Is Deism tenable?

Lee Says:

Is Deism tenable? I’m an atheist insomuch as I do not believe in any sort of theistic concept of a deity; however, I often wonder if there exists an impersonal, non-interventionist type of provisional “First Cause”.

49 Responses to Is Deism tenable?

  1. The Atheist says:

    I don’t think Deism contradicts the physical evidence that we observe like some theistic beliefs do. But I do think that it requires us to presuppose that God’s existence is the best answer by default to the unknown. In other words, it requires us to accept God as the most likely answer to the unknown – in this case, the “unknown” being the universe’s first cause.

    Personally, I find it more difficult to fathom the first cause of a God, a conscious intelligent agent, than to fathom the first cause of a simple, unconscious, reactive collection of particles (that is, the universe immediately after the Big Bang). And all that follows the Big Bang is just physics.

    Also, throughout history, humans have ascribed the unknown to the actions of God. But also throughout history, as we gain more knowledge of our universe, we discover that we were wrong to have ascribed the unknown to God. So if history is any teacher, it should teach us that presupposing that God is the cause of things, simply because we don’t yet understand them, has not been a very reliable strategy for discovering the truth about our universe.

  2. Green Genius says:

    Atheist, I love your very logical argument for a non supernatural beginning of our universe. I sometimes wonder what there was before the big bang and was told by “ask a space scientist” that we don’t know yet. Recently I read that we should just think that the universe has always been and I think that is good enough for me.

  3. Lee says:

    “So if history is any teacher, it should teach us that presupposing that God is the cause of things, simply because we don’t yet understand them, has not been a very reliable strategy for discovering the truth about our universe.”…. ah, yes, good point. I suppose any sort of provisional deist god is utterly non-falsifiable, and therefore of no consequence.

  4. The Atheist says:

    Thanks, Green. The Big Bang is rather an old theory, based on science of the early 19th century. Just as Relativity improved on the earlier, more simplistic Newtonian physics, other theories, such as M-Theory show a lot of promise for improving on Big Bang theory. M-Theory is a branch of Superstring theory – it postulates 2-D membranes (strings are 1-D) which collide. The collisions provide the energy for the Bang. Check out this introductary article.

  5. The Atheist says:

    Lee,
    Exactly right. Besides the problem which you point out, that this sort of god is non-falsifiable, the very idea that we can invent, and then accept non-falsifiable explanations ultimately leads to absurdities – like the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Invisible Pink Unicorns, or Burtrand Russell’s Celestial Teapot

    To tie this discussion together with the discussion about String theory, a major (and in my view, legitimate) complaint about String theory was that it is not testable. However, String theory was not intentionally invented such that it was non-falsifiable; rather it grew out of accepted mathematical models, the purpose of which was to reconcile differences in sub-atomic physics with large-body physics. Also, it wasn’t non-falsifiable in theory, it was simply non-falsifiable at the time, given the then extant particle accelerators which were incapable of producing adequate collision energies. However, the Large Hadron Collider, is expected to be online sometime in late 2009 (at the earliest) and we can begin to test String theory! This is exciting news because scientific knowledge tends to advance very quickly once theoretical physics and experimental physics are both brought to bear on a theory.

  6. A3,

    Personally, I find it more difficult to fathom the first cause of a God…

    It’s actually impossible, that’s why. :) All monotheistic (including Deism – re: original post) understandings of God make the “difficulty” of fathoming a first cause of a First Cause nothing but an exercise in ignoring the word “first” :) The infinite regress leads to an infinite being. This “who made the maker”, “what caused the causer” or “created the creator” always sounds like a failure to think for a split-second longer?

    And all that follows the Big Bang is just physics.

    JUST physics? Just these “laws of nature”, eh? And I suppose it’s against the rules to ask where they came from? Just think where that might lead… ;)

    Also, throughout history, humans have ascribed the unknown to the actions of God.

    …as well as the ‘known’. ;)

  7. The Atheist says:

    Cheers Dale – it’s been a while! Welcome back, mate!

    Regarding your thoughts about the difficulty in considering a first cause, I agree completely – except I’m not sure how “the infinite regress leads to an infinite being” as you say, even if the phrase is rather catchy ;) I think it is more correct to say that ‘the infinite regression leads to an impossible being’ as first cause. That is, it leads to a being who’s existence would violate the premise: that all things have a first cause. This should lead us to conclude that the premise, ‘all things that exist must have a first cause’, is a false premise. Perhaps it requires a bit more than just split-second after all to consider it more fully.

    And I suppose it’s against the rules to ask where they came from? Just think where that might lead… ;)

    It’s never against the rules to ask questions on this blog which is entitled, Ask and Atheist ;) I’ll let you have the honor and privilege of proposing where the question leads ;) That will give us something more than just a wink and a nod to discuss ;)

    …as well as the ‘known’. ;)

    How do you mean?

  8. yes, work/study/family/band has (and is) keeping me busy – on break from study for three weeks ATM :)

    On your objection re: the premise-violating being:
    The premise is not “all things have a first cause”, but rather, more precisely, “whatever begins to exist has a cause”. Time itself began to exist with the beginning of the space/matter/time universe, so the Cause of universe would not be within Time, and would not have a beginning, and thus would not need to have a Cause according to that premise.
    This doesn’t take much longer than a split-second, no? :)

    Re the origin of the “laws of nature”:
    I’m not interested in making naked assertions, but for thinking people accross centuries/continents, the “Laws of Nature” (TM), which bring regularity and ordered-ness to the cosmos, have been seen as evidence of a ‘regulator’ or ‘order-er’. Again, this is specific to this post which asks “Is Deism tenable?”.

    Re ascribing the known to the action of God:
    I.e. the “known” order and lawful regularity of the universe, for starters?
    …and then you have “known” things like universal moral truths/values.

  9. The Atheist says:

    I’ve been extremely busy with work for the last few months. It’s caused me to neglect the askanatheist.org site, and even neglect posting here on my own blog. No worries, good to have you back.

    Band?

    The premise is not “all things have a first cause”, but rather, more precisely, “whatever begins to exist has a cause”…

    If you agree that not “all things have a first cause” (do you agree?), let’s talk about “first cause” as an argument that depends on the premice: “whatever begins to exist has a cause”.

    Time itself began to exist with the beginning of the space/matter/time universe, so the Cause of universe would not be within Time, and would not have a beginning, and thus would not need to have a Cause according to that premise.

    By definition, nothing can be said to exist “before” time since “before” references a point in time. Then any being that must be described as “existing before time” is an impossible being.

