Agnostic Theism

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Agnostic Theism

I wrote an article a few weeks ago about defining atheism, and the necessity to be clear as to what one is (or is not) ascribing to avoid confusion. In that article, I made a distinction between ontological claims pertaining to theism (that is, "gods do not exist&quotEye-wink and epistemic claims pertaining to theism (that is, "I do not know if gods exist&quotEye-wink. I was musing the other day concerning the nature epistemic claims and beliefs and asked: is it possible for one to be an agnostic and theist at the same time?

This question has been asked by numerous people through the ages by people such as Pascal, Kierkegaard, James, and maybe even Descartes. To be agnostic about a given subject, one simple asserts that they have no knowledge pertaining to whatever subject is in question. Pertaining to gods, one merely says he or she has no knowledge about the existence of a god. To be a theist, one only needs to believe that a god of some sort exists. Epistemically speaking, knowledge and beliefs are not necessarily the same thing. Knowledge is typically defined as “justified true belief", or merely "true beliefs". This, of course, requires some sort of independent state of affairs, and typically these are called facts, such as "Rome is in Italy" or something like that. A true belief then is a belief that corresponds to one of the facts. If this is the case then, it is possible to believe something without it corresponding to some fact, or even believe something knowingly without it corresponding to some fact. If the latter is possible, then one could assert that he or she has no knowledge of whether a god actually exists, yet believes that a god does exist.

Thoughts?

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I would say that the vast

I would say that the vast majority of people are agnostic regarding a god or gods. Be they atheist or theist. Every debate I've had with a theist who is actually intelligent and generally rational ends with both sides admitting they don't know for certain. The others, on both sides, are insane.

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"Justified true belief"

"Justified true belief" presents a significant philosophical problem, because the premise for justification is usually flawed.

 

However, agnostic theism is not necessarily being uncertain. It only means that the theist concedes empirical knowledge of a god can never be obtained. Objective knowledge on the other hand, does not need to hold up to scientific scrutiny.

One may consider any knowledge that does not hold scientific water as "non-knowledge", but this simply means that the person's basis for knowledge is empiricism.

 

I for one, am not an agnostic atheist, but just an atheist. I don't believe in god, but should he exist, I think we would be able to empirically prove it, as well as prove it unscientifically.


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Vastet wrote:I would say

Vastet wrote:
I would say that the vast majority of people are agnostic regarding a god or gods. Be they atheist or theist. Every debate I've had with a theist who is actually intelligent and generally rational ends with both sides admitting they don't know for certain. The others, on both sides, are insane.

 

I suppose that's fair...I suppose I was talking more along the lines of unjustified belief. That is one believes something without no degree of certainty.

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I think that you are mixing

I think that you are mixing the ideas of belief and knowledge oddly. For me, knowledge would be something which is certain and known. For example, my cat is gray with gray stripes. OTOH, belief requires either a lack of actual knowledge or a deliberate ignorance of actual evidence.

 

So the YEC crowd is engaging in the voluntary ignorance of a mountain of evidence that the earth is far older than the bible appears to indicate.

 

Past that, I could rework your basic idea and ask if it is possible to fit into more than one category of atheism. I would have to say that that is certainly possible.

 

On the most basic level, I consider myself to be a nihilist. Although I must qualify as the concept is somewhat broad. I do not mean to say that I cannot even trust my senses, as in being trapped in the matrix. Rather, I will go with what I perceive until such time as there is a demonstration that such is a problem. However, I require a high standard of proof.

 

Could something along the lines of god exist? Well sure and in that light, one could assume that I am agnostic. However, I require the same high standard of proof as I would to prove that reality is not what it seems to be.

 

So if it turned out that there was some being that had something to do with how we came to be, I would still require to have clear evidence of what that even means. Perhaps the monolith builders from 2001 are (or at least were) real. They helped our protohuman ancestors become what we are today.

 

Alternatively, there is something more like the maker of the universe. He inhabits a place which is outside of what we call the universe. However, in that case, the universe must be embedded in the place where god lives.

 

To say that god is the maker of space and is outside of space is incoherent. That would mean that god was not in a place. Well, if god is nowhere, then it makes no sense that god exists.

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Erk, I hadn't quite finished

Erk, I hadn't quite finished with that. I guess I clicked on post instead of preview by accident when a friend showed up. I should clarify that this:
"I would say that the vast majority of people are agnostic regarding a god or gods."

