Last Update: 15 Aug 00
Return to "Religion" essay
REPLY #98a TO
This is the first of an eleven-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.
What the hell is a "semi-agnostic theist"? Is that somebody who can't prove that he doubts his own belief in his chosen deity?
(R) "Semi" meaning "partial," "agnostic" meaning "no knowledge" and "theist" meaning "belief in God."
(MB) To be "agnostic" does not mean that one has "no knowledge". It means that one understands that there is insufficient evidence or may never be sufficient evidence to support a definitive "Yes" or "No" answer to the question "Does God exist?". This means that the term "semi-agnostic" is, at best, a redundancy. I think that the proper term you are searching for is "fideist" -- which would be a person who says "The evidence is insufficient, but I choose to believe in God anyway."
(R) Let me explain. I believe that there is a lot of information that cannot be known about God's existence and a very limited amount of information that can be known about God's existence. Thus, I'm semi-agnostic.
(MB) What information can be known about God's existence and how is this determined? Then, what information *is* actually known about God's existence and what evidence supports this? Be very careful not to beg any questions in your answers.
(R) Yet, I am a theist because I believe that with what knowledge is available, an inference of God is the most logical position to take thereby justifying theism.
(MB) An existential position can neither be inferred nor be "the most logical position" without any supporting evidence (this is a major fallacy plaguing the standard opening arguments of William Lane Craig's debates). What supporting evidence is there which justifies your position? Remember that emotional appeals are not evidence.
Also, in your very first message to me, you referred to yourself as a "fundamentalist Christian". Have your beliefs changed that radically between then and now? If so, you'll need to update your web site and change its declared purpose.
(R) My beliefs are fundamentally the same and have not changed. Furthermore, you seem to be implying that being a semi-gnostic (agnostic) theist is incompatible with being a Christian fundamentalist. Would you care to support this implication and show exactly how and why the two concepts are irreconcilable?
(MB) Christian fundamentalism is a belief system which posits the literal truth of the Bible, the unquestioned existence and primacy (and even the exclusivity) of the God featured in that same Bible, and the divinity of Jesus. It holds that the Bible and its version of theism are to be considered accurate and authoritative in all disputes. No fundamentalist has any doubts whatsoever about the existence of the God which he worships. Thus, no fundamentalist can be an agnostic to any degree.
If that is "obvious" to them, it only proves that they haven't read what I've written. I've specifically stated on a number of occasions that I am an agnostic and not an atheist. I do not know for a certainty that no possible form of any deity actually exists.
(R) It is my understanding that atheism simply means "without god-belief." You are without belief in a god or gods, so you are an atheist.
(MB) You are confusing "god-belief", as a general principle, with the more specific "God belief". I am without belief in the God which you choose to worship, but do not reject the possibility that some other form of deity might exist. The fact that I doubt their existence does not mean that I have flatly rejected the possibility. Having such a belief is not the same thing as being able to stand up and say "No deity of any kind exists" with no reservations.
However, I strongly doubt the existence of any such deity and understand the logical fallacies inherent in supporting any argument with nothing more than invoking some "God".
(R) Yes, doubting the existence of any deities is a fundamental attribute of atheism. Your an atheist.
(MB) "Doubt" is an attribute of agnosticism. "Rejection" is an attribute of atheism. I am a doubter. A strong doubter, to be sure.
Now, what is the point of quibbling over whether or not you can label me as an "atheist"? Is there some argumentative or rhetorical baggage that you will attempt to drag into the debate that can't be included if you can't pin the "atheist" label on me? In the end, you are *still* going to have to satisfy the burden of proof for the claim "God exists" no matter what label you try to attach to me. If you want to continue to incorrectly label me an "atheist", knock yourself out. I'm more interested in the eventual arguments (if any) that you will be advancing in support of your beliefs. The refutation of those arguments is not dependent on what label you want to put on me.
That is not a proper definition of an atheist. An atheist is certain that no gods exist.
(R) "A"= without, "theism" = god belief. If you are "without belief in god," you are an "Atheist." Sorry, but thats the literal definition of atheism.
(MB) Notice that "without belief in god" (i.e., "weak atheism") is not the same thing as "denying the existence of god" (i.e., "strong atheism"). For example, a person who had never heard of the concept of a "god" would have no belief in such a concept, but could not be considered to be *denying* its existence. Same goes for a fetus. A fetus is certainly "without belief in god", but would you label it as being an "atheist" in the same way that you wish to label *me*? The distinction here is very similar to the difference between "moral", "amoral", and "immoral" and needs to be clarified before you start blindly attaching vague labels to me in order to gain some connotational benefits from them.
I do not claim such certainty although I do believe that position to be true. I have no problems with atheism. I just can't honestly declare myself to be one. If it makes you feel better to make that declaration for me, go right ahead.
(R) It makes me "feel better" to make accurate observations.
(MB) Then, allow me to wish for you to greatly enjoy it when you make your first accurate observation about me. It hasn't happened yet.
(R) The observation that you are an atheist is most definitely accurate and can easily be determined by anyone who considers the panoply of your writings.