    This doesn’t take much longer than a split-second, no? :)

    tick… tick… tick…

    :))

    I’m not interested in making naked assertions, but for thinking people accross centuries/continents, the “Laws of Nature” (TM), which bring regularity and ordered-ness to the cosmos, have been seen as evidence of a ‘regulator’ or ‘order-er’. Again, this is specific to this post which asks “Is Deism tenable?”.

    “Laws of Nature” (TM) <= :))

    Now that we have the requisite argument ad populum out of the way, we can consider whether order requires an orderer. :-P

    Does matter have the form it has because there were first laws about what form space/matter/time must take? This is impossible since these laws must be describe as “existing before time”. Or do the laws describe the behavior of the space/matter/time which happens to exist? If so, it would mean that there are no laws independent of space/matter/time. Laws then are a description of how the space/matter/time that happens to exist, happens to behave.

    Re ascribing the known to the action of God:
    I.e. the “known” order and lawful regularity of the universe, for starters?
    …and then you have “known” things like universal moral truths/values.

    I’m not talking about unknown things, I’m talking about unknown causes – that’s what I meant by ascribing the unknown to the actions of God. It was also why I was a little confused by your comment, “as well as the ‘known'” – I was wondering why you would consider causes where the agent is known which were still ascribed to the actions of God.

  10. If you agree that not “all things have a first cause” (do you agree?), let’s talk about “first cause” as an argument that depends on the premice: “whatever begins to exist has a cause”.

    I think all “things” have an ultimate/’first’/’bottom’ cause – which would obviously exclude that bottom cause from the set of ‘things’ which had a bottom cause.

    By definition, nothing can be said to exist “before” time since “before” references a point in time. Then any being that must be described as “existing before time” is an impossible being.

    This is where words let us down a bit. It is perfectly and manifestly logical if we get past the semantics. The cause of all things doesn’t (nor could it) ‘exist’ in the same way as all other ‘existing’ things. And it’s not impossible AT ALL for a timeless entity to exist ‘before’ (or outside of) time. To try and get past the semantics, it may help to say that the ultimate cause would be Timeless and would ‘Exist’ (captial ‘E’) as the foundation for all existence (lower-case ‘e’).

    Does matter have the form it has because there were first laws about what form space/matter/time must take? This is impossible since these laws must be describe as “existing before time”. Or do the laws describe the behavior of the space/matter/time which happens to exist? If so, it would mean that there are no laws independent of space/matter/time. Laws then are a description of how the space/matter/time that happens to exist, happens to behave.

    But the Laws could exist in a transcendent mind. And if we’re merely describing how something functions or ‘behaves’, then we really should stop using the prescriptive word ‘Law’ and rather speak in more descriptive terms.
    But quite aside from all this, the point is that the universe is intelligible and structured. It just as easily could have been unintelligible and unstructured (and of course, we wouldn’t be here to observe, let alone complain, that is wasn’t!).

    On ‘unknown’:
    All I’m saying is that people throughout history have not only attributed the unknown to the actions of God – they have also seen the action of God in the known; in other words, seen everything (known or unknown) as pointing to God.

  11. The Atheist says:

    You never said – what instrument(s) to you play? I play guitar and trumpet (and dabble on a few other instruments).

    I think all “things” have an ultimate/’first’/’bottom’ cause – which would obviously exclude that bottom cause from the set of ‘things’ which had a bottom cause.

    Does your first-cause argument demand that there be exactly one thing which is the bottom cause? Or does it allow that there may be more than one thing which is a bottom cause?

    I’m only trying to grasp what you mean by “first cause” for this discussion.

    This is where words let us down a bit. It is perfectly and manifestly logical if we get past the semantics. The cause of all things doesn’t (nor could it) ‘exist’ in the same way as all other ‘existing’ things. And it’s not impossible AT ALL for a timeless entity to exist ‘before’ (or outside of) time. To try and get past the semantics, it may help to say that the ultimate cause would be Timeless and would ‘Exist’ (captial ‘E’) as the foundation for all existence (lower-case ‘e’).

    We may have an agreement of sorts here: the being you arrive at as a result of the infinite regress does not exist in the way that we think of anything else existing.

    I think we can also agree that we use words to convey meaning, and that words best convey meaning when we use them to represent common ideas, experiences, or understandings. A whimsical redefining of terms so that they no longer represent any of those things is the cause of semantic difficulties rather than a way to get past them.

    Unless we redefine “existence” to mean something other than what we mean in every other case except discussions about the spiritual, this “infinite being” (a.k.a. God the Creator) does not exist. He can only be said to exist when we are willing to redefine the term “existence” so that it is no longer differentiates that which has being from that which does not (in other words, if we make it a meaningless term).

    The idea of “before time” can only have meaning if we imagine another dimension of time which is outside of our own dimension of time – or alternatively if we redefine the term “time” to be a meaningless term. The term “before time” is meaningless already if it references “no time.” Interestingly enough, additional time dimensions have been proposed by some earlier String Theories but as far as I know, have since been dropped. That notwithstanding, another dimension of time doesn’t solve the dilemma – the same questions about first cause can be asked about beings (or objects) in other proposed time dimensions as well.

    But the Laws could exist in a transcendent mind. And if we’re merely describing how something functions or ‘behaves’, then we really should stop using the prescriptive word ‘Law’ and rather speak in more descriptive terms.

    They could, but what basis do we have for speculating that they do?

    But quite aside from all this, the point is that the universe is intelligible and structured. It just as easily could have been unintelligible and unstructured (and of course, we wouldn’t be here to observe, let alone complain, that is wasn’t!).

    I think we can agree here – we can only exist in a universe which is structured the way this universe is. So beings like us will always observe a universe which is structured in this way, regardless of the reason for its structuring, and regardless of the likelihood that it would emerge with this structure.

    Note that the universe isn’t completely intelligible to us. For example, it is theoretically impossible for us to know both the precise speed of a particle and it’s precise location at once. It is also impossible for us to predict when matter/antimatter particle pairs will suddenly come into existence. It is impossible for us to see the contents of black holes.

    On ‘unknown’:
    All I’m saying is that people throughout history have not only attributed the unknown to the actions of God – they have also seen the action of God in the known; in other words, seen everything (known or unknown) as pointing to God.

    When you say that people see the action of God in the known, I don’t think you are disagreeing with what I’ve been saying: people see things in their world and wonder how they come to exist and they often (but not always) believe that God created those things. Certainly we are talking about known things here for which only the cause is unknown.

