why agnosticism is a pointless stance

February 8th, 2009

Disclaimer: Depending on your definition of atheism and agnosticism, I may actually be advocating agnosticism in this text. These two terms have any number of definitions and what follows simply reflects my perception of them. The point is not that one term is better than the other. What I'm trying to argue is simply that one type of thought process associated with agnosticism is not particularly useful.

The more I think about agnosticism the more I think it's just the politically correct face of atheism. It's a way to say "Hey, listen guys, you say you know god exists, and we're skeptical. But that doesn't imply we think we're better than you, we just think it's impossible to know at all." That is the gist of it, but does it really differ from the atheist position in any important way? I don't think it does.

Does an agnostic believe in god? If he did he would be a believer. Which he isn't. So the answer is no. Of course, the agnostic slogan is "I don't know", but in a question of belief, there is no such thing. There is no way to not know if you believe in something. You either believe or you don't, and if you "don't know" that means you don't. You fail to give a positive answer.

The problem with agnosticism is that it gets you into meaningless statements about probability. An agnostic who adamantly repeats "I don't know" is likely to be seen as low hanging fruit for believers and unbelievers alike. "Okay then, what do you think is more likely?" Agnostics in their drive to be even handed get pushed into saying that both are 'equally likely'. Well, what on earth does that mean? Is that a statement about statistical probability? So in a repeatable experiment where the universe is created god appears 50% of the time? That's absurd reasoning. We are not talking about something measurable and therefore there is no way to say 'how likely' it is.

Wrong question, wrong answer

A philosopher once said "as a philosopher it is not that I can produce more answers, but I can make sure we don't ask the wrong questions".

Religious people claim to know with absolute certainty that god exists. And thus they seek the equivalent answer from the unbeliever. "Can you say with absolute certainty that god does not exist?" It is the wrong question. And to see why we need only ask a different, obvious, question. "Is there anything at all you believe with absolute certainty?" Again, the answer is no.

What does 'absolute certainty' even mean? It would have to mean, I think, that notwithstanding circumstances you know nothing about, your faith would still hold. If nothing else, that strikes me as just about the most foolish statement imaginable. Religious people claim to have this certainty, and that's their business.

In any case, we know that life is unpredictable, and it is possible that anything one has established as knowledge may be overturned. Is there any knowledge at all you have that holds beyond the constraints of sensory perception and reason? No, there isn't. Everything is theoretically subject to change.

So why on earth should I have to answer the question of god to a greater degree of certainty than I have about any other question in life? Agnosticism exists only because we need an answer to this incorrect question.

Atheism is the realization that the question is incorrect. An unbeliever simply does not have an equivalent answer to the question of absolute certainty. Atheism is not about absolute certainty, it is about giving an answer to a question that has a reasonable answer. Does god exist? No. Do you know this with absolute certainty? Irrelevant. I know god doesn't exist with the same certainty that I know Superman doesn't exist, and that's perfectly sufficient.

Atheism is the realization that the difference between a hypothetical "no" and a practical "no" isn't worth dwelling on. Because when it comes down to choosing how to live life, there is no agnostic option. You either live your life according to religious observance or you don't. No agnostic will sit in the 'waiting room' until the answer comes in. Thus there is no practical difference between the agnostic and the atheist, only a theoretical one.

This also resolves the misunderstanding that "atheism is faith just like theism". Atheists do not have an equivalent belief, that is what the a in atheism means.

Political correctness

How does political correctness factor into it? I think the answer is obvious. Religion is such a big issue in our culture that we have the intuition not to take these questions lightly. Religion is not just an issue of faith, it's also a question of world view, of social institution, of tradition, of family ties. To reject the god hypothesis is to reject religion, because what sensible religious observance could follow if you eliminate the cornerstone of religion itself? And to reject religion is to make a big life decision.

That is the paradox of the god question. The fallout may be complicated, but the question isn't. So people hesitate to say what they would so easily say if it wasn't for the collateral damage.

To say "I don't know" to a question of belief, I think, is to say "I don't believe, but I'm not sure what the consequences are going to be". We are not so hesitant to answer other questions of faith. Do people say "wait a minute, you can't be dead certain that Superman doesn't exist"? Actually, I can. He's a fictional character from a comic book. Do I need to be more guarded in my reasoning? No, I don't. I'm never going to get a more useful answer than "no".

Are you still on the fence about Santa Claus? Of course not. Because there is no reason not to say just say "no".

:: random entries in this category ::

50 Responses to "why agnosticism is a pointless stance"

  1. erik says:

    "Atheism is not about absolute certainty, it is about giving an answer to a question that has a reasonable answer. Does god exist? No. Do you know this with absolute certainty? Irrelevant."

    This is an extremely strange trail of thought. It implies Atheism's legitimacy relies entirely on the existence of theism and questions derived therefrom. Not a very respectable stance at all. To me, Atheism should focus on its own qualities instead. Atheists believe there is no god and they support that claim by evidence from the scientific community (Darwin and so on). Since said evidence reveals nothing of the absolute origin of the universe (only how it developed after its conception), there is a serious faith-factor involved in Atheism.

    In order to qualify as a Theist or an Atheist, you have to believe certain things in addition to what you know.

    The Agnostics, meanwhile, refuse any such (leap of) faith. The Agnostics base their life's philosophy on knowledge alone. Since mankind's current complete arsenal of knowledge tells us nothing on the origin of all life or what follows our physical death: the Agnostic aims to come to terms with these uncertainties and leave them as they are, rather than filling in the gaps with products of belief or faith.

    As such, the Agnostic view of life is far removed from that of a Theist or Atheist (who are more closely related to each other than either one of them is willing to admit). Instead, Agnostics share fundamental views with Buddhist.

    It was Buddha who said 'man can never be free unless he accepts there are certain things he does not and cannot know during his physical existence on Earth' (such as what follows our physical death). The Agnostics agree and waste no time trying to come up with hypothetical explanations based on extremely limited 'evidence'.