(MB) Some of my writings refer to religious beliefs and some do not. It depends entirely on the matter under discussion. How does any statement in the form "Christians believe that...." finger me as being an atheist? Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others are not atheists, but could make the same statements truthfully. So could any Christian who was expressing an honest evaluation of that religion. Your disagreement with my writings does not lead to the conclusion that all other readers will also equate such statements with atheism. That is your particular logical failing.
You consider me to be an "atheist" simply because you can't conceive of any other term to describe somebody who doesn't share your theism and because you wish to associate various and sundry negative connotations with that term. Of course, by extension, those negative connotations will then implicitly apply to me, too, correct?
I know what I am and I also know that simplistic categorization will not decide this debate.
Now, I will readily admit that I am atheistic in regards to the existence of Yahweh and of most of the other gods which Man has invented for himself. However, those specific gods are only the smallest fraction of all possible gods. That is why my overall position is one of being an agnostic rather than an atheist. Some folks call that position "weak atheism" -- probably just to be able to throw in the label "atheist" with all of its negative connotations.
(R) You are waffling.
(MB) No, I'm not. I'm providing rational philosophical argument to refute your narrow focus and insufficient understanding of atheism and agnosticism. My point is proven upon every instance of your equating things like "materialism" with atheism or limiting your focus to Yahvistic considerations.
(R) You have stated that "God" is the "greatest hoax" of all time in a previous exchange I've had with you. This shows a strong rejection of ALL theistic claims which is common only in atheistic rhetoric.
(MB) Nope. It shows only a strong rejection of the God which you choose to worship. This does not require atheism. The same rejection could be stated by a strong believer in any other deity. My statement applies only to your preferred version of "God" and says nothing about any other particular deity or about theism in general. Once again, your narrow focus results in an invalid extrapolation.
The fact that the existence of God is still widely believed and invoked despite the fact that it has yet to receive any evidential support makes such a claim an unsupportable presupposition.
(R) The conclusion that theism has "yet to receive any evidential support" is merely a claim for which you did not define "evidential" or what constitutes "support."
(MB) This statement is obtuse and evasive. If you truly don't know what constitutes evidence and/or support for a proposition, you have no business engaging in debate.
(R) Some have considered the only "support" for God to be he/she/it physically appearing to them and saying "I am God. I am real."
(MB) Not quite, since whatever appeared could *claim* to be God without actually being God.
(R) You not only have to qualify what your definition of "evidence" for God would be, but you also need to justify why others should accept that definition.
(MB) Objective and empirical evidence is something which can be unambiguously observed, freely and repeatedly analyzed, properly interpreted and which is available to all. This applies to God as well as to any other proposition. Is it not well within the abilities of your God to provide such evidence? Is there any better way to prove anything's existence? If not, then I have provided the justification you demanded.
The Old Testament tells many stories (emphasis on the word "stories") about God appearing before his people and taking clear and direct action either for or against them. Yet, his people were still rife with disbelief. Is he that uncompelling?
(R) In addition, a proposition that has not been supported thusfar does not automatically mean that it is inherently "unsupportable" or incapable of attaining support in the future. At best, you could claim that theism is an *unsupported* presupposition *presently.*
(MB) Considering that it has been an unsupported presupposition for many thousands of years, on what basis are we to believe that its past and present lack of support will not continue in perpetuity? If there will never be any support for it, why should anybody believe it?
This is firmly established both logically and objectively. Atheism is the logical denial of that presupposition. Atheists don't believe in God because there is no evidence to support such a belief. If such evidence was presented, atheists would become believers.
(R) To claim that atheists would become believers if presented with evidence of God is to assume that all atheists choose to accept evidences. This is hardly the case, nor can you speak for millions of atheists.
(MB) This is a ridiculous statement. Atheists are atheists due to the realization that there is nothing with which to support the belief in theism. As such, atheism is a rational and logical position which *is* concerned with evidence (or lack of). Theism, on the other hand, is a system which is not concerned with evidence (and largely ignores contradictory evidence) and which values "faith" above all else. Because of this, theism is neither rational nor logical. I've often heard theists say that they won't abandon or change their beliefs even if proven to be wrong (usually because they rationalize that they *can't* be proven wrong), but you'll never hear an atheist say that he will continue to disbelieve in God even if proven wrong. It is easy to prove an atheist to be wrong. One solid piece of evidence is all that is required. But, no such evidence has been produced by any of the thousands of Man's theistic belief systems over the several thousand years they have been in existence.
(R) Such an expectation of unabridged dedication to following evidences flies in the face of human nature since it is well-supported that people choose to overlook or ignore evidences that support a proposition they have bias against, or simply do not want to believe.
(MB) While this is well-supported, this only proves my point that emotional or faith-based belief systems are irrational and illogical. However, since neither science nor atheism are such systems, your complaint is unwarranted. Demanding supporting evidence is a rigorous standard, but it is a method that produces results in which any thinking person can have the highest confidence. Those who do not demand evidence for their own beliefs, but who loudly shout "Where's the proof?" in reference to all other systems are not only being disingenuous and intellectually dishonest, but they are actually arguing against the rationality of their own beliefs.
Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.5 .......... Last Update: 15 Aug 00