The Raving Theist

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Sweeney, Unambiguous

August 25, 2005 | 41 Comments

Julia Sweeney, on her transition from agnosticism to atheism:

I just became a stronger agnostic, and then I started to realize that everyone who was saying they were agnostic really hadn’t thought about it that much. Still, I went with agnosticism for a long, long time because I just hated to say I was an atheist — being an atheist seemed so rigid. But the more I became comfortable with the word, and the more I read, it started to stick.

Good move.

Undeservedly, agnosticism is frequently viewed as a “safe” or even unassailable philosophical position. It appears to be a reasonable, half-way compromise between the outrageous claim of the theist (who proposes the existence of fantastic being that is everywhere, yet surprisingly undetectable), and the seemingly equally preposterous claim of the atheist (who, in purporting to “prove a negative,” implies that he or she knows, or has examined, everything in the universe). But the agnostic, having said “I do not know,” can calmly sit back and reserve judgment until proof, one way or the other, comes along.

Agnosticism is, in fact, the least tenable theological position, completely inferior to atheism* and in some instances less defensible than theism. Sweeney is correct that agnosticism for the most part constitutes a failure – and commonly a studied refusal – to think about the God question that much. I will first deal with theological agnosticism–the view that nature and/or existence of God cannot be known or disproven—and demonstrate why it so miserably fails. I will then briefly criticize a form of nontheological agnosticism — really a type of generalized skepticism or even solipsism– which is frequently invoked as a last resort whenever it appears that the argument for theological agnosticism is not going well.

Theological Agnosticism. The threshold, but often overlooked or ignored, question in any theological debate is what is meant by the word “god.” There are thousands of definitions of the term, and the arguments for atheism, theism and agnosticism will necessarily vary with the precise god under discussion. However, in general the gods may be placed into two categories: 1) gods whose nature and attributes are undefined or underdefined, unknown or unknowable and 2) gods whose nature and attributes are defined.

In connection with the first category, a common agnostic (as well as modern theistic) argument is that god’s existence cannot be disproven because god’s very definition, nature and attributes are beyond the comprehension of mere humans. Analogies involving ants are for some reason popular in making this point. Thus, it will usually be noted that although an ant lacks the cognitive ability to understand anything about the nature or powers of human beings, it would be unreasonable (and plainly false) to conclude that humans don’t exist simply because ants can’t comprehend them. Thus, it is argued, it is similarly unreasonable to conclude that god doesn’t exist simply because our puny, ant-like (compared to god’s) brains cannot comprehend the definition or nature of god.

The problem with this argument is that despite appearances, it is not really talking about god at all. In fact, it is talking about nothing at all. It reduces the word “god” to a mere sound devoid of any meaning, indistinguishable from utterances such as “poy” or “blark” or “unie, or, for that matter, the sounds made in barking or coughing. Most people, confronted with the question “does X exist” would not answer “yes,” “no,” or “I don’t know,” but would rather demand to know what is signified by “X.” It is simply impossible to commit to the belief in, the disbelief in, or even the unknowability of a concept which lacks any definition whatsoever. The next time you hear an avowed agnostic that a theist’s faith in god is as justified as any other position because god is unknowable, ask whether faith in [mumble mumble cough cough] is excusable on the same grounds.

This is not to say that there are not things in the universe beyond the comprehension of humans, or things within our comprehension that we simply have not yet discovered or cannot discover. Science is discovering new, previously-unknown objects every day, and I am willing to concede that there may be things that are not even theoretically detectable by any means that humans may someday devise. My point here is that one cannot attach (or refuse to attach) the term “god” to any of those things unless that word is assigned some sort of definition.

