Against the Gods?
By Stefan Molyneux, MA
through the sunny woods one day, you spy a man slithering through the
undergrowth, heavily camouflaged and gripping a bow and arrow.
you hunting?” you ask.
the man proudly.
You frown. “Dragons?
But dragons don’t exist!”
The man nods
emphatically. “I completely agree with you! There ain’t no such thing as
dragons. And I’m a-gonna shoot me one!” He raises his bow and arrow, narrows
his eyes and glares through the trees, hungry to target the non-existent.
point, you would surely take a series of slow and steady steps backwards, aiming
to put some safer distance between you and a deranged man wielding a bow and
This is one
of the many, many challenges of atheism.
a terrible word on many levels.
English Dictionary, Second Edition, defines atheism as:
in, or denial of, the existence of a god.”
To any modern,
rational thinker, this is an entirely unsatisfactory definition – which is
exactly what you expect from a word originally defined by theists.
all, the OED definition implies that there is something personal in the
rational rejection of a god. “Denial” is a word associated with defensive
rejections of reality, such as Holocaust denier, climate change denier – or the
generic avoidance of unpalatable emotional truths: “He’s in denial about her
above definition to this one:
The acceptance of the non-existence of imaginary entities such as Santa Claus,
the Easter Bunny and Bronze Age sky ghosts.”
difference should be clear.
Also, why is
the phrase “a god” used? If I say that supernatural beings such as leprechauns
do not exist, why would anyone imagine that I only disbelieved in a single
leprechaun named “Bob”?
thinkers have nothing against any particular deity – any more than a
mathematician dislikes in particular the proposition that two and two
make five. If such a mathematician existed, and loudly proclaimed his
opposition to that particular equation, and founded a society called “against
two and two making five,” he would be considered beyond eccentric, and it would
be generally understood that he had utterly failed to grasp the most basic
principles of mathematics.
cannot logically differentiate the nonexistence of a deity from the
nonexistence of any other thing which does not exist. Principles by definition
apply in general, rather than in particular, just as a method of long
division cannot only apply to one particular combination of numbers.
for existence versus nonexistence is a general standard, which applies equally
to rocks, electricity, electrons, ghosts, dreams, square circles, concepts and
unicorns. It cannot rationally focus its energies on only one entity –
or even one category – otherwise it becomes mere prejudice, rather than the
dispassionate application of a general principle.
“atheism” as being “against the gods” is thus a misnomer, since it takes a merely
accidental subset of a larger set of principles and turns it into an arbitrary
principle itself. There is no such thing as being “against the existence of
gods,” any more than there is such a thing as being “anti-leprechaun.” In fact,
to say that you are against one leprechaun in particular is to imply
that you believe in leprechauns overall, but find one of them in
particular somehow offensive.
rationally be “against gods,” just as we cannot be “against” square circles, or
hostile to the idea of gravity in the absence of mass, or offended by the idea
that human beings can live unaided on the surface of the sun. These
propositions are simply false, according to reason and evidence, and to create
a second category of particular offense “against the gods” is irrational – and,
fittingly enough, offensive, due to the implied prejudice.
thinkers accept standards of existence that at least involve logical
consistency – and with any luck, empirical evidence. It is the first standard
that beliefs in gods fail and – as a result, there is little point looking for
The word “atheist”
also indicates that belief in gods is the standard, and atheism is the
exception – just as “sane” is the standard, and “insane” is the exception. This
is a mere scrap of sophistic propaganda, since all theists are almost complete
atheists, in that they do not believe in the vast majority of man’s gods. The
rejection of gods is the default position; the acceptance of a deity remains
extremely rare, though not as rare as atheists would like.
The Existence of Gods
Two main errors
are generally made when examining the existence of gods.
The first is
to ignore the basic fact that gods cannot logically exist, and the second is to
accept such logical impossibilities, but to create some imaginary realm where gods
may exist. Broadly speaking, the first error is made by theists, who
argue that gods do exist, and the second by agnostics, who argue that they may
In the first
instance, gods are viewed as similar to unicorns. If we define a unicorn as a
horse with a horn on its head, we cannot logically say that such a creature can
never exist. There may be such a being on some other planet, or in some
undiscovered place in this world, or perhaps a mutation may arise at some point
in the future which pushes a horn out of the forehead of a standard-issue
of a horse with a horn on its head is not logically self-contradictory – and
thus such a being may exist, and it would be foolish to state otherwise.
In the same way,
life forms based on silicon rather than carbon may exist somewhere in the
universe – such beings are not logically self-contradictory, and so their
existence cannot be rationally eliminated.
I define a unicorn as a horse with a horn on its head that can fly through
interstellar space, go backwards through time powered by its magical rainbow
tail, and which existed prior to the universe – well, then we have moved into
another category of assertion entirely.
cannot live in space, since there is no oxygen, or air pressure, or water – and
about a thousand other reasons. The properties and necessities of carbon-based
life forms completely eliminate such a possibility.
which does not contradict the properties of existence may exist – a proposed being
which does, may not.
Russell argued for agnosticism by saying that there may be a little teapot
orbiting somewhere in the solar system, but he considered it highly unlikely.
This argument – with all due respect to Dr. Russell’s genius – is incorrect. A
teapot is not a self-contradictory entity. If I could communicate with
Dr. Russell in his current state of nonexistence, I would ask him whether he
would consider it possible that an eternal living horse was floating somewhere
in deep space – and I respect his knowledge of biology enough to be sure that he
would answer in the negative.
Gods are not
like little teapots, or horses with horns, or very small Irishman with pots of
gold – gods are entirely self-contradictory entities, the supernatural
equivalent of square circles.
We do not
have to hunt the entire universe to know that a square circle cannot exist,
because it is a self-contradictory concept. We do not have to examine every
rock on every planet to know that a rock cannot fall up and down at the same
time. We do not have to count every object in the universe to know that two and
two make four, not five. There is no possibility that self-contradictory
entities can exist anywhere in the universe. We know that an object cannot be a
teacup and an armchair and a horse with a horn at the same time. The
Aristotelian laws of identity and non-contradiction deny us the luxury of
believing that self-contradictory entities exist anywhere except in our own
Why Are Gods
At the very
minimum, a god is defined as an eternal being which exists independent of
material form and detectable energy, and which usually possesses the rather
enviable attributes of omniscience and omnipotence.
all, we know from biology that even if an eternal being could exist, it
would be the simplest being conceivable. An eternal being could never have
evolved, since it does not die and reproduce, and therefore biological evolution
could never have layered levels of increasing complexity over its initial simplicity.
We all understand that the human eye did not pop into existence without any
prior development; and the human eye is infinitely less complex than an
omniscient and omnipotent god. Since gods are portrayed as the most complex
beings imaginable, they may well be many things, but eternal cannot be one of
also know that consciousness is an effect of matter – specifically biological
matter, in the form of a brain. Believing that consciousness can exist in the
absence of matter is like believing that gravity can be present in the absence
of mass, or that light can exist in the absence of a light source, or that
electricity can exist in the absence of energy. Consciousness is an effect of
matter, and thus to postulate the existence of consciousness without matter is
to create an insurmountable paradox, which only proves the nonexistence of what
is being proposed.
If you doubt
this, try telling your friends that that no woman can bear your company – and
that you have a girlfriend. Having a girlfriend is an effect of female company,
just as consciousness is an effect of brain matter. Alternatively, try speaking
to someone without making a sound or a movement. Speaking is an effect of
movement, either in the vocal chords or somewhere else, and therefore it cannot
exist in the absence of motion. (If someone insists that consciousness can
exist without a brain, ask them to demonstrate the proposition without using his
omniscience cannot coexist with omnipotence, since if a god knows what will happen
tomorrow, said god will be unable to change it without invalidating its
knowledge. If this god retains the power to change what will happen tomorrow,
then it cannot know with exact certainty what will happen tomorrow.
