Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
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09-09-2011, 06:14 PM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
My issue with the label has nothing to do with any internal definition, as I'm quite clear on where I stand, but rather the interpretation others seem to take away.

If you say you're an agnostic, people seem to think you're like a recovering alcoholic, & if they just invite you to enough keggers, you're sure to start drinking again.

If you say you're an atheist, you can just about hear the word "militant' murmured as a prefix. Reminds one of militant feminists in the 70s, yelling that all men are pigs.

Many people don't seem to get that calling yourself agnostic because one can't really prove the non-existence of something invisible is neither soft nor malleable as a position, & that saying you're an atheist doesn't mean you're frothing & whacking pro-lifers with placards.

Every time you say you don't believe, Jesus rips the wings off a fairy. - SkepticalParenting.com
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09-09-2011, 06:35 PM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
Ghost,

My nick is an initialism (and not a very original one at that).

This is exactly what I mean by doing mental gymnastics to avoid answering questions of belief.

Just to know where on the spectrum you are, do you avoid ALL questions of belief or just when it comes to gods? So for example what would you say if I asked you if you believe Obama actually died 10 years ago and what we have as president is the reanimated body controlled by Hitler (who also didn't die)?
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09-09-2011, 07:20 PM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
Hey, Tae.

I don't understand what gymnastics I've performed or what I've avoided. Could you elaborate?

My Agnosticism applies to everything that is either undemonstrated or indemonstrable.

And it's not an avoidance by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not doing the the-water's-too-cold dance or playing the hands on my ears lalalalalala I can't hear you game. Saying that there is no evidence one way or the other; therefore, I refuse to take a position one way over the other, is not avoidance, it is deliberate.

As far as the Obama thing, there's evidence to the contrary. Like the inability to re-animate corpses. That's prima facie evidence. So it isn't undemonstrated or indemonstrable. I don’t believe it. If you tell me that you have evidence of a reanimation machine, we’ll not only talk, but I call shotgun on 5% of the trillions of dollars you’ll make.

Something like, say, "there is life on Europa," is a plausible hypothesis that is undemonstrated. So while I accept that it's plausible, I have no reason to believe it's either true or false. But it's absolutely demonstrable and I believe they're working right now on a mission to Europa specifically to melt through the ice layer and search for signs of life in the water beneath. If they find life, poof, demonstrated. I’ll believe it like I believe gravity. If they prove it's imposible, (it's not a water ocean, it's sulfuric acid) I'll disbelieve it. If it's inconclusive, I won't rule out the possibility, but I will recognise that their test was inconclusive for whatever reasons it was inconclusive (not enough time, poor planning, shitty equipment, sabotage, whatever the reasons are) .

The issue with God is that there will NEVER be any evidence one way or the other. So it is indemonstrable. In perpetuity. So it's not just that I have no reason to believe one way or the other, it's that I will never be able to demonstrate it scientifically (and we're speaking scientifically here, if God reveals himself to me, I'd have every reason to believe, just no way to prove). When people say that there is no evidence for God, I can guaranfuckingte you that they haven’t even looked because there isn’t a single scientific experiment that can test for God. So they’re talking out of their ass. So I am an Agnostic, full stop. It’s just that God represents a special case.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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09-09-2011, 09:42 PM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
[Image: UumaZ.jpg]

(sorry, couldn't resist Tongue)

(09-09-2011 05:10 PM)Ghost Wrote:  I've always said, if Atheist just means, not-Theist, then fine, I'm an Atheist. But if it implies any positive statements whatsoever, like, "I don't believe in God," then I most certainly am not.

There is indeed a lot of controversy regarding the definition of "atheism". One definition I've heard of that seems to be gaining a lot of acceptance is "lack of belief in gods". This could mean that people falling under that definition would be both the disbelievers and those with no sides taken, kinda like saying that when a set of numbers lacks positive numbers, it means the numbers within it are either zero or negative.

Would you say you fall under this definition, in the same way that say you'd fall under non-theist?

The God excuse: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument. "God did it." Anything we can't describe must have come from God. - George Carlin

Whenever I'm asked "What if you're wrong?", I always show the asker this video: http://youtu.be/iClejS8vWjo Screw Pascal's wager.
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09-09-2011, 11:18 PM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
This is what I mean with mental gymnastics. Note the wording because it's important in order to realize the special compartment you give to gods.