    Gods weren’t the only explanation for the unknown. People believed that eels were formed from the mud in lake bottoms for example, or that mice formed from old rags, or that maggots formed from rotting meat. But people stopped believing in these theories of origin once they discovered a more plausible theory: lightning is the result of static electricity, and eels, mice, and maggots formed from other eels, mice and maggots.

  12. what instrument(s) to you play?

    piano/keyboard, guitar and backing vocals :)

    Does your first-cause argument demand that there be exactly one thing which is the bottom cause? Or does it allow that there may be more than one thing which is a bottom cause?

    If other words let us down, ‘first’ and ’cause’ (which both are singular in form) don’t :)

    Unless we redefine “existence” to mean something other than what we mean in every other case except discussions about the spiritual, this “infinite being” (a.k.a. God the Creator) does not exist. [etc. and also ‘before time’ issue]

    All we can do is use the best words we can find (or make new ones!) to express/describe the concept which I think we can agree is logical. A First Cause of all things. It may be helpful to think of ‘existence’ as having degrees (from most existing to least existing).

    I better leave it there (need to go to bed!), but I think we can say that at least some kind of Deist creator is tenable and rational.

  13. The Atheist says:

    I don’t agree that Deism is tenable since I don’t find a basis for it in sound reasoning or evidence. Specifically, Deism requires us without adequate rational to presuppose that God’s existence is by default the best explanation for the unknown, including the cause of the universe. However I think we can agree that Deism does not make claims which contradict what we observe in our universe.

  14. I don’t agree that Deism is tenable since I don’t find a basis for it in sound reasoning or evidence.

    Hmm… But surely the reasoning of a First Cause is sound, though (which is what we were discussing)?

  15. The Atheist says:

    Surely not.

    You describe a theory of first cause as ‘a requirement for that which has a beginning to have a cause’. This theory is patently false. While we may find this to be true based solely on our casual observations of the familiar, it contradicts our experimental findings – we find that matter and antimatter can be (and are commonly) created spontaneously. The theory therefore is not sound because it is contradicted by evidence.

    Knowing that the theory is false with respect to the the extreme microscopic level (quantum particles), we have no basis for presuming that the theory is true at the extreme macroscopic level.

    If theories that the universe needs a first cause lead to an infinite regress which is only satisfied by positing an impossible being, theories that the universe always existed in some form do not. One of these is chaotic inflation theory, which predicts that the longevity of particles that appear spontaneously in a vacuum is inversely related to energy of the particles, and from this the theory extrapolates “bubble” universes which appear spontaneously in the way that quantum particles do. Another is a theory that matter and antimatter are not exactly symmetric (CP violation), so if equal amounts of matter and antimatter spontaneously appear in the universe (as we know they do), then it is more likely that we will end up with slightly more matter than antimatter in the universe. Another is M-Brane theory (a particular branch of string theory) that predicts an oscillating universe.

  16. A3,
    I think it’s better to use the language of spontaneous appearance/disappearance of matter/antimatter – rather than saying they are ‘created’ spontaneously.

    This ‘appearing’ (probably even more precisely stated as ‘coming into a state that is detectable with current observational tools/technology’) is to be massively distinguished from the idea of universe-causing Creation which the First Cause concepts are referring to. One is our best understanding of sub-atomic phenomena – which appear to flick in and out of existence detectability; and the other is talking about a foundational cause for all phenomena which either has always existed or began to exist.

    Re “always existing” universe:
    I find these theories interesting, but I don’t know that they really begin to do away with a First Cause argument. One can always ask the “but how did that ‘thing’ (particles, matter/antimatter, oscillating universe) or cyclic process, etc. get there?”

    What the claim is at bottom is that ‘things’ are un-caused and un-created (or eternal). Interestingly, theism and naturalism both postulate an ultimate, final thing that you cannot ‘go behind’ which is un-caused and un-created; the only difference is that for the theist, this is the Creator and for the naturalist, it is nature (or should I say Nature?).

  17. The Atheist says:

    I think it’s better to use the language of spontaneous appearance/disappearance of matter/antimatter – rather than saying they are ‘created’ spontaneously.

    I agree. I think that “spontaneous appearance/disappearance” is a better description of the occurrence of matter/antimatter whether we are referring to a single particle pair or the set of all matter/antimatter particles that formed our universe.

    …probably even more precisely stated as ‘coming into a state that is detectable with current observational tools/technology’…

    I agree. I think this is an apt description for particles as well as the detectable universe.

    This ‘appearing’ … is to be massively distinguished from the idea of universe-causing Creation which the First Cause concepts are referring to. One is our best understanding of sub-atomic phenomena – which appear to flick in and out of existence detectability; and the other is talking about a foundational cause for all phenomena which either has always existed or began to exist.

    The distinction seems gratuitous. As far as I’m aware, there is no sound basis on which to assert that the universe was created; that it could not have “appeared” in a way analogous to the way subatomic particles appear. Are you aware of a basis for this assertion? On the contrary, we indeed have a basis for hypothesizing that the universe appeared is a product of nature; that basis being the independent branches of research that seem to be converging at that conclusion.

    I find these theories [about an “always existing” universe] interesting, but I don’t know that they really begin to do away with a First Cause argument. One can always ask the “but how did that ‘thing’ (particles, matter/antimatter, oscillating universe) or cyclic process, etc. get there?”

    I should first make a distinction between what you are refuting: an “always existing universe” vs. what I proposed: always-existing Branes (a la M-Brane theory), or always-existing energy in an unstable vacuum (a la the Bubble Universe theory), or always-existing oscillating spacial dimensions (a la other Supersting theories). Since we agree that the universe has not always existed, then it must have had a beginning. And if it had a beginning, it could not be the “bottom” cause. Then it should be clear enough that I’ve not been arguing that an always-existing universe is a “bottom” cause.

    I should next make a distinction between the First Cause argument you are implying in your comment above when you ask “but how did that ‘thing’ … get there”, and the First Cause argument that you proposed earlier. The question about ‘how things got here’ implies that all things must have a cause – even God. However the First Cause argument that you explained earlier excludes the “bottom cause” from this requirement and therefore does not require God, or an always-existing natural phenomenon, to have a cause.

