Friday, September 30, 2011

The UN-amazing deity

A reader wrote this comment on my last post.  I like it, so I want to post it on the main blog.

"I think that the fact of existence is an amazing achievement of nature. The incredible progress that has been made bit-by-tiny-bit, gradually over billions of years, as the universe struggled to become what it is, is humbling and awe-inspiring.

But if a god created all this, then it becomes UN-amazing, it's a PATHETIC WASTE of "omnipotence". If you're magical and all-powerful, why should your creations rely on circulatory systems, nervous systems, DNA, be dependent on messy sexual reproduction, surviving by violently consuming one another? Why are we bound onto the surface of planets, while the vast majority of space is uninhabitable, radiation-soaked vacuum?

A god who could truly do ANYTHING should've done MORE. FAR more. Reproduction could be asexual. With fireworks! More creatures could regrow lost limbs. Or fly! The universe could be FULL of life instead of empty. Instead of stars and planets surrounded by hostile emptiness, it could be an infinitely tiered latticework of livable, explorable space, with no constrictions like gravity or pressure.

I can come up with better, more fantastic, more successful, more peaceful, more MORAL universes with simply my imagination, certainly better than creationists seem happy to give their god credit for. If there is a god responsible for all of creation, then he is a remarkably unimaginative god, creating a world shackled by the laws of nature, which is exactly what you would expect if it really WAS nature that was responsible for the universe."

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

ID is short for IDiot

The non-existence of an “intelligent designer” is established by the evolution of a species which can believe in one.

the anti_supernaturalist

Anonymous said...

Your statement is awfully black and white. What we "agnostics" are saying, we don't know. We don't necessarily give credence to anyone, anything, or any idea. Simply because we don't know. It's called grey.

Admin said...

I can't figure out how your comment is relevant to this post.

Jim said...

What agnostics are saying is:

"Fuck if we know. We would rather choose to believe in something to appease the masses, and effectively our family so they don't talk to us about Jesus and shit. But we're also too fucking stupid to learn any kind of science as well. So, fuck it. We'll say "maybe" to the whole thing."

It's called being an ignorant twat who refuses to grow some balls and take a stand.

Yeah, it has nothing to do with the post, but that's what's going on.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Jim because if we use the scientific method of dealing with issues we wouldn't be able to rule out the possibility of a deity being there. Now I know the burden of proof is on religious people to begin with but once this fable got established and explained the existence of a universe in an imaginative way that is hard to discard unless you truly study religions which is something most "religious" people don't do, nevertheless, it is our duty as agnostics and atheists to actually explain the yet-to-be-explained processes of the universe by putting our heads into researching and learning, until then you will not be able to make your argument valid to a "blind", spiritually fulfilled person. Thank you for your opinions on this, let us all help rid each other of delusions and superstitions and instead replace them with art, music and meditation. Peace.

Jim said...

"I disagree with Jim because if we use the scientific method of dealing with issues we wouldn't be able to rule out the possibility of a deity being there."

In what scientific method of explaining the universe (or anything, really) does the possibility of an unproved, unobserved, or untestable being become a possibility to begin with? Science doesn't have to "rule out the possibility of a deity" because it has never been proven to exist in the first place. That would be like a scientist attempting to cure cancer and not ruling out magical fairies that live in clouds.

"Now I know the burden of proof is on religious people to begin with..."

Yes, this is where you should stop.

"but..."

I told you, you should have stopped.

"...once this fable got established and explained the existence of a universe in an imaginative way that is hard to discard unless you truly study religions which is something most "religious" people don't do..."

Why is it hard to discard? Because it was imaginative? No, because you're brainwashed by it. It is quite easy to discard because there is absolutely zero empirical evidence to support any single religious explanation for the origins of the universe or life. Discarding something with no evidence at all is very very simple! Kids do it all the time with Santa. There are no 25 year-old people running around trying to prove Santa is real. They realized there was no evidence and they moved on. Religions brainwash children at quite a young age, it has nothing to do with great arguments or imaginative explanations for anything, it has a lot to do with people thinking they're going to burn in fire for all of eternity if they don't comply.

"...nevertheless, it is our duty as agnostics and atheists to actually explain..."

Agnostics do this? They explain stuff? No. They don't. They refuse to say they don't believe in nonsense because they are waiting for Pascal's Wager to play out.

"...the yet-to-be-explained processes of the universe by putting our heads into researching and learning, until then you will not be able to make your argument valid to a "blind", spiritually fulfilled person."

It has been explained. There are some details being worked out, but it has been explained. The problem is that this argument will never be valid to them because they honestly believe that when they die they might burn in fire or live on a cloud.

