No god or probably no god?

Question from Mark:
Claiming that there is no god is a universal negative. So, my question is, do most atheists flat-out claim that there is definitely no god, or is it more often than not an “it’s not probable” argument?

Answer by SmartLX:
No, not most atheists. Some atheists, sure, but not the majority and not the most prominent atheists, and not me. Even Richard Dawkins, when he created a scale of 1 to 7 from total belief to total disbelief, rated himself a 6.9 to leave room for some possibility.

Certainty in the absence of gods is called gnostic atheism. Gnosis is a knowledge of the spiritual, so gnostic atheism is just knowing that there’s nothing there. The obvious question for a gnostic atheist, as you imply, is how can one know such a thing? For me there’s no good answer to this, though that doesn’t imply by itself that positive belief in a god is justified.

1 thought on “No god or probably no god?”

  1. Hi Mark,

    I agree with LX, the majority of atheists, no matter how strong their stance are more correctly perceived and defined as belonging to the ‘it’s not probable’ camp and not the ‘universal negative’ camp.

    In my own case, I have no knowledge of god(s). I have not received any revelation, I consider the various scriptures to be historically and/or scientifically faulty and the theological arguments have all been refuted scientifically and/or philosophically. Therefore I am obviously agnostic: I claim no knowledge of god(s) other than what others have asserted or told me what they believe to be the case. It/they are not concrete or actual entities to me. It follows, then, that I hold no belief in any god(s). Therefore: I am atheist. So I am an ‘agnostic atheist’.

    I’ve noticed a tendency by a minority of theists (not professional theologians) to attempt to deny my reasoning; to redefine atheism exclusively as the knowledge claim/denial that god(s) exist. They will often claim that this is the sole traditional definition of atheism. This isn’t true, as e.g., Tim Whitmarsh’s recent book ‘Battling the Gods’ (a history of atheist philosophy in Ancient Greece) makes clear. But in any case, this playing around with semantics causes more problems for theism than it does for atheists. Because the a-suffix denotes the opposite definition:

    P1: If a-theism = lack of belief in god(s), then
    P2: theism = belief in god(s).
    C: Therefore: theism ≠ knowledge of god(s).

    Most would accept this reasoning; someone can believe that god(s) exist as concrete, actual entities without claiming sure knowledge of any of god’s characteristics (look at sceptical theology, for example). But:

    P1: If a-theism = the knowledge claim that god(s) do not exist, then
    P2: theism = the knowledge claim that god(s) exist.
    C: Therefore: theism ≠belief in god(s).

    But it’s logically impossible to claim knowledge of something concrete and actual and yet hold no belief in its existence…… LX alluded to, appreciation of a distinction and complementarity between (a)theism and (a)gnosticism is essential in this field of study.

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