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Are Atheists Wrong?

Dr. Thomas Swan has a PhD in psychology from the University of Otago. He specializes in the cognitive and evolutionary study of religion.

The philosophy of science is hostile to strong atheism.

The philosophy of science is hostile to strong atheism.

The Problem With Atheism

Strong atheism may appear to be the only alternative to religious piety, but is it any more agreeable? While theists believe in the existence of deities, strong atheists believe in their non-existence. This polar opposition to religion could be seen as reactionary. For example, consider what the world would be like if no-one was religious. Then consider how that world would react to someone who professes the belief that the universe was not created by an intelligent being. The result would probably be a mixture of laughter and perplexity because the intelligent being hypothesis can only be discounted once there is evidence for its fallacy.

Theists assume God exists, and like any far-fetched claim, there will be a cynical counter-reaction positing the opposite claim. For example, Professor Brian Cox has responded to alien visitation claims by stating that aliens have definitely not visited the Earth (see video). Perhaps he meant to say there is a lack of evidence for alien visitation. Strong atheists should make the same distinction rather than espousing a belief, or perceived knowledge, of God's non-existence. Theism and strong atheism are two belief structures that are equal, opposite, and distinctly unscientific; but is there an alternative?

The Spectrum of Religious Orientation

The domain of religious belief is a maelstrom of philosophical jargon with each persuasion vying for scientific authority. However, there is a theological position that is compatible with science. Agnosticism was introduced by Thomas Huxley in 1860. Gnostic is the Greek word for knowledge, hence agnostic means without knowledge. One could be agnostic about anything or everything. When Socrates proclaimed that he knows nothing, he was advocating a universal agnosticism that included the question of God’s existence. When used in religious discussion, an agnostic is someone who does not know if God exists.

An absence of knowledge about God’s existence is not the same as an absence of belief, and atheists have used this distinction to merge agnosticism with atheism. For example, an atheist can believe that God doesn't exist, but needn't be certain the belief is true (without knowledge). We call this position agnostic atheism. Conversely, an agnostic theist is someone who believes in God but doesn’t know for sure if he exists. When an individual claims to know that God does or does not exist, they are respectively called theists or strong atheists.

In this way, agnosticism is dissolved into the combative dichotomy of religion and its antithesis. Indeed, as the atheist’s main claim to truth is their perceived attachment to science and rationality, they advocate the destruction of any middle-ground that makes their position look extreme. However, there is still ground for those who claim a lack of knowledge and a lack of belief regarding God’s existence. This can be called pure agnosticism, or scientific agnosticism.

The spectrum of religious orientation. People who hold beliefs about God's existence often claim to know their belief is true. Scientific agnosticism is a lack of belief and knowledge.

The spectrum of religious orientation. People who hold beliefs about God's existence often claim to know their belief is true. Scientific agnosticism is a lack of belief and knowledge.

Scientific Agnosticism - Web Definition

Scientific agnosticism is the absence of a belief concerning the existence or non-existence of God. Scientific agnostics believe that:

  1. Anyone who investigates the question of God’s existence with an objective predilection should not be swayed to form any kind of theistic or atheistic belief.
  2. The proposed evidence for or against God’s existence is inapplicable, and is attributable to other sources.
  3. The experimental tools do not exist that would allow the question of God’s existence to be investigated.

What is Scientific Agnosticism?

Most scientists admit there is no evidence that proves or disproves God. As an ethereal creator who is unburdened by the assumptions made about him by religion, God epitomizes the unknown and the unknowable. Our knowledge does not extend to a time before the Big Bang, and if such a time existed, any entity that presided may eclipse the human imagination.

A scientist might look upon an atheist as someone who has a theory about the non-existence of God. Theories are created when unexplainable phenomena are observed, or existing theories are seen as inadequate.

All beliefs require justification in the form of theories. Evolutionary theory, or a theory about the cultural irrelevance of religious texts, can lead to a belief in the non-existence of God. However, these theories are unrelated to the question of God's existence, and so can't be used to support a belief on the matter. For example, just because we drive around in cars, that doesn't mean the horse-and-cart doesn't exist as a viable means of transportation. Likewise, the irrelevance of God has no existential relevance. As for evolutionary theory, it could have been set in motion by an intelligent being. Charles Darwin was agnostic because he realized his theory left room for a `creator' God.

Furthermore, scientific theories must be falsifiable. This usually requires the performance of experiments to test the theory. A theory concerning ethereal beings cannot be tested because the scientific tools do not exist. Thus, many atheists fail to use a valid theory to justify a belief in God's non-existence.

Scientists recognize these faults and often declare theism and strong atheism to be unscientific. Without relevant evidence, a scientist has no reason to form a belief about God. The difference between scientific agnostics and all other religious orientations is an unwillingness to believe in incomplete or unsupported theories. Scientific agnostics (or pure agnostics) believe that anyone who rigorously investigates the question with an objective predilection should not be swayed to form any kind of theistic or atheistic belief.

Bertrand Russell's Teapot

Bertrand Russell's Teapot

Bertrand Russell's Teapot

Atheists often criticize scientific agnosticism by bringing up Bertrand Russell’s teapot or the myriad absurdity that exudes from the human imagination. If God may exist, then so may an invisible teapot flying through the space between Mars and the Earth. The problem with this criticism is it relies on context to make a philosophical point. The teapot is bizarre because we are familiar with teapots as Earthly objects that are not invisible, but replace the word teapot with “fundamental particle” and the context changes. The claim is no longer jocular, but the philosophical ramifications are unchanged. Whether it is a fundamental particle or an invisible teapot, the evidence for its existence is the same. Even Russell admitted that while the teapot-problem would make him claim to be an atheist when conversing with people in the street, he would always claim to be an agnostic when speaking to an audience of philosophers.

However unpleasant it is to be uncertain about the existence of bizarre, irrelevant or ridiculous objects, or however many people have remarked about an object's non-existence, these are not reasons to dispute the existence of any object. Nevertheless, when the object is God, atheists have a disposition to alter this application of logic. One way to demonstrate is by changing the object; consider:

“If there is no evidence that the Chinese want to take over the world, is this any reason to believe that they don't want to take over the world?”

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Some atheists will say we should be agnostic about Chinese intentions, but when it comes to God, they'll say he doesn’t exist. This inconsistency demonstrates the scientific absurdity of atheism.

As evidenced by this image, Richard Dawkins is commonly perceived to be intelligent.

As evidenced by this image, Richard Dawkins is commonly perceived to be intelligent.

The Psychology of Atheism

This absurdity can be understood by considering the motivational psychology of atheists. Most people like to think of themselves as intelligent people because of the pleasant emotions they experience when they demonstrate that intelligence and receive respect. There are many ways to demonstrate intelligence, some of which do not involve being intelligent. The easiest and most common way is to align with the opinions of intelligent individuals. For example, to look knowledgeable, sports fans regurgitate the opinions of sports pundits when they are in the pub with their friends. Likewise, atheists cough up the opinions of Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins because these people are seen as intelligent models for imitation. Evolutionary psychologists have long since demonstrated that cultural learning occurs through the imitation of prestigious individuals, and atheists may be a prime example of this phenomenon.

Given the similar philosophical standing of strong atheism and theism, followers may be similarly attracted. The core feature of both orientations is a belief in an answer to an unanswered question. Thus, both of these beliefs may provide a sense of control in the face of uncertainty. To know how one’s environment was created is to have important information about how to control the threats produced by it. Atheists claim there isn’t a God, removing one potential cause of threatening conditions. Cognitive scientists have found that uncertain and threatening conditions cause anxiety, and experiments have shown that in order to alleviate this anxiety, we irrationally strive to find order in the chaos.


