Louise Antony: A Case Study of Doxastic Closure

Louise Antony is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the editor of the essay collection “Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life.” She was recently interviewed by Gary Gutting for the NYT web page.

Antony is an atheist who asserts: “I claim to know that God doesn’t exist.”

Wow. She knows. She knows? So how does she know God doesn’t exist? She tells us:

So the question is, why do I say that theism is false, rather than just unproven? Because the question has been settled to my satisfaction. I say “there is no God” with the same confidence I say “there are no ghosts” or “there is no magic.”

So she knows that God does not exist because she has confidence. Because, in her mind, the question is settled. To her satisfaction. That’s how she knows.

What this suggests to me is that her mind is closed to the existence of God. For if you know there is no God, and you have great confidence that you are right, then you also know there can be no evidence for God. For how could there ever be evidence for something you already know does not exist?

She continues:

That’s not to say that I think everything is within the scope of human knowledge. Surely there are things not dreamt of in our philosophy, not to mention in our science

Yet she knows that God does not exist. Go figure.

– but that fact is not a reason to believe in supernatural beings.

Who claimed that fact is a reason to believe in God? This sounds like a straw man to me. That fact simply means that people who claim to know, with confidence, that God does not exist, could very well be “pretending to know what they don’t know” (to borrow from another atheist philosopher). If “surely there are things not dreamt of in our philosophy, not to mention in our science,” then how does she know there is no God?

She continues:

I think many arguments for the existence of a God depend on the insufficiencies of human cognition. I readily grant that we have cognitive limitations. But when we bump up against them, when we find we cannot explain something — like why the fundamental physical parameters happen to have the values that they have — the right conclusion to draw is that we just can’t explain the thing. That’s the proper place for agnosticism and humility.

Given that we have cognitive limitations, and we bump up against them when opining about the existence of God, how does she know, with confidence, that God does not exist, when this is actually “the proper place for agnosticism and humility?”

Gutting says: “But people with many different specific beliefs share a belief in God — a supreme being who made and rules the world. You’ve taken a strong stand against that fundamental view, which is why I’m asking you about that.”

And Antony replies:

Well I’m challenging the idea that there’s one fundamental view here. Even if I could be convinced that supernatural beings exist, there’d be a whole separate issue about how many such beings there are and what those beings are like. Many theists think they’re home free with something like the argument from design: that there is empirical evidence of a purposeful design in nature. But it’s one thing to argue that the universe must be the product of some kind of intelligent agent; it’s quite something else to argue that this designer was all-knowing and omnipotent. Why is that a better hypothesis than that the designer was pretty smart but made a few mistakes? Maybe (I’m just cribbing from Hume here) there was a committee of intelligent creators, who didn’t quite agree on everything. Maybe the creator was a student god, and only got a B- on this project.

Okay, I am starting to sense a pattern here. Even if we had no explanation for why the fundamental physical parameters happen to have the values that they have, and even if we had empirical evidence of a purposeful design in nature, none of this would count as evidence for God. Which leads you to wonder if Antony would be willing to count ANYTHING as evidence for God. What could possibly count as evidence for God? Can Antony answer that question?

Gutting continues: “O.K., on your view we don’t have any way to judge the relative reliability of people’s judgments about whether God exists. But the question still remains, why are you so certain that God doesn’t exist?”

Antony:

Knowledge in the real world does not entail either certainty or infallibility. When I claim to know that there is no God, I mean that the question is settled to my satisfaction. I don’t have any doubts. I don’t say that I’m agnostic, because I disagree with those who say it’s not possible to know whether or not God exists. I think it’s possible to know. And I think the balance of evidence and argument has a definite tilt.

And there ya go. It turns out Antony’s knowledge is only personal “knowledge.” Let me re-quote with the appropriate emphases:

Knowledge in the real world does not entail either certainty or infallibility. When I claim to know that there is no God, I mean that the question is settled to my satisfaction. I don’t have any doubts. I don’t say that I’m agnostic, because I disagree with those who say it’s not possible to know whether or not God exists. I think it’s possible to know. And I think the balance of evidence and argument has a definite tilt.

But the world does not revolve around Louise Antony. It’s clear that she thinks she knows. But why are we supposed to accept that she knows God does not exist? Because the question is settled to her satisfaction?