One agnostic response has been to simply define god as the set of all presently unknown, or unknowable, things. However, this argument again fails to provide a satisfying or usuable definition. Horses were once unknown, at least in North America; did this fact make horses gods? Quarks and atoms were once unknown–should the “god” label be applied to them? Suppose tomorrow astronomers discover some new, far-away orb with properties unlike any other previously-discovered celestial object, brighter and denser than any star, and composed of elements not found on the periodic table. God? Or finally, let us hypothesize that there are millions of green, cube-shaped objects so small, distant, or otherwise elusive than no human instrument can ever detect them. Does their mere unknowability make them gods? What criteria could one possibly apply to make that assessment, if the word “god” lacks any definition?

Plainly, no one would attach the word “god” to horses, quarks, atoms, orbs or undetectable green cubes. We exclude those things from godhood precisely because we do have some (albeit vague) definition of god in the back of our minds which excludes horses, etc. from its scope. While it is also possible to refuse to exclude anything from the definition of god, to say that god is anything or everything, that god is the universe, that approach results in a sort of pantheism which is indistinguishable from atheism. It simply substitutes the word “god” for the word “universe,” without positing the existence of any being outside the universe.

Another agnostic variant on the argument is to assert the possibility of the existence of some undetectable or unknowable “higher power” or otherwise superior form of intelligence in the universe. Since this theory supplies at least some substance or definition to the concept of god, implying that it is possessed of some kind of power or intelligence, the discussion of it belongs primarily in the next section of this essay. However, insofar as the definition stops with nothing more than a reference to a superior “power” or “consciousness,” it does not supply a meaningful definition of god. There may be stars with far more power or energy than the ones currently discovered, or planets with aliens whose stupidest member is as intelligent as Steven Hawking, but again, stars or aliens do not fit the definition of god. And in any event, Steven Hawking is an atheist.

In short, an agnosticism based upon the notion of the incomprehensibility or undefinability of god simply avoids the question. And the fact that ants find humans incomprehensible, does not strip humans of definite powers and attributes, or, more importantly, make humans gods.

Most theological debate, however, centers around the existence of gods with specifically defined powers and attributes. On the low end of the spectrum are the highly anthropomorphic gods such as Zeus and Wotan with limited powers which are not really gods but little more than glorified humans, somewhat akin to fairies, leprechauns, goblins, witches, and ghosts. On the high end, and really the prime focus of the god debate, are the “gods of the philosophers” including the modern monotheistic Judeo-Christian-Islamic God, having (in various permutations) the attributes of being conscious, all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), all good (omnibenevolent), immutable, immortal, infinite, omnipresent, immaterial transcendent, disembodied and eternal. (Sometimes the attributes of incomprehensibility, ineffability and invisibility are thrown in, which converts god into the undefined or unknowable type previously discussed).

The atheist attack on the modern god is generally two-fold. The first prong again generally centers on the definition given and demonstrates that the god proposed is logically impossible due to contradictions among its various attributes; some of the standard arguments are set forth in my Basic Assumptions and elsewhere. These arguments demonstrate that the term “god” is akin to a “square circle” or “married bachelor.”

The agnostic has no adequate response to these arguments. They are purely analytical, “arm-chair” refutations of god which allow no resort to empirical inquiry or speculation. The agnostic cannot suggest that maybe, in some far corner of the universe (or perhaps invisibly in the room) the god in question exists, any more than he can suggest the same of a square circle or married bachelor. The only real avenue open is to address the arguments, to demonstrate whether they are valid or invalid. But in doing so, the agnostic will be forced to commit to either theism or atheism.

The agnostic can, of course, simply back away, refuse to address or focus on the arguments. But in doing so, the agnostic fails to make any assertion at all. He remains an agnostic only in the way that a baby or a cat are agnostics, undecided or neutral on the issue merely because they have never given consideration to the question.

The second most common atheistic attack on god is “negative atheism,” which focuses on refuting the theistic arguments in favor of god, including the ontological, teleological, cosmological and moral proofs. Without discussing the arguments and their refutations, two points may be made with respect to agnosticism regarding them. First, none of the arguments purport to establish well-defined god with particular powers and attributes, so they all succumb to either the arguments against the undefined/underdefined gods discussed above, or to the analytic attacks regarding the logical impossibility of god set forth in this section. Second, and to the point, the agnostic is once again placed in the position of either converting to atheism (or theism) by addressing the arguments, or of ignoring the arguments altogether.