  2. Daniel says:

    Your view of Agnosticism is limited by your own opinion of Atheism. There are as many people who call themselves Agnostic are there are reasons for being Agnostic. An Agnostic is basically someone who is comfortable with the concept that they do not know if there is a god or not. This could be because they believe it unlikely or it might just because they don't have the time or inclination to enter the debate, or it might be that after starting to investigate the material they have come to the conclusion that all sides of the debate are inconclusive.

    I am Agnostic, and am as certainly Agnostic as others are Atheist or Theist. That is to say I am certain of my uncertainty. I do not have enough information to make a judgment at this point.

  3. Jon says:

    I consider myself an agnostic atheist. I don't think there's a god, but I don't know. You trying tell me that my view is pointless because it's not positive... I believe in evidence. I have seen no evidence to believe in a god, but I've seen no evidence to disprove one either. I've been really angry when I see all the anti-atheist crap on reddit, but this makes me want to rethink that stance. I'm not against god or for god, I'm for truth. Until it can be proven one way or the other I'll stick with that.

    Your views are no different than the 'true believers'. Believe what you want. I don't believe. I observe, and I learn.

  4. Ignatius says:

    Uh, no?

    The inevitable problem with discussions like this is that it doesn't appear that you have ever questioned whether or not you are correct. In philosophy, proving/arguing a point requires refuting counter points to your own views. All that I see here are rebuttals against theism and agnosticism using purposefully poorly worded versions of their arguments.

    If I were to say, "Atheists are those who are so adamant in their belief that God does not exist that they will claim so even in the face of actual scientific evidence to the contrary, should some ever exist." Of course that would make atheists look bad and would be an easy point to argue against, but that wouldn't make it true.

    In the future, I am sure us lowly agnostics and those intelligently-poor theists would appreciate if you actually learned what our view points were before you told us what they were and then argued against what you told us.

    Thanks!

  5. Noel Bullard says:

    I am Agnostic, I would like to clarify the previous statement re: belief.

    "Does an agnostic believe in god? If he did he would be a believer. Which he isn’t. So the answer is no. Of course, the agnostic slogan is “I don’t know”, but in a question of belief, there is no such thing. There is no way to not know if you believe in something. You either believe or you don’t, and if you “don’t know” that means you don’t. You fail to give a positive answer"

    This statement reflects some notion that belief, or lack there of, is a mandate of the human condition, which it is not. Agnostics often get 'lumped' with atheists, and the assumption is that agnostic do not believe in a deity, and this is not the case either. it is quite simple...
    Agnostics suspend belief or non-belief based on lack of knowledge. This is tough thing for many people to wrap their head around, so I will put it more simply. If you ask someone if they 'believe' in aliens, and their answer was that they have never had an experience with aliens, but they cannot completely discount aliens exists, you would accept that said person does not have a belief or a non-belief, instead they are suspending belief for lack of knowledge. Theists would take issue with this statement, because to them it's a matter of 'God', and thereby it cannot be trivialized, but an atheist should understand this point quite clearly.

    Additionally, agnosticism is not a matter of political correctness, is it just as valuable personal belief structure as any religion or other personal conviction. Agnostics struggle with matters of morality and what it means to be alive, how to be better people. The difference is that we do it from a humanistic point of view, and not as a consequence of divine intervention.

    Being agnostic does not mean that you border on being a theist or an atheist- you are not required to pick a side of the fence. You can look at both sides of that fence, appreciate the merits of each side, but continue to suspend belief based on lack of knowledge.

  6. numerodix says:

    Is there any practical difference between the state of suspended belief and the atheist stance of an absence of belief? Does it matter to your life, do you live by different values or customs than you would if you were an atheist?

    Do you have more wonder or piece of mind or whatever?

  7. Noel Bullard says:

    Yes there is a practical difference. Atheism is not absence of belief, it is belief that there is no deity. This seems like the same thing, but it is not. Atheism is based on a notion that there is no deity, and that is a belief. There is no clear, conclusive proof that there is no god, just as there is no clear conclusive proof that there is. They are both a condition of belief, not of a lack of belief. Agnosticism, however, is a lack of belief, or suspension of belief, based on lack of knowledge, because agnostics embrace that there is no conclusive proof either way.

    I don't know that I would live by a different set of values or customs if I were an atheist, because it has never occurred to me that having a belief would make my life better. What I do think is that anyone who allows a belief for or against the existence of a deity had undermined a portion of their own humanity. I think that a persons humanity- the need to improve the lives of others, the want to make life a better place for ourselves, our offspring, and the countless billions of people we will never see ourselves, that humanity is an important part of each person. Many theists would say that is some sort of divine inspiration...some atheists would think that is a part of evolution, wanting to take care of our offspring. Either way, I have more peace of mind in knowing that I see every persons right to dignity and respect as valid, regardless of their beliefs.

    If I had to make a declarative statement of belief, it would be that the assertion of belief most likely makes you wrong from the get go. If your a theist, you might look down on those who are atheist, and if you are an atheist, you might look down on those who are theists- both beliefs are so near and dear to the identity that person has created for themselves that it becomes absolute truth to them, and that is a dangerous place to be. In order to embrace my own humanity, and accept others regardless, I maintain that I don't know, but anything is possible. That process allows me to embrace my humanity, while respecting others beliefs.

  8. Nick says:

    Atheists and Agnostics get lumped together because neither believe in god. Richard Dawkins, one of the most popular atheistic people of our time now when asked says he's technically agnostic or only 99.99% atheist. Science cannot prove a negative so it's rather ignorant to claim one. But you can have a pretty good idea.

    Every atheist would believe in god if he was visible from the sky and talked to us. It's not about rejecting god, it's about there is a lack of evidence. We don't know because there is no evidence, but we can make predictions.

  9. Cale Gibbard says:

    I'm an agnostic atheist. I'm fairly certain that the existence or nonexistence of a god can't be determined in an absolute way, and I also don't actually believe in any gods.

