Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind

My non-real God


Recently, I’ve been making a somewhat half-hearted attempt to tidy over a decade’s worth of archived files scattered throughout dozens of long forgotten folders on my computer and on CDs and DVDs littering storage space in my home office, and the basement/garage. Yes I confess. I’m a hoarder when it comes to digital data. One of the CDs I came across had a label in my handwriting saying Non-realism in religion. The CD must be pre 2008 as the files had been created by Windows applications. (I’ve been a Linux user since 2008).

The CD was damaged, and most of the files couldn’t be opened, but there was one good pdf file titled Non-realistic Christianity. Inside was this list:

  • Religion is about internal spiritual experiences, and that is all.
  • There is no world other than the material world around us.
  • There are no beings other than the living organisms on this planet or elsewhere in the universe.
  • There is no objective being or thing called God that exists separately from the person believing in him.
  • There is no ultimate reality outside human minds either.
  • We give our own lives meaning and purpose; there is nothing outside us that does it for us.
  • God is a projection of the human mind.
  • God is the way human beings put ‘spiritual’ ideals into a poetic form that they are able to use and work with.
  • God is simply a word that stands for our highest ideals.
  • God-talk is a language tool that enables us to talk about our highest ideals and create meaning in our lives.
  • Religious stories and texts are ways in which human beings set down and work out spiritual, ethical, and fundamental meanings in life.
  • Our religious talk is really about us and our inner selves, and the community and culture we live in.
  • Religious talk uses the familiar language of things that exist outside ourselves to make it easier for us to handle complex and subtle ideas.
  • Faith therefore isn’t belief in a God that exists outside minds.
  • Faith is what human beings do when they pursue ‘spiritual’ ideals.
  • Saying that someone follows a particular faith is a way of talking about their attitudes to life and to other people.

Somehow over the years I had completely forgotten about the use of the terms realism and non-realism in relation to religion, but a quick Google search provided a refresher and the probable source of the pdf file. It seems I’ve done a little editing (bold text) and one bullet point is missing, but otherwise they are the same. And the list does reflect what I perceive religion to be.

While atheism is where my head is, it’s not where my heart is. I don’t live in a purely logical and rational world – I don’t think anyone does, and for me, the reality of what I experience is either denied, described as delusional, or otherwise devalued by much of the atheist community – especially the online one. Delusional or not, I’m required to deny so much of who I am just to be accepted by society (that’s autism for you), that I’m not willing to deny that ‘spiritual’ part of me.

The essentials of non-realistic Christianity have been the cornerstone of my understanding of religion and God for all my adult life, although not as clearly defined as in the list above. In my search for a ‘spiritual’ home, I looked at various Christian denominations and at a variety of other religious and spiritual beliefs. Back in the 1970s and 80s I found small pockets of believers who held similar views to my own in all the mainline denominations, especially within Anglicanism and Methodism, but they were tolerated, sometimes grudgingly, rather accepted or welcomed. That lack of acceptance was a turn off, as was the liturgy and worship practice. Universal Unitarianism and secular Buddhism had some attraction, but, worship, in the case of Unitarianism, and meditation, in the case of Buddhism, were outside my comfort zone.

If I was conducting the search today, I dare say I would have stumbled upon one of the many mainline and independent congregations that welcome or embrace the essentials of non-realistic Christianity. I might well find one that I felt comfortable in, although their forms of worship probably would always be an issue for me. However I don’t doubt that I could find a religious community where I would be welcomed and feel at home in.

Today there are also a large number of secular/non-real/humanist organisations that are non-denominational/pan-denominational/pan-religious such as Sea of Faith New Zealand and St Andrew’s Trust for the Study of Religion and Society where I’d be very welcome and in many ways I’d be more comfortable than within a church community. A major reason for this is that while congregations within the churches embrace the essentials of non-realism, the various churches as a whole haven’t, (although some are getting close). Those darned creeds that they all retain are a complete turn off for me, and there is no way I could honour them. Unfortunately, groups such as SoF and SATRS didn’t exist, or were very thin on the ground when I began my search. Remember, this was well before the arrival of the Internet.