You don't have evidence that the president isn't a reanimation. What you have is a lack of evidence that he is a reanimation. Subtle difference but it shines light on the way you choose to treat gods.

In the case of gods we have absolutely nothing that hints to their existence, zilch, nada. At least with the reanimated president we do know that corpses exist and we do know that muscles respond to electric pulses. So although the evidence for a reanimated president is seriously deficient, it is infinitely more abundant than the zero evidence for gods.

Yet in the case of the reanimated president you say "there's no evidence for what you're saying so I don't believe it" but in the case of gods you say "there's no evidence for what you're saying so I can't (won't?) say whether I believe it or not".
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10-09-2011, 02:03 AM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
Hey, Efrx.

Your numbers example is perfect as far as I'm concerned. You lumped zero in with negative numbers, but it doesn't belong there. Zero is zero. It's NEITHER positive NOR negative. Now one can say, “Zero is not a positive number,” and they’d be 100% correct. But if they said, “Zero is a negative number,” they’d be 100% incorrect. That’s the problem for me. Neither zero nor negative numbers are positive numbers, but you cannot say that zero and negative numbers are the same. Neither an ostrich nor Neptune are bubble gum, but you cannot say that ostriches and Neptune are the same. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll happily agree that neither Agnostics nor Atheists are Theists, but I cannot agree that Agnostics and Atheists are the same.

When you talk of "lack of belief", that's the thing. I don't lack belief. If you speak of disbelief, I don’t have disbelief. If you talk about, “belief that there is no God,” or, “belief that God is impossible,” neither apply to me. So I don't think I can be put into any category that includes those things.

Hey, Tae.

Dude, ya gotta read what I'm saying, cause right now, you're the one on the uneven bars (but may I say that you stuck that dismount masterfully, I don’t care what the Russian judge said, he’s biased).

Quote:You don't have evidence that the president isn't a reanimation.

That's a false statement. Based on what we know of cellular biology, metabolic pathways, brain damage, organic compounds and decay, we know that it is scientifically impossible to reanimate a corpse (a wizard might be able to do it though). So if you tell me that Obama and Hitler are reanimated corpses, the fact that reanimation is impossible is prima facie EVIDENCE that neither of them are reanimated corpses (prima facie: on first examination, a matter appears to be self-evident from the facts... that – unless rebutted – would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition or fact. If you tell me that you flew under your own power, I know, because of the laws of aerodynamics, because of gravity and because of thrust, that it would be impossible for you to have done so. So unless you rebut the proofs that have already been established, those facts are evidence that you did not fly under your own power. Just like the facts we already know mean that having a heart rate of 60 000 beats per minute, holding your breath for a year and having 900 orgasms in five minutes are all impossible (I don’t know if you could even survive the orgasm thing, but I’d be lying if I said part of me ain’t curious). So yes, I DO have evidence that the president isn't a reanimation. The evidence that exists tells us that Obama CANNOT be a reanimated corpse because reanimated corpses are impossible.

Quote:In the case of gods we have absolutely nothing that hints to their existence, zilch, nada.

Not entirely true. We have revelation. Now, granted, revelation has sum zero scientific value, so you could absolutely say that we have no scientific evidence, because we don't. But it's not true that we have nothing.

Quote:Yet in the case of the reanimated president you say "there's no evidence for what you're saying so I don't believe it"...

Yes and no. I am saying that there’s no evidence for what you’re saying, but I’m also saying that there’s plenty of evidence that proves that your theory is full of crap (I’m gonna assume that I’m not hurting your feelings by saying that your zombie theory is crappy) and I don’t believe it based on crappyness. I'm saying that it has previously been established that reanimating corpses is impossible, so unless you have some new evidence to rebut the existing evidence, it's still impossible. Obama CANNOT be a reanimated corpse; therefore, your assertion that Obama is a reanimated corpse is proven false. If you tell me you travelled faster than the speed of light, I know you're lying because Einstein already established that it's impossible. UNLESS you can somehow explain and or demonstrate how we can get around E=MC2, the statement, “I travelled faster than the speed of light,” is false.

I feel the need to point out that Agnosticism doesn’t PRECLUDE rational inquiry, it DEMANDS it. It doesn’t say, just wait around until someone figures it out, it says, don’t pass judgement until it’s figured out by someone, be that someone you or someone else.