    As far as I can tell, agnosticism and atheism lie on separate axes. Agnosticism refers to your position regarding whether it can be determined one way or the other about whether a god exists. Atheism says something regarding your position about whether a god exists. The two are entirely separate. It's possible to be agnostic and yet believe that a god exists or that perhaps many gods exist, or to be an atheist and think (for whatever reason) that it's completely certain that no god exists.

  10. Tony says:

    I disagree that the answer to the question "Is there anything you believe with absolute certainty?" will always be no.

    I know that I have a hand and I believe it with absolute certainty. I know that if I put my hand in a fire it will cause me pain, and I believe this with absolute certainty as well. I know that if the fire is hot enough and that if I leave my hand in it long enough it will be badly burned. I believe all of this with absolute certainty.

    If I were to put my hand in a fire and it didn't cause me pain this would mean one of three things: either (1) I have lost the ability to experience pain, (2) I have become invincible/impervious to pain, or (3) fire no longer causes me pain. There may be biological reasons for (1), but the other two would blow my mind and cause my world-view to completely collapse in on itself. I would be wrong; all of the things I would have believed with absolute certainty would have been wrong (actually, I'd still have my hand).

    Who is going to tell me different?

  11. Jonathan Veck says:

    You're wrong.
    Just like all vehement "agnostics" you are unfamiliar with the etymology of your preferred word. Agnosticism, as the article to which you are commenting has stated, is not a middle ground between theism and atheism. I will not, however, say anymore than this for if you have chosen to ignore all the rational explanations for why agnosticism is an invalid position for divine belief, you will not listen to me.

    However, your position should not be allowed to mislead others---hence my response to it.

  12. Noel Bullard says:

    Agnostics suspend belief due to lack of knowledge- they do not outright not believe in god, they have no knowledge either way.

    If I were to tell you that I walked up to a Catholic and asked them to tell me everything about their beliefs, and then said to them " Well, you might be right"- would you ever call that person an atheist? An agnostic would do that, and would have an equal mind to do the same with an atheist, a Muslim, a Buddist, and Mormon.... each has an element of possibility, and that is NOT the same as being an atheist.

  13. Al says:

    You must realize that in fact many agnostics see the question of "God's existence" as being ill-formed. This invalidates the question for many of us agnostics. An agnostic is anti-realist in this regard (and subscribing to intuitionistic logic). It is far from "pointless" and far from "fence-sitting". For the confused, you may treat a (real) agnostic's "I don't know" as "I don't understand the question".

    There is no valid question for us to base some statistical probability off of (let alone decide the metric for the model of probability). Realize that some religious people (especially ones subscribing to Western religions) simply shift the frame of reference of "God" (if not x[G]x' then y[G](x[W]x')).

  14. Tony Morris says:

    "These two terms have any number of definitions"

    No they don't. Learn what what they both mean. Then you may be able to exercise self-control before posting silliness. Your so-called disclaimer perpetuates dishonesty.

  15. Aca says:

    Theism and atheism refer to presence of absence of belief. Agnosticism refers to the issue of knowledge of supernatural. As such, one can be both theist or atheist whilst preserving one's agnosticism about the possibility of ever knowing which one is true.

    Agnostic believer will "believe" that god exist, although his/hers nature will never be known to us (as a side note, most of the christian sects, when pushed hard, will revert to this position - good moves in mysterious ways cop-out). Atheist agnostic will extend this one step further. It is not only that the nature of supernatural is beyond our knowledge, but the very existence of supernatural is beyond our knowledge.

    I realize that this was already mentioned by others. I just want to emphasize that saying that one is agnostic is not a "third" option, a politically correct way of excluding oneself from declaring a belief or lack of belief. Agnosticism is an epistemological stand and has nothing to do with metaphysical state of belief one may or may not have. Whilst i consider myself to be an strong atheist when it comes to three-omni god of Abrahamic religions (ie i would outright reject existence of supernatural as described in various holly books) on the basis of logical impossibility and lack of evidence, i would remain 6.99 on Dawkins scale for a simple reason that i think that that is intellectuality honest position to take.

    That leaves me with religious agnosticism and how it compares with atheistic agnosticism. In my experience, most of the followers of Abrahamic religions fall into this category. They will believe in existence of God and although maybe not being able to rationalize their belief, they will take refuge into impossibility of knowing the nature of God's will and claim that we should reserve the judgment. We cant prove it either way, so it should remain open question.

    Agnostic stand that "we will never know" is invalid proposition to take and i say this for several reasons (whoever read G.H. Smith will recognize where I'm coming from)

    1) If God can not be known, how can we say that he/she exists? If we say that he/she exist, we already know something about him/her. in the words of GH Smith, "To assert the existence of the un-knowable is to claim the knowledge of the unknowable, in which case it cannot be unknowable"

    2) If God is beyond our comprehension, then even his/hers comprehensibility or lack of there of is beyond our knowledge. Its a logical contradiction.

    3) To claim the existence of the unknowable requires that the theistic agnostic possess knowledge that is unknowable. massive fail.

    4) There are things that are currently unknown to us earthlings, but there is no logical or rational support for claiming that something is forever beyond our understanding. Any evidence that would support this claim would require a speaker to have omniscient knowledge, knowledge of the unknowable, which would out-right contradict the claim.

    And last, and this is the thing i find most intriguing, is to state that god is unknowable or incomprehensible is to admit that one's concept of god is unintelligible ie it is the same as admitting that one does not know what he/she is talking about.

    Bottom line, one can declare ones agnosticism but one cannot be a fence sitter and declare a 50/50 probability one way or the other.

    Ps. This probably does not have much to do with what you wrote Martin .

  16. Aca says:

    Sorry erik, but you have an entirely wrong perception of Atheism.

    Atheism is not "I Believe there is no god/gods"

    Atheism is "I don't have any beliefs in god/gods"

    If there is no theism, there is no atheism. Atheism is not a positive claim. You can be an atheist and be a communist, conspiracy theorist, believer in UFO, right wing guerrilla, homeopathic practitioner or a housewife. Atheism is a response to theism and the only thing that atheists have in common is a lack of belief in god. Some lack the belief because they think that the evidence for god is lacking, some because they are angry at the actions of the church, some because they were hurt by the religious ppl, some because their granma's ghost told them in their dream that there is no god. Atheism has no ritual, no plans of action, no guidelines, no commandments, no rules to adhere too.