"Thank you for your opinions on this, let us all help rid each other of delusions and superstitions and instead replace them with art, music and meditation. Peace."

Stop being an agnostic then.


Also, fuck meditation. That's my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Jim is the man

Anonymous said...

The problem is you don't evolve from Agnosticism to Atheism. They answer different questions. All atheists are agnostics. Simply, the word "atheist" means simply that one believes there is no god. The word "agnostic" means that one doesn't know. The proper was to describe yourself in this context would be to state your belief and knowledge. For example, I'm an agnostic atheist.

Jim said...

Allow me to clarify your ignorance:

Atheist (n): a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.

Agnostic (n): a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.

(Source: Dictionary.com)

An atheist doesn't believe in supernatural beings. Period. An agnostic believes that the existence or nonexistence is unknowable. These are two different things.

I know there is no god because there is not now, nor was there ever, any proof of god. Agnostics just don't know one way or another, therefore they can't claim to atheist or theist. They're sitting on a fence somewhere.

"For example, I'm an agnostic atheist."

This statement would mean, literally, that you can't know one way or the other whether gods exist but you know gods don't exist. If you were an agnostic atheist you would have to deny that gods exist and then say that you really don't know that because you don't know either way. It contradicts itself.

You are either a theist, and agnostic, or an atheist. You can't pick two and say that's what you are. All three terms have specific meanings and are exclusive.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Jim. You got this.

Dimondwoof said...

As much as I agree with you, Jim, on most of your posts, I think you missed the agnostic/atheist distinction. One is a knowledge claim, the other is a belief claim.

Almost all atheists are agnostic, in that they do not claim to have definite knowledge of whether god exists or not, but do not actually believe in one. Almost all theists are gnostic in that they believe in a god and they claim to have "knowledge" to support that claim. However, I HAVE actually come across a few pastors that admit that they don't (and can't) know for sure, but they believe anyway, so it is possible, believe it or not, to be an agnostic theist.

I would consider those of us who can produce evidence that the abrahamic god can't exist (and therefore claim knowledge that it is impossible for it to exist) are gnostic atheists (or, in my own chosen term: anti-theist).

However, I certainly agree with you that most people who claim "agnosticism" instead of atheism tend to be either too lazy or too chichenshit to just accept that they don't believe and leave it at that. Or they want to be "politically correct" and try to ride the fence, saying that we should all just "get along". These are the people with that moronic "coexist" bumper sticker on their VW Microbusses. There is no "coexist" as long as theists insist on forcing their religion down our throats.

Jim said...

"As much as I agree with you, Jim, on most of your posts, I think you missed the agnostic/atheist distinction. One is a knowledge claim, the other is a belief claim."

Exactly, they are two different things. Which is why you can't be both. I know this gets wrapped up in a lot of confusion. People think because one is based on knowledge and facts while the other is based, not on knowledge, but on belief that both can be true at the same time. Not so.

"Almost all atheists are agnostic, in that they do not claim to have definite knowledge of whether god exists or not, but do not actually believe in one."

These are not atheists. These are agnostics who sit on the fence while facing one side. That's all it is.

"Almost all theists are gnostic in that they believe in a god and they claim to have "knowledge" to support that claim."

So, you just defined that, because the supernatural is, by definition, unprovable, that everyone on earth is agnostic. That doesn't work.

"However, I HAVE actually come across a few pastors that admit that they don't (and can't) know for sure, but they believe anyway, so it is possible, believe it or not, to be an agnostic theist."

Despite what this very small sampling of over 7 billion people tells you, the personal opinion of anyone is the basis of nothing. There is either are gods or there are not gods.

"I would consider those of us who can produce evidence that the abrahamic god can't exist (and therefore claim knowledge that it is impossible for it to exist) are gnostic atheists (or, in my own chosen term: anti-theist)."

This is literally impossible, as you cannot prove that gods do not exist. You cannot. By definition. But if you can, I am 100% that there is a Nobel Prize with your name on it.

If you do not believe in gods, or know that gods don't exist, that is atheism. Period. There is no room for middle ground. You can't say, "I do not believe in gods! But I also don't believe that I can prove the things I don't believe in are not real!" That makes no sense.

Likewise, if you said, "I believe in my chosen god as the real thing that created everything! I just am not sure if god actually exists." then you are in a weird place. Which is it? Do you believe god exists or do you not?

The middle ground of believing and not believing in uncertainty. You can't bring that uncertainty to one side. If I told you that I love Pepsi, and that Pepsi was the greatest soft drink on the market, but I just don't believe Pepsi is a real soft drink, how would that make sense?

