Thursday, March 7, 2013

I'm an Atheist, not an Adeist - god is "possible"

Sean Ewart

It's plausible... but unlikely.
The conversation has reached that inevitable point at which my sparring partner cannot give evidence, outside of the Bible, for the existence of her conception of god. We've already shot down experiential claims as being too subjective for consideration. We need something concrete to lay our hands upon.

“Prove that god exists,” I goad.

Too often at this point of the debate the tables are abruptly turned.

“Prove god doesn't exist,” my rival parries.

I've fallen for the ploy countless times. In a desperate attempt to weave together an airtight counterattack out of fallacies I say, without exception, something absurd.

“We haven't ever seen god,” I assert.

My rival smiles, “that doesn't mean god doesn't exist.”

It's a trap set by zeal and triggered by overconfidence. As soon as I have offered up such a ludicrous statement as, “I know god does not exist!” I have engaged fiction with fiction. What do I mean I know god does not exist? According to what? Where's the evidence?

Atheism, the rejection of revelation and the determination to await the evidence before answering the “big” questions, certainly is not religion. But the dogmatic assertion of what I call “adeism” is. The trouble is recognizing the difference.

We atheists are often hoisted by our own petard. While we reject the claims of the religious for their clear lack of substantiation, we are prone to overestimating the weight of empirical testimony lining up on our behalf. In other words we often find ourselves defending the claim, without so much as a shred of evidence, that we live in a god-less universe. How futile.

It's a false dichotomy and atheists and theists alike are guilty of missing the fallacy. While atheism is a rejection of supernatural claims that lack evidence, it is not the outright rejection of “god.”

Even Dawkins said, “...reason alone could not propel one to total conviction that anything definitely does not exist.”

Atheism is the rejection of theism: the dogmatic belief, not just in the possibility of the supernatural, in the specific configuration of “god” according to religious revelation.

What atheism is not, however, is a rejection of deism: the belief generally in the possible existence of the supernatural. The claims of deists like Einstein or Thomas Paine are not within the scope of atheism nor capable of being upended by the barbs of atheists.

Paine's assertion, that “We can know God only through his works,” resonates with the atheist as with the deist. Let us study the natural world free from the dogma of theism. Perhaps we will find god.

However much I doubt that god exists the evidence so far does not rule out the existence of the divine. This does not mean atheists therefore believe the divine exists – it merely does not allow us to rule it out. We are awaiting the evidence. For that reason I am an atheist and not an “adeist.” The existence of god is perfectly possible... it's just unlikely.

And, I should add, this is categorically different than agnosticism because atheists contend that we do have enough evidence to toss out the mythologies of the theists. Beyond that, however, we are, so far, without further understanding.

Confronting again my nemesis of before, I demand the presentation of evidence in favor of the existence of god. She can offer none.

“What about you?” she asks. “Where is the proof god does not exist?”

“I have none,” I say now. “But that isn't the point. Atheists are not attempting to answer the “big” questions – why are we here? How did we get here? - until we first come up with satisfying evidence. When we find that evidence we will follow it towards whatever answers there may be. Until then we are content to live in mystery.”

In fine, do we want to know what God is? Search not the book called the scripture, which any human hand might make, but the scripture called the Creation. – Thomas Paine.


  1. Which god concerning deism?

    Or do you just like to roll around in ambiguity?

    1. Which god will change your mind?

      Or do you just like to troll around?

    2. Are you hoping he'll pick one you can prove doesn't exist? Because otherwise what's your point?