The usual response
from theists – it is impossible to use the word ‘answer’ – is to place their
god “outside of time,” but this is pure nonsense. When an entity is proven to
be self-contradictory, creating a realm wherein self-contradictions are valid does
not solve the problem. If you tell me that a square circle cannot exist,
and I then create an imaginary realm called “square circles can exist,” we are
not at an impasse; I have just abandoned reality, rationality and quite
possibly my sanity.
try this particular con should at least be consistent, and not pay their taxes,
and then, when said taxes are demanded, say to the tax collector that they have
created a universe called “I paid my taxes,” and slam the door in his face.
(Alternatively, if theists make a mistake on a history test, and claim that the
American Revolution was in 1676, they should fight the resulting bad mark by
claiming that their answer exists “outside of time.”)
objection to the existence of deities is that an object can only rationally be
defined as existing when it can be detected in some manner, either directly, in
the form of matter and/or energy, or indirectly, based upon its effects on the
objects around it, such as a black hole.
can be detected is that which exists, as anyone who has tried walking through a
glass door can painfully tell you. Such a door is deemed to be open – or nonexistent
– when we can walk through it without detecting the glass with our soon-to-be-bloody
nose. It would be epistemological madness to argue that an open door is
synonymous with a closed door. If someone argues that existence is equal to
nonexistence, challenge them to walk through a wall rather than an archway. (The
fact that the wall might be an archway in another dimension will scarcely help
their passage in this one.)
between existence and nonexistence was something that my daughter was able to
manage before she was 6 months old; we can only hope that modern philosophical
thinkers are able to circle back and someday achieve her prodigious feats of knowledge.
A god – or at
least any god that has been historically proposed or accepted – is that which
cannot be detected by any material means, either directly or indirectly.
Ah, but what
about the future? Might we find gods orbiting Betelgeuse in the 25th
century? Well, while it is true that at some point we may come across some
seemingly magical being somewhere in the universe that may appear somewhat
godlike to us, no one who has proposed the existence of gods in the past has
ever met such a being, which we can tell because no test for existence has ever
been proposed or accepted.
means “that which is undetectable, either directly or indirectly,” then the
statement “gods exist” rationally breaks down to:
does not exist, exists.”
only is the concept of gods entirely self-contradictory, but even the
proposition that they exist is self-contradictory.
claim that gods exist, atheists accept that they do not; agnostics say that
gods are unlikely, but not impossible.
How do they
agnostics understand that gods do not – and cannot – exist in physical reality,
so they create “Dimension X,” and place the possibility of gods existing
somewhere “out there.” Inevitably, when a rational thinker points out that this
does not solve the problem, the agnostic replies with grating haughtiness that
the rational thinker is being closed-minded, and sniffs that to claim the
nonexistence of any particular entity is short-sighted and unimaginative. “Surely,”
he says, “if you were to tell a medieval man that human beings would one day be
able to talk instantaneously around the world, he would say that such a feat
was utterly impossible – but he would be only exposing the limitations of his
more primitive mind, not making any objective truth statement.”
words, any and all certainty is primitive superstition.
wonderful piece of sophistry is a patently ridiculous form of ad hominem,
which goes something like this:
Newtonian physics gave way to Einsteinian physics, and Einsteinian physics was
in some ways surpassed by quantum mechanics, making absolute truth statements
about all forms of future knowledge shows a deep ignorance of the flexible and
progressive nature of the scientific method, and the endless potential for
This is a
very strange notion, in which the scientific method is used to pave the way not
away from ghosts, demons and a generally haunted universe, but rather towards
it. The science of medicine has attempted to escape the primitive foolishness
of witch doctors and the superstitions of demonic possession – to say that true
medicine leads us towards such primitive fantasies, rather than helping us
escape them, entirely misunderstands the purpose of science, reason and
Of course it
is true that Newtonian physics gave way to Einsteinian physics, and Einsteinian
physics may well be surpassed by some other approach – to say so is boringly
obvious. However, reason and evidence is a process, it is not any
specific content. Science is a method, not a specific theory or
proposition. It is only reason and evidence that reveals the superiority
of more accurate and comprehensive theories. The scientific method rejects self-contradictory
theories as either erroneous or inconclusive, just as mathematics rejects the
results of any equation that starts with the proposition that two and two make
five. Science has been man’s most successful attempt to flee what Carl Sagan
called “the demon haunted world” – science cannot be used to pave the
way back to such primitive madness.
I suppose we
can accept it as a compliment to science that agnostics and theists are using
it to attempt to resurrect the primitive fantasies inherited from the infancy
of our species, but the powerful electricity of modern thought cannot be used
to resurrect the Frankenstein of superstitious falsehoods.
Let’s look at
the “Dimension X” argument in more detail.
Concepts and Instances
tenet of rational thinking is to recognize that an instance is not a concept.
A mathematical process such as multiplication is a concept that applies to any
general arrangement of numbers; it cannot be called a concept if it only
applies to one particular calculation. You need an “x” to have an equation;
16/4=4 is not an equation, but an instance, a particular application of a
general process called division.
In the same
way, alternate dimensions cannot be invented that only contain gods, but rather
must be a general concept that encompasses everything. The true argument put
forward by agnosticism is not that “Dimension X may contain gods,” but rather
that “nothing true can be said about our reality, because another reality may
exist where truth equals falsehood.” In other words, the agnostic position is
that any positive statement must be instantly negated by the
possibility of an “opposite dimension.”
proposition falls apart at every conceivable level – and even at some that
cannot be conceived!
First of all,
saying that we cannot make any absolute positive claims about truth is itself
an absolute positive claim about truth – i.e. that truth is impossible. If we
say that certainty is impossible, then we have to instantly retract that
statement, since we are making a certain statement. It very quickly becomes
obvious that nothing of any merit or weight can ever be said if the truth is
words, when the agnostic says that we cannot make any absolute claims because
the opposite might be true in another universe, the agnostic cannot put forward
this claim, because the opposite might be true in another universe.
artists operate by affirming a general rule, and then creating an exception for
themselves. A thief wants everyone to respect property rights except him; a
counterfeiter wants everyone to accept the value of money except him – and a
philosophical con man wants everyone to reject truth except for his own
for it, not for a minute!
an agnostic says, “Gods may exist in another dimension,” immediately
identify the principle behind his statement, which is that no truth can be
stated, and apply it to his own statement, thus rendering it invalid.
that we say, “gods may exist in another universe,” we are instantly
contradicting ourselves, because the word “gods” contains specific knowledge
claims – intelligence, omnipotence, immateriality etc. – which cannot be
applied to a dimension about which we know nothing! To analogize this, imagine
that I tell you that I’m going to play you a video of incomprehensible static –
and then I insist that I can clearly see the lyrics to “Woolly Bully” scrolling
across the screen.
Only one of
these claims can be true – if the video is incomprehensible static, then lyrics
cannot scroll across the screen – if the lyrics are scrolling across the
screen, the video cannot be incomprehensible.
In the same
way, if I create Dimension X, and say that we can know nothing about its
contents, I then cannot say that gods may exist there, because I am then saying
that I know something about the unknowable contents of Dimension X.
I cannot say
that I know nothing about a particular entity, but that I also know it is
green and furry – only one of these statements can be true.
that I say “gods may exist in another dimension,” I am making specific knowledge
claims about the contents and processes of this other dimension – i.e. that
certain entities with specific characteristics may meet the criteria of
existence in another dimension of which I admit I know absolutely nothing at
The truth of
the matter is that we can say absolutely nothing about this other dimension;
even if we accept that it may exist, which is problematic enough. We cannot
claim to have any knowledge about what may or may not constitute existence in
this other realm, or what entities may be possible, or what laws of physics may
operate, or anything of the sort. Even the existence of this other realm, let
alone its contents, cannot be spoken of – all we can propose is that existence
may be the same as nonexistence, and invent an imaginary place where this may
even this argument runs into insurmountable logical contradictions.
It would be
ridiculous for me to mail you a letter arguing that mail never gets delivered.
If I genuinely believe that mail never gets delivered, it would be illogical
for me to write you a letter. If I do write you a letter, my argument that mail
never gets delivered is instantly invalidated the moment that you receive it.
In the same
way, all human communication relies on physical matter of some kind, either
text on paper or on a screen, or sound waves in the ear, or touch for Braille,
or some other form of physical manipulation. Silence is the absence of sound
waves – or at least of a medium such as air or water to carry them. I cannot
deny the existence of a medium while using that medium to carry my argument. I
cannot rationally yell in your ear that sound does not exist, because I’m
relying on the existence of sound to carry my argument.