    With the straw-man argument against an ‘always-existing universe’ set aside, and the equivocation of “First Cause” disambiguated, I can at last return to my argument that the universe could be a product of physical phenomena (Branes, etc.) which have always existed. In fact, any one of these theories I mentioned completely satisfies the First Cause argument which you first propose: that “all ‘things’ have an ultimate/’first’/’bottom’ cause – which would obviously exclude that bottom cause from the set of ‘things’ which had a bottom cause.” Always-existing Branes, always-existing energy in an unstable vacuum, and always-existing oscillating spacial dimensions are all “bottom causes” “which would obviously [be] exclude[d] … from the set of ‘things’ which had a bottom cause.”

    What the claim is at bottom is that ‘things’ are un-caused and un-created (or eternal). Interestingly, theism and naturalism both postulate an ultimate, final thing that you cannot ‘go behind’ which is un-caused and un-created; the only difference is that for the theist, this is the Creator and for the naturalist, it is nature (or should I say Nature?).

    It certainly is interesting, but for me at least it is not surprising. Science, philosophy, and religion seek to answer similar questions like “where do we come from?” and “what is the nature of our universe?” Of course this is what one would expect since there was not always a distinction between these lines of thought. I guess the distinctions came later as the result of technological advancements and the formalization of reasoning (formal logic for example). But there was never a sudden split between these branches of inquiry. Even today, each branch continues to have an effect on the other two. I would think it rather odd if religion, philosophy, and science weren’t all engaged in the question of First Cause. You can capitalize Nature if you like, if you feel the need to deify it ;)

  18. A3,
    On the gratuitous distinction:
    Sub-atomic particles coming into detectability is no more analogous to original/ultimate creation of all things, than a ship coming into visibility on the horizon is?

    Point being: we may well just not be able to detect the particles at some points. They could be a) slipping into another dimension, which we cannot access/measure/detect/observe from our dimension (String Theory, no?), or they could be b) flicking into a mode of existence which we have not (yet?) the tools/technology to observe/access/measure/detect.

    If we say that this sub-atomic phenomena is “natural”, then the question is raised: how did this natural process come into being?

    On “always existing” natural things:
    I still think that Branes/Vacuums/Dimensions have to be assumed to be ‘always-existing’ – and are wide open to (or perhaps even immediately raise!) questions of their own origin.

    The classic response here, which I anticipate, is that God, too, has to be assumed to be ‘always existing’ – and thus raises the question of God’s origin, etc.

    This is where the First Cause argument comes in. A First Cause is said to be the ‘bottom’ un-caused Causer (or un-created Creator – or un-moved Mover).

    God, by definition, is said to be at the ‘end’ or ‘bottom’ of all causality, thus making the question ‘what caused God’ a failure to pay attention to either the definition of God or the word ‘First’ in First Cause.

    Again, the interesting thing here is that we seem to both agree at least in principle that there is (or can be) an “always existing” bottom/first cause where causality ultimately originates from.

    You seem to be saying that this “always existing” bottom/first cause can be Natural – i.e. some kind of naturally ‘always existing’ entity, like Branes/Vacuums/Dimensions.

    I am saying that this “always existing” bottom/first cause can be (well, actually must be) non-natural – i.e. some kind of non-naturally ‘always existing’ entity, like a God (whether theistic, deistic, or whatever).

    A further thought:
    you seem to have a framework like this…
    “always existing” (natural) entities –> Natural Universe

    where as mine is…
    “always existing” (creative) Creator –> Nature (including natural entities which may/may-not give rise to Natural Universe)

  19. The Atheist says:

    Hi, Dale. Sorry for the delay responding – I got really busy again with work there for a while but now things have settled somewhat.

    Sub-atomic particles coming into detectability is no more analogous to original/ultimate creation of all things, than a ship coming into visibility on the horizon is?

    I think I may find the analogy more applicable than you do because I don’t presume that the universe was created any more than I presume that these sub-atomic particles were created. That’s the reason I preferred your term over mine for how particles appear, we know that they “appear spontaneously”, we do not know that they are created. It is the same with the universe: the theories I mentioned above hold that it “appeared spontaneously”, however as far as I’m aware, we have no basis for accepting that the universe was created. In that sense, the appearance of sub-atomic particles is very much like the appearance of the universe. And specifically, as I mentioned above, the “bubble universe” cosmology describes the spontaneous appearance of the universe in terms similar to the spontaneous appearance of sub-atomic particles.

    Point being: we may well just not be able to detect the particles at some points. They could be…

    True, that may well be. But do we have a basis for believing that that is what is happening to the particles? Further, is there a reason to believe that only sub-atomic particles can slip in and out of a detectable state (while they remain all the while in existence) but the universe is not capable? If there is no basis, then I’m sure we can invent any number of non-falsifiable claims. However, such claims wouldn’t be much use in increasing our understanding of our physical universe, would they?

    If we say that this sub-atomic phenomena is “natural”, then the question is raised: how did this natural process come into being?

    You asked the same question about an “always existing universe” – you asked: “One can always ask the ‘but how did that -thing- (particles, matter/antimatter, oscillating universe) or cyclic process, etc. get there?'”

    My response still hasn’t changed: “The question about ‘how things got here’ implies that all things must have a cause – even God. However the First Cause argument that you explained earlier excludes the ‘bottom cause’ from this requirement and therefore does not require God, or an always-existing natural phenomenon, to have a cause.” It should be clear enough why an always-existing process would not need a first cause.

    On “always existing” natural things:
    I still think that Branes/Vacuums/Dimensions have to be assumed to be ‘always-existing’ – and are wide open to (or perhaps even immediately raise!) questions of their own origin.

    Same question as the one above -> same response.

    The classic response here, which I anticipate, is that God, too, has to be assumed to be ‘always existing’ – and thus raises the question of God’s origin, etc.

    Right you are! Except that there was no need to anticipate it; all you had to do was read it in my earlier post ;)

    This is where the First Cause argument comes in. A First Cause is said to be the ‘bottom’ un-caused Causer (or un-created Creator – or un-moved Mover).

    Do you agree that given only what you’ve said in the above quote, that an un-caused natural phenomenon would meet this criteria? I know that you don’t agree that an un-caused natural phenomenon can be the first cause, but I’m not asking that here; I’m only asking if you can agree given only your quote above and nothing else. My reason for asking is that if you say you agree, then I can ask what else I must consider besides the quote above. But if you say that you do not agree, then I’ll ask you to clarify because it might mean that I didn’t fully understand what you were trying to say.

    God, by definition, is said to be at the ‘end’ or ‘bottom’ of all causality, thus making the question ‘what caused God’ a failure to pay attention to either the definition of God or the word ‘First’ in First Cause.

