Judgment day on the extro list (was Re: Agnosticism and the Fear of Atheism (was re: Vital Essence))

From: Michael M. Butler (butler@comp-lib.org)
Date: Sun Jan 23 2000 - 18:52:37 MST

Caveat: The below is not me defending, or attempting to convince. It is
me describing; in part so that E. Shaun can decide whether to trust
anything I say, and in part to find out what I happen to hold true in
this chunk of time on a Sunday afternoon. Apologia: I use the word
"pinheaded" to refer to a specific certainty, not to anyone who holds

Eliezer had some great things to say a while back:

I don't trust my mind, but I can't think with anything else.
The validity of reason, the validity of choice, or the validity of
knowledge cannot be proven; but there is no better way available.
--Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Amen to that.


Yes. the human brain is wired for comfortable certainty. Credulity comes
in more than one flavor, it seems.

I choose to be selective about giving in to the wiring on some matters,
since the wiring is just wiring.
And some of it is just plain orneriness on my part, Shaun. Weak and
compromising? If you say so (laugh).
I just figure I don't have enough data to think further than the data.

Given someone's particular explication of (a) (G/g)od, I may be able to
reject it outright.

For a lot of them, though "I can't imagine an entity that meets these
specs" is as close as I can get, and sometimes that certainty is absent
for me. A suitably subtle (G/g)od might well have escaped my attention.

Personally, specifically, on the NONexistence of the overall category
"((G/g)od(s))": Zetetically, I find I can say

a) I haven't seen a clearly identifiable one, or convincing evidence of
same, of the J-C stripe lately.
b) I don't find a whole lot of putative evidence and argumentation
regarding any stripe overwhelmingly convincing.
c) 1) I've lived a very fortunate life, and it'd be easy for me to
credit something outside myself for some of that/
   2) I've had bad things happen to me, and it'd be easy for me to
d) I have no sharp-edged, powerful idea what/if to credit for (c1) or
(c2), nor any driving need to.
e) I initiated and later gave up militant agnosticism in my teens.
f) I had a crisis over the Problem of Evil in my teens.
g) I have no interest in meeting anyone else's standards of rigor
concerning such a quasimponderable.
h) I find the freeze-out of cosmological constants in our closed
universe to amuse me, as conceivably the barest possible hint of the
existence of an Artist at work, of a creator locking the door and
throwing away the key and chuckling sotto voce.
i) Point (h) above doesn't throw me into paroxysms of guilt at still
labeling myself an agnostic; it makes me laugh.
j) I am still working on a (bad, in my view) tendency to claim more
certainty in some cases than is warranted.
k) I seem to have the (j) matter well in hand in this tiny area; why
abandon that?
l) I get a kick out of tickling my God wiring from time to time.
m) I like being ornery sometimes.

You and Max can call me a wuss, and you can mistrust me because I don't
have a hard lock on whatever you call the (absolute? of course not!
absolutely not!) (certainty? but what is that without absoluteness?)...
...well, whatever you call your (dis)belief in the (non)existence of
whatever you think (a) (G/g)od is(n't) or whatever (G/g)od supposedly
told someone else. (Are you at least smiling yet?)

BIG OL' DAMN CAVEAT: Now, all that aside, "God Sez" has been a really
shitty excuse for much very bad behavior over time, and I can well
understand a passionate reaction to that. Indeed, I experienced one. I
can imagine more of the same if/when I come face to face with such in
the future.

But these days, I try not to waste my time arguing.

Michael (Go ahead and judge me. Ego absolvo (absolvatur?) te, life's too
short not to.)

Looking forward to the day when he can determine experimentally how many
agnostics can dance without dissolving into a banal abyss of pinheaded

"E. Shaun Russell" wrote:
> Upon reading some of the responses to Max's original post on God,
> arrogance and belief, it strikes me that there seems to be a sort of fear
> of commitment to the term "atheist." In my experience, many who call
> themselves agnostic and cringe at the word "atheist" have a deep rooted
> fear of possible repercussions from taking a firm stand on such a
> self-description --almost as if the slightest percentage of a possibility
> of God Itself (usually in the traditional 'image of man' form) condemning
> one's soul to eternal damnation is enough to leave the loophole in their
> belief systems.
> Quibbling over semantics is not the real issue; the real issue is why many
> rational thinkers cannot trust their rational beliefs enough to call
> themselves atheists. With all due respect to the self-proclaimed
> agnostics, I find such a belief position weak and compromising, with the
> underlying fear of commitment to one's most rational desires and thoughts
> as its basis. The bottom line is this: either there are gods (or God, if
> you prefer) or there are not. I cannot prove one way or the other, but I
> have a tremendously strong, rational belief that no God or gods exist. For
> those who take such an either\or, compromising view as Agnosticism, I would
> not put much weight on any other view which they claim to support either.
> This is the same reason why many like-minded individuals could have a far
> friendlier conversation with a fundamental Christian, Buddhist --whatever--
> than with a non-committing Agnostic.
> -------------------------------------------------------
> E. Shaun Russell Extropian, Musician, ExI Member
> e_shaun@uniserve.com <KINETICIZE *YOUR* POTENTIAL>
> -------------------------------------------------------
> *The creation of the future is in the creation of the present*

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