It’s interesting that god believers take a modern view of the mysteries of the universe and honestly see a connection backwards to the old mythologies of our ancestors. Not only does it take a leap of faith to do this, but it also takes another amazing leap of imagination to equate the complexities of the universe to a single uncaused creator being.
A commenter brought up the fine-tuned universe argument. This reminds me of a joke about how a puddle was sitting in a pothole musing about how perfectly the pothole fit its form and that it MUST have been created just for it. I’m just an average person and not a physicist so I’ll leave it to those types of experts to solve such issues. However, I do see the plausibility of multiverses as well as the simple argument of imperfection as counters to the fine-tuned argument. If the universe were designed and fine-tuned for human life then wouldn’t this be the best possible universe and planet for our existence? We live in a messy and hostile environment and I see no signs of perfection in the design of our universe or our own fragile bodies. I see the fine-tuning argument as not much different than the intelligent design argument. In either case an infinite number of universes with an infinite amount of time could allow for us to develop without intelligent cause. To be honest though, wouldn’t such conditions also allow for the existence of a “god” of some finite amount of intellect and power to actually create a universe such as ours in the grand infinity of it all? A hypothesis like this doesn’t mean it makes sense to believe in such a god on faith alone so my “faith” simply tells me I really don’t know the answer.
The commenter admits that these types of arguments don’t specifically point to the Christian deity, but then takes the leap of faith to say logic dictates that the possibility of God must be the only true answer. This is where the leap of faith becomes the massive leap of imagination on top of it to say that we not only know such a deity exists but that we have any notion of the true nature of that deity and its relationship to us. Instead of starting from the past and connecting it to modern views, can you do the reverse as I try to think about it?
Pretend for a moment that we didn’t inherit the baggage of specific mythologies from our imaginative ancestors. Would modern scientists take all of the complexities of our universe and come up with the hypothesis that if this one universe had a beginning then it may have been caused by an intellect instead of force and chance? Perhaps there would be a scientist that would imagine such a hypothesis. But then what would be the hypothesis concerning the intellect that created this universe? Where is or was that intellect and what was the cause for it to exist? If infinite space and time cause a singular being to exist by force and chance then which hypothesis is the most likely to happen by chance: this one universe or a god that would create this universe? This goes back to my previous post Amazing Powers of the Unknown.
I don’t believe in gods and that is atheism. My agnosticism tells me that the metaphysical, what is beyond this physical realm, is unknown or unknowable. A creator or god would be something metaphysical and I believe is something that is unknown and possibly unknowable. I see no reason to take a leap of faith to believe there was a creator for this universe. Even if infinite space and time could unnecessarily spawn an intelligent creator for our universe instead of just spawn our universe, then I still don’t see the need to take the great leaps of imagination needed to say we know anything about such a creator. The gods have all been created in our own image and not the other way around as most manipulative believers would tell you. In my experience, such believers either want to justify their belief by having me concur or they have other motivations to manipulate those beliefs to support other human causes that often center on money and power. If there really is a creator and it’s still alive today, I’m sure it’d appreciate my honesty concerning its existence over any believer’s claims of specific knowledge about such a creator’s thoughts, motives, and desires. It definitely takes imagination and arrogance to claim you know there is god and what god actually thinks. Are you that arrogant?
I can look at the majesty, power, and wonder of our entire universe and see the need to ask why. Religious people (theists) say they have a very simple answer to this and it is God. They believe in God as a single all-powerful intellect that exists without cause yet amazingly possesses the attributes of thought and power sufficient to create this mysterious mess of a universe. Which one of these two things is more likely to exist without intelligent cause and design:
- A god with amazing intellect and power capable of creating this universe with our own individual awareness and thoughts for the sole purpose of loving and worshipping that god
- An environment and existence that is without intelligent cause and design that’s vast enough to develop and evolve our physical bodies with awareness and thought through natural processes over billions of years in one small speck of this grand lab we call the universe
If you think our simple bodies and minds must have a God to create them then what does that say about God itself which is much more complicated than us? It is obvious to me that God is just an invention of our more primitive ancestors. They imagined that since they could create simple things then a greater intellect must have created more complicated things like us. They extrapolated what they knew to incorrectly bridge the gaps for what they couldn’t possibly know. Why do people trust their knowledge about the universe over any scientists working today?
The mythological gods were human forms possessing more power than us. The Judeo-Christian God is just a more powerful singular version of these gods possessing the attributes of something so powerful and beyond us that it is now claimed to be beyond questioning. I can’t believe in such a God for so many reasons including our inability to know or understand such a being which means you can’t claim to define or know God. The existence of such a being with the attributes of a creator without origin makes no sense.