Non-Theological Agnosticism. Another form of agnosticism which occasionally surfaces in the course of theological debates is actually an extreme form of skepticism with no special relevance to the god question. It is simply the denial of reality, the denial of certainty regarding the existence of anything, coupled with the assertion that if nothing is certain, there cannot be certainty regarding the existence or non-existence of god. For all we know, it is argued, we may merely be brains in vats in the laboratory of a mad scientist; the universe may be an illusion, or may have been created five minutes ago; or the universe and everything in it may be doubling in size every second without our perceiving it, because everything, including our bodies, is growing in proportion.

I agree that there is no strictly logical refutation to the brains-in-vats hypothesis, or to the illusory, five-minute-old or size-doubling universes theories. But all of those scenarios are perfectly conceivable (if seemingly improbable), and thus do not imply any contradiction. However, the question of god’s existence (or square circles) is largely a logical, definitional one, fully subject to refutation by the demonstration of a contradiction. However “magical” the brains-in-vats situation might seem, it would not prove that the mad scientist, or anything else, was God. Your vatted brain would still be required to provide a definition and demonstrate that it was beyond refutation.

One final agnostic “argument” I frequently is really nothing more than an objection to certainty and the supposed “arrogance” that accompanies it. Sometimes this is joined with the concern that if either side is “too sure” of its position it will attempt to “force” it upon the other. But there are arrogant physicians and an arrogant faith healers, and modest specimens of each profession. The agnostic seeking to choose between them for treatment would do better considering their claims on the merits rather than disregarding them or using personality as the sole criterion. And the argument based on the impossibility or undesirability of certainty collapses under its own weight insofar as it lays a claim to being the Truth in a way the alternatives are not.

* As used here, the term “atheism” refers to what is know as “strong” or “positive” atheism”, i.e., the claim that the existence of god can be affirmatively disproven and that all statements regarding god are false, self-contradictory, incoherent or meaningless. It is to be distinguished from “weak atheism,” which is simply a disbelief, or lack of belief, in god, without the assertion that god’s existence can be disproven. The distinction is important in the context of this discussion because most agnostics are also weak atheists–people who believe that god’s existence cannot be proven or disproven but feel that it is highly improbable Some agnostics are also theists, believing in god although they do not believe that god’s existence can ever be proven.


41 Responses to “Sweeney, Unambiguous”

  1. Kafkaesquí
    August 25th, 2005 @ 9:09 pm

    Holy crap RA, when does the book come out. I’ll put aside a few bucks for it.

  2. Kafkaesquí
    August 25th, 2005 @ 9:13 pm

    By the by, last time I looked into it the ants still weren’t worshiping us. Think it’s about time we all smited some ant hills.

  3. Delta
    August 25th, 2005 @ 10:17 pm

    They indeed do worship us. I’ve given birth to many ants by immaculate conception with many,many virgin ant queens.

  4. Kafkaesquí
    August 25th, 2005 @ 10:28 pm

    Your ability to bring formicid Christs into the world awes and disgusts me, Delta. But it sounds like you’d be fun at a picnic.

  5. Seth
    August 25th, 2005 @ 10:39 pm

    Jebus. You give me so much material to use in debates. I shall be forever in debt to you, oh mighty atheist of the Internet.

    I am now going to go post a link to this essay on my blog, for the one agnostic reader I have.

  6. Tanooki Joe
    August 25th, 2005 @ 11:21 pm

    Hot damn! Somebody finally explained why I’m not an agnostic anymore!

    Okay, so I already knew why, but RA’s take is far more elegant and concise.

    This is one of the best posts I’ve ever read, RA.