The justification that Antony gives is nothing more than a justification for opinion or belief. Yes, it is her opinion that God does not exist. Yes, it is her belief. Yes, things are settled to her satisfaction. But since when did opinions and beliefs become knowledge simply because the person who holds the opinion believes the opinion with great conviction? If you are going to deny your opinions as opinions and your beliefs as beliefs, and instead insist those judgment calls are “knowledge,” you need to offer something more than holding yourself up as some form of Truth Detector.

So Gutting asks: “What sort of evidence do you have in mind?”

And Antony replies:

I find the “argument from evil” overwhelming — that is, I think the probability that the world we experience was designed by an omnipotent and benevolent being is a zillion times lower than that it is the product of mindless natural laws acting on mindless matter. (There are minds in the universe, but they’re all finite and material.)

I see. So a universe that is purposely designed adds nothing to the probability of God’s existence, but evil means it is a zillion (why zillion instead of trillion?) times more likely God does not exist. Wanna play with a stacked deck of cards, anyone?

The main thing to notice is that she again retreats into her subjective sense of personal knowledge. Again, let’s re-quote with the relevant parts emphasized:

I find the “argument from evil” overwhelming — that is, I think the probability that the world we experience was designed by an omnipotent and benevolent being is a zillion times lower than that it is the product of mindless natural laws acting on mindless matter. (There are minds in the universe, but they’re all finite and material.)

Fine. She finds the argument from evil overwhelming. She thinks the probability that of God’s existence is a zillion times less likely than the non-existence of God. Of course she does – she is an atheist! But just because she is convinced by the argument, and she personally finds it overwhelming, does not mean she has knowledge. For how did she get from holding these opinions, and having these perceptions, to possessing knowledge?

Look, imagine I borrowed almost every word from Antony and made the following claim:

I claim to know extra-terrestrial intelligence (ETI) does not exist…..So the question is, why do I say that the existence of ETI is false, rather than just unproven? Because the question has been settled to my satisfaction. I say “there is no ETI” with the same confidence I say “there are no ghosts” or “there is no magic.”….. When I claim to know that there is no ETI, I mean that the question is settled to my satisfaction. I don’t have any doubts. I don’t say that I’m agnostic, because I disagree with those who say it’s not possible to know whether or not ETI exists. I think it’s possible to know. And I think the balance of evidence and argument has a definite tilt…… I find the “Fermi paradox” overwhelming — that is, I think the probability that the universe is filled with ETI is a zillion times lower than it is without any ETI. (There are minds in the universe, but they’re all here on planet Earth.) What’ more, I find Ernst Mayr’s probability argument to be have further settled the question to my satisfaction, adding in another factor of a zillion. Therefore, I know extra-terrestrial intelligence (ETI) does not exist

If I were to make these assertions, would it convince Antony, or any other philosopher, that I do indeed know there is no ETI? Well?

And if you heard me make such claims about ETI, do you think my mind would be open to considering data that merely suggest ETI might exist?

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26 Responses to Louise Antony: A Case Study of Doxastic Closure

  1. stcordova says:

    Grand slam, Mike. I know you are slightly agnostic on the Dawkins scale of belief, but I hope you won’t be offended if I say “God bless you” because you have blessed me with this essay. Thank you, and thank you for that Ernst Mayr article. I didn’t even know about the Fermi Pardox until you mentioned it. Wow!

    PS
    As far as ETI’s and ghosts, I offer my views that there are ghosts and evidence of “alien” abductions here and in the linked articles:
    http://tinyurl.com/lllw7k2

    The problem is, for people that have encountered ghosts, they are just as sure as Antony, and her argument from evil is downright awful. There is nothing that says an intelligent agent, even an all powerful one, is required to make a world that is drama free (sanitized of evil), in fact great dramas are great designs, and no drama (and thus no evil) is arguably bad design.

  2. TFBW says:

    This is slightly tangential, but I’m always a little surprised by atheist appeals to the argument from evil, particularly if the atheism is derivative of a broader philosophical materialism, which is usually the case. The rough argument seems to go like this.

    1. A perfectly good and omnipotent God would not permit evil to exist.
    2. Evil exists.
    3. Therefore, there is no perfectly good and omnipotent God.

    One immediately obvious shortcoming of this argument is that it only denies the existence of a very narrow range of conceptually possible deities. It’s not an atheistic argument so much as an anti-monotheistic argument. I note in passing that most of the New Atheist passion seems to be focused on the non-existence of a particular God.