As it turned out, I did stumble upon a religious group that did meet my needs, was non-creedal, and had, over a period of some 350 years, developed an understanding of God that was not in conflict with the essentials of non-realism. That group was the first I had come across that did not have some expectation of how I should understand God, nor did they expect me to hold specific theological beliefs.

That group was the Quakers – the Religious Society of Friends in Aotearoa New Zealand, (Gifted the name Te Hahi Tuhauwiri – “The faith community that stands shaking in the wind of the Spirit” – by the Maori Language Commission). Now before anyone jumps on me and says that non-realism is unchristian, and Quakers most definitely are Christian, I’m going to say hold up a minute, is it important or even relevant? Let’s consider the second part of the statement (Quakers most definitely are Christian)

Are Quakers Christian? There’s about 350,000 Quakers worldwide, and the majority are Christian and it would be very difficult to distinguish them from many other evangelical, fundamentalist Christian denominations. Evangelical Friends can be found in Africa (there’s more than 130,000 in Kenya alone) and the Americas. They have churches, clergy, creeds, articles of faith and believe the Bible is the Word of God. They are hierarchical and (especially in Africa) patriarchal. They are the youngest and most successful (in terms of numerical strength) of the various strands of Quakerism.

There is another strand of Quakerism which is somewhat more difficult to pin down. Often referred to as liberal Quakerism, it can be found in the UK and Ireland, Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, Canada and parts of the USA. Liberal Friends have no clergy, creed or articles of faith, lack hierarchical structure and have had a belief in the equality of the sexes since the foundation of Quakerism in the 1600s. They value their Christian roots, but as to whether or not this strand of Quakerism is Christian, depends on one’s concept of what Christianity is. Their numbers are small – possibly 50,000 worldwide, with around 1,400 in NZ.

Personally it makes no difference to me whether or not Quakerism is Christian, but in the context of New Zealand, it fits comfortably in the liberal/post modern wing of Christianity, even if it’s considered somewhat “peculiar”.

Now I come to the reason why I was motivated to write this article. I hear and read far too often, a section of atheists who claim that all religion is harmful. If this is true, then the religion practised by Friends, even liberal Friends, is harmful. Try as I might, I can find nothing in the beliefs and practices of NZ Friends and Christians at the liberal end of the spectrum that is harmful. Of course, it’s possible that being religious myself, I’m blind to seeing the harm I’m causing, and if is the case, is it possible for me to recognise it? I suppose it’s possible…

but unlikely.

On the other hand, it could be an atheist plot to discredit religion and bring disorder and immorality to the world. That’s definitely the claim of some Christian extremists. But I can see no evidence of that. There is no organised atheist movement. In fact, non-theists within religious groups are far better organised than atheists. Perhaps atheists are opposed to particular forms of religion. That, I could understand, but when I have put the proposition forward, I have been knocked back: All religion is harmful.

As I understand it, their argument is that religion and critical thinking are always incompatible. Perhaps, because I’m religious, and take my religion seriously, I’m incapable of critical thinking. It would also mean that I am incapable of seeing what harm my beliefs are doing to me, others, and society as a whole. So, if my religious beliefs and practices, and those of my fellow believers are harmful, can someone please point out to me where they are harmful, or at least point me in the right direction. If on the other hand, my religious beliefs and practices, and those of my fellow believers aren’t harming myself, others or society, the argument that all religion is harmful must be false.

I have no argument with atheists. After all atheism is part of my beliefs. My argument is with those who believe all religion is harmful. I’ve heard argument that religion has evolved along with the development of human thought, possibly as a result of seeking patterns and explanations for what we experience. Perhaps religion also helped in the development of cohesive groups. Whatever the reason, a great many of us still seek some form of religion or spirituality. I’ve heard that it could be as high as 9 out of 10 people. That seems rather high, but what seems apparent to me is that a significant number do desire and seek some form of religion or spirituality.