  7. Mijae
    August 26th, 2005 @ 3:28 am

    For everyone who loved this, the book Atheism: The Case Against God has lots of similar arguments. It even takes them a bit further to refute the idea of the supernatural realm entirely, which of course would include whatever kind of god you could come up with.

  8. Oliver
    August 26th, 2005 @ 5:26 am

    Yes, good post RA. I guess the main points I took from it, boiled down, are that there are good arguments to disprove any specific God you care to name and the other concepts of ‘God’ people come up with are so vague as to be meaningless. This is pretty much my view too. I went through a phase of being pantheist in believing somehow God was everything, (or maybe at least ‘in’ everything?) and that the universe somehow had some kind of hidden intelligence behind it, that was spoken of and accessed through Eastern or New Age or Pagan practices etc aiming to become ‘one’ with God. But eventually I realised it made no sense and meant nothing at all. If there was any sense in it then, for example, a mystic claiming to have had experience of ‘oneness’ with God, or ‘cosmic consciousness’ would know everything and everyone’s thoughts, which they don’t. They just have a pleasant experience of freedom from their ego and worries for a bit through meditational techniques.
    On the ther hand, to be atheist as regards the main, clearly defined, God you only have to read the Biblewith an open mind…


  9. ocmpoma
    August 26th, 2005 @ 8:19 am

    I’ve always said that agnostics are just atheists without any cahones.

  10. SteveR
    August 26th, 2005 @ 9:11 am

    Ocmpoma writes: ” I’ve always said that agnostics are just atheists without any cahones.”

    I’ve always preferred: “I’m smart enough to know that I’m not smart enough to know.”

  11. PanAtheist
    August 26th, 2005 @ 9:37 am

    Raver >>

    I am delighted that you have “gone back to the basics” and expounded the non-sense and/or anti-sense of any “God”s.

    Thanks for spending the time on this!

    It encourages me!

    And it inspires me to think about presenting an essay about the charge that I make – that no one can believe in a “God”.

    Nice work! I think I shall point my family in the direction of this post. Thank you.

  12. DannyNoonan
    August 26th, 2005 @ 10:15 am

    Good post. I’ve always had trouble putting any kind of label on my beliefs. I agree with every argument you make against theism and the Judeo-Christian-Islamic concept of god. I agree that this concept of god is a logical fallacy but I have always described myself as an agnostic. I guess I would be something close to your Non-Theological Agnostic. Although I am sure that the omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, immutable, immortal, infinite, omnipresent, immaterial transcendent, disembodied and eternal god can’t exist I have always been unwilling to say with absolute certainty that some smarter (but not omniscient), more powerful (but not omnipotent)… being played some role, somehow in creating the universe or life or whatever. I do find this to be very very unlikely. I fell like I’ve given it a lot of thought. Is this logically impossible? Am I wrong to describe myself as an agnostic?

  13. PanAtheist
    August 26th, 2005 @ 10:29 am


  14. Hank Fox
    August 26th, 2005 @ 11:24 am

    I touch on some of this stuff in two essays, “Uneven Ground” and “On Being An Atheist” — but I wish I’d also written what you did here.

    Great stuff!

  15. worldcitizen
    August 26th, 2005 @ 1:33 pm

    Yes, this is good stuff–particularly the discussion of definitions of god.

    I do think it’s unfortunate, though, that the word agnostic has come to mean what it has. In practice, it is understood to be a weak, defensive, and conciliatory position. But I think there is a strong and agressive way to use it that has value.

    I’m an atheist and don’t have any trouble saying so, but I like the epistemological argument that is inherent to the word agnostic. The sense in which I like to use it is the sense that I think historically it was originally intended to convey–as a direct corollary of scientific naturalism and empiricism.

    That is, not simply: “I don’t know” but very specifically: “I don’t know anything about this ‘god’ of which you speak, AND NEITHER DO YOU, SO STOP MAKING THINGS UP AND PRETENDING THAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT SOMETHING MEANINGFUL.”

