By Dave Foda - Guest Writer
I was asked to write up the Cliff’s Notes version of my argument supporting a rejection of theism, but once I got started writing, I couldn’t stop. This essay actually does NOT address my argument, but it does provide the necessary foundation for the person who asked for my position on it.
Let’s face it, there’s really only one kind of atheism, and that’s “atheism.” Atheism is “without” a god or gods, or “without” theistic leanings. It goes no further than that. However, on the social landscape of the United States in the early 21st century, it is in vogue – and perhaps necessary – to discuss, or at least delineate, the underpinnings of knowledge that one might possess that would lead them to a claim of atheism (or, of theism). For the purposes of this brief essay, I will only be discussing atheism, and not examining theism. But first, it’s important to illustrate the difference between “belief” and “knowledge,” as it applies to atheism (and, by extension, theism, generally).
Theism and atheism are descriptions of “belief.” Agnosticism, ignosticism, and gnosticism are descriptions of “knowledge.” It is (theoretically) possible to have an agnostic atheist, an agnostic theist, a gnostic atheist, and a gnostic theist. The “knowledge” portion breaks down like this:
- Agnosticism – “I do not know”
- Ignosticism – “I cannot know”
- Gnosticism – “I do know”
Breaking down theism vs. atheism would be worthless here, as I think anyone who reads this knows what the two terms mean.
So, on with it……
In practicality, there are three different types of atheists. There are those who are commonly termed “weak atheists” who simply “lack a belief” in a god (of any kind), but could be willing to accept evidence for a god, should such evidence ever actually become available. Often, this type of atheist adheres to the idea that no evidence for any of the classically-defined gods is existent, but usually does not go so far as to say that “No god is possible.” (This is also referred to as “agnostic atheism.”) “I lack a belief in a god, but I don’t know that one is impossible.”
There are also those who are neither “weak” nor “strong” in their atheism. They will sometimes suggest that they not only “lack a belief” in a god (of any kind); and will also typically insist that evidence for any possible god is not only presently non-existent, but will also be non-existent in the future. Often, this type of atheist is adheres to the idea that evidence for a “supernatural” god is an impossibility. (This type of atheism often takes on the ignorance of agnostic atheism, but does sometimes embrace gnostic atheism’s position on the impossibility of evidence for supernaturalism.) “I lack a belief in a god, and it is impossible for Mankind to know whether or not one exists.”
Then, there are the people who are commonly termed “strong atheists” – who, for a lack of a better term in common usage – will sometimes adopt the label of “anti-theist.” (Side Note: While I do not agree with the terminology, it is broadly understood – or perhaps misunderstood – according to Christopher Hitchens’ popularization of the term.) This type of atheist would be the “gnostic atheist.” This atheist type insists that the evidence that does exist shows unequivocally that any possible entity that is said to dwell within the realm of the “supernatural” is an evidential impossibility. “I lack a belief in a god, and no god is possible.”
It is within this third category that I find myself, for this reason: The First Law of Thermodynamics (FLoT; “matter / energy can neither be created nor destroyed”) proves that no Creation event is possible; and Newton’s Third Law of Motion (TLoM; “every action results in an equal and opposite reaction”) proves that even if there is a supernatural realm, we would have no knowledge of it, and nothing that resides there could possibly have any effect on us in the here-and-now (nor, even in the past). Even if the Supernatural did exist, it’s irrelevant to us, and pretending that it IS relevant is akin to magic, pure and simple.
So, the statement often raised against the “gnostic atheist” position is, “Well, ‘God’ could be as simple as Nature itself.” If that’s true, then why call it “God”? Why not just use the term “Nature”?
Dave Foda is an atheist, a writer, and a researcher, and sometimes-activist. He has a background in risk management, information security, and protective services; has some formal training in law, law enforcement, and linguistics; and is an IT systems engineer by trade. He has interests in physics, chemistry, biology, cosmology, archaeology, anthropology, history, languages, law and legal systems, and politics. His library shelves are stocked mostly with non-fiction.
Having been raised Lutheran; he forayed into evangelical Christianity in his teens, but was soon cognizant of the inconsistencies of faith, generally. He understands the nature of the perceived religious need of many individuals, but also understands that religious belief as a form of governance is damaging to the whole of society.
Dave lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. You can find him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/dave.foda, or follow him on Twitter @DaveFoda.