Should read:
"I would say that the vast majority of people are agnostic regarding a god or gods in a general sense of the terminology."

And this:
"The others, on both sides, are insane."

Wast to be expanded. To clarify, noone sane knows for certain that there is or isn't some being that would fit some kind of definition of god. But noone has yet found a definition that works.

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Answers in Gene Simmons

Answers in Gene Simmons wrote:

I think that you are mixing the ideas of belief and knowledge oddly. For me, knowledge would be something which is certain and known. For example, my cat is gray with gray stripes. OTOH, belief requires either a lack of actual knowledge or a deliberate ignorance of actual evidence.

 

So the YEC crowd is engaging in the voluntary ignorance of a mountain of evidence that the earth is far older than the bible appears to indicate.

I tend to agree...the YEC crowd does seem to ignore evidence. WLC and Pal's seem to embrace modern cosmology. If I was to choose, I'd choose WLC over a YEC. Kent Hovind doesn't count. Many YECist don't even like him.

Answers in Gene Simmons wrote:

Past that, I could rework your basic idea and ask if it is possible to fit into more than one category of atheism. I would have to say that that is certainly possible.

 

On the most basic level, I consider myself to be a nihilist. Although I must qualify as the concept is somewhat broad. I do not mean to say that I cannot even trust my senses, as in being trapped in the matrix. Rather, I will go with what I perceive until such time as there is a demonstration that such is a problem. However, I require a high standard of proof.

 

I suppose one could either be willfully ignorant or just plain ignorant concerning knowledge of a god's existence. I tend to agree with you concerning nihilism, but consider myself an anti-nihilist because of the void one could create if the only sort of certainty allowed was absolute certainty. If this is the case, then empiricism is deductively screwed from the get-go unless of course one has omniscience.

 

Answers in Gene Simmons wrote:

Could something along the lines of god exist? Well sure and in that light, one could assume that I am agnostic. However, I require the same high standard of proof as I would to prove that reality is not what it seems to be.

 

So if it turned out that there was some being that had something to do with how we came to be, I would still require to have clear evidence of what that even means. Perhaps the monolith builders from 2001 are (or at least were) real. They helped our protohuman ancestors become what we are today.

 

Alternatively, there is something more like the maker of the universe. He inhabits a place which is outside of what we call the universe. However, in that case, the universe must be embedded in the place where god lives.

 

To say that god is the maker of space and is outside of space is incoherent. That would mean that god was not in a place. Well, if god is nowhere, then it makes no sense that god exists.

 

 

This is a complete aside, but where does the universe exist?

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Vastet wrote: To clarify,

Vastet wrote:
To clarify, noone sane knows for certain that there is or isn't some being that would fit some kind of definition of god. But noone has yet found a definition that works.

When one begins to start down the god-is-meaningless trail, I tend to cringe. Sure, "god" in and of itself is rather broad, but given some discussion the term can be described. If one is looking for a concise definition, then it would die the death of a 1000 qualifications. I could do that to just about anything, I think.

 

 

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That's my point though.

That's my point though. Ironically, god is only meaningful when it is meaningless. As soon as it is defined and quantified, it doesn't fit with reality, and obviously doesn't exist. Only when staying amorphous can one claim sanity through belief, no matter how tenuous.
Unless there's a definition that works and we're all yet unaware of it.

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Vastet wrote:That's my point

Vastet wrote:
That's my point though. Ironically, god is only meaningful when it is meaningless. As soon as it is defined and quantified, it doesn't fit with reality, and obviously doesn't exist. Only when staying amorphous can one claim sanity through belief, no matter how tenuous. Unless there's a definition that works and we're all yet unaware of it.

I could start asking, "What is reality" etc, and go off bantering about that. If one does peg a definition of reality then writes off things accordingly, that becomes question begging, not problems with definitions.

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Reality is real. That which

Reality is real. That which exists exists. It makes no sense to doubt the reality of the real. No god shares this quality. It is therefore a bad argument. I can point at anything which is real. Even thought, which comes from the brain. I can't point at a god. The only question begging comes from supposing a god in the first place. Without such begging, there is no argument.

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Vastet wrote:Reality is

Vastet wrote:
Reality is real. That which exists exists. It makes no sense to doubt the reality of the real. No god shares this quality. It is therefore a bad argument. I can point at anything which is real. Even thought, which comes from the brain. I can't point at a god. The only question begging comes from supposing a god in the first place. Without such begging, there is no argument.

 

If a man came down from the sky, and told you that he could do anything at all that's logically possible, and you asked him to do a series of ridiculous tasks, like turn the oceans into orange juice, and he did all of them, and then said that he was here to collect people who had followed instructions curiously similar to what are found in the bible, and said that he once sacrificed himself for mankind, and told you what was going on in each area of the universe, you would call that man superman, not Jesus.

This is precisely where the "faith" element seeps into strong atheism. It is also what happens when you use empiricism as a basis for all of your decision making.

 

Fortunately, no one is a true empiricist, they just say they are.

 

 


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No, I'm pretty sure I'd call

No, I'm pretty sure I'd call that man god, and shit my pants.

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Vastet wrote:No, I'm pretty

Vastet wrote:
No, I'm pretty sure I'd call that man god, and shit my pants.

 

You would? Why? You have no objective or empirical reason to believe this, he could just as easily be buddha, or super-buddha after achieving enlightenment. Or simply some alien race that has managed to achieve omnipotence.

 

The concept of god itself is logically contradictory, so isn't that the last thing you should be calling whoever that guy is?


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I hold that the phrase

I hold that the phrase "justified true belief" is a very flawed attempt to define "knowledge", begging the question by incorporating the word "true", which is simply not 'knowable' about most items of knowledge, making the definition useless. It just one of the reasons I detest most philosophy, when it keeps coming up with crap like that.

I see 'knowledge', 'belief', and 'assumption' as lying on a spectrum, going from high confidence and good supporting arguments to low confidence and no real logical or evidentiary support.

The data on which the arguments are based may be wrong, which would mean the belief is untrue,  but that just means the terms have to be treated as contextual. I mean by that that if someone in ancient times accepted the common belief that the Sun went around the Earth, it would have been perfectly valid at the time to say he 'knew' that as a 'fact'.

We should not really be using the term 'knowledge' so freely in serious discourse because it really is so slippery. Better to say 'convinced of ' or something similar, except maybe when speaking of 'knowledge' of things such one's own name, or that one is sitting on a chair. We 'know' that for an individual, even such 'beliefs' may actually be incorrect, but from their point of view, it is still correct to say they 'know' those things. It could be described as "false knowledge", but you still need to get rid of that "true" in the 'definition'. And justified is still a subjective term.

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I'm not sure highlighting this impossible scenario

fishpaste wrote:

 

If a man came down from the sky, and told you that he could do anything at all that's logically possible, and you asked him to do a series of ridiculous tasks, like turn the oceans into orange juice, and he did all of them, and then said that he was here to collect people who had followed instructions curiously similar to what are found in the bible, and said that he once sacrificed himself for mankind, and told you what was going on in each area of the universe, you would call that man superman, not Jesus.

This is precisely where the "faith" element seeps into strong atheism. It is also what happens when you use empiricism as a basis for all of your decision making.

Fortunately, no one is a true empiricist, they just say they are.

 

Adequately shows the need for faith in strong atheism.

I've never felt there was adequate proof for god - in fact I don't see any proof at all for the biblical god.

Until some proof of god hoves into view I'll continue to maintain the position there is no god.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"You would? Why?" Because

"You would? Why?"

Because he just broke every law of physics, which I understand and have observed to be impossible.

"You have no objective or empirical reason to believe this"

See above.

"he could just as easily be buddha, or super-buddha after achieving enlightenment."

Then buddha is god.

"Or simply some alien race that has managed to achieve omnipotence."

Sounds like a race of gods.

"The concept of god itself is logically contradictory, so isn't that the last thing you should be calling whoever that guy is?"

This guy just proved irrevocably one of two things: he is god, or I'm delusional. Absent evidence that I'm delusional, he is god.

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Vastet wrote:Reality is

Vastet wrote:
Reality is real. That which exists exists. It makes no sense to doubt the reality of the real. No god shares this quality. It is therefore a bad argument.

Green is green, and a fnord is a fnord too. Saying something is itself adds no new information about any state of affairs.

Vastet wrote:

I can point at anything which is real. Even thought, which comes from the brain. I can't point at a god. The only question begging comes from supposing a god in the first place. Without such begging, there is no argument.

 

If "real is real" how can I point to it. I have no idea what "real" is based on this....

 

 

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BobSpence1 wrote:I hold that

BobSpence1 wrote:

I hold that the phrase "justified true belief" is a very flawed attempt to define "knowledge", begging the question by incorporating the word "true", which is simply not 'knowable' about most items of knowledge, making the definition useless. It just one of the reasons I detest most philosophy, when it keeps coming up with crap like that.

True does not imply truth. True is a descriptor for a proposition, but in and of itself is not true or false. In that, it is not question begging.

BobSpence1 wrote:

I see 'knowledge', 'belief', and 'assumption' as lying on a spectrum, going from high confidence and good supporting arguments to low confidence and no real logical or evidentiary support.

But this is exactly what justified true belief is getting at. Propositions that map onto to some sort of justification (i.e. evidence etc.)

BobSpence1 wrote:

The data on which the arguments are based may be wrong, which would mean the belief is untrue,  but that just means the terms have to be treated as contextual. I mean by that that if someone in ancient times accepted the common belief that the Sun went around the Earth, it would have been perfectly valid at the time to say he 'knew' that as a 'fact'.

This is confusing common beliefs with facts. The fact is that earth revolved around the sun.

BobSpence1 wrote:

We should not really be using the term 'knowledge' so freely in serious discourse because it really is so slippery. Better to say 'convinced of ' or something similar, except maybe when speaking of 'knowledge' of things such one's own name, or that one is sitting on a chair. We 'know' that for an individual, even such 'beliefs' may actually be incorrect, but from their point of view, it is still correct to say they 'know' those things. It could be described as "false knowledge", but you still need to get rid of that "true" in the 'definition'. And justified is still a subjective term.

 

I do not think that knowledge is subjective if it is true. At a minimum level, knowledge is true belief, in that it is not false. I any case, saying "convinced of" results in the same ambiguity, it just shifts the terminology. I hardly think that is an adequate solution to any sort of problem, but I really do not think there is one.

 

 

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"Green is green, and a fnord

"Green is green, and a fnord is a fnord too."

Yes...

"Saying something is itself adds no new information about any state of affairs."

I would have thought you experienced and knowledgeable enough to know what reality is. But if I must...

Reality:
world: all of your experiences that determine how things appear to you; "his world was shattered"; "we live in different worlds"; "for them demons

the state of being actual or real; "the reality of his situation slowly dawned on him"

the state of the world as it really is rather than as you might want it to be; "businessmen have to face harsh realities"

Real:
being or occurring in fact or actuality; having verified existence; not illusory; "real objects"; "real people; not ghosts"; "a film based on real ...

real(a): no less than what is stated; worthy of the name; "the real reason"; "real war"; "a real friend"; "a real woman"; "meat and potatoes--I call that a real meal"; "it's time he had a real job"; "it's no penny-ante job--he's making real money"

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Vastet wrote:"Green is

Vastet wrote:
"Green is green, and a fnord is a fnord too." Yes... "Saying something is itself adds no new information about any state of affairs." I would have thought you experienced and knowledgeable enough to know what reality is.

Vastet wrote:
But if I must... Reality: world: all of your experiences that determine how things appear to you; "his world was shattered"; "we live in different worlds"; "for them demons the state of being actual or real; "the reality of his situation slowly dawned on him" the state of the world as it really is rather than as you might want it to be; "businessmen have to face harsh realities" Real: being or occurring in fact or actuality; having verified existence; not illusory; "real objects"; "real people; not ghosts"; "a film based on real ... real(a): no less than what is stated; worthy of the name; "the real reason"; "real war"; "a real friend"; "a real woman"; "meat and potatoes--I call that a real meal"; "it's time he had a real job"; "it's no penny-ante job--he's making real money"

This is exactly what I'm getting at thought. Insomuch as I define it, I preclude that certain state of affairs are "real" and others are not. I'm not saying that we should not define such things, but in doing so, realize that there are consequences to the definitions. Saying that "Real is real" though, is not a definition than "god is god". If that is permissible, then why can I not do that for any state of affairs?

 

 

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*Shrug* I am incapable of

*Shrug*
I am incapable of discerning reality to be anything but real, and cannot even imagine an alternative.

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