Reconsidering God’s existence (or, the value of agnosticism)

Knowing and believing are separate issues.

F8BF01D1-5EAF-488B-9CC9-2071FB5EEB57
Flagler University, St. Augustine, FL. © Dave DuBay

I’ve been an atheist for 20 years. Or more specifically, an agnostic atheist. That’s not a redundancy. Nor do I think that “agnostic Christian” would be an oxymoron, though I’ve never heard anyone describe themselves that way.

Agnosticism is about what we know or don’t know. Religious belief or atheism is about what we believe or don’t believe. You can say you don’t know if God exists. But this agnosticism says nothing about whether you believe God exists or not.

I became an atheist because there were too many supernatural beliefs—the virgin birth, resurrection, walking on water—that I could not honestly say I believed. On top of that, none of the alleged proofs of God’s existence actually prove anything. They may provide reasons that God might exist, but proof is a much higher standard.

So I decided that while I don’t know if God exists, it seems unlikely. I could not truthfully say I believed in God.

Of course, you can believe in God without believing that some dude walked on water. Perhaps God chooses not to suspend the laws of nature. But the biggest problem with believing in God is evil: if God were all-powerful He could stop evil, and if He were perfectly good He’d have to. Maybe there’s a bigger plan—which requires quite a leap of faith. Or God isn’t perfect. Or there is no God.

But a major objection to atheism is the question of why there is something rather than nothing. And while that raises the question of who created God, one strand of Christian theology holds that God is not a thing that exists but instead is existence itself.

In a previous post I argued that without God morality must be relative. This doesn’t mean atheists are less moral than religious people. No one (except psychopaths) believes that everything is permitted. But a relativist cannot say that certain things are wrong no matter what anyone thinks.

In a similar way, without God life has no meaning beyond what each individual might assign to it. Put differently, self-constructed meaning has no meaning beyond one’s ego.

Note that moral relativity and lack of universal meaning could be true. And we can’t say that God exists just because we want meaning and morality to be universal.

Further, even if God exists this does not automatically prove other Christian beliefs. I think Christians too often leap from “God exists” to “and therefore all Christian beliefs are true.” Instead, each claim must be taken separately. And this is a monumental task considering the Bible’s numerous contradictions and fantastical claims.

Earlier I wrote that we should trust no one who claims special knowledge about God, including whether God exists. And we should distrust our own beliefs about God most of all. The temptation for self-justification is too great.

I’m still doubtful of a personal God. Or if there is a God then I find it hard to believe that God is all-powerful.

On the other hand, the ancient Greeks articulated logos—the organizing principle of the universe—which pantheistic Stoics identified as God. This is perhaps more palatable in our modern scientific age. But we shouldn’t mistake this for a scientific viewpoint. And for many people I’m sure this is a doubtful abstraction.

The universe’s organizing principle—which I see as impersonal—is the closest I can get to something I could call God. But I don’t expect anyone to agree with me. It’s a personal opinion.

Advertisements

Author: Dave DuBay

Dave is a social worker from Phoenix, Arizona. He blogs at thepaintedporch.net. He's also at twitter.com/Dave_DuBay.

15 thoughts on “Reconsidering God’s existence (or, the value of agnosticism)”

  1. It seems that material existence involves an over riding coherence. This implies that there are constraints on form and process. Reality if absolutely coherent and constrained then cannot be absolutely anything, and not everything is possible.
    So then if the immaterial realm of God exists, can God be incoherent and irrational. Can God break the constraints of his own coherent creation to intervene in the natural coherence with miracles? Can God be anything or is it constricted the same way the material universe is constrained? Can God be evil?
    Or is man so far removed from the central processes of creation that his emotions and thoughts are seemingly irrelevant within the context of the nature of reality? Does God care that you are happy, content or comfortable, and if he does can he intervene in the coherence of reality to make you feel better?

    Like

      1. Truth is really just an attempt to gain authority over nature or other people. When we apply it to nature we are looking to increase predictability. When we apply it to people we seek to gain control over them. Authority over people is only as significant as the number of people you can convince to believe in it! The Pope has lots of authority!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I like it! It’s refreshingly honest to hear a theist (and atheist) address possibly flaws in their own worldviews/religions.

    “But a major objection to atheism is the question of why there is something rather than nothing. And while that raises the question of who created God, one strand of Christian theology holds that God is not a thing that exists but instead is existence itself.”

    What type of atheism? Some atheists state they just don’t have enough evidence to believe in a god but here you are making the theists Cosmological argument. While some people twist this argument around to state atheist believe the universe came from nothing- that’s not true. The absence of god does not mean nothing. I understand Christian’s believe in the “First cause” but if one is going to argue that it is possible for god to be “Existence itself”, maybe the same could be said about the universe. maybe not the universe as we currently know it but… the universe before the “big bang”.

    The biggest issue at hand is everything above is a theory or a belief. Everything is a virtual unknown but there are plenty of people who argue their beliefs as fact. It’s interesting but I remain without enough evidence 🙂

    Dave

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You should look up the Zero Energy Universe Hypothesis which has been around since Richard Feynman. Then you might get a clue why there is something instead of nothing and the rest of the story! 🤔

      Like

      1. Pay attention! *There was no matter, no energy, no space and no time*
        Matter, energy, space and time are all the physical properties there are! Without them there is no physical reality!
        There is however a nonphysical property that we find exists in this physical reality. That property is nonlinear time!
        *Got it?*

        Like

      2. I didn’t say nothing, I said no physical reality! Even science points to its existence, but the lack of physical properties are not what science does well.
        The quantum field operates in non linear time. So you can infer that nonlinear time binds the nonphysical and physical realities together. Nonlinear time exists whether or not physical reality exists, and whatever is there is the master set of which physical reality is just a subset. The Hindus and Buddhists somehow understood this without the benefit of science that we have.
        The problem in the West is that religion is based on a physical God, and science of course is physical. So they infringe on each other’s proper territories!
        Religion should restrict itself to the nonphysical and science should recognize that it has no way of exploring the nonphysical truths!

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s