Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How certain are YOU that there is no god?

Most theists don’t understand that atheists (or at least most of us) do not claim to be 100% certain that there is no god. Worshippers think atheism is an arrogant position of claiming omniscience about the possibilities in the Universe, but this isn’t it at all. First of all, being a rational thinker, and a person who accepts the scientific method as being the single most effective tool for learning facts about nature, instructs one to avoid dealing in absolutes. Secondly, we simply say that we think there is no supernatural gods in the universe. I shouldn’t talk for other atheists. It's what I mean when I say I’m an atheist.

But there is a continuum, along which you can find degrees of certainty for any given proposition. For instance, I rate my “certainty” that there are no highly intelligent beings (besides Homo sapiens) buzzing about the Universe in advanced transportation vehicles, at about 75%. Hey, the Universe is huge. My certainty that such beings are not making regular clandestine visits to Earth, on a mission to observe our culture, is more like 99%. When we talk about these issues in terms of probabilities, it might make it a bit easier for the theist to understand the atheistic mindset.

So I’ll give a short probability example of what I’d tell theists about my atheism, so that they could get a strong grasp on what I mean when I tell them that I am an atheist.

If someone who was widely accepted as a world renowned spiritual person (think, I guess, the Pope or the Dali Lama) approached me and offered me two choices: (1) Simply say that I accept their version of god (even if I find it nearly impossible to believe) and, if there is an afterlife, I will be guaranteed to participate in the more pleasant aspects of it or (2) receive a gift certificate for a Happy Meal at McDonalds, and if there is an afterlife I will either not be able to participate or, if I do, it will be to receive the most horrible punishments associated with such – I’d immediately grab my free meal. That’s how certain I am. On the other hand, if my “gift” in Choice 2 were a brand new shiny penny, I’d say, “I accept your version of god, my friend”.

I hope this clarifies exactly what I mean when I say I’m an atheist. I’ve simply never heard a notion of “god” that is worth 2 cents. I invite readers to leave their own probability examples of how certain they are that there is no god(s).


The Exterminator said...

I'm 99.99......% certain that there are no gods, which, mathematically, is virtually equivalent to 100%.

Here's my evidence:
(1) Lack of any cogent evidence to support the hypothesis.
(2) An ocean of cogent evidence -- the history of humanity -- to falsify the hypothesis.
(3) If there were an omnibenevolent and omnipotent, god of any kind, he would have taken care of the Problem of Country Music.
(4) Generally, the stupidest people believe in him, while the smartest people don't. If god is omniPR-savvy, he would not have done such a shitty job advertising himself.

So where do I get that certificate for a Happy Meal. And can I make it a Cynical Meal instead? (Free toy: a figurine of Ambrose Bierce.)

grumpylion said...

Ah, you guys are a couple of wusses. Never mind this 99.99... crap. There's nothing. Never was. Never will be. I have that on good authority from Ronald McDonald.

the chaplain said...

I'm 100% certain that gods with the attributes commonly assigned to them - such as the omni-traits that are often posited - don't exist. Whether some other godlike entity exists, I don't know, and perhaps I am incapable of knowing it.

Kune said...

I place myself in the 65%-75% percentile range. But the more I learn and the older I get the more I find myself leaning towards the higher percentages of improbability.

yunshui said...

As I said in a recent post, the possibility exists that I may win the National Lottery, but I don't live my life as though fourteen million quid were headed my way this Saturday.

Incidentally, I'd take the penny.

PhillyChief said...

I'd take the penny. In fact, I'd take the penny instead of the Happy Meal. There's nothing happy about obesity and heart disease. Stop going to McDonald's my friend. Ronald is evil. Want proof? He hangs out with the grumpylion. Nuff said. ;)

Infidel753 said...

I'd take the penny too.

To use a more practical example, I concluded some time ago that the probability of the existence of "God" in any conventional sense is so low that it's not worth spending any of my time or mental energy on thinking about it.

PhillyChief said...

Now everyone, let's be fair. If we go on about probability we'll just sound like those clowns and their tornado in a junkyard probability nonsense. It's not that there's little probability but rather NO EVIDENCE currently available and no REASON to accept any supernatural claims we've herd so far.

grumpylion said...

pc -

That McDonald clown doesn't hang out with me. He wants to hang out with me, as do so many many others, but he's just an incompetent wannabe. I mean, hell, the guy even failed the basic 'Torture The Muppet' test.