February 2007

I’m unable to accept atheism for the same reason I’m unable to accept theism; they are both faith-based systems; they both require belief in the absence of proof. There is not proof that there is a god, but there is also not proof there is not one. Both systems lack the intellectual courage to say the only absolutely true thing anyone can say regarding the existence of a god: “I don’t know.”

The question also pretty irrelevant. If you observe the universe and try to live your life within its framework as well as you can, you have the best chance at a happy life. If there is a god, I’d have to guess that sort of a life is the best chance to please him/her/it. If there is no god, that same way of living gives you the best chance for a happy life.

The reason the existence of a god is an unanswerable question is that we are finite beings with finite minds and we can never do better than approximate a concept of infinity. We can approach the ultimate truth asymptotically, but we can never reach it. That may strike some as an expression of despair, but it is an expression of great joy. No matter how long the human race survives, we will never run out of things to learn. That’s the best news I can think of. I’m a patient person, I’ll find out when I die, or I won’t. It really won’t matter, will it? Right now I’d prefer to not put my effort into trying to learn the unlearnable.

Thank you for your kind indulgence.

You may not be aware that there is more than one kind of atheist. I am not a “there is no god” atheist, but rather a “I see no reason to believe there is a god” atheist. The difference is that the former states categorically that there is no deity, and the latter’s position is that there is not a compelling reason to believe in a deity. As the second type of atheist, I do not believe that there is a god, but I do not make it an article of faith. (You rather sound as if you might fall into this camp yourself.)

I don’t think you are necessarily correct when you say that “the only absolutely true thing anyone can say regarding the existence of god” is “I don’t know.” I think the phrase “I see no reason to believe there is a god” is absolutely true and has the advantage of being more scientifically rigorous. For example, I wouldn’t say “I don’t know” when asked if there is a Loch Ness monster. Rather, I have no reason to believe that there is such a thing, but am willing to change my mind if proof appears.

The reason this is important is that, a) I don’t want to go around saying “I don’t know” if something exists whenever I can’t prove something doesn’t exist because it will make me sound like a nut (“Do unicorns exist?” “I don’t know”), and b) I don’t think that the concept of god’s existence should be treated differently than anything else’s concept of existence.

Your reason that the question is irrelevant is, in my opinion, a bit off the mark. I don’t see it as particularly likely that a god would most likely be happy with you because you try to have a happy life by confining yourself to observable reality. There are also a great many people who would not be happy living their life with only the observable universe for comfort. I’d say that our inability to know anything about any deity’s wants or desires is the reason that we should treat them as irrelevant. If there is a deity, the odds of it being a vengeful deity that will torture you forever because you chose not to worship it don’t seem any better or worse than the odds that it will reward you in the afterlife because you were a materialist.

I would also tend to quibble with your statement that god is an unanswerable question because our finite minds can only approximate infinite concepts. Mathematicians have learned how to work with real infinities. I find it harder to deal with the possibility that time itself is not infinite than the concept of infinite stretches of time. And even if I can’t hold a concept in my mind’s eye — such as a twelve dimensional cube — that doesn’t imply that nothing can be said of such a thing with certainty.

I do agree with one of your ultimate conclusions, even if I’m not on the same path as you getting there. I think that the joy of investigation and learning is one of the most wonderful things in existence. But where we differ is that I am more than happy to hear any arguments for the existence of a deity because, if such a thing did exist, it would be one of the most important facts in the universe, and the great importance of such a thing makes it worthwhile, at least to me, to make sure I don’t miss what might be a compelling argument, even though I think the possibility of the existence of such an argument is almost vanishingly small.

Posted on February 18, 2007 at 11:03 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Anti-atheist

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