    I realize, of course, that this isn’t the generally accepted meaning of the word these days.

  16. a different tim
    August 26th, 2005 @ 1:36 pm

    I’m with this one.
    Except I would claim “weak atheism” is in itself pretty strong. Testability, Karl Popper, Bertrand Russell and the china teapot, yadda yadda. All good enough for me.
    My personal experience is that there are a lot of people who have this deep down kind of warm fuzzy feeling that “there must be something out there”. The feeling is rarely articulated in any kind of analytic way and seems proof against all rational argument (such as “WHY does there have to be something out there?”). Those of us who don’t have this feeling can only look on in open mouthed astonishment at how far they will go in order to keep hold of it.

  17. DannyNoonan
    August 26th, 2005 @ 1:36 pm

    PanAtheist, was that a yes to the first question or the second? Is what I just said illogical or is it essentially atheism?

  18. a different tim
    August 26th, 2005 @ 1:38 pm

    Surely a formicid Christ would be an anty-Christ?

  19. worldcitizen
    August 26th, 2005 @ 1:51 pm

    LOL! Anty-Christ must be involved somehow in a holy trinity with the flying spaghetti monster, don’t you think?

  20. PanAtheist
    August 26th, 2005 @ 4:15 pm

    Danny >>

    Yes, to the second question, Danny, as to you not being an agnostic!

    But I find the word “atheist” to be a silly word as well.

    The phenomena of “theism” is, IMO, an actual *insanity*.

    What it is, is a 100% *aquiesence* to a fear of the blatant *insanity* that religious people in positions of religious power exhibit.

    This aquiesence absolutely demands an unquestioning acceptance of every assertion they, or their proxies make, that involves a word that is exclusively used nonsensically and anti-sensically. This strange word is specifically used to indicate to the subjects everything which must be 100% acquiesced to.

    And the religiously-powerful 100% require that a person lives as if all that nonsense and antisense is 100% good and healthy perfect sense and reason, and which is better than the best!

    This can be achieved easily if the subject is inexperienced and vulnerable, and they already believe that their “ruler” has the power of life and death over them. If not, the person in power can become explicitly insane and reckless towards their subject. (See the Inquisition, etc, etc).

    Needless to say, “theism” is not belief!

    (Genuine belief is a product of experience and rationality, and is a fragile thing, being utterly vulnerable to any new evidence and reason.)

    In the debates on the Raving Atheist Forums and elsewhere, “theists” are ever demonstrating that their so-called “beliefs” are invulnerable to contrary evidence, contrary reason, and outright disproof. In short, they never exhibit belief, and always exhibit insanity, according to their aquiesence.

    And here I have explained the silliness of the words “theism” and it’s negative, “atheism”.

    We are silly to use them, because if we do, we are following the insane notions that the religiously-powerful foster upon their subjects. As it is they who have generated this insanity of acting as if “theism” is a belief. [And this has become the dictionary “definition”].

    It would be far better to use the coinage “theidiocy” to describe this craziness.

    And “atheidiocy” would be an appropriate negative.

    (And yet “Free and Sane” is easier to spell :-)

  21. Trevor Blake
    August 26th, 2005 @ 8:51 pm

    Such a very, very good post! Thank you!

  22. LucyMuff
    August 26th, 2005 @ 8:58 pm





    for real

  23. Kafkaesquí
    August 26th, 2005 @ 9:14 pm

    Ancient Sumerian word that means “unacceptable, not desirable”.

  24. LucyMuff
    August 26th, 2005 @ 9:15 pm

    kafkaesqui : modern european word mooning pretentious, arrogant, stuck up twat. Also homo

  25. worldcitizen
    August 26th, 2005 @ 10:50 pm

    Surprise, the Jesus freak is also homophobic!