Census figures show a continuing decline in religious affiliation. What they don’t show is is that the number who hold religious or spiritual beliefs remain fairly constant. While those who believe in a deity have declined in number, other forms of spirituality have increased. Worldwide, the number of religious adherents continue to grow, although not as fast as the total population. It doesn’t appear that religion is going to disappear any time soon. This being so, rather than seeking the disappearance of religion, perhaps a more productive course would be to seek a change in what religion is. Don’t let up on religious privilege where is exists. It has no place in in modern society.

I’m not targeting any one with this ramble. I’ve found it helpful for me to share what I’m thinking with others, as feedback helps in clarifying and modifying my beliefs. Sometimes it’s with family or friends. Sometimes it’s within my religious community, or another community. This time it’s I’ve put it out to the blogosphere.


Author: Barry

A post war baby boomer from Aotearoa New Zealand who has lived with migraines for as long as I can remember and was diagnosed as being autistic aged sixty. I blog because in real life I'm somewhat backwards about coming forward with my opinions.

19 thoughts on “My non-real God

  1. If you’re going to equivocate about the meaning of ‘spiritualism’ as separate from ‘religion’ then isn’t it only fair and consistent in your comparison,to consider the ‘problem’ you have with those atheists who take an anti-theism stance to be unrelated to those atheists who take an anti-spiritualism stance? And I don’t know many people – atheists or theists who have a problem with those who metaphorically describe their awe and wonder about the universe with spiritual terminology.

    The ‘problem’ that anti-theism advocates have is with theism. Introducing spirituality as a kind of substitute for religion is simply a means to try to avoid the actual criticisms aimed at theism… turning religious belief in superstitious nonsense into a moving target hidden by ill-defined words under the heading of ‘spirituality’.

    It would help clarity itself to keep these two concepts – religion and spirituality – cleanly segregated if you wish to avoid the criticisms by anti-theism advocates for equating the two when they are equated by the theist! And that is a problem owned by those who so easily substitute one for the other whenever convenient… only to them, of course.

    • You’re going to have to help me out here. I’ve tried Googling “religion”, “spirituality” and “religion vs spirituality” and it’s enough to make one’s head spin. If I ignore those results that claim “religion=good, spirituality=bad” or “spirituality=good, religion=bad”, I’m still left with a bewildering array of definitions of what the two terms mean.

      For example, on “spirituality” Wikipedia states “Modern spirituality typically includes a belief in a supernatural (beyond the known and observable) realm, personal growth, a quest for an ultimate/sacred meaning, religious experience, or an encounter with one’s own “inner dimension”. Couldn’t those characteristics also be applied to modern religion?

      On the same page under Definition it states “There is no single, widely agreed definition of spirituality.” and a little further on “A survey of reviews by McCarroll e.a. dealing with the topic of spirituality gave twenty-seven explicit definitions, among which ‘there was little agreement.'”

      Wikipedia has this to say in its definition of religion: “An increasing number of scholars have expressed reservations about ever defining the ‘essence’ of religion”. Then is gives a number of classical definitions and modern definitions (note the plural) that really don’t help me in separating religion and spirituality.

      Here in Aotearoa New Zealand we refer to many aspects of Maori culture as being spiritual in nature whereas in other circumstances it might be considered religious – prayer: religion; karakia: spiritual. Recognising the distinction between religion, spirituality and culture can be very difficult at times.

      In so much discussion, religion and spirituality are used together or interchangeably. I see them as being two sides of the same coin, and in the context of my ramble, not worth splitting hairs over.

      Getting back to the real issue that all religion is harmful and poisons everything: “All religion” must include the religion I practise. Therefore my religion is harmful. As my religion is harmful, then by practising my religion, I am causing harm. If I am unable to find anything in my religion that is harmful, then it means that either I’m blind to the fact, or the statement “all religion is harmful” is false. If it is false, then all that follows based on the false premise is unreliable at best. If on the other hand I’m unable to recognise the harm I cause, then being told I’m delusional isn’t of much help. Specific examples would be helpful.