    True, many people say that. Is there any basis for that claim? Specifically, is there any basis for the claim that only God, and not some natural phenomenon, could be the first cause? Or when you say “by definition”, do you merely mean that whatever that first cause is, whether it is a Brane or an intelligent being, you will call that thing God?

    Again, the interesting thing here is that we seem to both agree at least in principle that there is (or can be) an “always existing” bottom/first cause where causality ultimately originates from.

    Yes we do agree and yes, it is interesting! :)

    You seem to be saying that this “always existing” bottom/first cause can be Natural – i.e. some kind of naturally ‘always existing’ entity, like Branes/Vacuums/Dimensions.

    Correct. I’m not only saying that the first cause can be natural, I’m also saying there is some scientific support that it is.

    I am saying that this “always existing” bottom/first cause can be (well, actually must be) non-natural – i.e. some kind of non-naturally ‘always existing’ entity, like a God (whether theistic, deistic, or whatever).

    Yes, this seems to be our point of departure. Can you explain why you are saying that the first cause must be God (rather than why it merely can be God)?

    A further thought:
    you seem to have a framework like this…
    “always existing” (natural) entities –> Natural Universe

    where as mine is…
    “always existing” (creative) Creator –> Nature (including natural entities which may/may-not give rise to Natural Universe)

    That is a very succinct outline of our differences. Notice in the outline that if there is a basis for believing that any natural phenomenon always existed (and different branches in cosmology are pointing in that direction), then by your definition of First Cause together with your definition that only God can be the First Cause, we would then have basis for claiming that God cannot exist. (Note that by “your” definitions, I don’t mean to say that these are constructs you personally invented, I just mean that they are the definitions that you are upholding in this discussion)

  20. I think for sake of brevity (and honestly thinking that we can do so without leaving any points left hanging), I’ll just focus on this last paragraph – the summary of our disagreement.

    Another way to state the difference would be to use the metaphor of house/foundation/ground.

    On theism, the “house” (uni/multi-verse) rests on the “foundation” (the sum-total of known/unknown natural processes), which in turn rests on the “ground” (ontological basis for all existence/process/being, the Creator or First Cause – note that ‘first’ is used not merely in the chronological sense).

    Diagrammed as:
    house (natural universe)
    upon
    foundation (nature)
    upon
    ground (God/1st Cause)

    On “naturalism”
    The “house” (natural universe/multiverse) rests on the “foundation” (eternally existing natural processes known/unknown), and needs no “ground”.

    Diagrammed as:
    house (natural universe)
    upon
    foundation (nature)

    and that’s it.

    Which brings us to the common thing that we both want to say; namely that there is a point where we both agree it is pointless to try to ask ‘yes, but what is that resting on?’

    This is why in terms purely to do with theological worldview, I think atheism can be placed under the very broad umbrella term of “pantheism”. The atheist (who is philosophically naturalist) claims the same thing for Nature as the theist does for God – i.e. the ultimate source/cause/etc. Pantheism has, of course, many forms, including Wiccanism/Paganism, Spinozan/Einsteinian-ism, etc. which conceives of it’s ‘god’ in variously impersonal ways (the least personal, of course, being atheism/naturalism and then perhaps Spinozan/Einsteinian concepts). But indeed I do think that strictly in terms of worldview classification, atheism/naturalism (in whatever sub-forms) fall nicely in the pantheistic category.

    And… to bring it back to the title of this post…
    Atheism/naturalism (‘pantheistic’ as it is) is but milimetres away from the ever-so-slightly-more-‘personal’ spinozan/einsteinian ‘god’… which is but milimetres away from a cold (and very tenable) Deism.

  21. The Atheist says:

    I think you’re right – I think we’ve covered the pertinent points. I like your “house” metaphor because it’s easy to imagine that the ground is infinitely deep, which makes for a nice visualization of First Cause. When comparing the atheistic and theistic cosmologies, I personally find it more useful to use metaphors with 2 layers to describe each view. To me, the atheistic cosmology has only 2 categories of phenomena (layers) – these are: phenomena that always existed (like Branes, etc.), and phenomena that are products of the always-existing phenomena.

    While I can understand the intent of the distinction between the “house” and the “foundation” in the theistic view, I don’t think that there really is a distinction between the universe/multiverse and the sum-total of known/unknown natural processes. By definition of the theistic view of First Cause, both the multiverse/universe and the sum-total of known/unknown natural processes must be created, thus the sum-total of known/unknown natural processes must be part and parcel of the universe/multiverse.

    I would offer a refinement of your original analogy:

    Theistic Cosmology Diagrammed as:
    —————
    house (ephemeral phenomena)
    …upon…
    ground (God/1st Cause)

    Atheistic Cosmology Diagrammed as:
    —————
    house (ephemeral phenomena)
    …upon…
    foundation (eternal phenomena)

    I can see your reasoning for placing atheism in the class of pantheism because it falls on a continuum with a personal God at one end, and a completely impersonal “god” (naturalism) on the other end. While I think that you have correctly placed atheism along this continuum, I would disagree that such a continuum is really a continuum of theism (since atheism by definition is separated from theism). Rather this seems to be a scale of diminishing belief in God. As such, even if atheism belongs near the Spinozan view of God along this particular scale, the view that God created the universe, regardless of how personally or impersonally God is described, is as far from the view that the universe arose naturally as I can imagine.

  22. I’m very happy (as far as I can tell) with your revision of things.
    And again, the key thing I’ve been noticing is that theists and atheists both claim finality, ultimacy and eternal-ity for some thing(s)/entity(ies) – theists: God – atheists: Nature.

    And I see your points about classifying atheism under ‘pantheism’ – however, particularly because of the finality, ultimacy and eternal-ity claimed for Nature, I think it’s not being totally unfair to place it as I did.

    If finality/ultimacy were NOT claimed for Nature, then that view would be more justified in being excluded from that spectrum – but that view would also be more properly called ‘agnosticism’ (“I don’t know (gnosis) if nature is final/ultimate or not…”), not atheism.

  23. Durzal says:

    I’ve posted this on Dales website also as he has a similar thread,

    Hello all
    I’m a Atheist/Deist(Depending on your definition of a God)
    I do agree that the cosmological argument must have an end (unmovable cause) however I don’t see any evidence or reasoning to support the idea that this beginning(or first) cause should be considered nature or that of an intelligence.

    My point being that as M theory theorises multiple universes, speculating on what may have created our membrane universe and that of the entire bulk based on our unique reasoning and laws of physics is futile.
    Believing that the first cause is nature or an intelligence is just an assumption, as its based on absolutely no evidence.