  26. Mookie
    August 27th, 2005 @ 4:38 am

    Great post, RA. I consider myself an atheist in relation to theism, but agnostic (in regards to reality) assuming its not about god. I recognize that religion is just a bunch of emotional attachment to memes, mere philosophical abstractions. Not even useful ones, at that. If religion (and its basic premises) had never been developed, I would describe myself (and strive to be) as empirical, logical, rational, open, skeptical, and as objective and scientific as possible when it comes to making sense of the world. The word “atheist”, unfortunately, does not include these qualities. I suppose “intellectual integrity” – not mistaking wishes for truth – would work.

  27. Kafkaesquí
    August 27th, 2005 @ 8:29 am

    We all know what that means.

    LucyMuff, if you’re going to threaten and insult, try taking a few spelling classes first. It improve your results tremendously.

  28. Kafkaesquí
    August 27th, 2005 @ 8:34 am

    (Now if LucyMuff is smart about it, she’ll take me to task for my own grammatical mistake above.)

  29. vjack
    August 27th, 2005 @ 8:52 am

    I consider myself an atheist, but I’m not so sure about your critique of agnosticism. What about the rational/scientific position that simply holds beliefs should be supported by verifiable evidence? Agnosticism seems quite consistent with this position at certain stages of the scientific process. If we pretend for a second that there has been no scientific research conducted on the efficacy of prayer, most scientists would say that the question of whether prayer works is an empirical question that has not yet been answered. They would not go around asserting that prayer didn’t work because there was no evidence either way. As findings accumulate showing prayer to be ineffective, the scientist has a much harder time maintaining a position of uncertainty. Thus, we would expect the agnostic to evolve toward atheism as evidence accumulates but probably not until then.

  30. MBains
    August 27th, 2005 @ 9:42 am

    The phenomena of “theism” is, IMO, an actual *insanity*.

    What it is, is a 100% *aquiesence* to a fear of the blatant *insanity* that religious people in positions of religious power exhibit.

    Exactly the relevant point there PA. “in positions of power” their insanity affects much more than just their selves. Even then I don’t necesarrily begrudge any one any thought.

    But tell me to kill for jesus, allah et al and I’m assuring you that I’ll do otherwise. Most of us here know that what goes on in our heads is our own Business. When we try to compel others to obey our insanity, people who exist in Reality will have a say. As long as it’s private it is unassailable. The moment it starts to act in Public compulsion – even if duly (read Democratically) approved by a purposefully and willfully ignorant mass of believers, it is immoral. Atheism allows us to ignore other’s cerebral activities . Agnosticism allows us to accept them. Reason allows us empirical observations about them and their applicability in daily life. Reason is moral when it is adhered to just like emotions and religions really do try to be and there is no reason for any doubt between atheist and theist what the ecosystem in which we exist (and on which we depend to varying degrees of overlap) shows to be factual. None but emotional control & lack there of it.

    We have got to agree on Reality.

    I liked the essay RA. It said alot of things I’ve seen and’ve heard others discuss and that follow in my own observations on life and human life in particular. The balance isn’t that hard cerebrally. It’s them emotions that be killin’ us.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all put our emotial energy behind/into Reason? Ironic maybe. But not once you get over the emotions’ control. Reason must live with Emotion and the two must be integrated willfully by each other. I know how to do so usually but I rarely feel it.

    You said, The threshold … question in any theological debate is what is meant by the word

  31. MBains
    August 27th, 2005 @ 9:49 am

    LucyMuff said:
    kafkaesqui : modern european word mooning pretentious, arrogant, stuck up twat. Also homo

    homoPhobic: fear of one’s own species, especially, but not only, if one is homo sapiens sapiens… ;}

  32. LucyMuff
    August 27th, 2005 @ 1:18 pm

    yous all not to matter for even if me spelling sometimes not always their love of JESUS never fail and then I is saved. Also I loves JESUS but I KNOW MBAINS and KAFKAESQUI be bum boys and hence will burn at hell for all time of eternity after death, prob from aids of hemmeroids of spinchter. I abd all from me church ready to fogive gaylords, but first they must repent and stop the analling, then JESUS will save.