      Christopher Hutchins has said that organised religion is violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children and sectarian. Ouch! He makes no exception for my religion, so I have to assume his description of religion includes mine. Either I believe him, and remove myself from my religion and all its stands for, or I conclude that he’s wrong about my religion As I can find no evidence that supports his claim that my religion is so terrible, then I have little option but to believe he’s wrong. If he’s wrong about my religion, how wrong is he about others?

      • Religion poisons everything because it is a method of thinking that is guaranteed to fool you. Religion is a set of precepts that is believed to be true not because of evidence but because it requires a high level of trust and confidence – if not certainty – that the precepts are, in fact, true with no evidence. This requirement is called ‘faith’ and so any conclusion that utilizes this requirement is by definition a ‘faith-based’ one and not an evidence-adduced conclusion. The requirement differentiates the approach – the METHOD – of how we ‘know’ anything; a faith-based ‘knowledge’ is simply a faith assertion that is empty of any knowledge value.

        Religion, as the Mother Ship of faith because it promotes its use to be a virtue and not a vice, cannot, is not, can never be, a way to ‘know’ anything because how it approaches any inquiry is first setting up premises on the basis of faith that is divorced from reality’s arbitration of their validity. One is expected to believe as a precondition whereas an evidence-adduced approach is a conclusion… subject to review and change if evidence warrants it. Religion suffers no such constraints; it simply pronounces and holds fast. To gain knowledge and insight into reality and whatever it contains, the faith-based method is an unequivocal failure when tested against reality. Religion has never, does not currently, and probably never shall yield any knowledge about anything ever. Yet religious belief is used to justify all kinds of ‘reasons’ from morality to sex, from rights to parenting,. from the quality of human relationships to the practice of medicine. And these reasons divorced from reality but full of faith is completely pernicious. Completely. That’s why religion poisons everything… because the method is divorced from knowledge. It is ignorant from beginning to end, from start to finish, and it is intentionally kept ignorant as if this were more virtuous than informing beliefs by the weight of demonstrable knowledge. Human history is filled with such rationalized nonsense as soon as faith is introduced as a reasonable and rational addition.

        Along comes spirituality… a term so nebulous that it means whatever one wishes it to mean. How very handy for religion to borrow/steal/shamelessly use Under the spiritual umbrella term, the religious can now insert whatever faith-based ignorance it wants, mix it up with a bit of evidence-adduced beliefs, and – PRESTO! – we have a much more reasonable version of Oogity Boogity! (at best) and a way to attribute and assert whatever hidden agencies and magical critters/forces/creators/designers/ we want to throw in whenever one feels the urge to make shit up and try to pretend it is adduced from reality. But, also under this umbrella term are all kinds of descriptions we use to for feelings and wonder and awe and being connected hither and yonder and so on. Why, it’s all so very spiritual … now slipped under the tent of religion to claim false ownership of these very human conditions.

        My point upthread was that you’re doing religion a service by lumping all of what spirituality can mean with faith-based religion and using the terms as synonyms when handy and antonyms when not. You then present criticisms of theism by atheists to be synonymous with criticisms of spirituality, as if addressing a theistic claim for a magical invisible creative divine agency causing something in this world without any evidence to support it and mountains of evidence against as synonymous with criticizing someone emotionally moved by music and claiming to have had a ‘spiritual’ experience. This is a false equivalency because spirituality is not always but sometimes is the same as religion; the difference is about which method is being utilized to support some claim. Faith-based is always ignorant and pernicious; evidence adduced is neither.

        • I’m still none the wiser. What, for example am I expected to believe as a precondition and can’t be questioned or modified in the light of new information?

          So I presume a document such as “Towards a Quaker view of sex” released in 1963 provides no useful information at all as it’s full of rationalized nonsense. Thanks for the warning.

        • Barry, you wrote,

          “I hear and read far too often, a section of atheists who claim that all religion is harmful. If this is true, then the religion practised by Friends, even liberal Friends, is harmful. Try as I might, I can find nothing in the beliefs and practices of NZ Friends and Christians at the liberal end of the spectrum that is harmful.”

          So I explained WHY religion is harmful: the method used to support its precepts are guaranteed to fool you into thinking you know something you do not know.

