Sunday always comes too late… and atheist still can’t ride the Reason Bus.

As an atheist, I find it really difficult to understand the pervasive stupidity of most other atheists.

On AtheistBlogger, we have the fascinating tale of an atheist responding to an e-mail with far too many exclamation marks in it.  Instead of just realising that it’s the product of a diseased mind, our atheist friend decides to waffle pretentiously.  The original message read:

Robert, I know Christians have done evil as well! I’m a sinner Saved by grace! By the way it is impossible to be an atheist and be intellectually honest! You can be agnostic at best!  In order to be an atheist you have to know everything there is to know! Since you and I do not Know everything there is to know, it is possible for God to exist in the area you do not know: BY DEFINITION AGNOSTIC AT BEST if you are intelectually honest!? I believe you are!!!!! [source]

The question is, basically, how can we prove the ‘non-existence’ of God (that is, we can prove that there is nothing which satisfactorily fits a reasonable interpretation of ‘God’).  The writer distinguishes between an ‘atheist’ (meaning somebody who affirms the non-existence of God) and an ‘agnostic’ (meaning somebody who freezes in indecision).  I can understand the question.  You can understand the question.  Everybody can understand the question.

You also know what a response would be.  It would be either ‘Here’s how we can show that there’s no God’ or ‘Yes, I agree with you that I cannot prove a negative.  That’s not what I mean when I use the word “atheist”.’

Instead, we get:

This fellow seems to have his definitions a little off. Firstly, an atheist is simply defined as someone “without gods”, coming from the Greek word “atheos”, meaning ‘a’ (without) and ‘theos’ (gods). Therefore to put any other meaning on the word is to commit intellectual dishonesty yourself. Given that the subject of Gods comes down to a belief (namely theism), to be “without gods” is to not believe in theism. In other words, an atheist is someone who “does not believe in gods”.

The theist in this argument has falsely asserted that all atheists are of the “God does not exist” type, which is a massive error given that most of them do not fall under this category at all. He also makes the wrong assumption that being agnostic is something mutually exclusive to being an atheist, when the complete opposite is the case.

Atheism, as I have previously defined it, is all about belief. Atheists do not “believe” in gods. Agnosticism is the position that certain things in reality (and some agnostics, myself included would say *all* things) are unprovable, in the sense that an absolute position about them cannot be known. I do not deny that absolute knowledge exists, but as an agnostic I deny that fallible and limited beings can ever “know” absolutely what those absolutes are. All knowledge is relative to us, and thus agnosticism is a position not of belief, but of knowledge.

The relationship between knowledge and belief is a simple one. You can have belief without having knowledge, and you can have non-belief without having knowledge. For example, I could be in a dark room, a mile below the surface on the Earth, and espouse the belief that it was raining on the surface, without having any knowledge (relative or absolute) that it was. Likewise, I could espouse the opposite belief, that it is not raining on the surface via the same system.

However, to have knowledge, you must also have belief. It is a fallacious statement to say “I know it is raining outside, but I don’t believe it.” Knowledge implies belief, for as Plato wrote, knowledge is “justified, true, belief”.

Thus there are 4 positions you can have concerning belief and knowledge of God:

Agnostic Atheism – “I don’t believe in God, but I don’t make any claim to have knowledge of the existence of such a being.”
Gnostic Atheism – “I don’t believe in God, and I know such a being doesn’t exist.”
Agnostic Theism – “I believe in God, but I don’t make any claim to have knowledge of the existence of such a being.”
Gnostic Theism – “I believe in God, and I know such a being exists.”

The theist is correct in his argument if you have claimed Gnostic Atheism, and likewise if someone has claimed Gnostic Theism. To know a non-temporal being existed or didn’t exist, you would have to have knowledge of the non-temporal, and as temporal beings this knowledge is beyond our capabilities.

If however, like most intelligent atheists and theists you meet, you claim agnostic atheism or theism, then you are being intellectually honest. You are admitting the possibility (however small) that God may exist (or not exist as the agnostic theist would say), because you realise that such knowledge is impossible for us to know.

This is the original argument Thomas Huxley made when he defined the word Agnostic, and the argument was visualized very well by Bertrand Russell and is known as “Russell’s teapot” (Wiki:’s_teapot), which deals primarily with the reasons why the burden of proof is on the claimant, but uses agnosticism to reason such a position. [ibid.]

Uhhhh… what?

I find it really strange when people say: ‘Here is the etymology, thus we know the word’s meaning.’  ‘Caecum’ is Latin for ‘Blind’ but I doubt this will help you with your anatomy quiz.  According to our atheist friend, doctors are intellectually dishonest when they mean a part of your intestine.  It’s a disgrace.

He then slips into some irrelevant waffle about knowledge is relative to the observer.  We ought to wonder why he got so huffy and puffy about the ‘true’ definition of ‘Atheism’.

Not content with his position of radical scepticism, he slides effortlessly towards declaring a simple relationship between knowledge and belief.  Don’t trouble yourself, Donald Davidson.  An atheist from the internet can easily explain the difference between knowledge and belief…  With a hand wave to Plato, knowledge has something to do with justified true beliefs.  Nope, the epistemologist of the atheist world are Electric Monks who ride around believing all kinds of things entirely randomly.

But never fear, dear reader!  The atheist has a handy link to an incorrectly stated Russell’s teapot.

This is the problem with modern atheism.  It’s vacuous sloganeering.

Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based PhD student, writer, and policy wonk who writes about law, conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

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