If you say Obama is a reanimated corpse, let the rational inquiry begin! Step 1 – is it possible to reanimate a corpse? No. All right. Rational inquiry terminated. Problem solved.

Quote:...but in the case of gods you say "there's no evidence for what you're saying so I can't (won't?) say whether I believe it or not".

No. I'm saying that there's no evidence for ANY position. If someone tells me there is a God, I know there's no evidence. If someone tells me there is no God, I know there's no evidence. So I'm saying, I don't believe one way or the other because NEITHER side can provide a shred of evidence. And the reason it’s a special case is because no one is EVER going to be able to provide a shred of scientific evidence.

If I’m a juror and the trial begins and neither the prosecution nor the defence offer a single shred of evidence into the record, how in God’s name can I possibly render a verdict? I can’t. It’s impossible. Unless I guess. And it’s THAT, GUESSING, that Agnosticism considers the greatest crime. The ONLY thing I know in that trial is that someone is saying he’s guilty and someone is saying he’s innocent and neither have any evidence and both of them are wasting my time because there never will be any evidence. I’ll be old and grey and cob webby and there will still be no evidence from either of them.

If you ask me to guess the sex of an unborn child and give me exactly zero evidence to go on, I have no reason to believe whatsoever that it's either a girl or a boy.

So, you may have argued this gymnastics point before, but just make sure you're responding to what I'm actually saying and that you're not just on autopilot.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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10-09-2011, 10:44 AM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
Ghost,

I know it's hard to realize when you make a special plead and compartmentalize something. Just like most theists compartmentalize their god(s) and use a special kind of logic for them and another set for other people's gods, you are treating the question "Do you believe that?" differently when it comes to gods.

We do have mountains of evidence that say gods are a product of man's imagination since we have the history of the most famous characters (just like we do for Santa Clause and Spider Man) and we do have mountains of evidence that contradicts the claims of deeds attributed to most gods. To say "yeah but I can think of an undetectable kind of god" is the moot because you can say pretty much the same thing about anything (even the undetectable reanimation of the president).

Just like theists can give you a 101 excuses for why you cannot detect their god(s), I can give you 101 excuses (even borrowed from theists') for why you can't detect the reanimation of the president and of course it leads you to believe that it's impossible. To borrow a few from theists: "you just don't have all the information" and "I know it because it was revealed to me".

The only difference is that when a theist gives you a BS excuse for why you can't detect their god you feel compelled to say "well, I guess we can't know one way or the other", but in the case of the reanimated president you hear a BS excuse for why you can't detect it and you don't feel the need to rationalize it, you just call it for what it is: "BS!"
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10-09-2011, 12:13 PM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
(10-09-2011 02:03 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, Efrx.

Your numbers example is perfect as far as I'm concerned. You lumped zero in with negative numbers, but it doesn't belong there. Zero is zero. It's NEITHER positive NOR negative. Now one can say, “Zero is not a positive number,” and they’d be 100% correct. But if they said, “Zero is a negative number,” they’d be 100% incorrect. That’s the problem for me. Neither zero nor negative numbers are positive numbers, but you cannot say that zero and negative numbers are the same. Neither an ostrich nor Neptune are bubble gum, but you cannot say that ostriches and Neptune are the same. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll happily agree that neither Agnostics nor Atheists are Theists, but I cannot agree that Agnostics and Atheists are the same.

When you talk of "lack of belief", that's the thing. I don't lack belief. If you speak of disbelief, I don’t have disbelief. If you talk about, “belief that there is no God,” or, “belief that God is impossible,” neither apply to me. So I don't think I can be put into any category that includes those things.

I think it was a bit too much with the ostrich-Neptune-bubblegum analogy, being that they don't fall under the same immediate superset, unlike zero, negative and positive, which are numbers, but I get your point.


Quote:
Quote:In the case of gods we have absolutely nothing that hints to their existence, zilch, nada.

Not entirely true. We have revelation. Now, granted, revelation has sum zero scientific value, so you could absolutely say that we have no scientific evidence, because we don't. But it's not true that we have nothing.

The revelation thing gets me to ask a few questions: How valid would revelation be? I get the part that there is no scientific evidence, but where would we draw the line with revelation? If the existence of God is unknowable, how or why do people believe they know in the first place due to revelation? Should we take those claims seriously? Aren't they talking out of their ass, like you say those who say that there is no evidence for God do? And on another note, what do you feel about other things that have been alleged to be seen through revelation, like alien abductions?