          Regarding Quakerism (from Quaker information centre),

          ” Worldwide, the vast majority of Friends confess an orthodox Christian faith. Friends’ emphasis has always been on the role of the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit, however, most Friends believe that the Spirit is unchanging and will not contradict itself. On this basis, the Christian Scriptures and tradition are highly esteemed as testimony to God’s relationship with our spiritual ancestors. Crucially, because most Friends consider the Scriptures to be inspired by God, the Bible is helpful in weighing whether new inward guidance comes from the Spirit of God or from another source.

          What defines the orthodox Christian faith? A set of precepts that are assumed to be true. There’s the perniciousness. There is no means to establish if those religious precepts are true. There is no means to find out if one is guided by an entity distinct from your own called ‘The Holy Spirit’. We know biblical scripture is human made yet Quakers believe quite differently, that it is ‘inspired’ by an external entity called ‘God’, that it is meant to provide ‘guidance’, that it it contains a ‘testimony’ to an entity called ‘God’ and ‘His’ relationship with human ancestors.

          All of this is unknown and contains compelling evidence from reality that it factually wrong, yet presumed true by Quakers because… well, just because it is presumed to be true.

          There’s the method in action: imposing a faith-based belief on reality and then pretending reality is accurately described by it. That’s demonstrates how this religion fools you into believing stuff that is simply believed FIRST, and then reality is treated in such a way as if it is supposed to comport to these faith-based beliefs. That’s pernicious because it causes harm to the relationship you are to have with reality.

        • There is no umbrella Quaker authority, and no website can speak for Quakers. At best it can speak about Quakers. So while the description you quote from the website is correct, it’s can be misleading. I don’t want to give a history lesson on Quakerism, but briefly, Quakerism started off with the belief that God “speaks” directly to the individual. A popular quote by George Fox that starts with “You will say, ‘Christ saith this, and the apostles say this’: but what canst thou say?“ Early Quakers opposed any form of external authority including clergy and the Bible itself. Later, after arriving in America, a faction of “reverted” to believing the Bible is an authoritative Word of God. They became evangelical and fundamentalist in outlook and doctrine, adopted creeds and articles of faith, and reverted to proselytising, sending missionaries around the world. They were very “successful” in Africa, and that is where most Quakers can be found today. They are evangelical, and their message, in my opinion, doesn’t seem to be all that different to those of the Southern Baptists in the US.

          Meanwhile Quakers in Britain continued down a different path, without a clergy or central authority. This is the wing is often referred to as liberal Quakerism and can be found in the UK, NZ, Australia, Canada and parts of the US.

          I’ll accept your definition of the orthodox Christian faith, but that is irrelevant. It doesn’t apply to liberal Quakers or liberal Christians.

          I mentioned the publication “Towards a Quaker view of sex” because, using the methods you claim Christians don’t use, the committee came to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality and is just as healthy as heterosexuality – a conclusion the medical profession came to some ten years later. The medical associations of Australia and New Zealand were the first to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder, and that was around 1972/73 I believe.

          Important among Liberal Quakers (and most people who are religiously liberal) is the concept of “continuing revelation” which in broad terms means that knowledge isn’t fixed in stone. It requires us to constantly evaluate what we believe in the light of new knowledge. Once, it was reasonable to assume that the earth was the centre of the universe and that the heavenly bodies revolved around it. That is how it appears to the observer on earth. But to continue to hold such a belief when a better model was found is unwise. That applies to everything from notions about God, to the way I treat the environment, to what constitutes a healthy society, to how I interact with you.

          There is nothing in liberal Quakerism that requires I hold any particular belief about the nature or existence of God, the relevance of the Bible, or even the existence of Jesus.

          In most liberal Quaker meetings, you’ll find about 90% of the members have come from non-Quaker backgrounds. You’ll also find that most children of Quakers don’t become Quakers themselves. Perhaps in more traditional religious groups such a low retention rate might be regarded as a failure in conveying “God’s Word” to the next generation. Among liberal Quakers, it’s viewed differently, as it means we’ve encouraged our children to think for themselves. A high retention rate is a good indicator of indoctrination.