    To my mind, however, the more problematic aspect of this argument, if it is made by a materialist, is the minor premise, #2. How can a materialist be ontologically committed to the existence of “evil”, given that they want to categorise our experience of consciousness and free will as illusions? Does evil really exist in the same way that gravity exists? Is evil really a state of matter?

    This looks very much to me like a case of trying to have one’s cake and eat it too. If evil exists, then good and evil are facts of the universe not covered by any physical law — not even ultra-speculative ones. It seems to me that if you’re going to say that evil is real, you’ve admitted one supernatural element into your ontology, and you can stop pretending to be a materialist.

  3. 9lives says:

    Nicely done! I guess 19th century atheism is making a comeback. Did I say guess? I mean I know.

  4. phillip lightweis-goff says:

    Michael says:
    “But just because she is convinced by the argument, and she personally finds it overwhelming, does not mean she has knowledge.”

    —Similarly, Crude or yourself being convinced by the apodicticishness of your presumptions, and finding subsequent arguments overwhelming, does not mean either one of you has knowledge.

    So again… why not be agnostics?

  5. Michael says:

    —Similarly, Crude or yourself being convinced by the apodicticishness of your presumptions, and finding subsequent arguments overwhelming, does not mean either one of you has knowledge.

    On my goodness. Tu quoque? Are you serious? Nice try, but if you are trying to posture as Dr. Reason, you discredit yourself by leaning on the crutch of your stereotypes while ignoring the points I raised. I never claimed to know that God exists. I don’t claim my Christian faith is clearly established or beyond dispute.

    So again… why not be agnostics?

    Er….bcause I am intellectually honest enough to admit my beliefs are beliefs, my opinions are opinions, and my perceptions are perceptions. I’m not the one trying to masquerade my beliefs and opinions as knowledge – the atheist is.

    Gee, that was hard.

    So tell us, Philip – does your meat computer convince you that you too know that God does not exist?

  6. Michael says:

    Some time in the future, I will address the argument from evil. I find it quite weak and insufficient justification for any atheism. But that is the future. Right now, let’s stay focused on the main points of my essay.

  7. Crude says:

    —Similarly, Crude or yourself being convinced by the apodicticishness of your presumptions, and finding subsequent arguments overwhelming, does not mean either one of you has knowledge.

    Philly, as Mike mentioned, neither one of us take the attitude of ‘God exists beyond a shadow of a doubt!’ I won’t speak for Mike, but I take a look at the arguments and evidence, I recognize the possibility of being wrong (about far more than just God), I go with what the strength of reason and evidence indicates, and I try to keep an open mind.

    And you define ‘knowledge’ in such a way that rules out you having knowledge of what you ate for breakfast yesterday.

    So again… why not be agnostics?

    Er, what’s the point of being an agnostic again, especially when one believes that certain axioms and assumptions – and we’re talking real freaking basic ones here, like ‘fundamental laws of logic’ and ‘principle of sufficient reason’ and so on – seem not only self-evidently reasonable, but useful?

    Wait, is the big scary possibility here ‘You may be wrong!’? Why, without loading up on all kinds of other axioms and assumptions, should I give a shit that I may be wrong? Especially when everything that seems quite reasonable lines up well enough with the view I embrace?

    Feel free to be agnostic about the sun rising tomorrow – or, for that matter, about it having risen yesterday, or about it existing at all – if that floats your boat. Those of us in the real world will continue to reason where we think the evidence leads. You, meanwhile, can just take satisfaction in the possibility that there may not be a real world anyway, and thus you’re possibly not missing out on anything. 😉

  8. Michael says:

    Crude: Wait, is the big scary possibility here ‘You may be wrong!’?

    Whoa! I think you are on to something there – atheists are afraid of being wrong! All of their posturing and chest-thumping is a function of their fear. It is Fear that motivates them. Reason serves their Fear. That would explain why they so desperately need to think science is “on their side.” That would explain why they need to convince themselves their opinions and faith are knowledge. They just CAN’T be wrong. They just can’t. That’s also why they need to denigrate theists as mentally ill and delusional. That’s why they need to think they are so smart. That’s why they need to spend so much time in the atheist blogosphere, assuring each of how right they are. It all comes from Fear.

    And the Fear of Being Wrong does not make anymore more likely to be right. On the contrary, fear clouds the vision. Fear clouds the judgment. It would seem such fear would make someone more likely to trick themselves into having a level of confidence that is simply not merited.

