What do you mean when you say “god does (or does not) exist”?

This question came to my mind during a recent troll thread on the JREF forums, I mean the thread by Radrook where he claims that Atheists are claiming omniscience. I’ve never met anybody in my life who claimed omniscience (either theist, deist, atheist, or agnostic; ok duh on that last one), so I’m curious if anybody is THAT certain, and what people mean when they say “i believe” or “i don’t believe”…

Of course, I’m more than happy to start off:

When I say “I do not believe in god” I mean three different things:

  1. I see evidence AGAINST the various gods I have studied (primarily abrahamic but a few others as well) and therefor say with as much certainty as I would say “the sun will rise tommorrow” that those gods specifically do not exist.
  2. Of the many specific gods that people believe in, of which I do not have any evidence personally for or against them, my inclination is to not believe in them unless provided with evidence (the same as I would feel about Nessie, bigfoot, alien visitations, etc), and I would certainly lean towards the idea of “extrordianry claims require extraordinary evidence” before I accepted any “evidence” for those specific version of god (or gods).
  3. Of the deist god who “set things in motion” (either by starting the big bang or whatever it did) and created the laws of physics but has no influence on the universe as we know it (think Spinoza’s god here) I feel it is the one truely unfalsafiable position, and thus the hardest to claim ANY degree of certainty for or against. However I would also lean towards the idea that if this god has no influence on the universe today we can treat it as if it does not exist (at least until we determine some way to look outside of the universe or back “before” the big bang).

Anybody else have some thoughts on this? Theists, Diests, Atheists, Agnostics, (or other) are all welcome to give their thoughts….

Thanks in advance.

[Originally posted at: http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=133410 ]

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About Rodibidably

Jeff Randall is a frequent volunteer for free-thought organizations, including the Center For Inquiry – DC. Having been blogging since January 2008, he decided that a community of bloggers would be an interesting new experience (or at the very least a fun way to annoy his friends into reading his posts more frequently). Since finding out about about the existence of, and then joining, the atheist/skeptic community in 2007 he has been committed to community activism, critical thinking in all aspects of life, science, reason, and a fostering a secular society.
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3 Responses to What do you mean when you say “god does (or does not) exist”?

  1. Pingback: What does my atheism REALLY tell you about me? « Rodibidably

  2. Pingback: Accepting My Atheism | Rodibidably

  3. Collin says:

    As an ultra-reform Jew, I’m similar to a Deist, except I don’t rule out God influencing things. The linchpin of my belief is that I don’t consider God omni- anything. As in the old saying about “a rock He can’t lift”, if He created the laws of physics, it’s consistent to say His power is limited to what those laws allow. Without the “omni”, there’s no paradox.

    Of course, this implies hard non-determinism, which has the unfortunate reputation of being mystical. I’m not sure exactly what counts as a mystical idea, but I’d say my acknowledgment of the Problem of Evil, my admission of lack of evidence, and an IMHO well-trained bull-ometer make me about as non-mystical as a theist/deist can get.

    Also, hard non-determinism is consistent with free will, so that every social interaction can be considered the result of free human agents. So the bar on divine intuition is very high.

    I do not consider any holy book to be an authority. However, I believe there are objective moral rules that can give a good or bad rating to moral pronouncements in any book (not just holy books). Particularly relevant to questions of belief is the Ninth Commandment. I find it one of the objectively best statements in the entire Bible, and also the ultimate statement in support of scientific evidence, and it never ceases to perplex me how preachers of all stripes continue to think science is bad.

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