          I’m not sure that I’ve provided sufficient evidence to convince you that liberal Quakers don’t have any precepts that are assumed to be true. If not, can we continue this conversation please. Who knows, you might be able to convince me that I am wrong in my notion that not all religion is harmful.

        • Barry, you questioned the claim that all religion is harmful so I explained why it is the method used to support beliefs with faith that is the harm. The method.

          You then write, “because, using the methods you claim Christians don’t use…”

          No, I never said this. I said granting high levels of confidence and trust to beliefs informed not by evidence but by faith are pernicious. I did not say religious people do not use evidence-adduced beliefs (they have to do so almost all the time in order to function and survive in reality)… they just don;t use it when it comes to their religious beliefs.

          So what I’m reading from you is that liberal Quakerism religious beliefs aren’t really so much Quaker as they are a kind of religious beliefs that aren’t really religious at all and the God you listen to isn’t really an Old or New Testament kind of gody god-god but more of a deistic spirit sort of without any scriptural attachments that can’t be severed at the first hint of criticism. In the meantime, you can claim a Christian version of belief in Jesus that isn’t really all that Christian because the Jesus spirit is more of a vague divine reference and Quakers don’t import their beliefs to real world stuff because there aren’t really any beliefs to import but, hey, this a religious belief that doesn’t import any religious belief to positions claimed to be religious.

          And you’re confused about my criticism of the faith-based method and why it causes harm?

        • I’m a day into a severe migraine and finding it difficult to comprehend exactly what you’re meaning.

          We can argue till eternity as to whether evangelical Quakers or liberal Quakers are “true” Quakers, but remember the founders of Quakerism opposed a clergy class and the authority of the Bible – both of which have been adopted by the evangelical wing.

          I’m not sure what you mean by I listen to a deistic spirit. God is a human creation.

          I’m not sure I undetstand what you mean by “import”. Quakers have beliefs they try to live by (with various degrees of success). The principle one would be the belief that there is that of God in everyone.

          I’ve heard Quakerism described as an experiential religion. The beliefs arise from our experiences and understanding of the world around us. What we describe as God comes directly from that. As everyone’s experience is different, everyone’s understanding of God will be different. This I believe is at the heart of the Quaker experience.

          I’m not sure if I’m making sense as I’m aware my cognition is somewhat below par at the moment. I’ll relook at both your comment and my reply when I’m feeling better

        • Take care of yourself and feel better, Barry. We can always come back to this later if the mood strikes. Migraines suck.

        • I’m back in a more cognitive state, so I’d like to continue the conversation.

          Before we get to discuss your rather peculiar ideas of Quakerism, I think we need to come to some understanding of what we each mean by “religion”. I’ve already stated my position in the bullet list in the blog post. Where do you disagree with it? What is the inevitable harm that will arise from religion that fits the criteria laid down there?

        • The confusion you seem to be experiencing is looking at certain products you attribute to your religion and religious beliefs under the heading of spirituality (but that can be undertaken for good reasons without any necessary inclusion for religion or spirituality to play any part whatsoever) and then be mystified when someone says religion is pernicious. The problem is is with your attribution that religion or spirituality CAUSES the product. This is incorrect. To claim this means you have to link the effect – the product – to this cause – religion (to the extent that if you remove the cause – religion – you remove the effect – the product.

          Can you do this?

          Not as far as I can see.

          The perniciousness of faith-based belief resides in its broken methodology because it severs the belief from arbitration, from testing, from any means to find out if the belief is justified. The problem is that religious beliefs are granted high levels of confidence and trust first without ever having to undergo a means test. And you demonstrate this problem by attributing to religion a causal position for the products you select to represent religion (or spirituality). There’s the broken method in action; you presume this connection and then start to draw conclusions based on it. This is not different in method than presuming demons inhabit your brain and so treatment of migraines must involve burnt offerings and blood sacrifices.

          The METHOD causes perniciousness.

