Thursday, June 16, 2005

argument for strong atheism

Today I was thinking about what it means to be an atheist. In philosopical terms there are two different types of atheists. "Weak" atheists do not have a belief in god(s). "Strong" atheists believe that there is no god or gods. A common argument against strong atheism is that it is an irrational and unrealistic position, since no one can no for sure that there is no god. However, this argument hinges on what you mean by the word "god."

What characteristics does a person have to have in order to be considered a god? Does a god even have to be a person? I wonder this because I hear of people talking about a being that is anything from "all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present" to one that is simply some sort of force that permeates the universe. There is no universally agreed upon definition of "god" not even among Christians of the same denominations!

What I was wondering about is this: If we were to find evidence of a "supreme being", how would it be distinguished from an advanced alien? A perfectly natural being or force, and a product of evolution just as we are? Can anything that has come to be though natural forces--even forces that exist outside of or prior to our universe--properly be called a god?

I contend that no being or force that comes from natural causes (or human imagination, for that matter) can properly be called a god. And until I see some real good reason to believe that things can come from non-natural causes (could the supernatural even have causation??) then a person is perfectly justified in being a strong atheist.

(And, of course, this is an argument aimed people who are already agnostic or atheist. Most believers, I've noticed, will just say that I'm not giving the possibility of the supernatural its due. And I never will, at least until you can tell be what it is beyond just it's being "other than what I am able to see or otherwise detect around me." )

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