    Me? If it turns out at the end of the day I have been wrong, ah, so what? It wouldn’t be the first time I have ever been wrong. Damn, I was wrong. Oh well. I am not motivated by the Fear of Being Wrong. Thus, I feel no need to insist science is on “my side.” Unlike Antony, I can be intellectually honest and admit my opinions are opinions. Hell, I even admit I have faith. And I have no need to paint atheists as mentally ill and delusional. Look, I don’t believe I am wrong. I think my theism is quite reasonable and supported by evidence. But I am also entirely comfortable with the realization that I could indeed be wrong.

    Hmmm. Lots of atheists have written many arguments informing us what is wrong with Pascal’s Wager. But it would seem the Wager just happens to explain the entire atheist movement.

  9. cl says:

    Crap like this is why I left the scene. Same old same old day long. Atheists pretending to be so “rational” yet as we all know it’s GENERALLY a bunch of hullabaloo. Love your blog.

  10. cl says:

    @TFBW,

    YES, yes and yes. Great comment. /cheerleading

  11. phillip lightweis-goff says:

    Michael says:
    “I never claimed to know that God exists. I don’t claim my Christian faith is clearly established or beyond dispute.”

    —Oh, that’s a relief. But…

    “Er….bcause I am intellectually honest enough to admit my beliefs are beliefs, my opinions are opinions, and my perceptions are perceptions.”

    —… why bother with extending these to metaphysical matters, then?

    “I’m not the one trying to masquerade my beliefs and opinions as knowledge – the atheist is.”

    —Well, the ‘strong’ atheist anyways. Most of of the ‘weak’ variety, and include agnostics such as myself… though I am the ‘strong’ sort of those.

    “So tell us, Philip – does your meat computer convince you that you too know that God does not exist?”

    —It tells me that the matter is undecidable, and not that important anyways.

  12. phillip lightweis-goff says:

    Crude says:
    “I won’t speak for Mike, but I take a look at the arguments and evidence,”

    —Neither being shown to be applicable to metaphysical questions.

    “I recognize the possibility of being wrong (about far more than just God),”

    —If it’s about the metaphysical, we’re ALL wrong.

    “I go with what the strength of reason and evidence indicates, and I try to keep an open mind.”

    —(This doesn’t make you a better person, btw)

    “And you define ‘knowledge’ in such a way that rules out you having knowledge of what you ate for breakfast yesterday.”

    —I don’t think my memories of breakfast represent metaphsycial Truth… wait, do YOU???

    “Er, what’s the point of being an agnostic again, especially when one believes that certain axioms and assumptions – and we’re talking real freaking basic ones here, like ‘fundamental laws of logic’ and ‘principle of sufficient reason’ and so on – seem not only self-evidently reasonable, but useful?”

    —They ARE useful… just not justifiably legit for metaphysical matters, no matter how much WLC likes to think they are.

    “Wait, is the big scary possibility here ‘You may be wrong!’?”

    —Why do you think fear is the motivator here?

    “Feel free to be agnostic about the sun rising tomorrow – or, for that matter, about it having risen yesterday, or about it existing at all –”

    —What makes the sun rising a metaphysical issue? Dang your epistemology/metaphysics conflation!

    “will continue to reason where we think the evidence leads.”

    —By all means, continue to make stuff up. (shrugs)

  13. Michael says:

    Michael says:
    “I never claimed to know that God exists. I don’t claim my Christian faith is clearly established or beyond dispute.”

    —Oh, that’s a relief. But…

    Not so fast. You got busted leaning on the crutch of stereotype there. Why did you do that?

    —… why bother with extending these to metaphysical matters, then?

    Because I am human. And rather intuitive.

    —Well, the ‘strong’ atheist anyways.

    Er, yeah. She was the subject of my OP. Did you read it? Or are you just here to talk about yourself?

    Most of of the ‘weak’ variety, and include agnostics such as myself… though I am the ‘strong’ sort of those.

    Whoa! You claim to be an agnostic? But just because you typed those letters does not mean you are. Me thinks you have a justification problem here. Why am I supposed to believe you are an agnostic?

    —It tells me that the matter is undecidable, and not that important anyways.

    If it’s not important to you, why have you spent so much time here?

  14. Billy Squibs says:

    “… atheists are afraid of being wrong”
    That’s a very interesting assertion, Michael. While I think that there are theists who most certainly fit into that category, I’m also aware that Christianity has a rich engagement with doubt. Indeed, doubt at times seems to fill the pages of the Bible. It is therefore all the more of a pity when discussion about doubt is eschewed.

