who believe in some dogma, and apply dogma-based ethics and politics to the world.
Comment by ryan cameron on April 25, 2010 at 9:40pm
"Stating that gods definitely don't exist is irrational"

WRONG. it is the very definition of reason. Reason is observing, moving forward based on evidence and proof, casting aside foolishness and nonsense based on new information always being cross checked and tested.

Acknowledging anything without a shred of evidence or proof is the opposite of reason, that is called "irrational" . Believing in ghosts, UFO's, the boogyman, that it takes 14 virgins to satisfy a volcano, or even believing those things might be possible and are worthy of consideration again without a shred of evidence is the very definition of irrational.
Comment by Becca on April 25, 2010 at 8:59pm
Stating that gods definitely don't exist is irrational. Belief without proof/evidence is always irrational. If you have some sore of secret knowledge that allows you to both believe that gods don't exist and allows you to be rational at the same time I'd love to be clued in to it.
Comment by Lorien on April 25, 2010 at 7:06pm
I keep seeing similar blog posts and discussions of what an atheist is or is not. I say that there is zero evidence that there has been any gods ever! So I therefore say definately that there are no gods and live my life that way even though I can not prove it. I leave it to the theists to prove it which I know they can't.

THERE ARE NO GODS!

I am a militant atheist.
Comment by Carol Everhart Roper on April 25, 2010 at 7:00pm
Sorry to post again... I rewrote the addendum to be more accurate... thank you Dave for pointing that out.

Addendum: There is a difference between common usage of the word 'know' and formal or epistemological use of the concept of 'absolute knowledge'. From that standpoint, we can not even truly state we know we exist! I do not claim to have absolute knowledge or even believe it exists. I do, however, state I know there is no god as comfortably as I state I know I exist.
Comment by Carol Everhart Roper on April 25, 2010 at 6:52pm
Oh - ps to Dave - I happen to think that even when using formal argument, we can still quite comfortably state we know there is no god... I should have said that.
Comment by Carol Everhart Roper on April 25, 2010 at 6:39pm
Hi Becca, How is my position irrational?

Ryan, I probably sound pretty dogmatic in my article, but I do think agnostic can be valid position - some people don't come to atheism as easily as others. I was raised RC, and around age 14, I began to realize that we were being asked to believe some pretty bizarre stuff. But, it didn't immediately occur to me that there was no god, I thought that Catholicism was weird, and looked around to see if there was another religion which wasn't goofy. It didn't take me an especially long time to get to "I don't think god exists." but during that interim, I was basically agnostic, and it was an honest position.

In my article I was addressing the atheists who are firmly on the 'do not believe in any god' side, but who don't want to appear as ridiculous as the fundamentalist who 'knows' their god is 'real'. However, I personally think that's an erroneous comparison. We've come to the knowledge of where the ideas of god came from, and we can see that they are false. So, when we're in a serious dialogue about belief, we don't need to hem and haw ... just spit it out.

A friend thought I meant we should go after everyone, shouting from the treetops that we KNOW there's no god. No... I don't advocate being rude ... but when specifically asked, then let's be honest about it. If you can sit around with your atheist friends and say you know there's no god, then don't be afraid to say so when having a similar conversation with a believer.

Dave - maybe I should have left the addendum off! I added it because in one discussion on Facebook, some folks were concerned about the rules of formal argument/debate. I don't go around in formal debate mode, but I had to explain it to them... which is why I added it. Probably unnecessary, huh?

Thanks for your comments, folks!

c.

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