For the question of God’s existence, the burden of proof is not on the believer, it’s on whoever claims to have an answer. As the philosopher Paul Chamberlain remarked in his book:

“All truth claims bear a burden of proof, and it is logically erroneous to assert that positive truth claims bear this burden while negative truth claims do not.”

Atheists are not exempt from backing up their assumptions. With theists, many share the opinion that their claims don't require support. In doing so, some atheists have mobilized the fight against organized religion by setting up an organized religion of their own.

So are atheists wrong? A better question is: if there is no evidence to prove something's existence, is this any reason to believe it doesn't exist? The lack of a reason for or against belief in God leads to scientific agnosticism, which is a complete absence of belief in either position. Bertrand Russell’s teapot is a problem with agnosticism that can be overcome by considering the contextual relevance of the object for the philosophical question at hand. God may not exist, but strong atheists have no scientific justification for believing God does not exist. In this way, many atheists are wrong.

Further Reading and Definitions


anng on June 29, 2015:


Indeed. There are many things on this earth that humans will only be able to hint at, as through a glass darkly. Unfortunately, there are many folk you need confirmation that they ARE RIGHT! Then their dogmatism only antagonises, so they get even more dogmatic.

As an aside, Pascal explained the only way it may be possible to change people's minds – obliquely:-

"When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another that he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken, and that he only failed to see all sides. Now, no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not like to be mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man naturally cannot see everything, and that naturally he cannot err in the side he looks at, since the perceptions of our senses are always true."

f_hruz from Toronto, Ontario, Canada on June 27, 2015:

Having the ability to understand what divides rationality from what is irrational, requires some training in applied rationality, a science in itself.

Any one can talk about science as if it was just an empty word, simply a different way of thinking, or another religion .... but it only tells me, that such person has no idea what quality of mind and intellectual training is actually called for to produce such highly valuable scientific thoughts our modern world depends on as part of our daily progress ... a quality of mind they are greatly missing and may never acquire.

Chances are very good, no god will help them!

jonnycomelately on June 26, 2015:

There is no scientist who claims Particle Physics is the absolute answer to every question. It's a model of understanding from which further research can progress. You don't have to "believe" it or "disbelieve" it.

However, many who preach religion do! present it as the absolute answer. You and I will never change their minds.

anng on June 26, 2015:

jonnycomelately, Agreed.

Every communication is full of metaphors, woolly words and assumptions. I think Religions are one of the worst. With Particle Physics coming a close second.

jonnycomelately on June 25, 2015:

@anng, if you want a definition of "God," then you also need to look at the meaning of "exist," which usually boils down to "how the human mind understands it."

The "sun's rays." Radiation does not "exist." It is not a "thing." It's a happening, indicating the direction in which energy is being transferred from a given point. Any depiction of radiation, because radiation is not a "thing," and cannot be seen, is by way of metaphor. You can make a drawing; paint a picture; compile a YouTube video trying to convey what radiation "is." It's still only a semblance of the imagination.

We are only fully conscious of that energy transfer when we stand end-on to the flow of energy. Then the energy can be absorbed by our eyes (visible light), our skin (heat), etc. For the levels of energy for which we have no direct sense organs, we design machines to do the collecting of that energy, then present (again in metaphor version) a description of what that energy is doing when it's absorbed by the machine.

Thoughts, emotions, gravity, are also not real "things." For the same reason, they are depicted in metaphor. We know they create an effect in our minds, our bodies, etc., but the concepts themselves we cannot see, or touch.

Yes, they are immaterial, just like "God." And the expression of what is felt of "God" is by way of metaphor. Keep it personal, treasured as an individual experience -- this is powerful and deeply meaningful for the individual. But try to impose that individual experience and make it imperative that others take on that experience, implying that every one will have the same sense of the same metaphor..... .and you jump right into endless, pointless, fruitless argument. And the horrors of sectarian conflict.

All because of the desire to control the minds and thoughts of other you could rightly say that I am doing right now. Each to their own.

anng on June 25, 2015:

In order to be an atheist, you need a reasonable definition of God.

If you use words like 'not-objective' or 'immaterial' then nor are the sun's rays, or thoughts, or emotions, or heat, or gravity. Yet we're very comfortable accepting that they exist.

For some reason, despite the fact that whenever physicists look at sub-atomic matter, all they see is loads and loads of space, with little packets of energy darting all over the place. They then, hypothesise that there are invisible forces governing all this movement.

I think these invisible forces created the earth - and maybe others we haven't thought of.

Whatever - they're immaterial. Just like God.

Parantap Bhatt from Noida, India on June 06, 2015:

@f_hruz Exactly, more or less how I started thinking about the why is God necessary to humans only. I agree, we cannot exactly know what the animals are saying or thinking, but given their way of life I think the concept of God doesn't bother them.

f_hruz from Toronto, Ontario, Canada on June 04, 2015:

It's fairly clear to me, all concepts of god stem from very basic, not to say primitive, human ideas which are not shared by any other life forms on this planet.

I tend to conclude from this, nature does not require, or has much use for any gods - so why should the more educated humans not get a bit of a hint from this and examen the reality of nature with a much broader view than an exclusive human dimension?

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on June 04, 2015:

And that's when I realized what a fundamentalist was. They couldn't distinguish between a metaphor, and reality.

jonnycomelately on June 03, 2015:

Hence the need for and the use of metaphore in attempting to explain and describe "god." It's totally understandable that we who have finite dimensions cannot describe the infinite.

The problems arise when you get to believing, presuming that, the metaphor is reality.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on June 03, 2015:

@Parantap: ""if god is infinite and complete What inspires him to create? Inspiration is the manifestation of a desire and being an incorruptible being desire cannot manifest in God, so there is none."

I think that's about as profound a comment as it gets. I got a copy of the Upanishads when I was much younger, and poured myself into it. It's pretty lengthy. I remember the term All is Brahma. If god is infinite and complete there is nothing missing. There is no desire. No reason to create. There is nothing that isn't already there. If God needs to create, it's because there is something missing. There is a desire to fill a void. Something is clearly wrong with the concept of God. He can't be complete and incomplete at the same time. There is nothing for God to desire. No reason for God to create anything unless something is missing in God. How can God BE God if he is lacking something?

I realized back then that our attempts to understand something that by definition defies understanding was a fools errand. Those that want to explain God to me, haven't caught on to that yet. My response is always the same: With a tone of disappointment I tell them, "I thought he was more than that?" God is always explained in human terms because that's our frame of reference. Jealousy, anger, rage, love... all human emotions that any God worthy of the name would certainly be far beyond.

Parantap Bhatt from Noida, India on June 01, 2015:

@Thomas It was a good point about how anxiety tips the scale of skepticism toward belief or disbelief. Although, my atheism stems from the cause (which I do not know for certain) of what led humans to believe in the existence of God. They might have thought, in the lack of evidence, that some celestial being is controlling the universe. Being a Cosmos fan yourself, you know what I'm talking about.

Of course, I cannot be certain of the reasons or disprove the existence of God. So given a contrary evidence in future, I'm open to changing my stance, but till then my rationale is pointing towards disbelief.

Born in a religion that is obscure to its followers let alone the onlooker, Hinduism is monotheistic, polytheistic, pantheistic and sometimes (bordering on) atheistic religion. To be clear it is nowhere mentioned as a religion at all, rather a way of life. Its actual name is "Sanatana Dharma" or "The Eternal Way". Of All what I have read(not much, I agree) in Hinduism, I'm able to grasp this much that it has its roots in skepticism. The most ancient texts i.e. the Vedas are skeptic about the Universe and God on a few occasions, in the rest they are evidently pointing towards a single god.