    I have no problem accepting the possibility of a God, if by God you mean a first unmovable cause that has an intelligence behind it.(as its just as likely as nature)
    Of course making out that this possible intelligent first cause is Thor, Zeus, Allah, Ra or any other God man has dreamt up in his brief history is absurd to me as its a further and even bigger assumption.

  24. The Atheist says:

    Durzal – I would agree if we were having this same discussion in that past when science could not see backwards beyond the Bang. In that case, we would have no basis for speculation about any natural ultimate cause. However, my feeble understanding of M theory is that Branes simply exist and are neither created nor destroyed. That qualifies them as a first cause if indeed they are found to exist (I think the theory is still too new to draw final conclusions). At the very least, I think this theory, as well as some others, are sufficient to serve as a basis for speculation, a basis that speculations about Thor (etc.) as first cause do not enjoy. Your thoughts?

    • Durzal says:

      I’m also no authority on M theory which frankly, is to be expected as even the physicist’s working on it don’t really understand it all. (its very new as you point out)

      I think(not 100%)that its the general(reluctant)acceptance of most physicists that Branes simply exist and have no beginning nor end, purely because there is no evidence either way with which to speculate on.

      If you know of some(circumstantial or not) evidence that supports the idea that Brane universes are a natural(or intelligent) eternal phenomenon, I would genuinely be interested in a link as my fence-sitting on this topic is mainly down to a lack of evidence with which to make an educated guess.

      I fully accept that this theory as well as others form a solid basis for speculation, I don’t however believe that this theory provides a basis for a conclusion(nature or intelligence) or even a general debatable belief, as it wouldn’t really be based on anything.

      • The Atheist says:

        Durzal,

        I think there is evidence. One piece of evidence is that M-theory has passed many tests of internal mathematical consistency to combine quantum mechanics and gravity where other theories have failed. This his huge! Until M-theory, quantum physics and general relativity have been internally consistent but inconsistent with each other. Therefore neither could be considered an adequate model for the universe (quantum physics breaks at the macro level and relativity breaks at the micro level). Because of the mathematical consistency for both macro and micro phenomena, we can say that M-theory is a better candidate as a model of the universe than other accepted models… unless it is proven false. I agree that we do not have basis to form a conclusion – M-theory is still too new and many tests are as yet beyond our reach. But not all tests are beyond our reach – for example the theory predicts how gravity should act on the subatomic scale and tests are currently underway to prove or to disprove the theory based on these predictions.

        Now contrast our ability to speculate about a naturally appearing universe based on theories in physics, with our ability to speculation about a universe created by a divine being. As far as I’m aware, we have no basis for speculating the latter. If I understood your earlier point, you were considering that we had no basis on which to speculate that the universe appeared naturally, or that it was divinely created. I’m arguing that we have a basis on which to speculate that the universe appeared naturally but that we do not have a basis on which to speculate that the universe was divinely created.

        Now I’ll venture even deeper into territory with which I am woefully unfamiliar to make a guess. This guess is not based in any deep understanding of M-theory but of the scientific process. My guess is that M-theory physicists don’t speculate that branes always existed on a whim or for convenience, but rather because it is consistent with the mathematical model, a model which is internally consistent and which in part can be tested now, and will no doubt be tested more completely as our technology continues to advance.

      • Durzal says:

        I agree, I by no means doubt the validity of M theory, I understand fully its solid foundation in mathematics and understand fully the credibility that has to be given to a theory that can unify general relativity and quantum mechanics.

        Is the test your talking about regarding gravitons and trying to identify them before they drift off into another brane? Fascinating stuff!!
        Hurray for the CERN hadron collider, its supposed to be fixed soon, like this month.(hopefully they wont break it again after a week)

        @ your 2nd sentence
        I don’t believe that our universes laws of physic’s or theories, based on our physic’s can be applied or used to speculate on processes that occur outside our universe.(be it natural or intelligent)
        I realise that M theory theorises branes outside of our own but it doesn’t(I believe) try to equate their origins, or the nature of the bulk multiverse.
        (This was my original point)

        Your ventured guess is basically my problem, I don’t like to guess about what physicists may have explained in their mathematics, as in my opinion a guess or assumption makes us no better than that of a theist. I don’t demand or expect any evidence that the nature of branes or that of the entire bulk(multiverse) is covered in M theory mathematics(unless you have some), my only point was that without knowing if M theory equates branes as being eternal(natural or not) its unwise to come to any final decision one way or the other.

      • Durzal says:

        @ your 2nd paragraph* (not sentence)

      • The Atheist says:

        Yes, those are exactly the tests I’m referring to. I can’t wait for results – thanks to the large hadron collider, string theory can at long last pass from purely theoretical physics to experimental physics! It’s where the physics rubber meets the road – and historically, this is when the physics tends to advance the fastest.

        It sounds like we agree that it is unwise to conclude anything yet based on M-theory. That said, to offer my perspective on conclusions vs belief, conclusions that Newtonian physics was exactly correct seemed warranted before relativity theory. When talking about theism and atheism, we are talking about belief: atheism is a belief that there is no God. In the particular sense that theism and atheism are both beliefs, I don’t think atheism is better than theism (or vice versa). Conclusions are the product of beliefs: when we say “If A, then B; A therefore B”, we conclude “B” based on our belief that “A”. This might ring a bit more true when we consider the “fact” that a constant force on a free-standing object will accelerate it indefinitely.

        I maintain that a belief, in the absence of evidence that any gods exist, that God created the universe is a weaker position than a belief that the universe occurs naturally, which is based on “sound speculation” (by which I mean speculation from evidence which seems to point in a particular direction). In this particular sense, I think atheism is “better” than theism.

        I think reasonable guesses and reasonable assumptions can be beneficial in that they suggest the next directions of scientific inquiry. They are also beneficial in that they allow us to operate in the absence of proof. For example, we have no proof that the universe isn’t taring apart right now, and that the tare travels faster than the speed of light – and will reach us tomorrow morning at 0 GMT at which point we will be instantly annihilated. However, because we have a sound basis for speculation (but no proof!) that the universe doesn’t work this way, we can continue to operate as if our actions today will matter tomorrow.

      • Durzal says:

        I agree with most everything you have said here except the implication that guessing the first cause is a natural one is a reasonable assumption.

        Based on our understanding of this universe we can quite rightly assume that tomorrow is going to come and that our universe can have been created through natural means as this assumption is based on the laws of physics(and nature) of our universe.
        This understanding can quite reasonable be applied to any phenomena within our universe and used to hazard educated guesses.

