What really is my position on the existence of God? Am I really an atheist or am I more of an agnostic? The question isn’t as simple as it seems.
I personally dislike the atheist/agnostic labels because I feel that my position isn’t clearly defined by either. I don’t consider myself agnostic because in most cases, I think those who believe in God are making a mistake. I don’t consider myself a pure atheist because in most cases my position would not include the unequivocal statement that ‘God does not exist’. My references to “most cases” I hope will become clear soon–once I discuss the definitions of “God”. If we drill deeper, my beliefs are probably closer to agnostic atheism or atheistic agnosticism than to either atheism or agnosticism. It just didn’t sound right to call my blog, “X Amish Agnostic Atheist”.
My position is quite simply that; the available evidence for the existence of God, as most people would define God, does not warrant the belief in such a being. Note that the above position applies to anybody that doesn’t ascribe to the common definition of God; be they atheists, agnostics, pantheists, Buddhists, or what have you. For a period of time, I actually considered myself a pantheist and there may still be pantheistic ideas out there that I would consider.
My position is also; if you believe in God, as most people would define God, then A) you must have evidence that I do not, or B) your belief in such a God is unjustified. I am of course assuming that my determination of what makes a belief justified or not, is valid, and that I have not made a mistake in the reasoning with which I concluded that the available evidence does not justify the belief in such a God.
Now, on to definitions… With all the different religions and belief systems, God and gods are ascribed many different characteristics. Some of these Gods, I am more inclined to discard as foolish given the ready natural explanations for the things that are ascribed to them. Many cultures have believed in thunder gods and almost all of us consider the notion foolish now that we have a natural explanation for thunder. I am as atheistic about such Gods as most people are willing to unequivocally state that, “Santa Claus does not exist.”
On the other hand, if we consider a pantheistic God, such as; the universe itself is God, then I tend to be more agnostic than atheistic. However, I would consider such a God to be so ill-defined as to be almost meaningless. Is God; mathematics and the all-pervasive mathematics only? If that’s how you want to define God, then sure, I have no problem believing in mathematics.
Now, on to the semantics of the supernatural… According to many definitions of God, he is supernatural, existing outside of time and space, outside of our universe as we know it. We will never be able to detect such a God with our natural instruments and while they will never be able to prove that such a God exists, we will never be able to prove that such a God does not exist (I’m not even going to go into the whole burden of proof issue). I consider such a God; meaningless. If something is in principle undetectable, then it is by definition; nonexistent. Otherwise, the concept of existence is meaningless. Check out my older post about the Nonexistence of Undetectable Things for a more in-depth explanation of what I’m referring to.
Let’s take a break from God and talk about aliens for a moment. Do they exist? Are they out there? I don’t know. On the subject of aliens I am agnostic, but not at all atheistic (I know the word technically doesn’t apply to aliens) because they are detectable in principle. I hope they exist.
What if you were to define God only as our creator? Would I believe in the possibility of that? Sure, if you’re willing to think of abiogenesis + evolution as your God. Oh, it has to be an intelligent creator? Hmm, what about those aliens? Could aliens have created us? Well, not really… it doesn’t make sense that animals are so genetically similar to us if we humans were created by aliens (unless they created the animals from the same stockpile of DNA). Well, maybe the aliens just brought the first cellular lifeforms and allowed evolution to take its course–creating us in that sense. Could I believe in such alien Gods? While I would consider such a God not out of the realm of possibility, I do think abiogenesis is a more likely explanation. While, I believe such alien Gods are far more likely than the Christian God, I’ll remain fairly atheistic about both.
Then there’s the idea that we live in a simulation. Could an advanced species have created computers powerful enough to simulate a universe and could we be living therein? Probably! While such a God is interesting to consider, it is once again, one of those undetectable Gods that just isn’t very meaningful in our natural universe.
So what really is my position on the existence of God? It all depends on what your definition of “God” is.
Why do I call myself an “atheist” then? I don’t believe the evidence for the existence of God, as he is commonly defined, justifies a belief in God. Could I be wrong? Sure, but I think the likelihood of such a God existing, based on our current evidence, is so low that my beliefs are much more like the pure atheist than the pure agnostic. That is why I call myself an “atheist” even though in some cases I am not an atheist.