  2. I don’t “know” in a way that would satisfy my definition of “knowledge”, hence I consider myself agnostic…
    And in the end, to the dismay of my friends and foes, everyone is agnostic, because neither belief, nor disbelief is “knowledge”.

    • So, if the topic is knowledge, then agnosticism. I agree in the light of certainty. In fact, all of science is agnostic in this sense.

      So the problem here is what you mean by belief. If you mean it in the religious sense of trust and confidence WITHOUT compelling evidence (a kind of belief we call ‘faith’) then we aren’t even talking about knowledge. We’re talking strictly about faith. Against this sense, non belief is a very reasonable response to such belief claims based on faith alone no matter what objects they happen to involve.

      The danger here is equating the term ‘belief’ of the faith-based kind to its common and practical sense – an indication of trust or confidence BASED on compelling evidence. When that evidence guiding such a belief becomes reliable and consistent for everyone everywhere all the time, a belief that is used to build applications, therapies, and technologies that demonstrate the reliability and consistency of the explanatory model we believe accurately reflects how reality operates, then we ARE talking about knowledge. If we’re not, then we have no knowledge about anything and all beliefs – no matter how divorced from reality or contrary to it they may be – are equivalently agnostic.

      This is a word game about ‘belief’ that serves only one master: ignorance… trying with manipulating a word to create a false equivalency, to excuse a method of forming a belief that lacks of any knowledge to be equivalent to a method that does not possess all knowledge. And the bridging term here is ‘agnosticism’. It is a ruse.

      Of course we have knowledge. We have to in order to operate and navigate in our environments successfully. And to demonstrate this significant difference in amounts or reliable and consistent knowledge between two very different kinds of belief – faith-based vs evidence-adduced – we only have to understand that we need an explanation why applications, therapies, and technologies that works for everyone everywhere all the time using evidence-adduced belief works. And then we can compare and contrast this mountain of evidence with faith-based belief that produces…. nothing knowable. Ever. We have to ask ourselves why there is such a remarkable difference if ‘belief’ in the agnostic sense means these two are equivalent in lacking knowledge.

      The obvious answer is that they not equivalent in belief. And what faith-based belief lacks is knowledge whereas what evidence-adduced belief lacks is certainty. These are not equivalent states of knowledge as the agnostic would have us believe.

      • “I agree in the light of certainty”
        Agnosticism is uncertainty.
        Gnosis is certainty.
        There’s no certainty.
        “Evidence based” knowledge is still not certainty.
        A capacity to operate in a given environment may be knowledge, but not certainty.
        There are only two certainties: nothing as 0, and something as 1.
        The rest are all variables exposed to environmental subjectivity. Subjectivity cannot be binary.
        Subjectivity cannot be certainty.
        If 0 and 1 are removed, certainty ceases to exist. If anything is added, everything becomes subjective.
        I’m certainly agnostic.

        • Are you really agnostic about all knowledge claims?

          Not for one second do I believe you. In fact, I think you’re full of it.

          I am willing to bet your life and the lives of everyone you love that you are more than capable of acting quite differently in practice than you say you are philosophically. Something tells me you wouldn’t turn down medical care because you really can’t know for certain if stopping the excessive bleeding is a knowable response (otherwise known as ‘a good idea’). I deeply suspect you entrust your life to those who have accumulated a fair bit of knowledge (even though less than certain knowledge about everything) be it academic and/or practical in all manner of your behaviour in the real – and not the philosophical bubble – world inhabited by so many self-proclaimed agnostics. I’m willing to bet you actually get on a plane and reasonably expect it to fly safely because you’re almost certain the explanatory model of aerodynamics is probably correct and not equivalent to believing in flying horses and carpets. If you exercised agnosticism on the basis that we can’t know for certain, you’d already be long dead because you couldn’t act. But you do act so…

          Not for one second do I believe you. In fact, I think you’re full of it.