"Sankhya" one of the oldest philosophical schools talks about the cause and effect relationship and thus excludes God from the universe saying that "if god is infinite and complete What inspires him to create? Inspiration is the manifestation of a desire and being an incorruptible being desire cannot manifest in God, so there is none."

Yes, there were many debates over the atheistic philosophies by later scholars, who in their lack of skepticism, tried to cover it by rhetorics. What I'm trying to say is, from that I can derive that 4000 years ago, whoever wrote them was skeptic enough to question the existence. It might point out to the fact that even at that time there was not a conclusive proof, which led to the belief in God.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on May 30, 2015:


Thank you for being open. It was the Astronomer and Mathematician James Jeans that said "The universe is merely a thought in the mind of God" I'm not even sure what he meant but who knows, he might have been onto something!

Personally I think God is much bigger than I can ever concieve but maybe by trying to understand how the universe us put together I can get some idea about it.

One thing I was reminded the other day was the Hebrew word for "day" in Genesis one doesn't just mean a 24 hour day but can also mean an era of time! According to my dictioary of Biblical words it can mean 24 hours but it can also mean an unspecified period of time!

Just a thought to explore

Have a good weekend


Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on May 30, 2015:

@Jonny "However, the result tends to be a very much deeper awareness and appreciation of the world we live in, the way in which "I" react and interact with others."

That's what I've found.

jonnycomelately on May 30, 2015:

Useful responses.

@Lawrence, you are absolutely free to believe all of that. I respect you for having that belief and do not ask you to change it. However, most of what you wrote is part of the reason I am no longer Christian.

@Adagio4639, it is through the practice of meditation that many people see/feel/find what they think is an experience of Observer. There are many and varied ways of meditation, it's for each to find his/her way that suits best. I have sampled it first through Siddha Yoga, then through Vipassana. It is not the sort of thing one can say, "This is for you." Or even, "You must do it like this, or right now," etc., etc.

It is not necessary to drop or change any of one's current religious or a-religious beliefs. The "going inside" is something profound. Very personal and unique for each person.

However, the result tends to be a very much deeper awareness and appreciation of the world we live in, the way in which "I" react and interact with others.

I will leave it there. Hope it adds to the discussions here in a positive way.

f_hruz from Toronto, Ontario, Canada on May 30, 2015:

"In persuite of supernatural human concepts, our mind is no more valuable than the horses ass!"

Franto Hruz - 2015

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on May 30, 2015:

@Jonny: "When we humans make judgments, decisions about changes we wish to make in our world, that is the Mind of God making the changes.

How does this line of thinking fit with the ideas of everyone here in the forum?

It actually fits me to a tee. I tend to drop the word God these days. We all share this universal consciousness. We all have this thing which I call the observer inside us. There is the observer and the observed. We all have it. All sentient beings have it. We can observe everything around us. But we can't turn that inward and observe the observer. Try it. You can't do it. You know it's there because it sees everything and reacts to what it sees. Whatever is observing everything dodges any attempt at being observed itself. It's universal. It's like we're all blades of grass in this vast lawn, individual aspects of the very same thing. It's consciousness. We're all the very same thing manifested in an infinite number of ways. No two individuals are exactly the same but they are all part of the same thing. They all share that same quality. Those that never recognize that, seem to be the ones that cause the most trouble in the world. When we hurt others, we only hurt ourselves.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on May 30, 2015:


I've never heard of the idea of an "Agnostic theist" As I said before it isn't the Bible that I'm looking into, but the first six chapters that I'm looking at what Science says may be the answer to how the world came into being.

By the way Johnny I (and just about every other believer in God) don't believe that everything in the universe is the "embodiment of god"

As Christians we do believe that man was made in the image of God in that he has a body (self evident) soul (the intellect) and spirit (that's the part that the atheist disagrees about and the agnostic isn't sure they accept) but we are not "gods"

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on May 30, 2015:

Lawrence, your need for conclusive proof suggests you're an agnostic theist. When looking for proof, the most important decision to make is where to look. Christian websites typically don't apply scientific principles. They start with a conclusion (the Bible is true) and work backwards, selecting agreeable evidence and interpreting ambiguous evidence in favorable ways. Some, such as `answers in genesis' will flat out lie to people. Similarly, some atheist websites might be overly concerned with proving God doesn't exist, leading to biased arguments. Before reading any material on the matter, the source should be considered. What is the source's motivation? What is their agenda?

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on May 30, 2015:

Jonny, it isn't a particularly objectionable line of thinking but, insofar as believing it, I cannot. Where is the evidence? And, is this theory falsifiable? If there is this deep connection between all living things that presents us with an intricate but ordered universe that is all part of one mind, how can it ever be proven?

It also screams to me of the bias we talked about before: the desire to find order in the chaos. For example, a psychology experiment asked people what patterns they could see in random arrangements of dots or stock market figures. Before asking, half the participants were made to feel a lack of control. Those who experienced a lack of control were more likely to see patterns and processes underlying the randomness, suggesting that under uncertainty we are more likely to find preternatural explanations for the randomness:

This also tends to lead to increased belief in Gods, or `controlling entities':

I see Pantheism as an attempt to create order from the chaos by going beyond what can be proven by science. As a religious belief, if it can be called that, Pantheism does stand a better chance of encouraging peace than any of its competitors though.

jonnycomelately on May 29, 2015:

Ok - I throw a pebble into the pond..... supposing you, I, every "thing" in this Universe IS the embodiment of god. Each of us IS the thinking, creating, executing mind of god. Suppose that there is no other god in reality. You and I and the dogs, amoeba, birds, fish, bacteria, etc., etc., are the manifestation of that infinite. We are it.

When we humans make judgments, decisions about changes we wish to make in our world, that is the Mind of God making the changes.

How does this line of thinking fit with the ideas of everyone here in the forum?

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on May 29, 2015:


You'd be right that I do believe in design. I'm a layman where physics and other sciences are concerned but read them a lot.

I'm a believer in the Bible but want to see if what I take "in faith" about the first chapters of Genesis stands the scrutiny of science, so far I've found good circumstantial evidence that it does! Conclusive proof I may never find but I'll keep looking.

To address some of the earlier comments about multiverses. So far they are purely hypothetical. I know its part of what CERN are looking for (as well as 'Dark matter') and good luck to them.

One thing that might surprise you is that the first person to realize we live in a multidimensional universe (10 dimensions) was a Jewish rabbi 800 years ago and he got it from studying the first four verses of Genesis. I don't know if he was accurate with the number of dimensions but just the fact he found that (he may not have been the first rabbi but he's the first we know about. His name is Maimonodes if you want to check it out) means the book of Genesis might be worth another look but this time with our blinkers off. That's what I'm trying to do



Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on May 29, 2015:

Lawrence, I'm not sure what to say. You seem to be endorsing an "argument from design". Deism is probably the closest to that argument in isolation. Though, you add to it by suggesting God interacts with the world and makes changes. How you think he interacts, and the types of changes he makes, would probably determine your religious persuasion. If none of the religions out there properly describe how you think God interacts with the world, perhaps the best thing to call yourself would be a `theist'. That isn't a very precise term, but it would probably be an accurate one.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on May 29, 2015:

"It stands to reason that giving infantile concepts equal value to highly scientific ones, is an obvious abuse of intelligence, no matter who does it." - I agree. Thanks for commenting f_hruz.

f_hruz from Toronto, Ontario, Canada on May 29, 2015:

It stands to reason that giving infantile concepts equal value to highly scientific ones, is an obvious abuse of intelligence, no matter who does it.