The God excuse: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument. "God did it." Anything we can't describe must have come from God. - George Carlin

Whenever I'm asked "What if you're wrong?", I always show the asker this video: http://youtu.be/iClejS8vWjo Screw Pascal's wager.
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10-09-2011, 12:57 PM (This post was last modified: 10-09-2011 01:35 PM by Ghost.)
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
Hey, Tae.

Quote:I know it's hard to realize when you make a special plead and compartmentalize something. Just like most theists compartmentalize their god(s) and use a special kind of logic for them and another set for other people's gods, you are treating the question "Do you believe that?" differently when it comes to gods.

No. I use the exact same procedure for everything posed to me.

Quote:We do have mountains of evidence that say gods are a product of man's imagination since we have the history of the most famous characters (just like we do for Santa Clause and Spider Man) and we do have mountains of evidence that contradicts the claims of deeds attributed to most gods. To say "yeah but I can think of an undetectable kind of god" is the moot because you can say pretty much the same thing about anything (even the undetectable reanimation of the president).

Ah. I think I've spotted the source of your confusion about my position.

I don't care in any way about the veracity of religious claims. Some claims have been debunked and some have been proven to be outright fabrication. I agree 100%. But that speaks only to the veracity of those claims and says nothing of God itself(s).

For me, the God question is simple. Is there some entity or agent that can create and or control our universe? Whether or not he kills babies, or wears Ray Bans, or handed Moses some tablets is irrelevant to me because those details are either debunkable or indemonstrable.

So if you show me a religious claim that has been demonstrated to be false, I will absolutely believe that it is false.

Make sense?

Quote:Just like theists can give you a 101 excuses for why you cannot detect their god(s), I can give you 101 excuses (even borrowed from theists') for why you can't detect the reanimation of the president and of course it leads you to believe that it's impossible. To borrow a few from theists: "you just don't have all the information" and "I know it because it was revealed to me".

There isn't a single scientific proof that you can give; therefore, since the impossibility of corpse reanimation has previously been established, your theory is, scientifically speaking, crappy. Note, I said in my last post, "a wizard might be able to do it though." If you tell me a wizard reanimated the corpse, I no longer have any reason to assume one way or the other. If you tell me that God revealed it to me, I no longer have any reason to assume one way or the other. All I can do is acknowledge that that is what you think and go on with my day.

God is different. There is no scientific proof. Period. Nothing has been established. So I begin with no position. If you tell me that God used his supernatural powers or that he came to you on a flaming pie and revealed everything to you, I have no reason to assume one way or the other because neither of those things is demonstrable. All I can do is acknowledge that that is what you think and go on with my day.

Do you see the special case?

Agnosticism says of things that CAN be investigated by science, if you HAVE demonstrated it, I take the position that has been proven, if you HAVE NOT proven it, I reserve my judgement. Agnosticism says of things that CANNOT be investigated by science, I reserve my judgement.

Agnosticism says of all of the various claims of the nature and actions of God made by the world's religions, if it is demonstrated to be false, I take the position that has been proven (ie, Santa brings either gifts or coal to ALL children without exception, I have NEVER received a gift from Santa; therefore, Santa does NOT bring either gifts or coal to ALL children). If it is undemonstrated, I reserve my judgement. If you tell me that you know it because of revelation, then it is indemonstrable; therefore, I reserve my judgement.

Agnosticism says of God, not as described, but as is or isn't, it has never been demonstrated because it is 100% indemonstrable; therefore, I reserve my judgement. Period. It is a special case because unlike gravity or a specific religious claim, both of which CAN be investigated, God can never be investigated. So an Agnostic must reserve their judgement for all time.

Quote:The only difference is that when a theist gives you a BS excuse for why you can't detect their god you feel compelled to say "well, I guess we can't know one way or the other", but in the case of the reanimated president you hear a BS excuse for why you can't detect it and you don't feel the need to rationalize it, you just call it for what it is: "BS!"

If a Theist tells me that God revealed something to them, I have zero evidence one way or the other. So I CAN'T judge. So no, I can't know one way or the other. In the case of the reanimated president, it is scientifically impossible. So I CAN judge and I MUST judge. So yes, I call it scientific BS because it is scientific BS. HOWEVER, if you tell me that a wizard did it, I have zero evidence for that. So I CAN'T judge. It's no longer scientific BS because it's no longer a scientific question.