My knowledge tells me that all gods exist only in belief and faith without any real evidence showing gods are the reason for existence. I can’t believe such things without knowledge and so I cannot be a theist. I’m without theism and am by definition an atheist. Not believing isn’t everything to me since actual knowledge about the origin and root causes of our existence are important to me. I would like to know why all of this exists. The answer may only be natural processes and the theory of multiple big bangs may mean that matter itself is infinitely old and the universe infinitely large. How could a singular uncaused intellect outside of the universe be the cause of such a universe? It is not necessary and makes no sense.
If I have belief, faith, and feeling concerning all of this it is telling me in my core that the religions of mankind are false. I have stood on the shores of Oahu in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and felt the vastness and power of the ocean around me and felt so very small. I have walked through Carlsbad Caverns and felt the weight of the earth over my head and under my feet and felt so very small. I have stood on top of Pike’s Peak and looked out at the land the farthest and highest I have ever seen and felt so very small. I have looked up at the clear unspoiled night sky and the vast multitude of stars and galaxies and have felt so very small and insignificant in the face of the amazing power of the entire universe that exists outside of my simple little mind. I have considered the amount of knowledge humanity has collected over our short existence and imagined how insignificant it is compared to the potential knowledge of true omniscience. I have left my mind and heart open to the truth concerning the true nature of existence and I continously feel the amazing powers of the unknown.
Why does the universe exist? I can tell you what I think makes the most sense concerning the evolution of our physical existence and that the universe may have always existed. We can still look at it all in wonder and ask why but I can honestly say that I don’t really know why. I believe that none of us know and anyone claiming to know a god is faking it for some human motivation that you can figure out. But when it comes to the universe, isn’t the universe itself amazing enough?
This is the perfect cartoon for this post and for this topic that comes up so often. The latin root of agnostic as a noun means “without knowledge”, “unknown”, or “unknowable” and is so often criticized as meaning “fence sitter” or “undecided” regarding theistic beliefs. Perhaps the better word for undecided would be non-theist or just simply undecided. Continues below the cartoon…
The word agnostic as an adjective obviously applies to both theist and atheist as the cartoon demonstrates since nobody knows. Ask most theists and they’ll tell you knowledge isn’t important since they have belief and faith to support it. I don’t know of any theists that go around calling themselves agnostic theist, agnostic Christian, or agnostic since they’re defined by their belief and not their knowledge. There are other theists that might claim they know their god exists based on the Christian Bible or some other claimed proof and they also wouldn’t call themselves agnostic or even Gnostic since that’s usually associated with a specific Christian sect that claims special knowledge of their God. If you currently call yourself agnostic then you’re not in that theism pool. Even if you may be a theist some day you’re currently lacking theism, right? Guess what, that makes you an a-theist regarding theistic belief!
Atheist means “without theistic belief” and is a lack of such beliefs. Some atheists claim it is synonymous with antitheist or an active opposition to theism, but the root meaning of the word itself doesn’t support that definition so it is simply a lack of theistic beliefs. Atheist also doesn’t make a statement concerning knowledge. Unless you have absolute proof for the origin of the universe and proveable knowledge that there is no cause or reason for existence of the universe and possibly even us humans then you can’t claim to have knowledge counter to what theists believe. Since none of us know then the most defendable viewpoint should be agnostic atheist or atheistic agnostic depending on where you choose to put the noun concerning belief and knowledge.
I consider myself an atheistic agnostic since I see much more importance in knowledge over belief. I don’t see the use of telling a theist that I just don’t believe them. When I come across a Christian or some other religious person I want to use a label that means something to me. If they say they believe in god X and I should also believe as they do then I don’t want to just say I’m atheist. All atheist really means is that I don’t believe what they believe. The reaction from the believer is to see me as a doubter that is being contrary to the truth that is perfectly obvious to them.
I prefer to start the knowledge sharing with theists from the standpoint that we don’t know and the answer I have for many of their questions is “unknown”. Unknown doesn’t mean their beliefs are correct, justifiable, or useful in any way but by saying they don’t know it highlights that the burden of proof and requirement of actual knowledge is on the theists. Apparently the agnostic noun also causes arguments with many atheists as well. I’m fine with that since theistic belief is unimportant to me other than to say I’m also atheist and don’t believe in gods.
I’m not sure why some self-identified atheists feel the need to say I’m not a “true” atheist by using the agnostic label without the atheist label. I know I’m not saying anything about belief just calling myself agnostic. It’s entirely intentional since belief isn’t important in the face of knowledge. I’m pointing out the limits to the finite and small amount of knowledge humans actually possess concerning the universe, existence, and what may or may not be the root cause or a reason for any of this if it hasn’t just always existed like this. The funny thing is that most atheists don’t attack theistic belief solely from the validity of just disbelief versus belief and very quickly move to our lack of knowledge as the basis for their disbelief and reason theists should stop believing. In the end, can’t we all agree that knowledge is the most important thing? It’s what makes agnosticism a more useful viewpoint for me than just embracing atheism.