    Atheism has no beliefs. Its a statement of the lack of such. There is no leap of faith in atheism whatsoever.

  17. Anthony says:

    Of course there is nothing I believe with certainty, but there are things that I can believe with relative confidence. The fallacy of your paper lies in the fact that you think agnostics are looking for 100% certainty. You should make fewer assumptions about the specific viewpoints of a philosophy before attacking it.

  18. Eryx says:

    I'm an agnostic and I don't believe in the Abrahamic God.
    But I don't know if there are other gods.
    there are infinite possibilities for our existence.
    So that's way I just like to say, I don't know if there is a god or not, neither care.

    At least I know that there is no such thing as God,Elohim,Yahwee or Allah.
    Are there other gods ? they live normally but they found their power from a very natural source ? They create life for fun ? Are we in a computer-like program with having our brain cells manipulated to make us feel like this is reality ?

    Who cares ?

  19. Daien says:

    Atheism is the believe that there is no God, meaning that the idea of the existence of a supernatural Creator is impossible. Are you an agnostic when it comes to Superman? No, because you have enough evidence to claim that you know he does not exist. Similarly, as an atheist, you are also faced with the burden of proof. If you know that God does not exist, prove it.

    Now, theists can in fact give evidence and argue for the existence of God. The only way an atheist would be able to verify his/her belief is to refute and prove wrong all these arguments, and even so must present a case for atheism. Meaning he must argue that God certainly does not exist.

    The superman argument is a fallable one. If you ask me whether I think superman exists or not, I will obviously say no and demonstrate to you with inconclusive evidence that superman is a fictional character invented by human beings. If you asked me the same quesion about God, I would not be able to answer this question with a definite "No".

    Labelling Theists as delusional people is not only fallacious and arrogant, it is also very idiotic.

  20. Aca says:

    Burden of proof lies with a theist. There are no positive claim that an atheist makes. Once a theist makes the claim, he needs to provide evidence for it. Also, there is no atheistic theology/ideology/case. Atheism simply means without beliefs in deity of any kind.

    Even Dawkins does not place himself in the category 7 on his scale (ie absolute denial of existence of any kind of god).

  21. Daien says:

    Well, that's my point exactly. Since an atheist cannot actually place himself in the category 7, does that not reduce his beliefs to weak atheism or even agnosticism?

    An atheist is not one who is without belief, an atheist is one who refutes theistic belief.
    Agnosticism is without belief. Atheism is essentially a form of faith, when you believe that God does not exist, you are clearly implementing an article of faith here, very much like theists. Therefore, the only position that implies "no belief whatsoever" is agnosticism.

    When you cannot provide evidence to disprove God's existence, then your atheistic stand becomes irrelevant. It is irrational to claim you know something does not exist when you have absolutely no evidence for this claim. Again, atheists are faced with the burden of proof, and yes, so are theists. However, if you are interested, you may find several logical and reasonable pieces of evidence that fundamentally support the existance of God.

  22. Aca says:

    I invite you to join any of the secular/atheist forums and ask simple question, if they deny the existence of god or if they lack belief in existence of god.

    I have been discussing these issues for years now, and although there are many, many atheists that are denying existence of particular god/s, very few, if any, will outright deny possibility of existence of any and all kinds of god/s.

    I already explained in my first post in this thread that agnosticism has nothing to do with belief. It is a question of epistemology (ie knowledge) and not a question of faith (ie belief).

    Atheist does not have to provide evidence for non-existence of god as much as anyone can not provide evidence for non-existence of unicorn, flying spaghetti monster, celestial tea pot or fairies. The only thing a person can do is examine the evidence provided by a person making positive claim, ie theist.

    As regards to logical and reasonable evidence that supports the existence of god (especially of Abraham flavor) there is none. I looked for it for years and everything that was presented by all heavy weight theologians have been thoroughly debunked and discarded.

    On the other hand, if you think that there is something that is not rehashed version of standard arguments, please, i would like to hear it

    cheers

    aca

  23. Daien says:

    Fair enough. I would like to point out that comparing the existence of a unicorn to that of a God is completely irrelevant. I hope I don't have to explain why.

    As for the evidence supporting the existence of God, not necassarily the
    Abrahimic God, well, there is plenty. After witnessing both theistic and atheistic arguments for and against the existence of a spernatural power, I must admit that I personally found the latter objectively more convincing. That is, from a purely philosophical, rational point of view.

    I will present you with two arguments that support the existence of a supernatural creator, I will then present you with evidence to support the existence of a personal creator, an Abrahimic God.

    1)The majority of modern physicists have agreed that the universe must have began at some point in time, meaning that it must have had beggining, the Big Bang. Now, many theories do not agree that the universe had a starting point, including ones that suggest an oscillating universe, parallel universes, and many more. They have all been rejected due to inconsistency with logic. Stephan Hawking's book "A Brief History of Time" explains that the universe did have a beggining, that beggining was called the Big Bang.

    The theory of causality suggests that for anything that comes into being, also has a cause. What caused the Big Bang?
    Considering that the Big Bang initiated the dimensions of space and time, we can logically conclude that nothing precluded it. Therefore, we are also compelled to rationally infer what caused this Big Bang( the theory of causality). Well, Since nothing existed before the Big Bang, this leaves us with the only reasonable conclusion that it must have been a supernatural cause outside the dimensions of space and time that triggered the Big Bang.

    2) Initial conditions of the universe.

    The initial conditions, the values of the constants in space, must have had to be in perfect order for any life to be possible at all. Physicists explain that of any of these values were altered even slightly, a life permitting universe would not exist. Now, in atheistic perspective, the universe randomly came into being and produced life-permitting conditions. Now, this is extremely implausible. Consider my card game analogy.