When is a concept obviously infantile? It all starts to become quite clear that the argument is ridiculous when the creator of the universe is being identified as having the male gender HE before the presents of the forces IT would have to encompass are clearly located within this universe of ours, out side of it ... or contained in the process of birthing of universes.

Our objective reality consists obviously of multi-verses. You just have to look at the sub-atomic micro cosmos versus the macro cosmos of the whole universe and beyond, to get a better understanding of what nature is really all about and how useless any search for any HE god has to be.

That's exactly why not too many serious scientists wast much of their time with it ... :)

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on May 28, 2015:

Thomas and adagio4369

Thanks for the comments but Pantheism is the belief that the universe is God (or everything is within God) and that's not what I'm getting at.

My thought is that the order and structure of things speak of a creator not that the creator is the created or in everything!

I would reject the title of pantheist as while I do believe in God I also believe that he created the universe using the laws he set in place. We may not fully understand how those laws work but that's what we're debating.

Deism is the belief that God created the universe and set it in motion but has no further interaction with it. That also doesn't really fit

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on May 28, 2015:

Good point adagio. I think we're both mistaken in saying Pantheism then because Lawrence seems to be saying something along the lines of: "My personal God exists because nature is so complex and beautiful. Only my personal God could have created it."

So Lawrence is probably talking about Deism, or "that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a single creator of the universe." (from Wiki).

I never really understood Pantheism. It seems to be changing the definition of God into something completely different. It makes me wonder why the word `God' is used at all. How this differs from what most atheists, agnostics, and scientists believe is difficult to discern. My understanding is that Pantheists assume a greater `connection' between all things than science would appear to support.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on May 28, 2015:

@Thomas : I realized that after I posted the comment. Sorry for the mistake.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on May 28, 2015:

@Thomas: Yeah...I don't think science supports Pantheism, however, it really makes the most sensible reasoning I've encountered. It has a wonderful way of reconciling the desire for a "God" with a reverence for nature. In other words, forget what you were told about "God" and see it in everything. Of course that kind of God is not judgmental and not personal in any sense, which I'm sure most theists crave, but it fills all of the requirements one would look for in a God. Nothing can stand against the force of nature. It's omnipresent...everywhere. All knowledge is contained within it. It gives new meaning to reverence for the planet. I always thought the Pantheism was a really great view on things. And there are/were a lot of well known Pantheists including Einstein. Pretty good company.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on May 28, 2015:

I'm agnostic, adagio. I actually wrote that hub after I saw a "10 commandments for atheists" article.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on May 28, 2015:

Thanks for commenting Lawrence. Yes, that sounds like Pantheism to me. I’m not sure if science can be used to support the pantheistic argument. If you mean Intelligent Design, then I’d consider that unscientific in totality, but with scientific concepts and methods used selectively and incompletely.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on May 28, 2015:

Thank you Parantap Bhatt. I’m glad you liked it. I don’t think anyone can free themselves from bias, but I think scientific agnosticism (or pure agnosticism) may be the least biased position. Partly, that’s because it’s the least comfortable position to have; as uncertainty leads to anxiety. This anxiety biases our thinking, causing us to endorse more comfortable positions that present us with greater degrees of certainty (beliefs). To be a scientific or pure agnostic is therefore to escape this bias by embracing uncertainty and coping with the resultant anxiety is less pernicious ways.

Yes, we can’t stay at 50% all the time for every proposition. We have to be mindful of new evidence, and be able to judge it without bias. Knowing what our biases are is therefore the best way to not fall victim to them. The bias described above is our disposition towards belief/certainty that arises because our emotional state is negatively affected by uncertainty. This may be the most important bias there is as, presumably, no truth claim is completely exempt from it.

jonnycomelately on May 28, 2015:

Pantheist - That's me apparently..... I am no judge.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on May 28, 2015:

Thank you for commenting f_hruz. I am not the topic of this hub.

Everything is natural. Supernatural things become natural if they exist, making `supernatural’ just another word to describe unknowns in nature. I won’t wish away unknowns. Scientific advancement depends on acknowledging all possibilities; even those that are unpalatable to atheists for whatever psychological, cultural, or experiential reasons.

I’m not proposing the philosophical idea you mention. Natural laws are evidenced by empirical investigation. God is not. Therefore, I’m not giving them equal credibility. God, alongside fairies, invisible teapots, unicorns, and werewolves, is not supported by evidence. That is God’s category of credibility. However, I differ from a typical atheist in that I consider the existence of incredible, ridiculous objects to be absolutely uncertain, 50-50. That level of probability is where I place ridiculous objects.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on May 28, 2015:

@Lawrence "I have one question and that is what would you call someone who believes that Not only does God exist but nature itself is the evidence?"

I'd call them a Pantheist.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on May 28, 2015:

@Thomas: "“The 10 Agnostic Commandments” hub that I wrote earlier this year."

Thomas...are you an Agnostic/atheist? I am and I know of no commandments for atheists. I do know about the 10 commandments from the Bible. They were written in stone.. But if you aren't an Agnostic, or an atheist, then how exactly can you speak to what they subscribe to?

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on May 28, 2015:

"any arguments which introduce supernatural components, are by definition unscientific....To propose a philosophical idea which stipulates that a supernatural entity be given equal credibility to all the laws of nature combined, which ultimately form the basis to our rational understanding of all there is reasonably known to men, and what maybe next on the list of discovery, is about as unscientific as you can be, Tom."

This is probably the best response to why Creationism isn't science and should never be taught in a science class.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on May 28, 2015:

I have one question and that is what would you call someone who believes that Not only does God exist but nature itself is the evidence?

I'm not trying to cause any arguments but as you had a 'scientific atheist' whom I understand believes that science argues for God's non existence then surely you must also have the definition of a scientific theist?


Parantap Bhatt from Noida, India on May 21, 2015:

Hi Thomas, this is one of the most illuminating post I've read about the aforementioned topic.

I'm an Agnostic Atheist, but Im ready to change my stance once I feel there is enough reasonable doubt in my mind. Have you considered the possibility that you may feel Scientific agnosticism is like Freudian Superego, devoid of bias and the perfect moral choice, likewise, scientific agnosticism is the perfect rational choice?

I feel it is like the ultimate stage of our consciousness. I mean there will always be thoughts struggling towards or away from the Belief and disbelief, but I really don't think that they can stay at an exact 50% all the time. That is what I understood from scientific agnosticism.

f_hruz from Toronto, Ontario, Canada on May 20, 2015:

The question is not, are you a scientist, Tom, or not, but how do you apply scientific concepts and in doing so, give noticeable credit to your academic qualifications.

To give these propositions, a god exists or not, equal value speaks to the rudimentary fault in the question: "Are atheists wrong?" Not all faculties are as scientific as the Natural Sciences and any arguments which introduce supernatural components, are by definition unscientific.

To propose a philosophical idea which stipulates that a supernatural entity be given equal credibility to all the laws of nature combined, which ultimately form the basis to our rational understanding of all there is reasonably known to men, and what maybe next on the list of discovery, is about as unscientific as you can be, Tom.

I wish you'd focus more of your time and mental capacity investigating the natural sources which provide the potential for intelligence to emerge in biology as part of diversification, adaptation, etc.

The question can not be taken seriously that a stupid argument has equal value as an intelligent one just because it helps the human mind to draw a dividing line between the rational world and a fictional fantasy land of supernatural imagination.

Not every possible content of human mind space has the same value no matter its likelihood of ever being realized before the end of time!