It’s hard to have a discussion in tweets. It even sounds silly to say that we would try. It was through tweets that I tried to get across the idea that actions should be attacked more than a person’s beliefs (religious or otherwise). The counterpoint from @FlyingFree333 (youtube channel) was that religious beliefs were the root cause of evil actions and those beliefs should be attacked directly. I still disagree with that overall sentiment and I’ll try to clarify my point here.
One example belief that was provided is a view that gay marriage is bad and that religious belief should be attacked for promoting that view. It’s not a perfect example because we can find some atheists that think homosexuality is unnatural and wrong just as we can find theists that accept gay people and their right to marry and would allow them to do it in a church. It isn’t a uniquely religious experience to be intolerant of others. That’s the first reason I disagree in attacking religious beliefs as a specific cause for homophobia or any other bad beliefs. Religion is just a mythical reflection of humanity so the real question is should we condemn personal human beliefs?
I can throw in racism as a somewhat similar intolerant belief since race discrimination is illegal. Here’s where I get to my other point. Racism is a thought and a belief that is not in itself illegal. I have a racist uncle and nobody can make him change his belief. You can’t outlaw ideas or the sharing of ideas. All you can outlaw are the actions that a person might try to take to impose their beliefs on the rest of society. You can stop my uncle from public discrimination even though he’ll never be friends with someone of another race. That’s the best you can do in a free society that doesn’t try to tell people how to think or what to believe. Attacking beliefs and not letting people think and believe how they want (no matter how bad you think they are) are some of the traits of a theocracy.
Gay marriage can’t be proven to harm others and has no logical reason to be illegal. Once we finally legalize it, there will still be people that don’t believe it’s right and won’t accept it for themselves, their family, their church, or whatever other intolerant group they may belong. I personally feel male homosexuality is gross and unappealing but don’t care what others choose for themselves. There are people today that believe we shouldn’t mix the races, use condoms, and even other odd things like not using electricity. The Amish can’t see this unless you print it out for them. I can criticize and make fun of other people’s beliefs like the Amish but I’d never be intolerant enough to tell them they can’t believe and live the way they choose if I want to share in the same freedoms. For a free society to function the Amish can’t go around cutting down our power lines. Eventually, the majority will catch up to what doesn’t really hurt them and they will let new beliefs continue to grow. Over time we won’t give it another thought that women weren’t allowed to vote, the races were segregated, and homosexuals couldn’t marry as just some examples of the evolution of society.
I want to be free to believe what I want and not be like everyone else. The price I pay for that is others are free to have whatever asinine beliefs they want as well, even yours. 🙂 Keep your beliefs… but keep them to yourself.
Update: @GodsDontExist had replied during the initial twitter exchange but states they do not say what I’ve stated as the counterpoint presented here.
I received a few tweets asserting that I’m “an atheist without a spine or a dictionary”. Another tweet said “agnostic isn’t a better label for anyone when it comes to belief, theism is a belief, atheism the lack of it.”
I agree that agnostic is not a label for belief because it concerns knowledge. You can go through this blog and see that I am consistently without theism and therefore atheist by definition of belief. I might be critical of religious belief at times but I wouldn’t consider myself anti-theist, just lacking in those beliefs as an atheist and not seeing their usefulness for being human.
Regardless, people’s beliefs aren’t as important as what they KNOW. I know that if someone claims gnosticism they don’t actually have provable knowledge of anything supernatural. I have yet to see such claims proven without some flawed and convoluted circular logic. Knowledge is more important than belief and from our knowledge of the universe we don’t know why it exists or the actual root cause for it to come to be if it hasn’t always existed. Anyone claiming such knowledge has not come with proof that we can all confirm and agree upon. It is from knowing the limits of our knowledge that we know theistic beliefs don’t have the answers and is why I embrace the Agnostic label as the most important to me. Atheist just doesn’t mean much. I don’t have the same beliefs as religious people, so what? Why don’t we believe them? Atheist only sounds contradictory: I don’t believe you. I’d rather say that we don’t know and beliefs aren’t important in the face of actual knowledge.
Another tweet said that “there is no supernatural since the big bang, anything before the big bang is, by definition, not natural, even if it’s not magical or aware.” I’m not sure I follow that comment, but I can say that since we’re in the universe I’m not sure if we can accurately determine what may be beyond our current phenomenon. We do try and we may one day find whatever caused creation if there really was such an event. See these recent articles from a SETI astronomer for interesting ideas in this area: Who or What Built the Universe? and When One Big Bang Is Not Enough.
The Big Bang as the first natural event of a completely natural existence may not be the complete picture.