In the same
way, I cannot rationally put forward the argument that all language is
meaningless, because I must use language to communicate my argument. If my
proposition that language is meaningless is true, then using language to
communicate that proposition would be ridiculous – if my argument that language
has no meaning is heard and understood – to any degree – then it is automatically
To rely on
existence to communicate the possibility that existence equals nonexistence is
equally foolish. The objective existence of air and air pressure and ears and
life and minds is required to speak and hear the argument that existence may
equal nonexistence. Furthermore, the rational and predictable properties of all
that exists in order to communicate an argument are presumed to be objective,
since any communication between human beings requires an acceptance of the
objective properties of matter.
if you tell me that gods exist, and I reply, “Yes, I agree that gods do not
exist,” you will doubtless correct my erroneous feedback on your position. This
is only possible if the words have at least some objective meaning, and sound
waves do not magically mutate from voice to ears, and so on. For words to be
formed, spoken and heard, both existence and nonexistence must be accepted,
since all sound waves have peaks and valleys. Text as well must have the
presence and absence of somewhat contrasting colours, otherwise only one colour
is seen, which is not an argument.
communication thus relies on the difference between existence and nonexistence,
presence and absence, and accepts as axiomatic the objective behavior of matter
and energy, and at least tolerable objectivity in language.
understand all this, we understand that using strict and objective differences
between existence and nonexistence – as well as accepting the objective
behavior of matter and energy – to argue that there may be no differences
between existence and nonexistence, and that matter and energy may exhibit no
objective behavior, is exactly the same as sending a letter claiming that
letters are never delivered.
perhaps I have misunderstood something! Perhaps I am sending a letter telling
you that letters are only sometimes not delivered, in which case my
argument may be somewhat weakened, but it is not entirely self-contradictory.
The agnostic, after all, does not claim that gods do exist in another
universe, but rather only that they may exist.
is looking at the wrong side of the agnostic argument. The agnostic is making
the absolute claim that absolute claims are invalid. “You cannot say
that gods do not exist, because they may exist in another dimension.” This is
not a relativistic or sliding scale, but rather an absolute negation. “You
cannot say,” is the equivalent of “mail is never delivered.” It is not the
possibility of error that the agnostic is affirming, but rather the
impossibility of absolute knowledge claims of any kind. This is an absolute
statement that rejects absolutism, which of course renders it invalid.
is one of the rare examples of a truly cosmic fail.
Agnosticism and Principles
at another argument against agnosticism.
think I am overstating the case – but the agnostic argument is so pervasive,
and so ridiculous, that I do not think we can drive enough stakes into its hollow
claim that no truth statement can be valid because of a possible opposite
universe cannot only apply to gods, but rather must apply to every object in
the universe – and every argument as well! Thus, when the agnostic says “gods
may exist in another dimension,” the “opposite possibility principle” applies even
to his own words, which can then be rationally reinterpreted, according to
his own principles, as the exact opposite of what he is saying, i.e. “there
can be no other dimensions, and gods cannot exist.” If the agnostic protests
that this was not his meaning, he can be told that he cannot affirm his meaning
in any way, because in this other dimension, his words may have the exact
opposite meaning. It is the same principle that he is applying to the atheist,
and so he cannot reasonably complain when it boomerangs back and knocks over
the foolish house of cards he is pretending to build.
that the agnostic asserts that it is impossible to state with certainty that
gods cannot exist, due to this possible alternate dimension, then his
statement is automatically invalidated as well, since in this alternate
dimension, gods may not exist either, or his words may mean the opposite of
what he thinks they mean in this dimension, and so on. No sane person can use
this other dimension to affirm or deny any truth statement in this
dimension – and so the agnostic merely takes himself out of the bounds of
civilized and rational debate.
an agnostic hears this argument, he will doubtless say, “But…”
merely interrupt him to reply, “You cannot use the word ‘but,’ since the word
‘but’ might have the exact opposite meaning in some alternate dimension.”
continue this process with every word he spoke after that, until he either
dropped his position, or my company, which would be a relief either way.
This is what
I mean when I say that all con artists wish to create a general rule, with a
magical exception for themselves – the agnostic wishes to cast universal doubt
on truth statements, except all the ones that he happens to make.
Agnosticism and Consistency
agnosticism is fundamentally an epistemological position, it cannot be confined
to the existence of gods, but rather must be fundamental to all forms of human knowledge.
have yet to hear an agnostic argue that we must abolish prisons, since a
criminal’s guilt can never be established with certainty, since in another
dimension, he might not have committed the crime. In Western legal systems, crimes
must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but in the agnostic formulation of
truth, no such standard can ever be achieved.
This kind of
exceptionalism is dully inevitable when dealing with religion. It never applies
another example, it is illegal to sell bogus cures for real illnesses –
however, not only is Christianity’s “cure” utterly unproven, but even the “illness”
itself – sin – is completely invented. Can we imagine a priest being hauled
before a court for fraud, for selling a nonsense cure to an invented disease?
If not, why not?
We also have
laws against hate speech, or the incitement of hatred against particular
groups. However, the Bible commands believers to kill gays, atheists,
sorcerers, heretics, disobedient children and witches and just about everyone
else who draws breath. A comic in Canada was recently hauled before the human
rights commission for making a joke about homosexuals – can we imagine the
printers and distributors of the Bible being charged in such a manner? If not,
Gods and Non-Existence?
Even if we
accept the opposite-planet Bizarro world of the agnostic position – and even if
we accept that knowledge claims can be made about an unknowable realm, the
agnostic position still falls flat.
There are only
two possibilities for our future relationship with Dimension X – either we will
never interact with it in any way, or we will find some way to penetrate
its mysteries. In the first case, Dimension X will never be discovered, in
which case it is merely “nonexistence” with a silly alias, and cannot be used
to reject any knowledge claims. Since it remains a mere synonym for
nonexistence, it cannot be used to reject nonexistence. In this case, an
agnostic cannot say, “I reject that gods cannot exist by defining nonexistence
as synonymous with existence – just calling it ‘Dimension X’ for funsies.”
perhaps someday we will find a way to send a probe into Dimension X, and record
some of its properties. In this case, we will be translating Dimension X into
something that exists here, in our universe, just as a spectrograph translates
light into waves. In other words, Dimension X will have to show up somewhere,
somehow in our universe to confirm its existence, and can no longer be used as
a synonym for nonexistence.
if Zeus is currently doing cartwheels in Dimension X, he might trip and stick
his finger through the time-space continuum and poke a hole in our moon. In
this case, we would have objective and empirical evidence for this event, which
would constitute proof that something rather extraordinary had occurred.
words, the properties and characteristics of Dimension X will have to be
translated into something that exists in this universe in order to
confirm its existence and record its properties. If Dimension X never has any
impact on our universe, then it is completely synonymous with nonexistence, and
can never be used to reject nonexistence. Using the standard of nonexistence to
reject nonexistence is entirely self-contradictory, the equivalent of saying “I
reject the nonexistence of X by accepting that it does not exist, but using a
different word.” If a surgeon said that a dead patient still lived because he
used the word “gool” to mean “dead,” we would not accept his argument as
particularly rational. The agnostic claim that gods cannot be said to not exist
because one can use the phrase “dimension x” as a synonym for nonexistence is
equally foolish and irrational.
Gods and the Supernatural
is self-contradictory cannot exist. Gods are self-contradictory entities.
Therefore gods cannot exist.
What if a
god is invented which does not possess self-contradictory characteristics?
Ah, then it
is not a god.
imagine that 21st century man would appear godlike to our Stone Age ancestors –
however, the sane among us do not believe that we have become gods due to our
In the same
way, we may meet among the stars fantastically advanced beings – however they
will not be gods, but rather just highly evolved life forms. We may meet
telepathic beings who can travel through time and have made themselves
immortal, but we will never meet carbon-based lifeforms that can live on the
surface of the sun, or Oompa-Loompas who live in a square circle, are composed
of both fire and ice, and can go North and South at the same time.
