Re: irrational atheists

Nick Bostrom (
Mon, 11 Jan 1999 18:37:32 +0000

Max More wrote:

> I don't understand your parsing of the term. What does the "the" mean in
> (a-the)-ism?

God, or divinity. If you regard the "a-" as attaching not to "theism", but to "theo", then you get "no-god". And then you attach "ism" and you get "the doctrine that there is no-god". Creative ethymology :-)

> However, I completely agree with you
> that it is *possible*

and IMO, not *exteremly* unlikely either...

> that our universe is a simulation.

> >> As you note, an agnostic is one without knowledge.
> >
> >The Companion states: "Agnosticism may be strictly personal ond
> >confessional -- 'I have no firm belief about God' -- or it may be the
> >more ambitious claim that no one ought to have a positive belief for
> >or against divine existence." So this is about belief, not knowledge.
> I can't agree. "Gnosis" is definitely related to knowledge. The common
> usage is "someone who isn't sure whether there is a god". The Dictionary of
> Philosophy says: agnosticism 1. The belief (a) that we cannot have
> knowledge of God and (b) that it is impossible to prove that God exists or
> does not exist. Gnosis relates to knowledge, not belief.

But you just cited a definition that begins "The belief ..."! Thus an agnostic is not one without knowledge, but one who believes either (a) or (b).

> >If you define an agnostic as one without knowledge about God, it
> >follows that there does not exist any agnostics (since knowing that
> >P implies that P is true), so that is a bad definition and not in
> >agreement with common usage.
> I'm not sure what you mean by "without knowledge about god". When I used
> that incomplete formulation, I was noting what you had said

You was noting what Samael had said. I assumed that you and Samael meant "not knowing that there is a god".

>, not offering a

> definition, which I think did elsewhere. An agnostic is one who thinks that
> they do not or cannot know whether there is a god.

Yes, that is correct.

> Whether you are an agnostic or atheist about any specific god depends on
> your view of what's required before you think you know something. I don't
> equate knowledge with certainty, which is why I call myself an atheist and
> not an agnostic, at least when we're talking about the
> Christian/Islamic/Jewish God.

In that sense I am likewise an atheist.

Nick Bostrom Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method London School of Economics