Sep 19, 2011

There are no gods

I am an atheist who asserts that there are no gods. There exist no gods. Gods do not exist. I can restate that many different ways.

What do I mean by that? By that I mean that there are no beings that are living and can perform magic. No, not magic tricks. Magic. Examples include but are not limited to Yahweh, Jesus, Vishnu, Allah, Kim Jong Il and any of the other ones described in popular history or claimed to be gods.

As long as I append that with the tacit admission that I can be wrong about things I know, that I have been wrong before, my position should be crystal clear and consistent with regards to a myriad things that I say do not exist.

What is my proof for non-existence?

I do not have any.

Nothing resembling a god has been demonstrated. There is no evidence that proves the existence of a god.

But "absence of evidence" is not "evidence of absence".

Correct. I find that either inconsequential or dishonest. Inconsequential because we often determine something to be absent only because there is an absence of evidence, and dishonest when we do not admit that we do.

Suppose I say that there is an elephant in the trunk of your car. If you are the kind of person who prefers to rigorously affirm "I do not believe there is an elephant in the trunk of my car" and not "No, there is no elephant in the trunk of my car" or an equivalent denial, in all such cases, you cannot understand my position.

If you insist that you just checked and respond "no, there isn't", well how about now? Also, how did you determine that there was no elephant in the car trunk if you insist that "absence of evidence" is not "evidence of absence"?

And what if I describe an elephant to be air in a confined space that touches a spare tire, and a mat? Do you recognize it to be an elephant?

That said, I regard those who say "I do not believe that gods exist" to be atheists as well, I simply feel that they are offering unearned respect for religious beliefs and are inconsistent. Unless of course, they use an exactly similar posture for anything they claim does not exist whether it be temporally or spatially.

Those who make the claim "we cannot know if gods exist" are agnostics, and are making a more onerous claim. They are actually claiming that something cannot be known.

How do they know that and deny me my claim to knowledge?


Bretta Applebaum said...

I see that you are delineating facets of the question.

The problem for me is, while I can determine that I no longer want to attribute belief in god or gods, that decision has not done anything to explain or define experiential evidence which I formerly attributed to god or gods.

I still have a need to outline, define and categorize experiences for which I was told could not have happened because (a) I am not a prophet; those only existed in the Old Testament (absurd statement on the face of it, I know) therefore, do not indulge in that sort of fantastical imagining, and (b) for which I was prescribed dampening drugs to 'focus.,' I suppose meaning focus on the here and now, although my 'real' life and family was not endangered.

I don't have "absence of evidence" for my experiences previously ascribed to god or gods. In my opinion I never had "evidence of absence," because I had ascribed it to god or gods; however, neither circumstance is an actual bona fide evidence, it merely points to an initial assumption on my part that the source had to be god or gods.

Shripathi Kamath said...

There are many unexplained mysteries in our experiences, and sometimes it is difficult to ever explain them. Sam Harris, an atheist, says that for this reason we (atheists) need to acknowledge them as mystical or spiritual.

Now I think that he is simply co-opting common definitions of those words, but I find no reason to object to his usage. Nor do I find it useful.

Personal experiences are often considered to be universal, which we all know are not. An orgasm, for example, is personal. Yet we assume that what another experiences is the same thing. Can we confirm that it is? Probably not, but we can scientifically provide evidence for it being the same thing.

The point I am making is that many atheists often assign "There are no gods" a higher bar of scrutiny and respect than "There are no leprechauns". I find it discomforting to aid superstitious beliefs in that fashion.

Bretta said...

I disagree with this statement,"What do I mean by that? By that I mean that there are no beings that are living and can perform magic."

You just mean that you have no empirical evidence of living beings who can magic; that does not mean that you don't know someone who can, they just have not revealed it to you.

"Magic is science not yet revealed." (Sorry I don't remember the author of that quote.)

Shripathi Kamath said...

You disagree with my explanation for what I mean?

But you are correct in pointing out that I have no empirical evidence, either because someone has not provided it to me, or because there is no evidence. Which is why I make the claim about my knowledge. I shall gladly reconsider if someone were to offer evidence that I have not been shown. Should that evidence convince me, what I know now will change.

Again, I clearly state that I can be wrong about what I know, and that I have been wrong before. Perhaps will be, again.

I submit that the position "I believe that there are no gods" with the understanding that "I could be wrong, about anything" is less arrogant, and less accommodating than "I do not believe that gods exist"

The question
"Do you have a gold coin in your pocket?"

can be answered

"I do not believe that I have a gold coin in my pocket"


"I don't have a gold coin"

When we do not hesitate to answer it with the second, why do we need to accord any different respect to gods?

Surely one has (or at least I have) researched gods more than a gold coin in my pocket.

"Magic is science not yet revealed."

I agree, that it has some element of truth to it. However, I have no reason to believe that a laser guided rifle was in use at Jesus's execution. That would be magic.

Likewise, I have no reason to accept that Jesus turned Evian into the house Chianti in a matter of minutes in the 1st century. That is magic.