Thus it is
axiomatic that gods cannot exist – if they are gods, then they cannot exist; if
they exist, then they are not gods.
archaeologists come across some squiggly prehistoric cave painting that, when
viewed at a certain angle, has vague similarities to the equation “E=mc2”.
Would this overthrow
our entire sense of causality and the evolution of knowledge? Would we imagine
that a primitive caveman largely incapable of language or mathematics had
somehow discovered one of the most complex and challenging equations of modern
smile at the strange coincidence, but would no more imagine a Stone Age genius
physicist then we would grant a doctorate to the wind, should it happen to blow
a series of sand dunes into a similar equation.
words, the effects of knowledge cannot exist prior to that knowledge. I could
probably teach my infant daughter to scratch out “E=mc2,” but I
would not imagine that she understood any of its reasoning, evidence or
contents. A sick animal might break into a pharmacy and eat the pills that
coincidently happened to treat its illness, but we would not call such an
animal a pharmacist or a doctor.
of our conceptions of deities have come down to us from the past – and generally
the pre-scientific past. When we consider the 10,000 or so gods that human
beings have believed in at one time or another, we clearly understand that the
development and depiction of these gods was not based on any scientific or
rational understanding of the universe. Even if the impossible actually
occurred, and some being were found somewhere in the universe that closely
matched the description of some ancient deity, this would not be proof that
such a god existed in the past, and was the source of that knowledge. Either
this would be mere coincidence, or we would have to accept the reality that
such a being visited our ancestors, who recorded his actual presence, which is
not proof of the existence of a god, but rather a tourist.
knowledge claim about deities existed prior to any empirical evidence or proof,
and thus remains in the realm of pure fantasy. Even if evidence were to
accumulate at some point in the future, this does not grant prescience to the
accidental imaginings of past ages. In other words, the hope that some theists
and agnostics have that proofs for gods will be found in the future does not
validate any existing claims about the natures and properties of
deities. All prior and existing claims of knowledge about gods are false,
regardless of what shows up in the future, in this or any other dimension.
Deities Before Time?
– and even agnostics – use the same “Dimension X” argument examined above, but
place the alternate universe in a time before our own, rather than
parallel to it in some manner.
not fundamentally change any of the arguments – either this universe before our
own will never have any impact on us, in which case it is just another word for
nonexistence, or it will, in which case it will be empirically measurable
within our own universe, and subject to all the same laws of physics as
everything else we examine. In other words, once it enters into our universe,
it cannot contain self-contradictory properties, and therefore cannot be a god.
physics is the latest in a long line of scientific bags that people like to
dump their crazy, pseudo-scientific ideas in to. The admitted strangeness and
apparent self-contradictory behavior of subatomic particles is sometimes
enlisted as yet another “alternate realm” wherein gods might exist.
reality of quantum effects is that they have no impact whatsoever upon sense
perception, since any and all quantum effects cancel each other out long before
the aggregation of particles is perceptible by our unaided senses. This is why
an electron may seem to be in two places at the same time, but a table never
life cannot exist at a subatomic level, which is why we never think of a proton
as alive, even if it is contained within a living being. Since a deity must be
alive – at least in some sense of the word – it cannot exist at the subatomic
level, since even the simplest form of life is a highly complex aggregation of
cells and energy.
since the individual subatomic particles examined by quantum physics can never
have any effect on objects perceivable by our senses, this invalidates all
historical – i.e. prior to quantum physics – conceptions of deities. Finding ex
post facto homes for gods in quantum physics, when all concepts of deities evolved
prior to any knowledge of quantum physics – is a ridiculous and
desperate attempt to rescue the irrational through an appeal to the scientific.
Harm to Children?
It has long
been accepted by rational thinkers that religion occupies a magically
aggressive place in the pantheon of human thought, remaining strangely
impervious to the rational standards that have long since felled other
Dawkins has pointed out, every religious person is virtually a complete
atheist, in that he rejects the existence of every other God but the one he
understand this more clearly, imagine a mathematics tutor named Bob who refused
to teach any strict methodology for solving problems.
If you were
to hire Bob, and your child were to correctly answer the problem of 3×3, Bob would
have to reply that it was impossible to say that three times three make nine, because
in an alternate universe they might make the opposite of nine. Bob would
further instruct your child not to answer any question with any certainty, and
always to include this caveat with regards to any and all forms of knowledge.
Bob would also say that none of his instructions – even that one – can be
accepted as true, because they might be false in another universe.
responding to a roll call at school, your son cannot say that he is present,
because in another universe, he might be absent. Furthermore, he cannot
actually go to school, because in another universe, the school might be located
in the opposite direction from his house. He cannot go to bed, because in
another universe, it might be an alligator. He cannot eat vegetables, because
in another universe, they might be poison – and so on…
would view such a tutor as a sworn enemy to the mental health of our child, and
would be horrified at the inevitable results of his bizarre philosophy, and
would have to spend a good deal of time unravelling the Gordian knot of
impossible contradictions he had tied our child’s mind into.
which claim universality, but which cannot conceivably be universalized, are self-contradictory
and false by definition.
Agnosticism and Religion
While agnosticism generally refrains from attacking specific positive
claims about the nature of deities (other than to say that they may exist in
another dimension defined as synonymous with nonexistence), religions are
entirely founded on making positive and universal claims about the nature,
intentions, personalities, morals and properties of deities.
An agnostic will say that an invisible man might live in the
boarded-up house next door; a priest will tell you everything that the
invisible man thinks and wants and is capable of.
Agnosticism and religion both require the substitution of
socially-acceptable synonyms for falsehood in order to affirm their invalid
Agnostics substitute “other dimensions” for “nonexistence,”
while theists substitute “faith” for “falsehood.”
Why is faith false?
Well, as the Latin phrase has it – Credo quia absurdum
(“I believe because it is absurd”). A square circle is an impossible entity,
and therefore cannot exist. We do not have to hunt the entire universe from
edge to edge to know that a square circle does not exist; it is not an act of
will to accept that a square circle does not exist, it is simply a recognition
of reality and the nature of existence.
A square circle is an absurd concept – or rather, to be more
accurate, it is an anti-concept, in that it takes two valid but
incompatible concepts and crashes them together to create a crazy mishmash of
Take any property or ethic of the Christian God – to just
pick on one absurd anti-concept – and the contradictory nature is clear.
exists must have been created, but God, who exists, was never created.”
all-knowing and all-powerful, which are both impossible.”
“God punishes a
man for actions which are predetermined.”
rebellious angels, although their rebellion was completely predetermined.”
“God claims to be
morally perfect, although God fails the test of most of his 10 Commandments.”
For any religion that involves prayer or supplication to be
valid, the following steps must all be rationally validated and empirically
A deity must exist
(call him “Jeb”).
Jeb must have the
interest and power to interfere in the universe.
Jeb must have the
interest and willingness to interfere in human affairs.
Jeb must listen
to prayers, rather than just read minds.
Jeb must only
listen to prayers from the members of a particular sect.
Jeb must monitor
and record good and bad behavior.
Ideally, Jeb must
punish the members of alternate sects, or those who pray in an incorrect or
Jeb must also not
reward those who do not give money to his priests – and ideally, punish said
As we can see, since even the existence of a deity is
conceptually ridiculous, not even the first domino in this increasingly absurd
row falls down.
In other words, the propositions of religion do not “require faith,”
but rather are simply false – and as a result, since they command
obedience and money, they are exploitative, abusive and destructive.
Religion as Child Abuse?
recent book “God Is Not Great,” Christopher Hitchens asked whether religion was
child abuse, but in my view did not provide a very satisfactory answer. The
question can be easily resolved through the philosophical approach of universalization.
generally accepted in society that children are mentally deficient – and in
some ways, of course, they are, in language acquisition and the processing of
consequences to actions and so on.
generally considered acceptable in a religious society to teach children that
God will reward them for obedience to their elders, and punish them for
cannot put only children into the category of “mentally deficient,”
since there are those with impaired mental faculties either due to a physical
brain problem or injury, or due to age- or illness-related deterioration.
