Ah, this shows every sign of spinning out of control into “angels on the heads of pins” land and beyond.
We agree, it seems, about something fundamental here: The problem, to a large extent, is rooted in language.
So, rather than continue down this language-trapped track, I will just say a few words about my views on language and its usage.
I admire adherents to that discipline called “E Prime” by which one avoids usage of identifier verbs (is, are etc.) in favor of active verbs (do). This not only removes ambiguity and, sometimes, outright falsehood, from the meaning of one’s statements for the listener, but also forces the speaker to think through and clarify his/her own thoughts.
So, I will restate what I think, avoiding labels:
“I hold no opinion regarding god, deities, fairies, leprechauns, sasquatch, UFOs, or other entities or phenomena for which I have neither direct apprehension nor plausible report from trusted parties.”*
You, and “atheists” and “agnostics” and “theists” or any of the foregoing, with or without adjectives or qualifiers appended, may make similar, non-label, declarations and I will agree or disagree with them. I think that from now on I will no longer ask people which category they fit into, but rather, will ask them to state their beliefs or positions.
*That said, I must confess to taking some delight in pointing out to my Christian friends that I, personally, have far more empirical evidence for the existence of The Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus than I do for that of Jesus. Several times I left the tooth under my pillow and the next morning found cash, as predicted by the theory. Several times I went to bed on Christmas Eve to awake Christmas morning to find bundles of wonderful gifts, as predicted by the theory.
I think we understand each others’ vocabulary pretty well at this point. I also think that the real difference in our beliefs isn’t vocabulary, but practicality. I mentally assign probabilities to all possible facts, and treat some as more likely than others. If something is less likely, I require more evidence before I will say that it is likely true. This is, in general, a skeptical/scientific viewpoint.
It seems that you, on the other hand, assign these probabilities only when discussing certain subjects. For example, you said in a previous note, “I know I exist. Everything else I accept or reject according to its degree of workability and usefullness, and that acceptance is subject to change.” Yet you have resisted my attempts to get you to assign a degree of “workability and usefulness” to the supernatural or unproven. It looks like you treat the existence of bigfoot as equally likely as the existence of a deity that I have made up on the spot. If I am understanding your position correctly, then I find it extremely impractical.
For another example, consider these two statements: “UFOs are the spacecraft of aliens from another solar system,” and “UFOs are the spacecraft of aliens from another solar system in the far future.” You have no direct knowledge or plausible report supporting either of these statements, so would you treat them as equally true/untrue? I would not, and I believe science would not.
You are completely correct when you say that science has no business saying “God does not exist” because a purely supernatural being is beyond scientific investigation. But I think you are incorrect when you treat all possible deities as equally likely (since specific concepts of deities can be investigated logically or, in some cases, scientifically), and incorrect when you treat subjects that can be in principle investigated by science (UFOs, bigfoot, fairies) as equally impossible to make scientific statements about as deities.
In closing, I completely agree with you that it is better to ask people for the specifics of their world view than to ask them what label they use. It’s too bad that so many people seem much better at labeling themselves than explaining their personal philosophy.