I stand by my statement, and I thank you for challenging it. But you haven't convinced me that agnostic is a term that can be applied properly to atheists and theists. It's a completely independent view, and anyone who states that they are both agnostic and atheist/theist is a person who doesn't understand the English language. Or a coward.

Zenzu said...

The terms 'atheist' and 'agnostic' are NOT mutually exclusive. You can be atheist-agnostic because 'agnostic' is a claim about what is knowable and 'atheist' isn't a claim at all but non-acceptance of the god theory.

In fact it would logically follow that most agnostics would in fact be atheist because god isn't a part of his/her practical world view. Living a life defining 'god as a possibility' probably doesn't make you pray or ask a pedophile for forgiveness just in case. As such you are probably indistinguishable from most atheists. Its misunderstanding of the terms themselves that makes people think they are mutually exclusive.

Jim said...

"The terms 'atheist' and 'agnostic' are NOT mutually exclusive."

Yes they are.

"You can be atheist-agnostic because 'agnostic' is a claim about what is knowable and 'atheist' isn't a claim at all but non-acceptance of the god theory."

Really? Atheism isn't a claim? I am an atheist, so you don't think I claim there is not god? Non-acceptance is a claim. That's what a claim is. If I say, "There is no god. I am an atheist," how is that NOT a claim?

"In fact it would logically follow that most agnostics would in fact be atheist because god isn't a part of his/her practical world view."

No, it would not be logical. What would be logical is to say that most agnostics lean toward atheism. But because they haven't made the CLAIM that god does not exist, they are still agnostic.

"Living a life defining 'god as a possibility' probably doesn't make you pray or ask a pedophile for forgiveness just in case."

When you're agnostic, god is always a possibility. When you're atheist, god is never a possibility. That's where the line is.

"As such you are probably indistinguishable from most atheists. Its misunderstanding of the terms themselves that makes people think they are mutually exclusive."

No, it is the misunderstanding that makes people believe they are not exclusive.

While, yes, you could say that you don't believe in gods, but you do not know whether they exist or not, that is not an agnostic-atheist. That is an agnostic that leans one way.

Just because you can make atheist and agnostic claims at the same time, the fact is that you are not both at the same time. If I were to say that I was a devout Catholic who just didn't believe we were worshiping a god that existed, would you call me a theist-atheist? No. Because you can only be one thing. That person would be an atheist. Just as an agnostic person who worships a god would be a theist.

Michael Garcia said...

Jim I wish I had your clarification skills and ability to distinguish two things from each other. Maybe agnosticism only exists as a term or idea because somewhere at some point in time a heavily brainwashed individual started doing some critical thinking but didn't have any body else to talk about it with to reach a concensus besides Pascal's Wager? Any thoughts?

Jim said...

Thank you.

I think agnosticism is a real thing. I just think most people who define themselves as such are afraid to choose a side. Mostly these are theists playing Pascal's Wager. They know they don't want to believe in god for some reason, whether it be something about hating religion or the church or whatever, but they don't have the courage to just say that they really don't believe.

Now, this could be interpreted as an "atheist agnostic," but they aren't atheist because they haven't made the claim that there is no god. They are the people sitting on the fence facing atheism.

And, you know what? I get it. I sat on that fence for a short time. When you're raised with gods in your life, it can be hard to deny them because you are afraid of being wrong. But once you deny them, you stop being agnostic. You might hold agnostic beliefs still, but you made a claim and that is what defines you now.

But to answer your question more directly, I believe agnosticism arose from fear. Nothing more. People are afraid of being wrong. That's human nature. And it can be heavily influenced by religion.

HoPpeR© said...

Jim, I find it amazing how so many people claim to be atheist and despise agnostics. I know it comes from the odd definitions attached to these labels. I am agnostic. I know that for sure. I am not what you describe, a fence sitter, trying to cash in on pascals wager. So it is obvious to me that you are wrong in your definition of agnostic. Simple, but to further nail this down, I know I am not a theist because I do not believe any god exists as described by any religion. I am not an atheist because I cannot claim to have definitive knowledge that no god exists. While I do dismiss all the gods described in religions new and old, because I do have knowledge that disproves the claims of the religions, there still exists possibilities which I can imagine of a god that could exist that would not be in conflict with the things I do know about. For instance, there might be a god who created the universe 14 some billion years ago and then let it evolve all by itself. Since I cannot dismiss that possibility, I cannot be an atheist. The only word left to describe me is agnostic, yet I am nothing like you think agnostics are.

Admin said...