Let us take
the example of mentally challenged individuals with Down’s syndrome.
a home for such individuals existed, run by a man named Bob. Every morning, Bob
reminds his bewildered and mentally challenged wards that the air is full of
invisible demons who will attack their brains, eyes, teeth and tongues if they ever
disobey one of Bob’s Commandments. Even if they are slow to obey, these demons will
attack them in their dreams, and suck out their life essence, and spit it into
a lake of fire, where it will burn for eternity. Every morning, they must get
on their knees and plead for Bob’s good opinion, otherwise he might butcher all
of them by drowning them in toilets, as he did once before when he was offended…
We could go
on and on, but I think that we all understand that this would be verbal and
emotional abuse of the very worst and most destructive kind. The traumatized mentally
challenged victims of such a nightmare environment would not be able to
differentiate Bob’s terrifying tales from actual reality, and would live in
abject terror, and we would consider it a staggeringly evil abuse of power for
Bob to verbally attack and mentally infect his victims in such a manner.
It’s hard to
imagine that we would judge the situation any differently if Bob ran a home for
elderly adults with dementia, and terrified old ladies in the same manner. In
either case, we would view Bob as a deranged sadist, lacking any shred of human
compassion for his victims, and our hearts would go out to the suffering that
he was inflicting through the vengeful power of his demonic language.
(As a minor
tangent, this argument is exactly the same for spanking – would we accept it as
morally valid to spank the elderly for their forgetfulness?)
Yes, if it
is false. As it is.
challenged individuals with Down’s Syndrome – as well as most elderly people –
are nowhere near as vulnerable as children, since most of them have adults
taking a significant interest in their long-term well-being.
when parents inflict demonic and terrifying tales of religious superstition on
the tender, trusting and dependent minds of their children, who will intervene to
real philosophers, for the rest of the intellectual classes are too busy
inventing hiding places for the gods to intervene and save the children.
Power or Virtue? A Love
deities are objects of worship, but it is hard to know with any certainty exactly
what is being worshiped. Certainly gods are very powerful – infinitely powerful,
in most formulations – but I have never met a religious person who worships
only the power of his God. No, it is always the virtue of God that is
worshiped; the power is merely incidental.
virtue of a deity is problematic on many levels.
beings only ever wanted to eat the food that was best for them, we would have no
need for the science of nutrition. Our desire for fats and sugars drives the
need for nutritional information and discipline, just as our desire for energy
conservation drives the need for information about exercise. If we could all automatically
do any mathematical calculation in our heads, we would not need to be taught
mathematics, and so on.
disciplines thus arise to counter desires which run against our best long-term interests.
The balancing of long and short-term interests is the very essence of wisdom – the
short-term hit of a cigarette versus the long-term risk of lung cancer, the
short-term emotional relief of verbal abuse versus the long-term harm to our
relationships, to name just two examples.
discipline of ethics is no different.
The need for
virtue in humanity arises out of mortality, and weakness, and temptation, and
relative powerlessness – none of which concerns God in any way. Would God need
to be courageous, if He was all-powerful? It’s hard to see how. Would He need
to remind himself to be honest, if He could suffer no negative consequences for
his honesty? Would He find it challenging to resist the temptations of peer
pressure? He is peerless, of course!
video games, there is a secret “god mode,” which allows players to stroll
through the game without taking any damage from enemies, usually with infinite
ammunition and pixel-shredding weapons. I can’t imagine thinking that a player
was really good if he completed a game in “God mode” – in fact, I can’t imagine
why he would bother. In the same vein, if Mike Tyson in his prime were to jump
into a boxing ring with a five-year-old girl, and beat her senseless, it would
be hard to admire his athletic prowess.
admire the virtue of a being who has no need for virtue? That would be like
admiring someone for not smoking, though he had never been exposed to
cigarettes, or praising the sensible fish-based diet followed by a man marooned
on a desert island.
God for His virtue is like admiring a man in a coma for refraining from
God and Virtue?
Even if we
put all of this aside, the question still remains: how do we know that God is
If we are at
all interested in efficiency – and as mortal beings it must have some interest
to us – the first place we look for virtue is consistency with stated
principles. This does not automatically prove virtue, since those stated
principles might be immoral – but it does mean that we can at least check for
hypocrisy before venturing further.
integrity is a necessary – but not sufficient – criterion for virtue.
If we want
to lose weight, and go to a bookstore, and see 50 diet books on the shelf, how
likely are we to choose the diet book written by a fat author? Would such a
book not more properly belong in the comedy section? “Ah,” you may say, “but
the fact that an author is fat does not automatically invalidate his diet.”
That is certainly true, but so what? Life is short, decisions are endless, and
we cannot investigate every conceivable claim. It is enough to know that a fat
dietitian either is following his own diet, in which case it will be
unlikely to help us lose weight, or he is promoting a diet that he himself does
not follow, which calls his judgment into question, to say the least. Either
way, we move on.
principle applies to ethics.
If a man constantly
preaches the virtue of helping others in need, and then steps over a man
bleeding to death in a gutter, we cannot reasonably praise his integrity. While
we may agree with him that helping others in need is morally good, his actions
inform us that he does not agree with his own moral arguments.
religions explicitly state that helping others in need is morally good – think of
the parable of the Good Samaritan in the New Testament. However, since gods do
not exist, and so cannot intervene, religions have the rather challenging task
of explaining why their “moral” God does not help those in need. If it is
immoral for travelers on the road to ignore a bleeding man, when it will cost
them both time and resources to help him, is it not infinitely more immoral for
God to refrain from helping, when it will cost God neither time nor resources,
since He has an infinity of both?
We could go
on ad nauseum with these examples, such as the genocidal habits of the
Old Testament deity, contrasted with His commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” but
I’m sure you get the general point.
If we are
wise, we do not take a man’s claim that he is virtuous at face value, but will ask
first about the contents of his moral beliefs, and then about his
practical consistency with those values. A man can only be considered virtuous
when he has good values, and strives for and achieves reasonable consistency
with those values. If he has bad values, clearly he cannot be virtuous, just as
if he has good values but does not act on them.
men to fight evil, but gods allow evil in the world. Gods prohibit killing, but
gods kill. Gods command their followers not to judge others, but gods judge. Gods
punish the predetermined actions of people, which shows about as much maturity
and wisdom as jailing a cell phone. Gods continually act in direct
contradiction to their own stated moral values, which is a hallmark of great immorality.
A man raised
by wolves who has no conception of ethics may be forgiven for stealing; a man
who preaches respect for property is fully responsible if he steals, because he
has already displayed his knowledge of ethics. We would not fault a waiter for
failing to perform an emergency tracheotomy; a doctor would far more
responsible, since he possesses the necessary knowledge to help.
Thus it is hard
to understand exactly what is being worshiped when a God is being praised. Is
it power? But power is morally neutral at best, and while it may elicit awe or
deference, it cannot be morally worshiped in and of itself. Is it virtue? But
we have only the God’s word that He is virtuous, which is exactly what
would we would expect from a hypocritical con artist bent on praising himself only
to arouse admiration and obedience in us.
question of virtue gets buried under the contradictory kaleidoscope of
justifications for religion. Theists are faced with the impossible task of
attempting to justify primitive and brutal superstitions according to modern
moral and scientific sensibilities. The more intelligent among them know that
this is impossible, so they create a bewildering miasma of contradictions,
foggy stall tactics, bizarre combinations of moral relativism for adults (“this
passage is metaphorical”) and abusive absolutism for children (“Jesus died for
The Costs of False Ethics
acceptance of these tactics – which would be laughed out of the room in any
other human discipline – has come at a truly catastrophic cost to our moral
development and understanding as a species.
past 2,500 years, we have advanced in almost every human discipline – except
staggering advances in technology, medicine, physics, biology, engineering –
and almost any other field you would care to name – our progress in moral
philosophy has not changed since the days – and death – of Socrates.
have wars, and torture, and child abuse, and national debts, and the forced
indoctrination of the young – and we cannot come to any moral standards that
can be generally accepted by reasonably intelligent people the world over. We
despise theft, and then accept taxes – we despise murder, and praise soldiers –
we tell our children not to use force, and then we use government force to ‘educate’
formulation of ethics was to create a set of rules, to encourage people to
follow those rules – even if they did not understand them – and to punish
transgressors with imprisonment and fines in the here and now, and eternal
damnation in the hereafter.
of secular retribution from the state, combined with the hope for internal
guilt and self attack from religion, was the best that could be achieved when
humanity was still convinced that the Earth was flat, trees had souls and the
world rested on an infinity of giant turtles.
changed in any fundamental way since the dawn of thought. We still encourage
people to be “good” by following social standards and mostly arbitrary laws,
and then violently attack them when they break the obviously arbitrary rules
that have been invented.