    Imagine you are playing a card game, say Texas Hold'em Poker. Logically, the probability of being dealt any hand is equally likely, the probability of being dealt AA the exact same probability of being dealt K2. Now, consider after having played for 5 hours. Your opponent has been dealt an A,K of hearts, and the flop was Q,J,10 of hearts every single time for 5 straight hours.

    Of course, you would be very suspicious. You would consider one of the following scenarios.
    A) Your opponent is the luckiest person in the history of this earth and just so happened to get dealt a Royal Flush every single hand.

    B) The Dealer and your opponent and conartists, they have intricately designed a way for your opponent to get a Royal Flush every single time thus taking your money away from you.

    We are faced with the same dilema for the case of the existence of God.

  24. Daien says:

    Fair enough. I would like to point out that comparing the existence of a unicorn to that of a God is completely irrelevant. I hope I don't have to explain why.

    As for the evidence supporting the existence of God, not necassarily the
    Abrahimic God, well, there is plenty. After witnessing both theistic and atheistic arguments for and against the existence of a spernatural power, I must admit that I personally found the latter objectively more convincing. That is, from a purely philosophical, rational point of view.

    I will present you with two arguments that support the existence of a supernatural creator, I will then present you with evidence to support the existence of a personal creator, an Abrahimic God.

    1)The majority of modern physicists have agreed that the universe must have began at some point in time, meaning that it must have had beggining, the Big Bang. Now, many theories do not agree that the universe had a starting point, including ones that suggest an oscillating universe, parallel universes, and many more. They have all been rejected due to inconsistency with logic. Stephan Hawking's book "A Brief History of Time" explains that the universe did have a beggining, that beggining was called the Big Bang.

    The theory of causality suggests that for anything that comes into being, also has a cause. What caused the Big Bang?
    Considering that the Big Bang initiated the dimensions of space and time, we can logically conclude that nothing precluded it. Therefore, we are also compelled to rationally infer what caused this Big Bang( the theory of causality). Well, Since nothing existed before the Big Bang, this leaves us with the only reasonable conclusion that it must have been a supernatural cause outside the dimensions of space and time that triggered the Big Bang.

    2) Initial conditions of the universe.

    The initial conditions, the values of the constants in space, must have had to be in perfect order for any life to be possible at all. Physicists explain that of any of these values were altered even slightly, a life permitting universe would not exist. Now, in atheistic perspective, the universe randomly came into being and produced life-permitting conditions. Now, this is extremely implausible. Consider my card game analogy.

    Imagine you are playing a card game, say Texas Hold'em Poker. Logically, the probability of being dealt any hand is equally likely, the probability of being dealt AA the exact same probability of being dealt K2. Now, consider after having played for 5 hours. Your opponent has been dealt an A,K of hearts, and the flop was Q,J,10 of hearts every single time for 5 straight hours.

    Of course, you would be very suspicious. You would consider one of the following scenarios.
    A) Your opponent is the luckiest person in the history of this earth and just so happened to get dealt a Royal Flush every single hand.

    B) The Dealer and your opponent and conartists, they have intricately designed a way for your opponent to get a Royal Flush every single time thus taking your money away from you.

    We are faced with the same dilema for the case of the existence of God. You can either believe that all these initial conditions that were unmistakingly perfect for even the possibility of the existence of life came out of absolute randomness( or luck) or a supernatural force that exists beyond the boundaries of space and time in fact set these conditions for life to exist.

    Hence, since this force(God) is supernatural, He/it does not obey the rules of nature(Time, Space). God is timeless, infinite in nature. Thus, the argument, "so what came before God?" is not a valid one.

    These are two arguments for the existence of a supernatural force.

    Now, an argument for the existence of a personal God.

    3) The Moral Law.

    If objective moral values exist, then God exists since a personal being must have set a Moral Law for his creations. This statement is universally accepted by both theists and atheists. Atheists fundamentally believe that morality is in fact subjective. What defines 'right' and 'wrong' is merely relative culture, enviroment, time. I will argue against this.

    Is genocide immoral? Perhaps so, but this fundamentally conflicts when you believe morality is actually subjective. Consider the holocaust, for example, a dark time in human history that is now universally dubbed as brutal, inhumane, and immoral.

    However, if you went back in time and asked Adolf Hitler and many Germans whether they thought that the Holocaust was immoral, they will undoubtedly answer you with a confident "No". They believed that ethnic cleansing was in fact absolutely moral, and that exterminating an entire race was definitely the 'right' thing to do. Now, in the 21st century, no rational human being can label the holocaust 'Moral'. What if history were altered and everyone on earth perfectly fit in into Hitler's category as the way humans 'ought' to be.

    Thus subjectively speaking, the Holocaust was perfectly justifiable and moral act. everyone on earth believe this is true, so what is stopping it from actually being true? This is what is meant by 'Objective' Morality. It is completely irrelevant what you, I, or anyone believes. The Holocaust was objectively 'wrong', public opinion does not matter at all. We all know that the 2 * 20 = 40. If the world were filled with idiots who could not figure this out, it would still not matter because 2* 20 will always be equal to 40, very much like the Moral Law.

  25. Aca says:

    “Fair enough. I would like to point out that comparing the existence of a unicorn to that of a God is completely irrelevant. I hope I don’t have to explain why.”

    Actually, you do. From my perspective both are mythical creatures and there is no evidence for either. But, in these kinds of debates usually we skip the first step. We assume that we are talking about “supreme” supernatural being, not just figment of imagination. If we were to start with definitions, we wouldn’t reach very far.

    “As for the evidence supporting the existence of God, not necassarily the
    Abrahimic God, well, there is plenty. After witnessing both theistic and atheistic arguments for and against the existence of a spernatural power, I must admit that I personally found the latter objectively more convincing. That is, from a purely philosophical, rational point of view
    I will present you with two arguments that support the existence of a supernatural creator, I will then present you with evidence to support the existence of a personal creator, an Abrahimic God.”

    Looking forward to hear your conclusions.

    “1)The majority of modern physicists have agreed that the universe must have began at some point in time, meaning that it must have had beggining, the Big Bang. Now, many theories do not agree that the universe had a starting point, including ones that suggest an oscillating universe, parallel universes, and many more. They have all been rejected due to inconsistency with logic. Stephan Hawking’s book “A Brief History of Time” explains that the universe did have a beggining, that beggining was called the Big Bang.”

