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Unknowability is not belief in nonexistence

by: Richard

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There are a lot of things in your post I want to reply to, and I'll do it point by point. Bear with me, long read as it may be.

Firstly, the bedrock of our lack of belief is not the non-existence, but the unknowability of (a) deity(ies). Unknowability is not belief in nonexistence, it is the lack of knowing either way. And not accepting belief either way is a valid standpoint (at least for oneself).

As for seeing God at work: I've talked to, and read articles/posts/stories from, quite a few people who've claimed they have seen the hand of their deity at work. Christians or otherwise. I've yet to find an example that cannot be normally explained. The example you name, for mankind not destroying itself during the cold war, is easy. However, to show the difference in mental processes going on when pondering the question, I'll first show the way both sides look at it.

As a believer, you see that mankind has the ability to destroy itself, came close to doing that a few times, and "miraculously" didn't. Since your upbringing taught you that your deity sometimes takes a personal hand in things on this planet, and this event of non-destruction being (to you) miraculous, your first impulse is to call this the work of your deity.

As an agnostic, my own response is quite different.

  1. Did the event really happen?
  2. What is the simplest explanation for the occurrence of this event?
  3. Is there any reason why the simplest explanation cannot be true?
  1. yes
  2. The simplest explanation here is not the hand of a deity. It is the simple fact that the person who would order the launch of the nukes would be ordering the destruction not only of the enemy, but also of everyone and everything he or she knows and loves. Only an utter and complete mad(wo)man would pay that price. Also, the military of both sides served a function-to do whatever it takes to protect the nation and its people. Annihilating yourself along with the enemy does nobody any good. And before you say that this is not how such decisions are made-the people who make them are strategists. Trained to think of cost/benefit.
  3. Not to my knowledge. Therefore I accept #2 until a reason comes along which makes it invalid.

See the difference in reasoning here?

Feel free to give other examples.

After all, once you give one where I am forced to accept the simplest explanation being the work of a deity, and no other explanation serves better, you've converted me from an agnostic into a believer. But think them through before giving them in the way I described, leaving any and all prejudice to a certain explanation behind. I've tried ever since I moved away from Christianity, and after 14 years still haven't found one proving the existence of any higher being.

As for starvation and disease, Africa has plenty of Christians. They're no less hungry or poor than anyone else. The Catholic ones, due to their lack of condom-use, are generally even worse off in AIDS-affected areas than non-Catholics. America is considered to be the most Christian country in the world, yet many countries in Europe have a higher average life expectancy, better economy and less people living below what we Dutch people call the "poor-boundary". That while quite a few "sins" are legal here-gay people can even marry!

As for Haiti, I found this:

Also, the official national religion is Catholicism, which in my book is Christianity. Voodoo is often misperceived as zombie-raising and such, but in truth it is mostly the worship of family-spirits, much like Jews and early Christians did a few thousand years back, alongside their religion. (it's even in the old testament, assuming your version of Christianity uses that)

Most of the last paragraph of your post is merely repeating catechism, I see no need to answer that. However, the last line, "Why go through the pains of life if not for God." I've read and heard a hundred times and still amazes me. Life is SO much more than pain. If there is a deity, life, and the freedom to live it any way we choose is the greatest gift it could have given us. Life can be as heaven-like as we make it, if we but choose to do so and not wallow in our misery waiting for some mythical being to save us. One of the few decent things I've come across in the bible is the parable of the drowning man, ignoring everyone who tries to help him because "God will save him". Please, learn from that even if you totally ignore the rest of this post.