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on May 19, 2015:

Thanks jonny. I was actually thinking of taking this hub down before, but like you said, there's some decent enough thoughts in there. I've edited it once already and made further quick edits today after your and adagio's comments.

I agree that why people believe is far more interesting than what they believe. As belief is a way of ascribing certainty to a situation, I'd also argue that all unsupported beliefs are products of the motivation to eliminate uncertainty and the unpleasant feeling of anxiety that accompanies it. Indeed, all emotions have a motivational component. Positive ones reinforce our thoughts/behaviors, negative ones make us change them.

I'm intrigued by what you've said about Buddhism. The more I understand and criticise those who eliminate uncertainty to comfort themselves, the more I wish people would learn how to live with uncertainty and to pursue truth in a way that avoids comforting shortcuts. So "acceptance of the chaotic" chimes precisely with what I've been thinking. I'm also interested in how ego can be managed by various Eastern philosophies. Ego serves a useful purpose, but I wonder if that purpose can be preserved when one's ego is effectively nullified.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on May 19, 2015:

Thanks for commenting adagio. I agree it applies to the strong atheist. When I first wrote this hub, it was a little bit different, but I’ve tried to qualify my comments since then by talking about “strong atheists” or “some atheists” so as to not group in those who simply lack belief. Those who only claim to lack belief tend to be indistinguishable from what I’d call pure agnostics or scientific agnostics. Even so, things may still be a bit muddled in this hub. I think I set things out much better in my “The 10 Agnostic Commandments” hub that I wrote earlier this year.

jonnycomelately on May 19, 2015:

Thomas, this Hub of yours is obviously worth keeping open, even 2 years after you first wrote it. You have written some sensible considerations and I'm glad "adagio4639" has resuscitated it.

Regardless of the to-and-fro of argument, for me it is more enlightening to look at any person's deeper reason for wanting to believe either way about the existence of a "God."

You wrote, in the latter part of your Hub, "..... uncertain and threatening conditions cause anxiety....." I would see this as the area of mental activity which directs a person to believe one way or the other.

I also am primarily atheist in my thinking. However, the little bit of Buddhist concept that I have sampled seems to be the most edifying and helpful in my life.

This Buddhism helps to instil a calmness and gentle acceptance of the chaotic. No, it doesn't exclude the chaotic entirely, just helps to manage my reactions to that chaotic position. It reduces my desire to be absolutely certain, absolutely "right," absolutely safe in the face of perceived danger.

There are many individuals who desire to bully or coerce others into a specific belief/understanding. These are the people who exploit and control. Many of them are the fanatically religious.


Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on May 19, 2015:

"For the question of God’s existence, the burden of proof is not on the believer, it’s on whoever claims to have an answer. As the philosopher Paul Chamberlain remarked in his book:

“All truth claims bear a burden of proof, and it is logically erroneous to assert that positive truth claims bear this burden while negative truth claims do not.”

Although Paul Chamberlain is right, and All truth claims bear a burden of proof and it is logically erroneous to assert that positive truth claims bear this burden while negative truth claims do not", that really only applies to the Strong atheist that insists that there is no God. If your article (Hub) is directed at the Strong Atheist, then I would argue against that view as much as I would the theist. The seem to place themselves square in the box of having to prove the non-existence of something not of the material world. How would you do that?

I'm an atheist. I suppose on your scale, I'm an agnostic/atheist. I do not believe in God(s). It's not that I believe that Gods do not exist. I don't believe that they do. I'm not asserting a negative truth. And I have no interest in trying to prove a negative. I'm saying that the burden of proof here is on that person asserting a positive truth.

christiananrkist on August 15, 2013:

Ok. I see where you're coming from. If he might exist, do you think its worth finding out? If so, have you done anything to find out?

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 15, 2013:

In my opinion, the Christian God might exist. If he wants a relationship with us, that doesn't change my opinion that he might exist. Like you say, it would suggest that he doesn't want to be unknown. If he does exist, then he's clearly made himself known to 2 billion Christians. He hasn't made himself known to me, or I've somehow rejected his advances unwittingly. Therefore I remain of the opinion that he might exist.

christiananrkist on August 15, 2013:

I don't think that's the same at all actually. If you don't see evidence for God, then you must take an atheist position at least for the Christian God. I don't see how you can take the agnostic position on the Christian God, who wants a relationship with us. If our God says he wants a relationship with us, why would he make himself unknown? Does that make sense?

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 14, 2013:

But that's like saying witches exist because it says so in Hansel and Gretel. I agree with you that the Christian God either exists or he doesn't, but I don't have any evidence to show me the correct answer. Quoting the Bible isn't evidence of God any more than quoting Hansel and Gretel is evidence of witches. Without evidence, my answer has to be that I don't know.

christiananrkist on August 14, 2013:

Romans 1:18-20 - "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since WHAT MAY BE KNOW ABOUT GOD IS PLAIN TO THEM, BECAUSE GOD HAS MADE IT PLAIN TO THEM. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."

I don't know much about what other religions say, as for Christianity this scripture and other make it clear that we can know about God and that he wants a relationship with us. Would you agree at least with the Christian God that the only choices would be that he either exists or doesn't? Since the Christian bible states that God has made it plain to us and wants a relationship with us, taking the "unknown" stance doesn't seem like it could work in this area. I hope I'm making sense. sometimes my thought don't come out the way I want them to.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 14, 2013:

Thank you for commenting G-Man60.

G-Man60 from Southampton on August 13, 2013:

I call myself a atheist, and proudly so. In short and without inviting a rebuttal I declare this;

A god of scripture (Any Scripture) does NOT exist. To me after 25 years of being a atheist it is without question that a god of scripture does NOT exist.

I however do not know if a superior intelligence is behind the creation of the universe, and if there is then such a intelligence would not be directly concerned with the daily lives of a humanoid species on a little obscure little planet in a vast universe. All the thousands of god's created on earth through the ages have been an invention of the human brain/mind. There is no doubt of that in my mind.

The scriptural god's have been the cause of most human conflict.

All of the writings in this blog is based on circular arguments and it is only by analysing the history of humans that we can deduce a final conclusion that scripture based morals and god's are purely the invention of the human mind and it's efforts to explain the as of yet unknown.

In order for humanity to achieve some resemblance of peace and harmony religion has to be outgrown and dismissed for what it is, Just a process of human endeavour to explain the universe we live in.

Simple isn't it.

Now lets get on with finding answers to the mysteries of the universe without indulging in fantasies of god's.

“The truth is more magical - in the best and most exciting sense of the word - than any myth or made-up mystery or miracle. Science has its own magic: the magic of reality.”

― Richard Dawkins

f_hruz from Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 11, 2012:

Thanks Thomas.

You are simply trying to create an equality where there is non!

Any thoughtful atheist doesn't just questions the rational for the existence of a god philosophically ... that in itself is of limited value.

Your analogy between religiosity and alcoholism is a valid one because they both limit our mental capacity. Just researching why people become alcoholics maybe a science project, but ultimately such research should be used to benefit society by reducing the highly undesirable side effects created by alcoholism.

Finding religious, or any other irrational BS incredible, can't be equated with opening ones mind to a god, along with any added religious irrationality, to what ever degree, because you are dealing with qualitatively different mind space.

The evidence is already overwhelming that a belief in god only serves the purpose of irrationality, ignorance and absurdity, while the large majority who question the usefulness or flat out reject any positive value from a belief in supernatural powers, are people who desire a greater reduction of mind pollutants from religious, nationalistic and commercial sources.

I hope I have been able to show to your satisfaction that your current intellectual position is not giving you the opportunity to advance your argument much further from here, in any useful way.