    However, all this is an aside to my main point. What I really wanted to say was that I’ve personally never encountered much material (be it in the form of books, talks or whatever) from the atheist community that deals with atheists and doubt. Indeed, I once recall visiting an atheist forum to read a thread that asked “do you ever doubt”. Almost to a person (out of about 25 respondents) they all claimed never to have experienced significant doubt about their atheism.

    Why is this, I wonder? Why should self-described sceptics seem to be devoid of doubts over their worldview?

    What are other people’s experiences with regards to atheists and doubts?

  15. cl says:

    —It tells me that the matter is undecidable, and not that important anyways.

    The irony: if it’s “undecidable” how do you know it’s “not that important?”

    Puffery!

  16. phillip lightweis-goff says:

    cl says:
    “The irony: if it’s “undecidable” how do you know it’s “not that important?””

    —Correction: undecidable matters CANNOT be important. Better?

  17. phillip lightweis-goff says:

    Michael says:
    “Not so fast. You got busted leaning on the crutch of stereotype there. Why did you do that?”

    —Not only do theists typically express metaphysical certainty, most of the rest treat their faith as a near-certainty sufficient to banish all other considerations.

    “Because I am human. And rather intuitive.”

    —But not justified, nor capable of showing the metaphysical’s necessity.

    “Whoa! You claim to be an agnostic? But just because you typed those letters does not mean you are. Me thinks you have a justification problem here. Why am I supposed to believe you are an agnostic?”

    —This is a conventional matter whose truth (little t) you can provisionally satisfy given what I have posted thus far… saying I am an agnostic is not a metaphysical statement.

    “If it’s not important to you, why have you spent so much time here?”

    —Because you seek to convince others of it’s importance… this is worrisome.

  18. phillip lightweis-goff says:

    Billy Squibs says:
    “I once recall visiting an atheist forum to read a thread that asked “do you ever doubt”. Almost to a person (out of about 25 respondents) they all claimed never to have experienced significant doubt about their atheism. Why is this, I wonder? Why should self-described sceptics seem to be devoid of doubts over their worldview?”

    —It is the lack of justification that is the crux of the matter. Doubting one’s doubt does not magically erase this issue… indeed, it only deepens it.

  19. Michael says:

    —Not only do theists typically express metaphysical certainty, most of the rest treat their faith as a near-certainty sufficient to banish all other considerations.

    Yet I do not express such certainty. You do. It is ironic to see someone so closed-minded lashing out at me on the basis of their stereotypes.

    —But not justified, nor capable of showing the metaphysical’s necessity.

    Not justified to you, that is. But I am not sure why that is important. As for your need for necessity, I don’t share it.

    —This is a conventional matter whose truth (little t) you can provisionally satisfy given what I have posted thus far… saying I am an agnostic is not a metaphysical statement.

    What you have posted so far indicates you are a Gnu atheist. Most agnostics I have run across try to put some serious distance between themselves and the Gnu extremists.

    —Because you seek to convince others of it’s importance… this is worrisome.

    Sorry to cause you so much anxiety, but I’m just offering up critical commentary about a modern day hate movement known as New Atheism. If you were truly an agnostic, why be so worried about that? Do you consider yourself part of that movement?

  20. Squibs says:

    “undecidable matters CANNOT be important. Better?”

    Can you justify that, please? What if I lack the ability to detect harmful radiation levels or tasteless and odourless poisons in my food? Besides, the claim made by theists is that God is detectable in some fashion. In the case of Christians there exists a whole suite of arguments that focus on everything from philosophy, history to personal experience (e.g. contemporary miracles) and so on.

    “It is the lack of justification that is the crux of the matter. Doubting one’s doubt does not magically erase this issue… indeed, it only deepens it.”

    I’m not sure if this is a honest but weak attempt an an answer or a rhetorical dodge. It isn’t obvious to me that there is a lack of justification (and I assume by this you mean for belief in God) and it isn’t obvious to billions of other people. Indeed, that’s the whole point of the debate that theists and atheists engage in.

    The question I was hoping to address was why internet atheists and popular level atheists seem to be largely silent on the role of doubt in their lives and their communities. Now there could be a number of explanations for this. Two spring to mind.