        However, when we look at phenomena outside our universe, using our universes laws of physics(or nature) to speculate on how these phenomena may or may not operate or originate is not reasonable(in my opinion) as all the set or constant forces of our universe may or may not apply.

        If I was to use our universes nature I could speculate that the first cause is a natural intelligence as if we look at evolution it designs and sculpts species through set rules(a complex natural process) if we suggest a first natural cause that is infinitely more complex that that of evolution could this not be deemed intelligent? Even if its complexity greatly overshadowed our own complexity?

        The point I’m trying to make here is that it would be ridiculous to assume that an intelligent or natural first cause would in anyway correspond to any ideal we may have on what intelligence or nature is, based on our own very limited 3D ape-man way of thinking.
        (and that’s if we could reasonably assume one way or the other in the first place)

  25. Durzal says:

    I’d like to point out that I realise that your posts on this topic are down to a wish to point out that nature is just as viable an answer to the cosmological argument than that of the presupposition by deist’s, that a God(or intelligence) is a more viable first cause and that you haven’t necessarily made any conclusions on this front.

  26. On M-Brane theory, I’m probably less familiar than either of you, and we’re all, not surprisingly, less familiar than the relevant theoretical physicists.

    I still think, however, that in terms of addressing the question “is Deism tenable”, and thinking along the lines we have been, it’s good to think in terms of categories and make good distinctions.

    A key category distinction is between the changeable and the changeless. I hear you (wanting to, at least) claiming a kind of eternal, changeless state for these ‘Branes’, which exist ‘on their own’.

    At this point, I simply observe that this is merely a specific example of the Naturalist claim that Nature exists ‘on its own’ (in whatever form, or with whatever processes or history of development).

    This is why the distinction between changeable and changeless is so immediate. We all agree that there is changeable-ness to Nature, but the claim that Naturalists add is that there is also changeless-ness to Nature.

    It is a category mistake, I think, to call a natural entity (Branes, etc.) a First Cause of Nature itself. Cause, perhaps – but the langauge of ‘First’ Cause is mistaken.

    In other words, I don’t think that M-Theory even begins to come into a discussion about a First Cause.

    • The Atheist says:

      Dale,

      I’m not sure if this post was directed at my comments, or Durzal’s, or perhaps both. Generally speaking, things can change in certain respects while remaining constant in other respects. For example, an object might change location while remaining constant in form. If our category of things that change considers both form and location, then the object changes. On the other hand if our category of things that change considers only form, then the object does not change. Therefore as you point out, it is important to define the category.

      Branes do not remain constant in form. However, this does not prevent them from remaining constant in their mode of existence – they may still exist on their own. We could speak of a changelessness of nature when we define nature as the process of how branes interact – for example we could say that they drift and they collide, always have, always will. We can also speak of a changeableness to nature when we define nature as a collection of branes that interact and change form as a result.

      If branes always existed, and if their interaction produces an observable universe, then branes and their interactions can be said to be a first cause of the observable universe.

  27. Sorry, I must disagree with myself: Even to say that a (natural) Brane is a ‘Cause’ of Nature is a category mistake.

    • Durzal says:

      Whether naturalists add a changeless-ness to nature or not(or if it can be seen in our nature) doesn’t really come into a first cause argument based on M theory as our unique nature or laws of physic’s don’t necessarily adhere or matter anywhere but in our unique brane.

      Who is to say what type of nature or physical law governs a multidimensional space outside our unique Brane or what it may or may not be able to do, trying to speculate based on what happens in our nature or universe is woefully inadequate.

  28. Indeed, it’s speculation built on speculation – do we even really know of big our universe is?

    Again, this is why categories are helpful. One category being the Totality of natural processes/entities – including Brane(s), multiverses, strings, superstrings, and any other currently-undetected natural phenomena… Nature.

    • The Atheist says:

      We don’t know how big our universe really is. That said, I think that physics provides our best view of how big it is. I’m not sure if I can see how categories are key in this particular regard. Phenomena which are undetectable today may become detectable tomorrow.

  29. Durzal says:

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nature

    Nature as a category is what happens within our universe(brane), M theory theorises many universes(branes) so the Nature of our universe in no way adheres or matters when looking at other universes or to space outside our universe.

  30. When referring to the ‘Nature’ of our universe, the word ‘nature’ means its ‘state of being’. However, as a category (i.e. how it is being used in our discussions and discussions like it), ‘Nature’ refers to (as above) “the Totality of natural processes/entities – including Brane(s), multiverses, strings, superstrings, and any other currently-undetected natural phenomena…”

    More importantly, the latter sense is the only one relevant to a First Cause discussion (including whether or not Deism is tenable).

  31. btw, this needs to be my last comment this week – which is turning out to be one of the busiest of the year for me! will follow up any subsequent comment next week :)

  32. Durzal says:

    When referring to the ‘Nature’ of our universe the word nature can mean its “state of being” or it can mean “the sum total of the forces at work throughout the universe” (that’s No6 from dictionary.com)

    Call it what you will, the point is that the nature(or laws of physics) of our universe in no way can be used to speculate on phenomenon that operate outside our universe.

  33. Sam says:

    IMHO, the obvious answer is this: atheism (being in it’s purest sense a LACK of belief in dieties) is the most rational philosophical position since there exists no sensible evidence for any beliefs that include gods. Even “believers” agree there is no reason to believe. They call it faith. Thus deism nor any kind of theism are tenable and that includes pantheism. Further, I think it’s a mistake to say atheists who merely lack a belief in gods are necessarily naturalists, naturists, pantheists or any other -ists. IOW, one does not necessarily believe in something opposed or different than gods just because he or she does not believe in gods. Does that make sense? Now I consider myself a “strong” atheist. I believe gods do not exist. Likewise, I should not fairly be considered to necessarily “believe in” or revere nature or Nature instead.

    To confuse the issue further (lol) I don’t believe there is any such thing “outside our universe”. The definition of universe is EVERYTHING! That’s pretty all-inclusive! The laws we’ve discovered that apply here and now apply everywhere and always because space and time are only human constructs, ways we’ve divided up the universe with language so we can talk about it and try to understand it. Mathematics is the closest thing we have to a perfect expression of how and why things are the way they are. When a human discovers the math to prove something, he has not discovered that “thing”. He’s just discovered a way to think about that thing. The “thing” has always “existed”. There are undoubtedly forces in action that we will and can never discover. It was relatively easy to find the math to explain gravity, magnetism, and other observable forces. Just think of the multitudes of possibilities for forces/waves/particles/other “things” we can’t detect! No doubt science is the best way to go about explaining what we can but, again IMO, it is folly to replace being comfortable with mystery and patient for answers with the arbitrary use of anthropomorphic
    invisible, intelligent flying spaghetti monsters and other such nonsense to fill in the gaps and assuage fears of the unknown.