To take a
simple example, to kill a man in the street is a great moral crime; to kill a
man on a battlefield is a great moral virtue. “No green costume” equals moral
evil – “green costume” equals moral heroism. If one man tells you to murder, you
get a jail cell – if another man tells you to murder, you get medals and a
the initiation of force against a peaceful individual for the purpose of
removing his property is clearly theft when done in a dark alley; the taxation
policies of a great nation are, as the saying goes, “the price we pay to live
in a civilized society.”
lock my neighbor in my basement for making too much noise, but I can call the
police to lock him in jail if he grows certain vegetables in his basement,
which has far less effect on me.
If I am
poor, and I steal food, I go to jail – however, if I vote for politicians to
forcibly transfer other people’s wealth to me through the welfare state, I am
an engaged citizen.
all paradoxes that every reasonably intelligent person has mulled over at one
time or another, but they have remained essentially unchanged for thousands of
years, and I would argue that this is largely due to religion.
answer – particularly when it is highly profitable to liars – is the ultimate
barrier to progress in human thought. Religion is the worst possible answer to
the question of ethics, since it is not an answer at all, but merely a threat
based on falsehoods.
One of the
reasons that medieval economics remained so primitive and unproductive was the
Guild system, which required many years of poorly paid labor to learn even the
most simple and menial of tasks. Those who had already passed through the
system made more money individually than they would have if the system had been
suddenly abandoned, and free competition had opened up. The older and wealthier
members of society thus continued to block free competition from the young, and
while they may have maintained their own income in the short run, they killed economic
growth in the long run, which was to their own detriment, and the detriment of
their children of course.
was punishment from the state, the lie was that seven years of apprenticeship
were necessary to become, say, a bricklayer – and so society stagnated at near
starvation levels for almost a thousand years, until the shortage of labor that
arose from the Black Death began to unravel the Guild system.
In the same
way, the “moral teaching” of religion is only a threat – secular punishment from
the state, eternal punishment from God – based on a series of lies, i.e. that
gods exist, are moral, and must be obeyed.
institutionalization and profitable exploitation of this system has effectively
barred philosophers from examining morality from a rational and secular
standpoint. Either philosophers are religious (or afraid of the religious), in
which case they tend to avoid attacking fundamental moral problems, for fear of
arousing attack – or philosophers are statists (or afraid of the government),
in which case they tend to avoid attacking fundamental moral problems, for fear
of arousing attack.
work for churches would view any rational system of secular ethics as a direct
threat to their income and position, the same goes for those who work for the
tend to be more in favor of a smaller state, but are very religious; “left-wingers”
tend to be more skeptical of religion and secular in nature, but tend to be
more in favor of a larger state.
poison” seems to be our only approach to solving moral problems.
Any society which
relies on false and contradictory morality – and all societies currently fall
into this category – must substitute aggression for argument in the
instruction of children. A child who asks why a soldier gets a medal for
killing in a war, when he would be thrown in jail in peacetime, can receive no
sane and rational answer, for none exists. Parents, priests and teachers seem
to be fundamentally averse to saying that they do not know the answer to this
question, or any of the other hundreds of ethical questions posed by children.
do not know the answer to these questions, we must threaten children in order
to throw them off the scent, so to speak. This may be overt, or more subtle,
through exasperated sighs, rolling one’s eyes, and rolling out the tired old
bromide that the child will understand when he gets older.
principles are the foundation for the greatest edifices of human society – the state,
the military, the police, the church, public schools and so on. Since these
enormous and powerful institutions rest on ridiculous and indefensible moral
contradictions, to persist in questioning these principles is to take an axe to
the base of the tree of the world. The entire profit and sense of human society
sits like an enormous inverted pyramid on a few shaky and trembling – and false
– ethical axioms.
Our lack of
progress in solving moral problems without using aggression is entirely
attributable to the confusing infections of religiosity. Just as it took a
secular mind to solve the problem of biological evolution, it will take a
secular mind to solve the problem of secular, rational and scientific ethics.
However, any theory that defers to religion must inevitably create a central
vortex of wild irrationality that it must skip around, distorting and ruining the
theory as a whole.
In the same
way, any theory that defers to statism, taxation and war creates exactly the
same vortex, since it cannot ban the initiation of force to solve social
problems, yet it must ban the initiation of force to solve personal problems,
and so mealy-mouthed madness can only follow from such dismal and initial
compromises. “The initiation of force through taxation is moral, but the
initiation of force through theft is immoral…” “The initiation of force in war
is moral, the initiation of force without war is immoral…” “Public violence is
good, private violence is bad…” etc.
This is why
the modern coterie of secular atheists will never be able to solve the problem
of ethics, since they remain wedded to the state – to the initiation of force –
as a central moral axiom within society. Thus Sam Harris says that we need to
solve the problem of war by creating a world government, while Richard Dawkins
remains fundamentally unable to criticize the state, since he is fundamentally
an employee of the state, while Christopher Hitchens is still recovering from
his totalitarian Marxist impulses, and continues to praise the obviously unjust
and immoral Iraq war (though in charity we can safely assume that results more
from his family military history than any objective judgement).
enormously difficult to overcome our own prejudices, and the historical errors
that seem almost to have been embedded into our very DNA. It may be too much to
ask for true originality in solving these problems, but we should at the very
least ask for an avoidance of the false answers that have so repetitively failed
for the past 2,500 years.
We may not
yet know the right way to go, but we should at least stop going in the wrong
helpful, but not essential, for atheism to explain why the concept of gods is
so widespread and prevalent among mankind. The 10,000 or so gods that lie
scattered across the past and present cultures of our species must represent
some form of universal content or meaning for this fantasy to be so widespread.
religion has gone through four major phases – the first was animism, or
the idea that every rock and leaf and tree was imbued with a spiritual force.
In this approach, a farmer would profusely apologize to a rock before moving it
out of the way of his plow. It is fairly easy to understand that this arose
from a fundamental confusion between what is living and what is not, or what
has consciousness, and what does not. A man who thinks that a rock deserves an
apology lives in an extremely primitive state of mind, wherein the division
between his own consciousness and inanimate matter has not yet been
established. My 18 month old daughter is losing the habit of saying hello to
the toilet, and her bath, and her toes, which gives you a sense of how
primitive this phase is.
second phase of religion, the distinction between living and not living becomes
established, and a multiplicity of deities that are specifically and thoroughly
anthropomorphic take refuge somewhere above the clouds, or on the peak of a mountain,
sucking up in their wake all of the projected consciousness that formerly
resided in rocks and trees and rivers. This is a vast improvement in accuracy –
not to mention sanity – in that the differentiation between conscious and
unconscious becomes established in a much wider sphere.
In the third
phase, the warring multiplicity of gods is in a sense hunted down, rounded up
and herded into one big squirming bag of pseudo-monotheism. The former glorious
ribaldry of the ancient Greek religions becomes diluted and caged into a
tyrannical hierarchy of a single, inhuman and utterly abstract God. This phase
contains a variety of insurmountable tensions, which inevitably fragment the
new monotheism into an even more bizarre version of the older polytheism, such
as the Holy Trinity and the thousands of saints.
fourth phase, religion becomes a set of more or less convincing fairy tales,
wherein obedience to a complete text is not required, but followers can pick
and choose what they like, according to their own personal preferences and
tastes, and God is turned into a sort of ideological lapdog, which trails after
the prejudices of the believer, imbuing his own personal bigotries with a vague
glow of eternal approval.
