Hi. Some interesting ideas you’ve put forth here, but I’m going to respectfully push back against some of them.
I will say that I do prefer the label “skeptic” over “atheist” or “agnostic,” if only because there is so much confusion with the labels. Most people who self-identify as atheist actually believe the same things most agnostics do. They just have a different definition of the word “atheist.”
It gets confusing. Not for me, but in dialogue with other people. So I just say skeptic.
The only way I could say that I don’t have a phone in my hand is because I’ve seen a phone and know what it looks like, and I won’t be able to see the manifestation of a pre-perceived phone’s properties in my hand. On that note, I ask this to an atheist willing to indulge: have you seen and can prove God at least once — anywhere?
We need to instantiate or prove a first-time idea such as God, for instance, on a chair, star, sky or what have you, before we can deny it somewhere else.
I think your reasoning here is flawed, for a couple of reasons.
First, because we have imaginations. If I were writing a novel about a time traveler named Clara, I could describe my protagonist’s time machine to you, the reader, and if I provided enough details, you would be able to picture it in your mind. That doesn’t mean the time machine is real, or has any analogue in reality. It is a construct of imagination. You could hold the image of that time machine in your mind and definitively say, “Clara’s time machine is not in this room with me.”
Second, suppose I didn’t do a very good job of describing what the time machine looks like, stating only that it is small and can fit in the palm of your hand. You may picture an intricate device of your own invention, or it may just be an abstract concept in your head that you can’t visualize, because I’m a terrible writer and haven’t done my job painting the scene.
But even if you have no conception of what the time machine looks like, that doesn’t preclude you from holding out your hand and saying, “There is no time machine in my hand,” if you can plainly see and feel that there is nothing in your hand whatsoever. (Though if the room is dark and your hand has been numbed, you may run into difficulties here.)
Third, your criteria for denying the existence of something seems impossible to meet. The only way we can deny the existence of something is if we already have evidence of its existence somewhere else…? That seems circular, and a direct contradiction.
In order to make [the agnostic claim] about anything, a person has to have a perfect understanding of the idea behind everything
I’m afraid I don’t think I agree with this, either.
If the supernatural is defined as things that exist outside the natural world, and if our senses and scientific measurement devices can only detect the natural world, then by definition we have no reliable way of investigating the supernatural. Therefor, there is no way we can know anything about the supernatural world. (Here I am using the word “know” to refer to knowledge that can be verified; if it can’t be verified, I wouldn’t call it knowledge. I would call it a claim, or belief as opposed to knowledge.)
The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence
Except in cases where you would expect to find evidence.
The absence of itchy red welts would be evidence that your kid doesn’t have chickenpox, for example.
It’s possible to imagine a God for whom there would be no evidence. A vague and undefined God, or a God who wishes to remain hidden. But once people start attaching certain dogma to a God claim — that God loves us, that he wants to know us, that he wants to save us — then these are claims you would expect to find evidence for.
So, if we were to, let’s say, discover properties and nature of dark matter and energy, we could never say with certainty that they aren’t or can’t be related to a superior entity, which is contrary to what an agnostic does — claim that nothing is or can be known about God.
I just don’t see the contradiction.
Because the supernatural is forever outside of your ability to scientifically investigate, you would be incapable of determining whether or not that dark matter is in some way related to God. You could answer that question neither in the positive nor in the negative. It would be an unsolvable puzzle.
That does not contradict with the agnostic position. That IS the agnostic position — that it is impossible to know whether God does or does not have any relation to dark matter.
George may not know about economy in the conventional way but he knows when to cry to get attention, food, etc., and that is to an extent, careful management of available resources. So, George knows something about economy
It might be helpful here to define terms. Within the definition of agnosticism that talks about the impossibility of knowing anything about God, a very specific definition of the word “knowledge” is being used. Knowledge, as opposed to belief, is something you know for an incontrovertible fact.
It is possible for me to hold a conception of God in my mind without knowing whether or not the idea has any bearing on reality. It is possible for me to have beliefs about that conception of God without knowing whether or not those beliefs are true.
Even if there was God and it created everything there was, is in control of everything that there will be, and is the master of all knowledge, and conclusively, creator of logic itself, would he tolerate unsubstantiated belief in it’s own existence much less like it?
Agreed 100%. Why isn’t it possible that God might reward evidence-based reasoning and punish those who are willing to believe on pure faith?
Granted, there are many theists who insist they do take an evidence-based approach — they don’t all take the blind faith approach, or at least they claim not to. They will tell you that there is not just evidence, but sufficient evidence, to warrant belief. To me, it always just seems like justification. They’re starting with a conclusion and trying to justify it.
Follow-up question: what kind of insecure and egotistical God would really demand our worship?