    Big bang is the theory for which we have most evidence (most notably microwave radiation and expansion of space as seen through Hubble’s telescope). Although the evidence for Big bang is almost overwhelming, case could be made for a “lot of small bangs” theory. One could also argue for unlimited number of big bangs and big crunches that have been taking place eternally and so on. My knowledge of physics is limited, but my understanding is that multiple universe theory makes sense in quantum physics. Still, current evidence points to Big Bang. Agreed 

    “The theory of causality suggests that for anything that comes into being, also has a cause. What caused the Big Bang?
    Considering that the Big Bang initiated the dimensions of space and time, we can logically conclude that nothing precluded it. Therefore, we are also compelled to rationally infer what caused this Big Bang( the theory of causality). Well, Since nothing existed before the Big Bang, this leaves us with the only reasonable conclusion that it must have been a supernatural cause outside the dimensions of space and time that triggered the Big Bang. “

    Again, my understanding of quantum mechanics is rather limited, but magnetic fluctuations have been observed in vacuum. We also know that particles pop in and out of existence in vacuum.

    http://focus.aps.org/story/v2/st28

    http://www.aip.org/pnu/1996/split/pnu300-3.htm

    http://books.google.com/books?id=DyhyFSL7bNUC&pg=PP1&dq=intitle:Probing+intitle:the+intitle:Quantum+intitle:Vacuum&lr=&as_brr=0&sig=VSfMMLJnmYyWplC2L5i9oVSjurg#PPA1,M1

    So we do not need supernatural being to explain the beginning. Apart from that, why is it rational that, if we do not know something, it was god? You understand that by posing god as the starter of the universe (whilst at the same time insisting on causality) you are question begging. If everything has a cause, who/what caused god? You can not remain logically consistent and at the same time exclude, by definition, god out of realm of logic.

    I will stop here, for today. Family duties

    Would you mind if we transfer this to some forum? It is much easier way to have a dialogue I think. Maybe juventuz forum, in their religion section? (although it would run risk being overtaken by cowboys

  26. Aca says:

    i posted a comment, hopefully i did not lose it

  27. Daien says:

    I wouldn't at all mind moving this to Juventuz, just as long as you start the thread.:D

    I will then argue against the points you put forward.

  28. Aca says:

    cool.

    I'll be rather busy next couple of days. I'll get around and do it.

    cheers

    aca

  29. ned says:

    Crypto-religious bullshit.

    Simple:

    Atheism: There is no god.

    Agnosticism: Don't know.

    So, Atheist, either show me the proof there is no god, or else become an Agnostic - if you dare to stop believing.

  30. Aca says:

    Daien, i did not forget. Just slightly overwhelmed with real life.

  31. Aca says:

    Ned, your definition of atheism is wrong. Therefore your conclusion is wrong.

    Why don't you show me proof that there is no Thor/Zeus/FSM/Invisible pink unicorn/celestial teapot? Or are you an agnostic about them?

  32. God says:

    hahaha you're all idiots. I must exist because the bible says so. And I want you to send me MONEY!!! Or I'll smite the shit out of you. And remember, no condoms despite aids - prove your faith and risk it. And I don't mind if my representatives on earth fk little kids. So stop bugging them about it. And keep killing each other in my name. Clearly I could let you all in on the secret as to who's got it right and put an end to all the needless torture and killing, but I prefer to let itself play out and watch the carnage. No tv in heaven,see, so wtf else is there for me to do?
    Yes, all the cryptic rules which are ambiguous at best and subject to myriad interpretations... I maintain they must be followed strictly under pain of not just death, but eternal hellfire and agony. And tough shit if your infant dies in a car crash on the way to it's baptism. Sorry parents but it's in limbo forever through no fault of it's own. Or your's. In return for a lifetime of belief and devotion, I reward you thusly. And I see that it is good.
    Oh and for christ's sake don't forget I LOVE you, ok? Cretins. I'm going fishing.

  33. [...] Of course, this is not the first time such arguments have been made, and there are others, such as this one here.. This is not an attempt to further convert people or make the same argument in a different way, it [...]

  34. liam says:

    I cant be bothered to read all these arguments but i believe that scientific explanations take far too many jumps of faith in explaining fundamentals to be a valid way of not believing in any deity.
    (My background is Physics)

  35. Pan says:

    You clearly say that there has been no evidence to prove the existence of any God. Why is it then that you ask the atheists to give evidence to "disprove one" that has not even been proven to exist. What kind of backwards logic is that?

    The burden of proof lies on the people making claims that something exists.

  36. Pan says:

    Superman is fictional because no-one has ever proven him to exist outside people's imaginations. God is fictional because no-one has ever proven him to exist outside people's imaginations.

    As long as there is no inconclusive evidence provided that there is a God (and you'd need to define him quite precisely) he does not exist. Simple. There is no need to prove the nonexistence of something that hasn't been proven to exist.

  37. Mike says:

    I am only leaving this comment to put out an opinion for those who are still questioning religion and what they believe. As far as calling all Agnosticism a pointless stance, however, is something I (personally) don't agree with. Calling the logic that there is no way to either prove/disprove God meaningless is kinda strange to me. This is because there really is no way to prove/disprove God as of right now. Saying that this is wrong, is wrong. Not the kind of wrong a Christian claims a Muslim to be, but the kind of wrong that says 3+3=7. Now I realize this may sound bad because now I'm stuck claiming myself to be right, and I don't mean to push this onto others, people are going to believe what they believe, but to call a rational doubt pointless just doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Doubt is humble, it's ok not to know everything. Problems arise when people believe so strongly in a religion that can't be proven true. Since humans always want to be "right", arguments occur between people who try to prove themselves right and the other wrong when there is no real evidence.