It would surely be worth your time to examine the question of how to benefit a more socially or politically pressing question by supporting the broader application of rationality on a wider scale, than trying to equate religious irrationality to structured, critical thought!

Best wishes,


Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on December 10, 2012:

Thanks Franto. It depends what the scientist remains on the fence about. Like I said on the other hub, you need to separate these beliefs into individual propositions. Without all the religious mumbo-jumbo, the belief is simply that a god exists. If you think the god did this and that, then you have more beliefs. Being a theist doesn't require these extra beliefs, but it often comes with them.

My agnosticism doesn't come in the way of science. If there is no evidence to suggest a god was responsible for my observations, then I won't entertain the proposition. What if there was some evidence though? What would the atheist do then? Ignore it? Since they already believe it couldn't be a god, I guess they would.

I don't give the theist proposition that there is a god any value, just like I don't give the atheist proposition any value. Until there is some evidence to warrant either belief, I will ignore both. Neither will impact my scientific research until that research coughs up some evidence to make it worth my time.

f_hruz from Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 09, 2012:

Thanks for the reply!

I thought you are also teaching these things to students ... :)

Ok, I see the roll of science in general, and philosophy of science in particular, as LEADING the process of critical analysis and objective observation for some special reasons and not just to create science jobs for graduates.

The popularization of rationality and structured, intelligent thought is tops among the more important reasons I would like to see it more directly addressed by more scientists ... there is no way a good scientist should remain on the fence but show their support for a good argument versus a bad one, or face the fact of being greatly irrelevant - even if they maybe wrong at times ... it's the existing evidence at the time which matters, not the final outcome at the end of eternity .. :)

The real world as we experience it, is now ... and so should be your contribution to the advancement and betterment of our human condition!

Being educated enough to do science is only the prerequisite to doing good, relevant science which serves a much broader purpose! The advancement of the human mind and the skills used to apply it in daily life shouldn't be stopped by some statistically insignificant absurdity!

To study the question why traditional mythology doesn't hold the answer to questions raised by modern micro-biology is akin to trying to discover why doing space exploration with a pickax is not the way to go.

Why is it of limited value to give the assumption, a god may exist, equal value to thinking one does not? Because our verifiable experience has demonstrated to use, that our reproductive process is a natural event which requires no divine intervention ... the same is true for all other life forms on earth, and it's a great likelihood not only for the entire bio-cosmos, but it may very well be analogous to how our universe came about.

If you want to give the probability of gods having anything to do with it equal value, you have to face the fact of proposing an outlandish idea of limited intellectual value ... but hey, go ahead and equate it to anything you like, but please start questioning it's real intellectual value ... and doubt if you are making good use of your ability to serve intellectual progress the best you can! :)

Franto Hruz

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on December 09, 2012:

Thanks f_hruz. Despite what I've said in the above comments, your comment spurred more thought about how god should be defined. I now believe it doesn't matter.

Lets take two examples. In the first, God sparked the Big Bang and did nothing else. We have no evidence to suggest otherwise, and one has to be agnostic. In the second example, God did all the things in the Bible; interfering in human history hundreds of times. Now, we can look at history and say he did no such thing, but what does this prove? It proves Christians were mistaken about what God did (if anything), or they misinterpreted what he did.

If a theist and an atheist see a man miraculously cured from cancer, the theist will say "God did that", and the atheist will say "some unexplained scientific wonder did that". If we then discover that scientific wonder, does it mean God doesn't exist? Not at all. In the same way, if God didn't cause a flood or give Jesus powers, that's the mistake of the story tellers; it doesn't actually disprove God's existence.

If Christians say their god knows the future but somehow failed to predict Eve would sin in Eden, then we have to say they misunderstand their own god, not that he/she doesn't exist. Perhaps some of the Bible is right, some of it is wrong.

If a newspaper claimed Britney Spears kissed a goat, and it turns out she's allergic to goats, then she doesn't stop existing.

I wouldn't equate atheism with rational thought if it includes such an irrational belief. I would equate it with theism. However, theism includes many more irrational beliefs.

I'm not sure how scientific agnosticism "opens the door" to creationism and ID followers, or how I "hide behind it". Care to elaborate?

Yes, no Gods are KNOWN to be required for nature to function on this planet. Alpha Centauri isn't required either, it still exists. This is one of the core features of scientific agnosticism actually - evidence that something is irrelevant is not evidence that it doesn't exist. Why do atheists jump from irrelevance to non-existence? I can only call it irrational.

I find that theists react with far more fervor to atheists than to agnostics. Like I said on the other hub, we take sides. Our conflict with the other side hardens our resolve even more. Setting up an opposition to theism that says what they believe doesn't exist, is only going to stir the pot. It wouldn't surprise me if one day it escalates to war.

To advance the argument that we don't know if God exists, and there is no reason to believe either way, is a good way to advance the intellect, because it teaches the fundamentals of good science: don't assume as answer before you have one.

Thanks again for making me think. Oh, and I'm just a Dr. not a Prof!

f_hruz from Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 08, 2012:

Dear Prof. Swan,

your hub is of scholarly quality but lacks academic brilliance by virtue of illustrating a one dimensional belief spectrum based on an undefined notion of the word god, omitting a probability distribution for the degree of likelihood for some kind of man conceived idea of god to be required for nature to function, as she obviously does, and does so quite successfully according to all our scientific observations, versus the much greater likelihood for nature to be free from any such requirement.

Religious absurdity and irrationality is absolutely not at par with rational thought or even basic natural instinct. Equating theism, in all its past and present forms, to the value of a religion free mind space on planet earth, is a faulty and simplistic argument as long as we have not even managed to poll a statically significant number of dolphins about their real relationship and understanding of the various forms of intelligence which obviously exist in nature.

Social anthropology may have the better tools but even in your discipline you shouldn't have to hide behind such constructs as 'Scientific Agnosticism' which only opens the door to the kind of poor science practiced by Creationist and ID followers.

Since we are a product of nature, unable to exist on this planet without our natural life support system, but this very system shows no reliance on any gods ever invented by the minds of men, it stands to reason very strongly, no gods are seemingly required for nature to function quite successfully ... and to argue against it is highly irrational any day of the week!

What may indeed advance the sciences and make for a good discussion is a much better understanding of how to advance the human intellect and it's broader application in daily life!

Converting the Vatican into an international organization for the advancement of the human mind would be the right action to take instead of letting them continue to spread religious BS around the world so highly detrimental to human progress.

Franto Hruz

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on November 28, 2012:

Thanks for the kind words and share Secular Sanity! I wonder if Russell thought of Alice in Wonderland when coming up with his analogy.

Secular Sanity on November 27, 2012:

You’re an inspiration, Mr. Swan.

Oh, and by the way…“Of all the silly nonsense, this is the stupidest tea party I've ever been to in all my life.” ~Alice

Cheers ( ;

pennyofheaven from New Zealand on November 26, 2012:

Indeed, each will define God depending on where they are at in their understanding.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on November 26, 2012:

Thanks for the comment ElSeductor. I agree with your understanding of the "Christian" God. If you were to define God as a being that created the universe as we know it, and nothing more, none of the Christian/Jewish scripture would apply.

ElSeductor on November 26, 2012:

You wrote: "hypothesis can only be discounted once there is evidence for its fallacy".

There is substantial evidence for the non-existence of God. Namely, God has not kept his promises on several scriptures. I do not feel in the mood to look up all of the scriptures. Nevertheless, I will paraphrase. God, supposedly, said that humans should not fear for lack of food. As "even birds and other animals do not worry about where their next meal will come from." I can show you many more humans starving compared to the amount of animals that are starving.