In all these
phases, there is a deep and consistent sense of a vast and powerful
consciousness that lies outside the range of our conscious ego, which contains
deep and mysterious elements of eternity; which existed before us, and will
continue to exist after us, which informs and guides many if not most of our
decisions, reveals its purposes and intentions through visions and dreams,
frustrates our vices and supports our virtues, and responds indirectly and metaphorically
to abasement and supplication.
It is scarcely
a novel insight to point out that our minds are divided between our conscious
ego and our subconscious. Our conscious ego needs little explanation; it is the
self aware part of us that responds to willpower, focus, attention, and has direct
access to the memories that we have accumulated in our lifetimes. It is a
precise and astoundingly powerful tool that in a very real sense can be called
the most mortal part of ourselves, since it grows and develops with us, and
will certainly die with us, as will all of our personal memories.
there exists below consciousness, or surrounding consciousness, the subconscious,
whose processing power dwarfs the puny efforts of our conscious mind, and which
also contains an element of eternity within itself. Our conscious memories are
specific to our own lives, as are our more conscious choices and plans. I may
dream at night of something I experienced that day, but the capacity for the
experience of dreaming is not something that I have chosen, but rather
something that my subconscious mind has developed and inherited and refined
over millions of years.
mind, which controls everything from our heart rate to our breathing to the
increasing uneasiness we experience when in a dangerous situation we have not
yet noticed consciously, is like an eternal guardian angel – or avenging devil
if we have done evil – which is constantly prodding us with interfering
emotions and sensations, discouraging us with fear and guilt, spurring us on
with desire and pleasure, lecturing us about our choices in nightly dreams,
whipping us on with short-term lust while simultaneously cautioning us with
fears about the long-term stability of our sexual partners – to name just a
think of religion, we think of a puny consciousness – that of man – embedded in
an eternal, infinite and seemingly omniscient consciousness which never shows
itself directly, but which takes an enormous interest in us, and evaluates our
choices and preferences, and rewards us and punishes us, and responds in
maddeningly oblique ways to our direct and painful supplications.
also experienced as existing before us, and living on after us, which directly
relates to the quasi-eternal nature of the subconscious, which existed prior to
our conscious mind and memories even in the individual, and which is the
ancient foundation upon which the temple of our ego was built.
The mind of
God is also considered to be vastly superior to that of man – is this not also
an exact description of the subconscious, whose processing power has been
estimated as 7,000 times that of the conscious mind?
considered to be a creation of God, and God is a deep and eternal consciousness
that has existed forever – is this not an exact description of the relationship
between the conscious ego and the subconscious? As a species, and in our own
lives, our ego evolves out of our subconscious, which is why we cannot remember
our very early years. I have an arm which I can call my arm in a sense, but it
is not really my arm, because it existed before I experienced an “I.” My arm
preceded me, since it developed in the womb – and my ego had no part in its
planning or creation, but rather my ego grew out of my body, many years later.
My arm, my body and my subconscious existed before me, and certainly my body
will exist after me, though my ego will not be around to watch it decompose.
Thus when we
say that man is created by God, what we really mean is that the ego is created
by the body, which precedes the ego both individually and collectively. My arm
preceded my consciousness by years, and human arms in general preceded my
particular arm by millions of years. It is in this sense that we are in fact
created by an eternal pattern that precedes us, however primitively we may have
anthropomorphized this basic truth.
– like monotheism – also resists the imposition of a singular identity, no
matter how fervently desired. The subconscious contains a vast multiplicity of
alter egos, various aspects of the conscious mind designed to fit into whatever
hierarchy wraps around us in the moment – as well as the multiple alter egos of
those around us, those who raised us and taught us and, perhaps, harmed and
To take an
obvious example, when I was a child I had a teacher who was a bully, and this
teacher would immediately become servile when the principal came into the
classroom – I have within my subconscious not only this teacher as an
individual, but this teacher as a personality with multiple alter egos. I have
my own alter egos, as well at the alter egos of thousands of other people I
have met over the course of my life, which is why, since religion is merely a
superstitious description of our subconscious, monotheism can never hold.
do not work generally do not last, which is why few of us indulge in rain
dances anymore when we really want a downpour. There is something in religion,
though, which does work, despite its obvious falsehoods, and my argument
is that what works is the act of asking a superior intelligence for guidance
and wisdom. The simple fact is that people who pray often do experience
a response, and the obvious and empirical answer is that they are asking for
wisdom from their own subconscious, which responds in its usual oblique yet
amazingly accurate fashion. A man who asks God for an answer is asking his subconscious
for advice, and anyone who has spent any significant time on the couch of a
good therapist, examining his dreams and his feelings and his impulses, sooner
or later understands the power, fertility and objectivity of the subconscious –
and once this is understood, the accuracy and utility of religion is revealed.
The clarity and precision of the conscious mind requires no explanation, since
we experience it countless times every day – the wisdom and astounding parallel
processing power of the subconscious is largely only available to those who
approach it on bended knee, with humility and patience and bottomless
This is not
to say, however, that religion is a form of self-knowledge, or that grandiose
superstitions are somehow equivalent to humble introspection. It is certainly
true that among those already predisposed to gentleness, virtue and courage,
the impulses returned from the subconscious can truly aid them in achieving and
maintaining these admirable virtues – but as we all know, these are not the
only kinds of people in the world. I get many messages from religious people
who tell me that although I am not a believer, their God loves me. While I
certainly do appreciate these warm sentiments, I cannot afford to take them
very seriously, because what would I say if they wrote to tell me that their
God hated me for my unbelief, as the Bible says? If I accept irrational love, I
cannot very well reject irrational hatred. There is an enormous difference between
humbly consulting wise but hard to access aspects of myself, and believing that
I am receiving divine commandments from a perfect and all-powerful intelligence
of self-knowledge is negotiation, the recognition that every aspect of
the self has a valid seat at the table, and deserves to be heard, but that none
shall rule. Some people think of this as a democracy of the self, but I think
that is a tragically inaccurate and destructive way to look at it, because in a
democracy, the government always has the final say, and enforces its will
through the force of law. It is infinitely more accurate and healthy to say
that what is required is a stateless state of mind, or the anarchy of the self,
where all is negotiation, and no final arbiter can enforce decisions. The
discomfort generated by refusing to promote an inner dictator – even temporarily
– to a position of final authority can be extreme, particularly since we are
raised in such horribly authoritarian structures – school, church, so often the
family – yet it is necessary for us to progress as a species to a more peaceful
The closest current
analogy to the anarchy of self is the voluntarism of free-market, without
government, where wealth and authority may ebb and flow, but all is negotiation
and peaceful interaction.
supports the promotion of the subconscious to a position of ultimate and final
authority, since it worships the subconscious as a God, which is extremely
dangerous, since no aspect of the self should ever be a tyrant in the mind of a
healthy man, just as no single muscle in the body should dominate all other
muscles. We require a highly complex interplay of hundreds of muscles even to
walk – when one muscle becomes dominant, we call that a cramp, and consider it
an extremely uncomfortable situation that needs to be alleviated at once.
extreme cases, a man who prays to an imaginary being will hear voices in his
head telling him what to do, and religion supports the idea that these voices
come from a god, not a horribly damaged part of his own psyche, with all the
resulting disasters that can occur from such a tragic misapprehension. It is
true that the more gentle among the religious reject the theological validity
of those who claim to hear voices coming from God, yet they are on a slippery
slope when they take such a noble stand, since if they perceive their contemporaries
to be mentally ill for hearing voices and believing in gods, what are they to
make of those who wrote their holy texts? Few modern Christians would kneel
before a man claiming to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, but rather would
suggest that he would benefit from the services of a mental health practitioner
– would they say the same to Jesus himself? Most Christians would say that
Jesus performed miracles, but there is no evidence for this of course, other
than the hearsay of other people who were doubtless equally mentally ill. If I
said that Christians should worship a friend of mine because he performed
miracles that only I could see, would they agree? It is impossible to imagine
that they would.
religious also believe that gods watch and judge us, and this seems entirely in
accordance with the subconscious reality of a conscience. A conscience is
nothing terribly complex; it is simply the extrapolation of our stated
principles into universals, followed by the comparison of our actions to these
universals. If I hit my daughter while telling her not to hit others, this
basic contradiction – or perhaps more accurately revolting hypocrisy – is instantly
noted and retained by my subconscious. I will as a result distinctly feel that
there is something wrong with what I am doing, which will either propel me to
examine my own hypocrisy, or redouble my attacks upon my daughter for her
If I act on
impulse, and then invent endless ex post facto justifications for my
actions, with reference to universal principles, then I become a bewildering,
dangerous and annoying hypocrite to those around me. I cannot act with any
integrity, because I have erected high and thorny walls between the various
aspects of myself that need to come together so that I can act with reasonable consistency.
philosophy emerged from religion in much the same way that mankind evolved from
fetid swamp dwellers, with the result that principles were invented to excuse
evil and elevate hypocrisy to the status of virtue. For instance, the Bible
commands believers to refrain from murder, but the god considered to be all
virtuous kills virtually the entire world in a fit of rage. This kind of
staggering hypocrisy requires a vast amount of verbal fencing and befogging to avoid.