    1) There really is no doubt. If this is the case then it is quite extraordinary and therefore noteworthy. I suppose this could speak to the strength of the evidence against God’s existence. Or it could speak to the closed mindedness of individuals and the New Atheist enterprise as a whole. What else are we to think when Dawkins admits that not even Jesus appearing to him would be convincing. What about when Bognossian states that if the stars were rearranged to say “God woz here!” (or some such) it would merely be *suggestive* that there is a God.

    (Now compare what these two men against what you said – “Not only do theists typically express metaphysical certainty, most of the rest treat their faith as a near-certainty sufficient to banish all other considerations”. What have you to say? Or perhaps your criticism only runs in one direction?)

    2) Doubt is a dirty little secret that should be kept in the darkest corners.

    Perhaps, phillip ,you are aware of some talks or books that are available in the NA community that deal specifically with doubt? The closest I can think of is this – http://www.amazon.com/Young-Atheists-Survival-Guide-Students/dp/1939221072/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393941280&sr=1-3.

  21. cl says:

    —Correction: undecidable matters CANNOT be important. Better?

    No, not one bit. Pure hypocrisy after all you preach in this thread. Why not be agnostic about whether or not undecidable matters cannot be important? Since, you know… you DON’T know. LOL!

  22. phillip lightweis-goff says:

    I responded to all of you in one post:

    Michael says:
    “Yet I do not express such certainty. You do.”

    —I do not make metaphysical claims and/or pretend to reach for the absolute. You do.

    “Not justified to you, that is. But I am not sure why that is important. As for your need for necessity, I don’t share it.”

    —So you’re conceding this is merely a subjective matter of preference?

    “What you have posted so far indicates you are a Gnu atheist.”

    —My differences with the positions you have put forth as “New Atheist” are abundantly clear.

    “but I’m just offering up critical commentary about a modern day hate movement known as New Atheism.”

    —Wait… it’s a hate group now?

    “If you were truly an agnostic, why be so worried about that? Do you consider yourself part of that movement?”

    —I’m concerned for the the rights of those who are under constant attack from theists (this differs from place to place); I choose my allies accordingly… why should I do otherwise?

    Squibs says:
    “What if I lack the ability to detect harmful radiation levels or tasteless and odourless poisons in my food?”

    —Setting aside the given tangibility/verifiability of radiations and poisons (making this a bad analogy), if you neither knew anything about such threats or had any way to detect them at all, how COULD that count as important? It’s a pointless non-quest. And if these threats where intangible/non-verifiable (and pertaining to the metaphysical, of ENDLESS variety), you’re breaking the meter of ‘non-issue’.

    “Besides, the claim made by theists is that God is detectable in some fashion. In the case of Christians there exists a whole suite of arguments that focus on everything from philosophy, history to personal experience (e.g. contemporary miracles) and so on.”

    —All of which resting on arbitrary presumptions/criteria without grounded grounding. Anyone can play this game to any effect… which makes it fundamentally trivial.

    “1) There really is no doubt. If this is the case then it is quite extraordinary and therefore noteworthy. I suppose this could speak to the strength of the evidence against God’s existence. Or it could speak to the closed mindedness of individuals and the New Atheist enterprise as a whole.”

    —Or, it shows that regardless of whether or not one views their doubts as sound, a solid uncertainty still wins the day. ‘Open’ or ‘closed’, one’s mind has no purchase on the absolute.

    “What else are we to think when Dawkins admits that not even Jesus appearing to him would be convincing. What about when Bognossian states that if the stars were rearranged to say “God woz here!” (or some such) it would merely be *suggestive* that there is a God.”

    —I wouldn’t even go that far…lol. Why would such things be convincing? Make a case.

    “(Now compare what these two men against what you said – “Not only do theists typically express metaphysical certainty, most of the rest treat their faith as a near-certainty sufficient to banish all other considerations”. ”

    —You forgot the matter of practical parsimony: even if one of these atheists were to go head first into metaphysical naturalism, they do so under the useful sufficiency of modeling empirical phenomena… whereas (most) theists will grant this naive realism and THEN add all sorts of gobbledigook on top of it. (sin, salvation, etc). If I’m going to choose a side between ya’ll, I’ll side with the atheists.

    “Perhaps, phillip ,you are aware of some talks or books that are available in the NA community that deal specifically with doubt?”

    —Sure… what of them? Do I have a problem?

    cl says:
    “Why not be agnostic about whether or not undecidable matters cannot be important? Since, you know… you DON’T know. LOL!”