Agnosticism is simple. If it's demonstrated, agree with what has been proven. If it is undemonstrated, reserve your opinion until it is demonstrated. If it is indemonstrable, reserve your opinion in perpetuity.

So if you make any claim whatsoever, all I have to do is ask, has it been demonstrated, is it undemonstrated or is it indemonstrable? The answer TELLS me whether to believe, disbelieve or reserve my opinion.

ON EDIT:

Hey, Efrx.

About the bubble gum, ostrich, Neptune thing. I figured go big or go home lol. I'm glad you got it Smile

Quote:The revelation thing gets me to ask a few questions: How valid would revelation be? I get the part that there is no scientific evidence, but where would we draw the line with revelation?


How valid is revelation? Scientifically: not at all. It has 0% validity. It terms of what the person believes: 100% validity. In terms of their ability to convince me: it depends on how convincing they are.

The line is simple. Revelation has zero scientific relevance. Where people get caught up is that they assume that science can answer every single question posed by man; therefore, they assume that if it cannot be answered by science, then it has no value. But science cannot answer every single question posed by man.

Revelation is a non-scientific justification for a belief. That must be acknowledged. "Why does he believe X? Because of revelation Y." That's just recognising naked fact. Revelation can only be believed by others if the person telling them can convince them that what they're saying is true. "God told me? Really? Trust me." If they trust them, then they accept it and justify it through second-hand belief in that revelation.

So if you're looking to draw a line, just say, "Scientifically, I have zero reason to believe you." That's true for EVERYONE. But then you need to say, "That being said, I personally believe: it's true (Theist), it's false (Atheist), that I shouldn't take a position (Agnostic)."

Quote:If the existence of God is unknowable, how or why do people believe they know in the first place due to revelation?

You ever watch a movie where a supernatural creature reveals itself to a kid and they go on to have high adventures, only to have an adult say, "I have no reason to believe that what you're saying is true because it makes no sense scientifically and I've never seen this friend of yours?" That's what revelation is. The person has a unique, ie, irreproducible experience, that only they have a reason to believe. Or they just SAY they had one. They then try to convince others that what they experienced is true, "Gee whillickers, you just gotta believe me, mister," or convince others that what they made up is true, "God told me that he wanted you to give me your money, see, and that’s what you’re gonna do, see. Hmaingh."

Quote:Aren't they talking out of their ass, like you say those who say that there is no evidence for God do?

They might be, they might not be. We will never be able to prove which. So we're left with just picking. Do I believe, disbelieve or reserve my opinion?

Quote:Should we take those claims seriously?
That's the exact question that Agnosticism tackles head on. It says, explicitly, if there's proof for, believe it. If there’s proof against, disbelieve it. If there's none, reserve your opinion.

Others think that if there is no evidence, then you should disbelieve it.

Others think that if there is no evidence, you should believe it anyway for whatever reason.

Agnostics don't think that either of those other options are rational. I certainly don't. Attractive? Easy? Convenient? Politically expedient? Sure. But not rational.

Quote:And on another note, what do you feel about other things that have been alleged to be seen through revelation, like alien abductions?
I think it's important to point out that Agnosticism applies to EVERYTHING. Certain claims have been debunked. "I was anally probed last night! No you weren't, Merv, we was playin poker and fuckin cheap hookers all night." No claim has been demonstrated as far as I know (but who knows what secrets they hold greedily within the mysterious walls of Area 51!).

Is it possible that life exists on other planets? Of course. Is it possible that they're sentient and can build space craft? Sure. Is it possible that they might want to study us? I don't see why not. Is there evidence for any of that? Not a fucking shred. So as an Agnostic, I reserve my judgement about UFOs, aliens and abductions. If a guy tells me that he was abducted, I have no reason to believe one way or the other, so all I can do is acknowledge that that is what he thinks and go about my day.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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10-09-2011, 01:07 PM
RE: Why I am neither a Theist nor an Atheist
Just gonna poke my head in here for a penny and a half.

Ghost makes a key point here. Reserving ones opinion is a very viable option. I know that when I first got involved in this thread I had a hard time with that. As an atheist, when it comes to this topic I have a tendancy to think, "well, what's your opinion? Yes or no?" But reserving an opinion is just as fair. In fact, it's Ghost who helped me widen my perspective and see that, and I feel it's improved my understanding of both his position and the position of many others.

So many cats, so few good recipes.
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