God also said that he will not put any obstacles in our lives that we cannot overcome. That is another blatant fallacy. Have you looked up the number of people who kill themselves every day? Suicide is a clear indication that somebody could not "overcome" the challeneges that God placed in their life.

I am sure that I could find many more examples. Of course, now the zealots will tell me how I am wrong, because what God "really" meant by those verses was something else. Spare me the nonsensical interpretations.



Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on November 26, 2012:

Thanks for the comment Penny. I guess it depends on how each of them defines God.

pennyofheaven from New Zealand on November 22, 2012:

Perhaps the Atheist is right from their little perch in the universe. Perhaps the Theist is right from their little perch in the universe. Perhaps those who couldn't care less are right from their little perch in the universe.

Some might ask how can they all be right. I would answer why not?

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on October 19, 2012:

Thanks for the comment jantamaya. I agree, the question must remain open. I think anyone who assumes an answer has a reason for wanting an answer; whether this be anxiety, depression, or intellectual pride.

MJC from UK on October 18, 2012:

Sorry for interrupting your never ending discussion.

I loved to read your fascinating article.

Because we can't prove the existence, or nonexistence, of God we must leave the question open. So simply it is.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on October 04, 2012:

Well you have no evidence that the Chinese DON'T want to take over the world, so why believe that? It would be dangerous to believe they don't want to take over the world if they actually were planning an invasion. I think most people would say they don't know or believe either way. They'll keep an open mind until there IS some evidence. It's not "entertaining the idea" like you are saying, it's called keeping an open mind. You can keep an open mind about something and not think about it all the time. The very idea of science is to have an open mind until evidence appears that is conclusive.

"To assume that we may know how god is like and at the same time assume that we may never know how god is like seems paradoxical to me." Well, that's because it's not an assumption. If you put the word "may" in there, it's no longer assuming anything. For example, we may know if Jesus really existed, or we may never know. It's not a paradox at all.

You have controlled yourself alright. I have described atheism as ridiculous, which is merely a better choice of words than idiotic. I was a little harsh to criticize you for your words. This has been illuminating for me too.

The Pac-Man on October 04, 2012:

I will admit that Im at fault, I do get ahead of myself at times and end up saying things I later on regret, and for that I apologise again for my insultive choice of words. Yes, I would say the chinese don't want to take over the world because you have absolutely no evidence that they do, if you give me absolutely no reason to believe that they do, why should I entertain the idea?, you say the chinese want to take over the world, john says the indians want to take over the world, whos idea do I entertain then? You both haven't provided me evidence for their claims and even if 1 was true where would I begin to counter this?, do I ask the next chinese person I see if its true?, do I start an army? That's paranoia, I can't act because there is no evidence that pertains to your claim, so why entertain the idea at all? I wouldn't say Im giving him an attribute instead Im dismissing those that have been thought up by theists with absolutely no evidence to support their claims. To assume that we may know how god is like and at the same time assume that we may never know how god is like seems paradoxical to me, Agnosticism seems to be based on a paradoxical belief rather than a neutral one, a neutral belief/stance/position in my opinion would be of one who has never heard or thought of a god and on that premise I assume that a neutral stance may not be possible. With that being said its all a matter of choice between the 3, atheism and theism being the opposite of each other and agnosticism being the paradox, once 1 has heard about God they can't undo that unless they get the idea hypnotized out and blocked from their minds or something, only then will 1 be able to take the neutral position, and that's just my opinion. I have enjoyed this exchange of ideas and I hope we could do it again sometime and by then hopefully I would have mastered self-control.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on October 04, 2012:

Assuming an answer before we have one is what undermines our ability to think.

You're still not making sense. I'll quote you directly: "I dismiss an idea because its someone else's idea that neither I nor those who believe in it can prove or disprove it, therefore it doesn't exist". Lets say the idea is mine, and I believe that the Chinese want to take over the world (I don't really). I can't prove it or disprove it, I just believe it. Am I right in saying your response to me is "The Chinese don't want to take over the world"? You will assume the opposite position with the same lack of evidence that caused me to assume my position?

As I say in the hub, it is ridiculous to assume the opposite position with the same lack of evidence. When asked this, atheists tell me they don't assume the Chinese don't want to take over the world, yet when God is concerned they change the way they think and say he doesn't exist. They are inconsistent.

If atheists hold the belief that God isn't responsible for miraculous events, then any event that appears miraculous will bring that belief to the surface (i.e. God didn't cause that event). For example, when people pray for cancer patients that are then miraculously cured, atheists respond with "God didn't cause that" because they hold the belief that he definitely didn't cause it. Any time someone claims God caused something, an atheist will respond with "no he didn't". Look at every atheist in the history of the planet to know that. For this reason, atheists are preoccupied with God.

You apologize for rudeness and then call me idiotic... hmm. I should delete your reply but I'm not that bothered. Anyway, yes, the closest I can come to truth is the proposition that all things are uncertain. Why should this statement be reserved just for God? I would be as inconsistent as an atheist if I did that. And yes, that's how I choose to live. It's an undesirable position to take, but then I don't believe in answers just because they're comforting to me, or give me pride.

So in your words, you base your belief on the fact that everything can be explained and understood irrespective of whether you figure it out or someone else does, whether you live to hear that explanation or not. What if the best scientific explanation for something is that an intelligent super-being caused it? We may one day develop the tools to test for intelligent super-beings, and use the presence of one to answer unanswered scientific questions.

If God exists, he may require us to praise him. You cannot possibly know that he wouldn't. It may be that praising him serves a purpose you don't understand, and has nothing to do with God's ego (if he even has one). You're doing exactly what religious people do, giving God attributes that he would or wouldn't have and believing this is the case (if he exists).

Interesting you say you don't believe in God because it doesn't better your life. If you thought believing in God would "better your life", would you believe in him? Like I said earlier, believing in things that are comforting for you is probably not the best way to find philosophical truth.

The Pac-Man on October 03, 2012:

Im sorry for questioning your qualification, that was rude and uncalled for. You misquoting what I said, I said I dismiss an idea because its someone elses idea that neither I nor those who believe in it can prove or disprove it, therefore it doesn't exist. It seems to me that you believe that agnosticism is the more agreeable position because god doesn't enter your mind and that god enters the athiests mind since, according to you, athiests go around thinking that's not god, you might not have said it that way but that's what you're implying. To base your belief on the fact that there is no current evidence nor will there probably ever be for any idea seems idiotic to me, agnostics seem to hold this belief interms of god mostly if not only, you are the only one i have come across who seems to hold this belief about everything, but hey that's how you choose to live. I base my belief on the fact that everything can be explained and understood irrespective of whether I figure it out or someone else does, whether I live to hear that explanation or not. Logic tells me that if god does exist, he obviously must be above all human characteristics therefore he couldn't possibly require us to praise him or acknowledge his existence, therefore assuming that he doesn't exist or assuming that he does or even assuming that we may never prove or disprove his existence is irrelevant to him and especially us. With that being said I choose not to believe in god because believing in him will not at all better my life. I would much rather believe that something can be proven than to believe it may or may never because the latter somewhat undermines humanitys ability to think. I would like to read 1 last reply from you and thanks for your time.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on October 03, 2012:

Yes I'm a scientist, I have a PhD in physics and two masters degrees in the sciences and the cognitive science of religion. Of course mermaids, unicorns and vampires are a possibility. What is the difference between "someone elses idea" and "been used in fiction"? Those ideas arose in fictional stories.