    • Durzal says:

      Another enthralling read!
      Just had a few issues, The definition of universe is something like:
      “All matter and energy, including the earth, the galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space, regarded as a whole” as you say,
      however,
      this age-old definition is based on a relative lack of understanding of the finer principles of theoretical physic’s.

      Just like the atom that was named atom from the Greek which means “uncuttable” (the Greeks surmised a tiny uncuttable something that made up the worlds matter) and science believed they had found it in atoms,
      they were wrong. see protons, neutrons, (electrons, quarks)-strings and other elementary particles.(the name stuck though)

      The point is, the multiverse is very much apart of mainstream theoretical physics, despite what the dictionary might have to say about it.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many-worlds_interpretation
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse

      I didn’t much like your describing space and time as merely human constructs as both have characteristics and subtleties that behave outside of human intuition, this description (forgive me) suggests a lack of any real understanding of how space and time operate.
      (see, special relativity)

      I seriously lol’ed at this:
      “It was relatively easy to find the math to explain gravity, (Electro)-magnetism, and other observable forces.”
      I’m sure Newton and Maxwell are spinning in their graves!

      I liked this though:
      “Even “believers” agree there is no reason to believe. They call it faith.”

      In face to face debates I’ve often been given
      “I have faith” as though this constitutes as some sort of solid counter argument, but faith means
      Faith = “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.”
      So they are just summing up exactly what I’ve been saying, that they believe this stuff without a shred of evidence whatsoever to support their claims.

      • Sam says:

        While I concede I’m no physics expert or even a novice in any stretch of the imagination, you would have to agree that the field is no more than an exercise in futility because if it teaches us anything it’s that there will always be more questions than answers. Obviously it’s useful to solve problems that may make our lives more comfortable but in the end what does it really accomplish? If you truly believe there is no purpose for our existence, as you must if you are truly a “strong” atheist, then the finer points of physics, though fascinating and enlightening, are just us humans trying to find a way to live forever and I think we all know that is impossible. As for the grave spinnings, well, yeah, but I did say “relatively easy” as they were easy compared to, say, finding the “theory of everything”! I may lack a basic understanding of how space and time operate (no, I don’t, lol) but the bigger picture suggests to me that these concepts became intuitive as a result of the development of consciousness and not through analysis. I don’t know how you can say anything lies “outside human intuition”. That’s really just a fancy way of saying we don’t know everything. We never will and THAT realization is important. Humans need to realize the value of their own limited lifetimes and spend that time on less lofty endeavors as solving an unsolvable puzzle. That said, me being a 52 year old grandmother of 9, my two cents worth in a debate about physics, the existence of gods/godesses, and the demise of nickle beer is hardly of any value. It just feels good to say what’s on my mind with no “real” world consequences and THAT is how I’m satisfying my Self in this lifetime HERE and NOW. Sorry if I intrude on your very interesting debate but it’s hard to find intelligent people with whom to connect so thx for your attention and consideration!

      • Durzal says:

        “no more than an exercise in futility because”
        “there will always be more questions than answers.”
        “but in the end what does it really accomplish?”

        Wow, what a opinion to hold!!
        Its like saying why bother to learn at all because you can never attain all knowledge.

        I would say it accomplishes the advancement of our civilisation:-computers, modern appliances, medicines, space flight and general understanding of the world around us,
        without it we would no doubt still be worshipping the sun and eating the hearts of our enemies to gain their strength.

        I don’t believe there is any inherent purpose to our existence except what purpose you can find in life, I plan to contribute to our civilisation, even if it means by merely being a law abiding citizen who pays his taxes.
        I also plan to propagate my genetic code at some point.(form a queue ladies)
        As well as experience all that life has to offer (well… maybe not ALL, sorry guys!!)

        So does my life have purpose/meaning?
        Hell yeah!! Does yours not?

        When I said “outside of human intuition” I meant exactly that, an example of this is time dilation:- the faster an object moves the slower its relative progression through time, This phenomena has been proven to occur using very precise atomic clocks flown on fast moving jets but you would have to be moving at a reasonable fraction of the speed of light for these effects to become obviously apparent, so it isn’t something human being have ever had to deal with and thus it isn’t something we intuitively understand or easily comprehend.

        I’m not trying to bash you with a better knowledge of physics here, I’m no expert either (just a few physics books further along) but calling space and time mere human constructs at best is a gross over-simplification at worst just plain wrong.

        You don’t intrude, and if you do, it is a most welcome intrusion, again try not to take my criticism to personally, I know I tend to mock as a debating method but its not meant to offend.
        I’m on this blog mainly because discussing my beliefs, evolution and occasionally theoretical physics ;) helps me refine and better understand these subjects, I also tend to learn a lot while finding answers to nonsensical questions that some of our theist friends occasionally pose.

        Feel free to rip into anything I’ve ever posted on this site, your always ALWAYS welcome.

      • Sam says:

        Believe me when I say I know what you mean about the mocking debate style. I’ve just quit a philosophy forum that I visited daily for over 6 years which included about 20 “regulars” who were everything from religious fundamentalists of each major religion, to the “fence-sitters” who call themselves agnostics, to new-agey types, wiccans, pagans, pantheists, atheists and everything in between. I was know as a particularly militant (mocking) atheist by a pastor there who was the poster boy for religious stupidity and hypocrisy. Anyway, I’d had enough of that stuff so I looked for a new place to visit where I can actually learn something and this place here seems very promising. Don’t mind my esoterica too much. I’m still feeling things out…Lol!

  34. Sam says:

    Another point: Agnosticism is not technically anywhere on the belief continuum. In fact, there is no belief continuum, IMO. You either believe something or you don’t. YOu may vaccilate in your beliefs, even from minute to minute but at any given moment you either do or do not believe something is true. Agnosticism is about knowledge and any relatively intelligent being has to admit we don’t definitively know the answers to many important questions about our existence thus making us all agnostic. That is, except for the delusional who claim they do know.

    • tea says:

      I like Apatheism. They just don’t care if there is a god.

      • Sam says:

        A much better label for people who claim to be agnostics, tea! Regardless of whether or not they care, however, when hard-pressed even an apatheist believes something is either true or not true, IMO.

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