          All this prevarication about the actual and intellectually honest exercise of agnosticism I suspect is directed only towards those who take a principled stand on the issue of how accurate or knowledge-free faith-based claims about reality truly and demonstrably are. I suspect you’re one of those who meet a faith-based claim contrary to how we know reality to operate with a sleight-of-mind rationalization called ‘agnosticism’ – rationalized on the basis that because can’t know anything for sure, therefore this or that batshit crazy belief contrary to reality is just fine and equivalent in knowledge value to, say, cell phone technology because – Hey! – we can’t know ANYTHING for certain.

          Please assure me that I’m wrong. Otherwise, I’m going to think you’re likely one of those intellectual cowards mewling at the feet of the faith-addled trying oh-so-hard not to offend them and their illiberal use of batshit crazy faith-based ideas.

          As the Hitch liked to quip, niceness is over-rated.

  3. My friend, you certainly loooove your mind, aren’t you?
    So after being left in a slight uncertainty about what you’re on about, I’d venture saying that since philosophy is for the unhumble me still the royalty of any scientific endeavour, it can never overcome its not of this earthness…
    So there’s quite a distance between my theoretically palatable agnosticism, and my use of empirically backed medical sciences, myself being a bit of that.
    FYI, I am a former minister, who left all behind and burnt all bridges, because my logical analysis in the end didn’t match the premises I started with.
    Nevertheless, since the premises for “atheism” were unsatisfactory, I’ve been left with no better than agnosticism.
    So, ignoring the “intellectual cowards mewling” abasement, which I despise, considering its use a serious character flaw in a philosophical argument, I’ll leave you enjoying whatever you tried to impress yourself with, which is probably worth “the Hitch”…
    Oh, and “niceness” has nothing to do with manners…

    • The only premise’ I’m aware of for atheism is to have enough respect for reality to allow it to arbitrate claims made about it and grant or remove some level of confidence on how well or poorly a claim comports with it. So, when it comes to non belief in gods or a god, the only issue is one of having no compelling reasons to believe. That’s it. Why that would be ‘unsatisfactory to you is a mystery. Atheism is a null set, devoid of any other principles or premises fundamental to it. So, if you have no compelling reasons from reality to grant to a claim about reality any level of confidence, then I don’t see how any rational mind could conceive of this absence of belief to be unsatisfactory… philosophically or not.

      So truth be told, every New Atheist I know of freely and unabashedly describe him- or herself to be an agnostic atheist. After all, none pretend to have certainty and even Dawkins grants his level of confidence that there is no god or gods a six out of seven. So I have no clue why your think this is an either/or case. When asked if you believe in some God or gods, why wouldn’t it be acceptable to be honest and say, ‘No, I don;t believe in a God or gods.’ If asked if you KNOW there is no God or gods, why isn’t it perfectly acceptable to say a very honest, “I don’t know.” Why this song and dance to pretend a question about your state of religious belief is best answered with a dishonest lack of knowledge? You know perfectly well if you believe oi not.

      That observation has nothing to do with being in love with my own mind and everything to do with revealing at the very least a level of dishonesty on your part. It makes one wonder why when the truth serves very well.

      • “If asked if you KNOW there is no God or gods, why isn’t it perfectly acceptable to say a very honest, “I don’t know.””
        That’s exactly what I was/am saying, concluding it to be a typically agnostic position…
        So since manners are back, what are you really on about?
        What’s the difference -for you- between “an agnostic atheist” and a non-religious agnostic?
        And what exactly is the “dishonesty” on my part?
        Oh, and would a belief in an absentee entity/entities alike Ridley Scott’s “engineers” who initiated a panspermia type of process, leaving also some set of laws/rules, described in ancient texts as gods, qualify as religion, or scientific theory?

  4. I have no argument with atheists. After all atheism is part of my beliefs. My argument is with those who believe all religion is harmful.

    I suspect the problem comes back to what a person believes religion is in the first place. There is a lot of debate in the literature on how to define religion (link). In my experience, people have very different ways of understanding their own religion. For some people, it seems to be more like a metaphor or symbols that they identify with to express their experience of reality, for some it is more their culture and the groundwork of their values, for some it functions more like a type of literary-oriented philosophy, while for others it is a complete metaphysical worldview and belief system.

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