    —And thus, they are by default unimportant: if we cannot decide whether or not undecidable matters are or are not important, we CANNOT consider them important. Unless you think we should consider EVERY ONE of the infinite # of possible unverifiable (or arbitrarally verifiable) metaphysical schemas important? Pure madness.

  23. Michael says:

    —I do not make metaphysical claims and/or pretend to reach for the absolute. You do.

    Irrelevant. You confuse ontology with epistemology. I do not express certainty. You do.

    —So you’re conceding this is merely a subjective matter of preference?

    I was noting that your opinion about my beliefs not be justified was just that…an opinion. Do you always have such a hard time admitting your opinions are opinions? Or do you have this need to pass them off as knowledge?

    —My differences with the positions you have put forth as “New Atheist” are abundantly clear.

    The only difference I see is your claim that you are merely an agnostic. Do you have evidence to back up this claim or do you expect me to accept it on faith?

    —Wait… it’s a hate group now?

    No, Gnu atheism is a hate movement – a movement built on the hatred of religion. Modern day Gnu leaders are just reboots of Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Better yet, they are Madalyn Murray O’Hair in cheap tuxedos.

  24. phillip lightweis-goff says:

    “You confuse ontology with epistemology.”

    —This was a charge I made of you on another thread, though I supported mine with argument and evidence. Such projecting redirects suggest you have run out of ideas.

    “I was noting that your opinion about my beliefs not be justified was just that…an opinion.”

    —Backed up with argument, sure… unlike your own.

    “Do you always have such a hard time admitting your opinions are opinions? Or do you have this need to pass them off as knowledge?”

    —More projection. Is this your way of admitting your beliefs are merely a subjective matter of preference?

    “The only difference I see is your claim that you are merely an agnostic.”

    —Which I have explained in detail over several threads. Is there something in particular that you need clarified?

    “No, Gnu atheism is a hate movement – a movement built on the hatred of religion. ”

    —Their dislike of faith is based on demonstrable problems religious institutions and frameworks create in the world. Whereas (for example) the dislike right-wing theists have for say, LGBT people… has no rational basis.

  25. Michael says:

    —This was a charge I made of you on another thread, though I supported mine with argument and evidence. Such projecting redirects suggest you have run out of ideas.

    I think you are confusing me with someone else.

    —Backed up with argument, sure… unlike your own.

    Everyone “backs up” their opinions with some argument(s). It still remains an opinion.

    —More projection. Is this your way of admitting your beliefs are merely a subjective matter of preference?

    To be “merely” a subjective matter of preference, we would have to know God does not exist. So, no. However,I do indeed acknowledge the subjective aspect of my God belief, as I am not the one claiming knowledge. I’m not the one trying to convince the world that faith has no role to play in my thinking. What I was pointing out was your sense of certainty about me not being allowed to believe in God. You seem to think because you find my beliefs to be unjustified that I am supposed to agree and convert to your mindset.

    —Which I have explained in detail over several threads. Is there something in particular that you need clarified?

    Sure. Why are you so hypersensitive when it comes to criticisms of militant Gnu atheists? Why do you feel this need to rush to their defense? It’s puzzling, because I have never encounter a true agnostic who felt the need the defend militant, extremist atheists.

    —Their dislike of faith is based on demonstrable problems religious institutions and frameworks create in the world.

    Dislike is a vast understatement (and more evidence of your need to defend extremism). Look at is this way. I dislike astrologers and fortune tellers. But if I spent much of my life trying to convince people that astrologers and fortune tellers were evil, mentally ill, infected by brain viruses, in need of containment and eradication, while accusing them of abusing their children, would you buy it if I said I just disliked them because they played on people’s emotions and ripped them off?

  26. cl says:

    And thus, they are by default unimportant: if we cannot decide whether or not undecidable matters are or are not important, we CANNOT consider them important. Unless you think we should consider EVERY ONE of the infinite # of possible unverifiable (or arbitrarally verifiable) metaphysical schemas important? Pure madness.

    No, you still don’t get it. You ALMOST get it, but, I think the cognitive dissonance of being shown a kook is preventing a fair assessment. You write: ” if we cannot decide whether or not undecidable matters are or are not important, we CANNOT consider them important,” well, sure, but… neither can you decide that they are UNIMPORTANT. It cuts both ways. Be fair, and hold yourself to the same scrutiny you throw at theists.

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