    If I were asked whether there is a God or not, I would say "I don't know". I wouldn't say "no" because there is no way to prove that. At the same time, I wouldn't say "yes" for the same reason. The reason I don't commit to the answer "No" isn't because I'm scared of the repercussions (I mean I don't believe in Christianity, and according to the bible I'm going to an eternal hell for that. So at least I have the balls to take that punishment). If asked whether Santa Claus is real or not, I would say "No". Not because there are no repercussions in saying "no", but because there simply isn't a Santa Claus. Everyone knows this through logic and proof. Saying that there is or isn't a God can't be proven in the same way. I think that if religious people have the right to claim there is a God, then atheists have the right to claim there isn't.
    When it really comes down to it, one's actions represent a lot more than one's beliefs. Although beliefs may influence actions, these actions are often contradictory to the actual beliefs.

    For example, the commandment "Thou shall not kill". Although Christians believe this, their actions through history haven't always shown this. I mean even the Christian God killed, breaking his own commandment. (I'm sorry Christians, I don't mean to point you out, a lot of other religions have shown contradictions as well. This is just an example).

    Maybe we should all just try to live with love and share happiness rather than argue about the existence of God.

  38. Chris says:

    Aca,

    Actually, he is right and you are the wrong one. You are mixing weak atheism with agnosticism.

    Atheism is often defined, like you have described above, as the lack of a belief in the existence of God. Do you not see the problem with this definition? It’s no wonder that the so called ‘burden of proof’ is pushed onto the theist, because this commonplace definition (which is adopted by ‘atheists’ regularly) lacks any assertion whatsoever! It’s time to ask yourself a few questions and find out exactly it is what you believe, because this definition is wrong.

    Do you actively assert that there is no God? Then you are a strong atheist. A strong atheist is making an assertion; one that requires an equal amount of proof as a belief as a theistic belief. On the other hand, do you feel that you have a ‘disbelief’ in God? Then you are what is considered a ‘weak atheist’. You simply do not agree with the theistic assertion that God exists, end of story. Your atheism, like you said, has 'no beliefs'.

    So let's examine your position. Ask yourself: if you do not assert that God does not exist (in other words, you are not a strong atheist), but also do not accept the theistic assertion that God does exist, then you are not an atheist. You are an agnostic.

    You can't hide your burden of proof by masquerading as an agnostic but in actuality holding the beliefs of a strong atheist.

    Let me ask you: do you, along with lacking a belief in the existence of God, also lack a belief in the non-existence of God? If you say no, then they are a strong atheist. On the other hand, if you do not lack a belief in the non-existence of God, then you have a belief in the non-existence of God. This fact is inescapable. Therefore if you say yes, you are an agnostic.

    Get your definitions right next time.

  39. Charles says:

    Chris, I daresay you've crafted a fallacious response: namely, a false dilemma.

    It IS possible to not believe there is no God and simultaneously not believe there is a God. To do so, all one must say is "I 'believe' neither of these things," assuming you are using the definition of 'belief' where the word means 'to decide something despite a lack of corroborating evidence'.

    I don't believe (As in 'know with certainty') that dividing by zero is wrong, but I also don't believe (As in 'know with certainty') that dividing by zero is right, either. I am without opinion on the matter, because I lack the evidence/cognitive capabilities to come to a conclusion.

    An atheist (one who does not possess a belief in God) can be an agnostic (One who does not believe there is certainly either God or no God). In fact, being agnostic means that, by definition, you are an atheist, albeit not a strong one. All agnostics are atheists. Not all atheists are agnostics. All strong atheists are not agnostics.

    I hope that clears the waters a bit. I'd hate to muddy the discussion.

  40. Charles says:

    If that was all TL:DR, here's the gist; To say "I do not believe in God," is NOT the same as saying "I believe there is no God."

  41. Victor Stenger in God:The Failed Hypothesis How Science Shows That God Not Exist
    only addresses the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. We need only worry about this fake god and he is the greatest cause of human misery.
    Agnosticism is a specious and pointless stance. It is as scientific as Scientology.The argument from ignorance...is a logical fallacy in which it is claimed that a premise is true only because it has not been proven false, or is false only because it has not been proven true. (Wikipedia)
    Agnosticism is wrong. Its founder was a Church going racist Christian. It has been called the philosophy of cowards. It protects and justifies superstition. Agnostics are
    psuedo-intellectuals and their philosophy is based on psuedo-science.

  42. PhillyChief says:

    First, an atheist doesn't "lack" belief in a god, they thankfully don't have belief. To say one lacks something is to imply they're deficient, that the thing is question is of value and thus, desirable. One doesn't say they lack cancer or lack a hole in the head, they say they lack patience, time or money because those things are desirable and the former are not.

    Second, your false dichotomy ignores the author's correct explanation about absolute certainty, and the difference between a hypothetical “no” and a practical “no” isn’t worth dwelling on. For a real world analogy, consider our criminal justice system and the verdicts of guilty or not-guilty. Notice it's not guilty or innocent. Often we speak as if not-guilty and innocent are the same but they're not, are they? The former is a response to a claim, but the latter is itself a claim. Theists are making claims, and atheists aren't buying them because they lack sufficient warrants; therefore, an atheist has no reason to believe. With no reason to believe, an atheist will function as if there isn't one, just as society is expected to function as if someone found not-guilty were innocent.

    Third, we're all agnostics because no one knows whether there is a god, just as no one knows whether Big Foot or Nessie exists, but that doesn't stop us from moving forward. In other words, are we incapable of deciding whether to enter the woods or Loch Ness? No we're not, but to insist that anyone who goes into the woods or Loch Ness should have to first prove that Big Foot or Nessie doesn't exist is ridiculous. With no reason to believe they exist, we function as if they don't until shown otherwise.

    Burden of proof lies with the claimant. A person who refuses to accept the claim is not making a statement about what's being claimed, but rather the quality of the claim itself. That's what theists (and I suppose so-called agnostics) continue to get confused concerning burden of proof and atheists.

  43. Julian says:

    only Catholicism is answer of the proper use of reason.
    "Reason and Faith are like two wings by which human beings can contemplate truth" - PJPII

  44. An Unlearned Agnostic says:

    All I know is that with agnosticism, I'll feel less silly than the man who preached an absolute truth if the truth turns out to be that we spend eternity sewing our legs to our heads for whatever reason.