So you conclude something doesn't exist if it's someone elses idea? I need an example of how you think this works. If I write a book about a particle called the Macro Boson and say this particle is what gives galaxies mass, then this is my idea. This then makes it less plausible to you? I don't understand how someone creating an idea affects it's existential relevance. Surely it would comprise evidence for it existing, if anything.

I never said God must exist, or that believing some events can be understood is ignorant. I am saying that science is incomplete. We don't understand everything, especially beings that are supposed to have properties that science cannot currently test for. There is no scientific evidence to suggest God doesn't exist because we don't have the tools to test it.

Even now you attribute God with certain attributes "the true god would not at be relevant to how one should live their life". How do you know that? Where does this belief come from? It looks to me like a reaction to theists who assume God is relevant. You've just taken the opposite belief.

I have answered your last question. As I said, I don't entertain the idea because the circumstances that would prompt me to entertain the idea have never arisen.

The Pac-Man on October 03, 2012:

You haven't concluded that leprachauns and fairies don't exist? So to you mermaids, unicorns, vampires etc are a possibility? Really, you're a scientist? Every quack in the insane asylum can come up with a god, sure, but they can also come up with a 3 eyed duck that can't be seen, heard or felt by anyone but still believe it exists, i don't dismiss the idea of leprachauns because it has been used in fiction, i dismiss it because its someone elses idea that neither those who believe in it nor I can prove or disprove it and on that premise i conclude that it doesn't exist. Yes there are cultures that believe in god, there are cultures that believe in nature and cultures that believe in ancestors, just because more cultures believe in god doesn't mean he must exist, people once believed that the world was flat. Its not a path to ignorance to believe that a certain event can be understood, it's a path to using your mind that is not promoted by religions, I don't look at a particular event and say its not god, i look at it and say; how did this happen? yes I do believe its important that society stops believing in god, if there is a god, then the true god would not at all be relevant to how one should live their life. Why entertain the idea if you believe there will never be an event that can be attributed to him (seeing how theres no evidence to prove or disprove that it is him)

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on October 02, 2012:

Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

I certainly haven't concluded that fairies and leprachauns don't exist. You're bringing up Bertrand Russell's teapot there. Anything could exist. If I said there is a fundamental particle called the Macro Boson that gives galaxies mass, you might well say "that's not impossible". When I say fairies live at the bottom of your garden you might say "impossible!". However, the only difference is context. Both have the same evidence for their existence, but only one is dismissed as ridiculous because of it's usage in fiction. In terms of one being more likely to exist than the other, you can't make a distinction.

You're right, agnostics leave room for God. Agnostics are willing to entertain the possibility of God in circumstances when there is evidence to indicate God exists. However, this evidence never arises. Not once have I (as an agnostic) observed some phenomenon and thought "maybe God did that". The evidence would have to be extraordinary and with no natural explanation for God to even enter my mind as a hypothesis. In my lifetime, nothing of the sort has occurred. If it did occur, I wouldn't have made a foolhardy assumption about it. Science is incomplete, there are many things we don't understand, and assuming we do understand them is a path to ignorance.

I disagree that atheists don't think about God. They define themselves with the atheist tag, not with the anti-unicorn tag. They obviously feel its important to not believe God. Like I said in the hub, this is a reaction to people who do believe. It is reasonable to think that atheists react similarly when evidence that theists would attribute to God arises (i.e. miracles). The theist will say it was God, the atheist will say it wasn't God, and the agnostic will say "why are you talking about God?"

God isn't an idea I thought up, but it wasn't thought up by one man either. Almost every culture in the world has dreamt up gods. I believe they don't have evidence for making that assumption. An atheist, however, responds to the dreamers by saying "that god of yours definitely doesn't exist". Every quack in the insane asylum can come up with a God and the atheists will go and form a belief in it's non-existence. It's reactionary.

The Pac-Man on October 02, 2012:

Thanks for replying, I would say agnostics are occupied with the idea of god by forming a belief about him (i.e that; "there is no evidence... existence). I believe that theres a small difference between thiests and agnostics and that athiesm is the complete opposite of both. Believing that there is no way to prove or disprove gods existence does not mean that god doesn't enter you're mind. Athiests don't go around thinking "oh that's not god", if we did we might aswel go around thinking "oh that's not an invisible pink unicorn". You seem to believe that you're not believing in evidence of god (agnosticism), dispels him from you're thoughts and that not believing in gods existence doesn't, that's not at all true. Agnostics leave room for god to enter their mind because they say; "there is no way to prove... existence", athiests dispel god altogether by saying there is no god. Have you not considered the fact that god isn't an idea you thought up, why then base you're belief on the fact that someone elses idea that a lot of people have taken up can't be proven or disproven?, unicorns, fairies, leprachauns are all other peoples ideas that can't be proven or disproven but Im sure you have concluded that they don't exist, why can't you do the same about god?

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on October 02, 2012:

Thanks for the comment Pac-Man. I believe there is no evidence that can prove or disprove God's existence, and no evidence that even indicates he may or may not exist. Therefore, I think atheists are wrong to form a belief in the non-existence of God. All the atheists I've talked to held this belief, but haven't provided evidence for it. I think my sample of atheists was large enough to conclude that most atheists are therefore wrong to hold their belief. By all means, present me with evidence for the atheist position, and I will look at it. I don't think any of this means I've assumed anything (any more than you've assumed I'm wrong for doing so!). As a scientist, I can't afford to assume anything. I have looked at the evidence and made a conclusion, but that conclusion can change if new evidence is presented.

I would say that atheists are occupied with the idea of God by forming a belief about him (i.e. that he doesn't exist). Whenever something strange or unexpected happens they will immediately assume "that's not God". As an agnostic, I dismiss God as the cause of the event because there is no evidence that God exists, and no evidence that he caused the event. The idea of God doesn't even enter my mind, because there is nothing to trigger the thought - no effect that requires God as a cause. Agnostics don't go around thinking "oh maybe that was God", far from it.

The Pac-Man on October 01, 2012:

Well written, great hub, but you are wrong in assuming that you are right. The skeleton of this hub is your opinion, just as this comment is mine, neither of us are right or wrong. In my opinion, as I am an atheist, atheism is the more agreeable position because I understand that the idea of a higher power is not my own conception, it is someone else's opinion that has been taken up by a lot of people out of fear. I choose to be an athiest because whether or not a God exists, I highly doubt that Il be punished for not believing in it, that's why I believe atheism is a more agreeable position. Why should we let the idea of a God occupy our minds while we still on earth?( this question is directed at agnostics )

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on September 30, 2012:

Thanks for the comment Josak. I have read The God Delusion and Dawkins refers to agnostics through his TAP/PAP distinction. He criticises both positions and maintains that he is an atheist with only the slightest level of doubt. By the definitions in this hub, he is an agnostic atheist. He believes God doesn't exist, but cannot be certain.

I have distinguished between belief and knowledge in the hub. I understand that most atheists are "agnostic atheists", and I have focused my discussion on criticising the reasons for holding this belief. Perhaps you didn't read it all. At no point do I go by the dictionary definition you are claiming.

Josak from variable on September 30, 2012:

Actually both Dawkins and Stephen Hawkins call themselves agnostics, Dawkins does so in the "God Delusion" but the word atheism is not used in the sense of what it really means, agnosticism implies doubt like one is on the fence and that does not represent the views of many non theists so they call themselves atheists for lack of a better word.

The important thing to understand is the difference between the dictionary definition of a word and how it is used in common parlance, I have never met an atheist by the dictionary definition and if you question anyone who calls themselves an atheist I suspect there would be very very few who were sure there are no gods, rather they would not believe there are gods.

The word atheism has evolved to mean something else.

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