    For real

  33. Kafkaesquí
    August 27th, 2005 @ 4:00 pm

    Calling me a bum boy and predicting my eternal afterlife in some nonexistent place. The insults around here just ain’t what they used to be.

    By the way LucyMuff, your name just screams dyke. I guess you’ll be joining us *down there*.

  34. LucyMuff
    August 27th, 2005 @ 6:01 pm

    kafkafool, it ok, yous will get more than plenty insults from devil in hell, and maybe some bum action as well, but hard and dry not lubed as you enjoy, for it is hell and not for fun times

  35. LucyMuff
    August 27th, 2005 @ 7:38 pm

    It is all true and best for you all to acept this now, while you still can. The devil is real, god is real and jesus is real. The difference is, the devil is REAL BAD NEWS, especaially for all you atheists, who much crazy must be, or very brave to risk what is going to happen in hell, and don’t even be to try and say “we did not know” or “it is not fair on us” because god has made all very plain. Even for you what can’t read there is many preachers willing to explain all the knowlewdgee yous all need. I will do it as well if you be sincere and wants saving by JESUS. RA ask question and I more happy than to answer him about JESUS and GOD. He say

    “It sounds like Lucifer is the warden running God’s prison. Presumably the two get together and decide who gets tortured how bad and things of that nature. Are they actually friends? If God really hates Satan, and ultimately destroys him, who would end up doing all the torturing?”

    what it be is this: JESUS and GOD love Lucifer, but Lucifer is crazy fool and even tho he know god be for real he is a evil madness and not want god. It be same evil madness that will be for torturing evil doers what don’t get in heaven where JESUS and GOD protect and LOVE. At end of days when all is cleansed by god SATAN and all evil doers be put to nothing so there be no more torture be. And that is answer to RA. Remebber, you be goign to hell so can find out for self if you don’t acept JESUS NOW. If JESUS even love Lucifer, it not too late, even for you kafkafool

  36. j a c k *
    August 27th, 2005 @ 9:52 pm

    Agnostic Rave…

    Agnosticism is, in fact, the least tenable theological position, completely inferior to atheism and in some instances less defensible than theism. Sweeney is correct that agnosticism for the most part constitutes a failure – and commonly a studied re…

  37. Lucy Muff
    August 28th, 2005 @ 4:24 pm

    for real

  38. Christopher
    August 28th, 2005 @ 5:07 pm

    I’m wieghing in a little late. Most of what this essay says is spot on, but I have a quibble.

    I tend to fall into the non-theistic agnostic category, of which you said,


  39. Vernichten
    August 28th, 2005 @ 10:07 pm

    Christopher, I am glad to finally hear someone give pet owners the status they deserve.

  40. ent lord
    September 27th, 2005 @ 12:50 pm

    If good exists, and humans are intrinsically good, then there is no need for a god since human nature will eventually (leaving out Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao and Idi Amin as examples of the failure of this basic nature) do the right thing.
    If, on the other hand, humans are basically flawed, born into sin (original sins) and condemned to sin except for the intervention of some supernatural force who consigns humans to Hell (or a position at FEMA) for their sins, then the reason humans are good is that they fear punishment. People who are good because they fear punishment are not good but rather, fearful.
    In either case, no diety is required because humans are either good or they are not. A supernatural being coercing evil beings to act as if they are good does not make them good. If they are good, then no diety is needed.
    In light of this, dieties become irrelevent. So we can move on to other topics, such as baseball or sex.

  41. Talk Among Yourselves : The Raving Theist
    October 4th, 2009 @ 7:11 pm

    […] of its arguments against atheism, or at least certain forms of it. Much of the ground I covered in this post a few years back, albeit without the emphasis on […]

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