You're both wrong. You're both atheists and you're both agnostic (pretty sure Jim doesdn't claim to know for sure). You're like me, agnostic-atheists. There is no requirement to claim absolute knowledge of the non-existence of gods to be an atheist. "Agnostic" is a term that has been warped by the religious to convince (confuse) people that they're not atheists, and warped by non-believers to avoid calling themselves atheists (protection from the wrath of believers). The 2 are not mutually-exclusive. There are also agnostic-theists, gnostic-atheists and gnostic-theists.

Hopper, your position and explanation for it is exactly what my position is. We're atheists dude, learn to love it.

Gnosticism: what you know
Theism: what you believe

Please read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnostic_atheism

Jim said...

First things first, just because there is a Wikipedia article doesn't mean it's true. You and I both know, Admin, that I could also pull up an article on there about god existing, and neither of us would buy it.

Second, I would claim I do know for sure that there are no gods. Simply because no god is needed for the universe to exist and no god has been proven to exist. When faced with the pure science of the universe, there is no room for god. He is a zero added to the equation of being that can be discarded. If there were even the slightest chance of there being a god, I would not be an atheist. But nothing about the maths or physics I have studied points toward a god of any sort. I can, with 100% certainty, claim that there is no god because of the same reason I can claim with the same certainty that there is no tooth fairy. Both are unneeded and unproven. Period.

Jim said...

Now to address HoPpeR©.

"I am not what you describe, a fence sitter, trying to cash in on pascals wager. So it is obvious to me that you are wrong in your definition of agnostic."

Oh, did I say that was what all agnostics thought? Pretty sure I used the words, "I just think most people..." before my thoughts. As for the actual definitions I used (and not what my opinion on most agnostics) you can scroll up to see. I even sourced them.

"Simple, but to further nail this down, I know I am not a theist because I do not believe any god exists as described by any religion."

Great.

"I am not an atheist because I cannot claim to have definitive knowledge that no god exists."

Atheism doesn't require definitive knowledge. It just requires that you disbelieve in their existence. If you can't 100% disbelieve in their existence, you are not an atheist. You are an agnostic.

"While I do dismiss all the gods described in religions new and old, because I do have knowledge that disproves the claims of the religions, there still exists possibilities which I can imagine of a god that could exist that would not be in conflict with the things I do know about. For instance, there might be a god who created the universe 14 some billion years ago and then let it evolve all by itself. Since I cannot dismiss that possibility, I cannot be an atheist. The only word left to describe me is agnostic, yet I am nothing like you think agnostics are."

Great, you just described an agnostic person. Fantastic. Again, I gave my opinion on most agnostics, not all. So you are in the group of people I didn't describe, leaving my description quite intact.

Admin said...

Jim, I didn't get my primary information from the Wikipedia page. The Wikipedia page is an explanation and support for what is pretty widespread understanding in the atheist activist community. It comes out of the understanding that you either believe something or you don't. It's a binary proposition. If you do not believe in gods, then you are a disbeliever. Atheist even means, "not a theist". It doesn't matter how "strong" your lack of belief is, if you do not hold a belief in a god or gods, you are an atheist, not a theist.

For further support, I checked my dictionary for agnostic:

"a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God."

I also found this in the agnostic article on Wikipedia:

"Agnosticism is the view that the truth values of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, as well as other religious and metaphysical claims—are unknown or unknowable."

It goes on to state that in popular usage (meaning people have gotten the definition wrong in the culture), it means somebody who essentially refuses to make a statement about whether they believe or don't believe.

This is not belief. It's knowledge. If you claim to know for sure that gods don't exist, then you are a gnostic-atheist. My apologies for misrepresenting your position, I could not recall if you had expressed an absolute knowledge or not. I happen to think you're not justified in making such a claim, and I'd deny it just as I would a religious believer who claims he has knowledge that gods do exist. That's not to say that I don't strongly believe that you are exactly correct for the exact reasons that you stated, I'm just not willing to go to 100% because of it. I am comfortable claiming to be 100% sure that the Christian god doesn't exist, because where we would expect it to leave evidence, it has not.

"Great, you just described an agnostic person."

Hopper is wrong to claim that means he/she isn't an atheist, and you are correct in writing that his comment means he's agnostic. But he's also an atheist.

"Atheism doesn't require definitive knowledge. It just requires that you disbelieve in their existence. If you can't 100% disbelieve in their existence, you are not an atheist. You are an agnostic."

This comment strikes me as strange and is difficult to understand. What does it mean to 100% disbelieve something? Can we get a definition of what you mean? Hopper most certainly is an agnostic and an atheist, based on what he has already written.

Finally, we have this from the atheism page, which says that I'm right in the broader sense, and you're right in a narrower sense:

"Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists."