why we shouldn't care if we can be "certain" or not
I'm a little bit proud of this post I made in a discussion thread, so I'm going to throw it on here. I was answering Textom's point that we can't support the following statements deductively:
-There is no evidence that God exists, therefore he does not.
-The only possible rational conclusion is that God does not exist.
-God cannot be described, therefore he does not exist.
Here's my response:
This frustrates me, and it's arguments along this line that have kept atheists dancing to the theist tune for a long time. Whenever we water down our rhetoric and kowtow to these niggling philosophical word games we accomplish nothing politically except to give theists hope that they have some loophole and to confuse fence-sitters into thinking we're losing the argument.
I think there is a difference between philosophical speech and political speech and this, being an activist website, tends to have a lot of political speech. Philosophical speech may be about what is strictly true, and therefore needs to be very precise and careful and technical — similar to scientific speech. But political speech is supposed to address that which motivates us to action. And the fact of the matter, from the perspective of behaviour and real, living beliefs, is that all of those statements are true. No one can deny the truth of those statements by advocating their opposite and claim intellectual honesty.
Things for which we have no evidence should not be deemed to exist. There should be no quibble about this and no need to qualify the statement. The technical point that we can't know is just that — a technical point born of endless, pointless navel-gazing. Not one single person out of the nuthouse actually lives as if there are real things around that we just can't sense, theists included. Oh, they say they do and they pretend to talk to invisible beings, but all these observances are carefully limited to areas of their lives where their "faith" can't really make any difference. They sure as hell don't rely on God when it comes time to punish sinners. They seem quite clear about the need to rely on their own, evidence-based, materialistically justified hands and eyes and tongues when it is time to do that.
The only possible rational conclusion is that God does not exist. Anyone who claims to harbour a rational belief in God is lying to themselves and others. Their belief in this regard is not held on the same rational grounds that they hold every other belief in their lives. They cannot explain why the God idea merits this special treatment, and when you really analyze their responses it always comes down to a set of irrational, wish-fulfillment motivations. I have not yet seen a rational argument for the existence of God that holds water, only appeals to faith and ignorance. Therefore, as far as I'm concerned, it is irrational to conclude that God exists.
If part of our definition of what it means to exist is that the object can be described, and if God fails this test, then God does not exist, pure and simple. If God is really an incoherent concept that can be shown to actually mean nothing, then God = nothing. Why would we back away from this stance, which is true every time we apply it to anything? Where is the value in noting that we have somehow fallen short of pure deductive truth, when we can use this truth every day and never be steered wrong?
Don't get me wrong, I think it's great for philosophers to continue to try to wrestle with these questions, but an activist website needs to take the philosophy and turn it into language that will motivate action. You and I and everyone here knows that if you live your life as if those three points are true, you will not be in error. For political speech, that is the test and that is enough.
Lazy is a word we use when someone isn't doing what we want them to do.
- Dr. Joy Brown