    The question of life after death and the concept of omnipotent beings that aren't human but subject to human definition is a quite silly argument to begin with, since neither side can show any real otherworldly benefits or proof of their argument. There's no need to get passionate about something that doesn't effect you or your offspring's well-being as a person in the first place .

    So don't think of it as 'I don't know', think of it as 'Stuff it'

    The whole concept of Religion is a counterproductive failsafe to being with. When you all decide that we need to make sure that every single human egg is fertilize, warn me so I can start stockpiling for when we're drowning in our own shit.

  45. ASH says:

    I am an apathetic agnostic meaning that I believe that I cannot know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a god. However, somewhat like a deist, I believe that if there is a god he is like a master clockmaker. He did his work and stepped away from it and let it do what it wanted. Therefore, the question of "is there a god?" is an academic one.
    Being an agnostic I hate getting lumped in with atheists. I am not an atheist. I wish people would be more open minded towards those that cannot believe and apprieciate that we have made a decision about where we are now. As for those who believe that agnostics are "low hanging fruit" they should realize that more agnositcs know more about their religions then they do. So it is pretty hard to convert one unless you show them irefutable proof from an independant source.

  46. An Agnostic says:

    Agnostics know that we cannot know, this is what we know. That being said, many agnostics feel a connection with something in this universe, but we cannot objectively quantify for it. Atheists use science as a religion and forget that the scientific method only works up to a certain point, whereas theists choose to almost completely ignore the scientific method and blindly follow a story book, at least when it comes to the question of "why we are here". Atheists and theists choose to alleviate the big question, "What will happen after I die", that is slowly driving us all mad inside from the first time we acknowledge the concept of death. Agnostics, if you will, choose to acknowledge their own insanity and, in doing so, are a little less sick than that of atheist and theist. The agnostic may have thoughts every now and then that he or she has had an experience with something godlike and, for a time, will try to grasp on to something religious like to hold their balance in a world that is often cruel and unforgiving, but they always revert back to the rational that that there is nothing objective about this entity. The agnostic may even temporarily completely refuse the existence of god, but will soon find himself or herself back in connection with the entity, along with acknowledging that science only proves things up to a certain point which, at this current time in our history, is the Big Bang. What happens before the Big Bang is a total mystery. If an agnostic has no connection with an entity, not knowing what happens before the Big Bang is still rational enough to bring him or her back to his or her agnosticism.

  47. My name is irrelevant says:

    I just want to say that knowledge and belief are different things, thus agnosticism and belief can be separated easily enough. A person could even call themselves an agnostic theist: "I believe in a god but I admit that I don't really know either way." A rare position, but a possible one. An atheist is simply someone who does not belief in deities. Most atheists, at least in the modern world, are agnostics because they will admit that there is at least a small possibility that there is some kind of deities. People who specifically believe that there are no deities, sometimes known as "strong atheists", merely consider the chance that deities exist to be close to zero. And so a person can be a strong atheist but yet still define their position on knowledge as agnostic, and I guess that would be my position: I fully believe that there are no deities but I accept that there is an extremely small chance that I am wrong. An agnostic's beliefs are separate from their agnostism. The reason why agnosticism seems pointless to many is that no-one actually knows if deities exist, so to someone who admits to being a strong atheist, weak atheist or believer, a person who takes agnosticism as a stance on belief itself going further than the natural mindset of a person who has heard of deities (rather than taking it as a stance on knowledge) seems to say "I have my beliefs but I don't want to say what they are" because to have no belief either way is by definition atheistic. Thus to define yourself as an agnostic is kind of pointless when you're talking about whether you believe in deities because you either believe or you don't. The only belief that comes into play in agnosticism is the belief that we cannot know whether or not deities exist at this present time, which, whilst reasonable, is kind of stating the obvious and so is seems pointless and/or meaningless to many people.

  48. Agnon says:

    For the most part I would agree with the opening caveat re definitions of agnosticism etc. And I this is, to me, more of an argument for agnosticism than atheism.

    It is not at all right to suggest that agnostics are, by definition, trying to be even handed. I don't believe in God (though I'll skip the bit about defining what or who God is). By any definition the probability that God exists is so low as to not be at all credible. But I can't prove that God doesn't exist any more than I can prove the same for Santa, in the end. I agree that the question is just wrong. But that is because, however improbable the existence of God may be, it simply can't be answered.

    It seems to me that you can't really argue that the question is wrong and then declare an answer. Which atheism attempts to do.

  49. Frank says:

    We can't say with certainty whether or not a god exists. Of course we can't. There aren't many questions we can answer with certainty.

    That makes us all agnostics. And it also makes it pointless to emphasize our agnosticism. Saying you are an agnostic is as irrelevant as emphasizing that you are a member of the species homo sapiens or that you live on the planet earth.

    Its true, no doubt, but it is so obviously true and so utterly worthless to know for anyone that we simply do not mention it to others. Those who do are suspected of doing it just to annoy the hell out of everybody.

    We cannot have certainty in almost every aspects of our lives, but we don't let that stop us from making decisions and taking sides. Of course we don't. We wouldn't be able to get anywhere, otherwise.
    And we certainly don't waste our time by constantly emphasizing our "lack of certainty".

    So why do we act all different when it comes to the question of god(s)?

    Because we still allow believers to convince us that god is "special", that the question of his existence must be approached differently than all others.

    Rubbish. There is no god. I am as certain of that as I am certain that there is no invisible dragon hiding under my bed. I see no need to express my lack of "absolute certainty" about my disbelief in invisible dragons, so I won't pretend I suddenly became obsessed with "certainty" when it comes to gods.

  50. Agnostics are intellectually dishonest. They are the quislings of secular humanism.
    You don't have to disprove the existence of anything. It is the claimant who bears the burden
    of providing proof of the great Sky Daddy.
    http://mukto-mona.net/Articles/vstenger/not_agnostic.htm