Rationalizing the irrational was the original basis of philosophy, which is why
to create a philosophy based on reason and evidence is such a radical project.
Agnosticism and Cowardice
I have often
argued that agnostics are cowards, and I would like to make that case here.
First of all,
I do not consider the position itself to be cowardly, but rather if
superior and irrefutable strong atheist arguments are consistently rejected in
favor of the mental fog of agnosticism, I consider that cowardly and enormously
We cannot be
reasonably criticized for not adhering to knowledge we have yet to learn. Was
an 18th-century physician negligent for failing to prescribe a cure that had
not yet been invented? Of course not – but we would condemn a 21st-century physician
for such malpractice. I would not criticize my 18 month old daughter for
deliberately pouring juice on the carpet, an act I would consider wilfully
aggressive on the part of an adult guest.
Thus if you
are an agnostic, but have not yet heard the arguments in this book, please do
not think that I am calling you a coward – if that even means anything to you –
but after you have heard these arguments, if you cannot refute them, and still
cling to your irrational position, then that is certainly the label I will
apply to you, since you will have earned it.
tenet of agnosticism is that no positive statements about truth can be made
because some contradictory evidence may exist in this or some other universe.
There is so much that is wrong with this position that it is hard to know even where
to start, so let’s start with something quite simple, and then work up to the
more complex objections.
all, agnosticism is always and forever specific only to the existence of
deities. I have never once heard an agnostic argue that we cannot call rape
wrong because it might be right in some other universe. I recently had a debate
on agnosticism with a staunch antigovernment libertarian, who argued that we
could not say there were no gods because gods might exist in some other
universe. I then asked him how he could assert that governments were immoral,
because they might be moral in some other universe? He replied that governments
have specific properties, which I did not particularly understand, and I
replied that gods also have specific properties, which is why we use the word “gods”
rather than “spoon,” or “aglet,” or “spork,” or “tine.” He did not respond to
this, but I think the point is very clear. If the possible existence of
alternate universes where truth equals falsehood invalidates any positive
declaration of truth, then this applies universally, and not
specifically only to gods. I have never heard an agnostic argue for the
potential existence of Santa Claus in some other universe, or leprechauns, or
square circles, or two and two making five. I have never seen a scientist
rejecting the claim that the world is round because in another universe, it
might be shaped like a banana.
We can all
imagine how offensive it would be for a man to argue that we cannot call rape
immoral, or attempt to prevent and punish it, because it might be virtuous in
some other dimension – such a man would be obviously attempting to deal with
his own psychological problems by creating some nonsensical and fogging
philosophical junkyard of confusion. Have you ever heard an agnostic argue that
child molesting priests should not be punished, or morally criticized, because
child rape might be beneficial to kids in some other universe? We would view
such ghastly equivocation as the sign of a bad conscience, and quite possibly a
also faces the problem of the “null comparison.” In computer languages,
variables can be created called “variants,” which can contain any type of data,
from pictures to videos to numbers – the memory clipboard on your computer,
used for copying and pasting just about anything, is an example of this. If you
ask a computer to tell you whether the number two is equivalent to a “variant,”
the computer will tell you that this cannot be done, because you cannot be sure
that the variant is in fact a number. If I ask you whether the number two is
equal to “X,” where “X” can be anything in the universe – or nothing at all –
you will tell me that this fundamentally does not compute, and might wonder
what kind of bizarre game I was up to.
“Is Susie an
‘X’?” There is no way to know – if “X” equals “female” then yes. If X. equals “asteroid”
then the answer is quite likely no. The question as it stands cannot be
answered. This does not mean that Susie can be anything – this does not mean
that Susie might be an asteroid as well as a female human being as well as a
magical unicorn, a square circle and the pot of gold at the end of a
compare anything to an unknown “X” – particularly something with known
properties. The concept “deity” has specific properties, and cannot rationally
be compared to some unknown alternate universe, about which we know nothing at
all – the ultimate “X.”
statement that gods might exist in an alternate universe is completely invalid,
and entirely self-contradictory, since we are claiming to have some knowledge
of existence and the specific properties of gods in some alternate universe
about which we fully admit we know absolutely nothing, not even whether it
exists. (Even the statement “an alternate universe may exist” is completely
invalid, because existence is a property of our universe, and since we
know nothing about an alternate universe, we cannot use the term “existence” to
refer to anything about it.)
Closing the Open Door
you drive over to a friend’s house to pick him up to go to a movie. You knock
on the door, and he opens it.
hesitates. “I can’t go through that door,” he says.
his lips and shakes his head. “Because it might be closed in some alternate
accept this as a rational and healthy statement on the part of your friend?
not. You would try to get him some professional help. You would be particularly
concerned that he opened the door in the first place – thus indicating specific
knowledge about its status – and only then got all foggy about whether it was
opened or closed.
But this is exactly
the position of agnostics! They open the door of reason and evidence in
order to nullify reason and evidence. They use a rational argument to say that
reason is invalid. They create evidence out of thin air which is the opposite
of existence and essentially say that no conclusions can be made because
existence might equal the opposite of existence.
Why is this
agnostic position is valid, and if agnostics genuinely believe that no positive
conclusions can ever be achieved and maintained, then surely they have far more
important things to achieve in this world, relative to their values, then
haggling over possible sky ghosts in another universe.
agnostics should be virulently opposed to the existing justice system, which
puts a man in jail for life based on a videotape of him stabbing his wife to
death. This is a far more immediate reality than whether Zeus might exist in
Dimension X – yet I have never heard an agnostic say that we should
never send anyone to jail, because even if this man undoubtedly murdered his
wife in this dimension, he might not have murdered her in another dimension,
and so we cannot say for sure that he is guilty.
I have never
heard an agnostic refuse to go to a funeral, arguing that the deceased might
still be alive in another universe.
I have never
heard an agnostic refuse medical treatment, on the grounds that he might be
perfectly healthy in Dimension X, or that what cures him here might kill him “over
I have never
borrowed money from an agnostic, and have him accept my argument that I do not
have to pay him back in this universe, since I might have already paid him back
in another universe, and so he cannot say for sure that he has not been repaid.
I have never
heard an agnostic tell a victim of abuse that she has no right to be upset,
because in another universe, she might not have been abused, or abuse might be
the opposite of abuse.
agnostics never ever advocate these or a hundred million other absurd,
offensive and insane positions.
agnostics only apply this kaleidoscopic and fogging “alternate universe”
theory to the most distant and incomprehensible of human conceptions – that of
a deity – and not to the far more egregious, immediate and important concerns
of human society?
is obvious – because agnosticism would be revealed as absurd, offensive and
ridiculous if it were applied even remotely consistently.
question still remains – why is the door left open only for gods, and nothing
is equally obvious – because agnostics are cowards.
Agnosticism and Fear
fog machine of agnosticism only pumps its noxious gases into the religious
realm – it’s like a cloud that miraculously wraps itself only around priestly
garments. The reason, of course, for the astounding specificity of the “alternate
universe” argument is that religious people tend to get upset, offended,
ostracizing and angry when told that God does not exist.
little to do with the non-existence of God, but rather triggers all the
volatile emotions surrounding family, culture and community.
religious person is told that there is no God, what he hears is, “My parents
lied to me.”
A man who is
told that there is no God no longer sees in the mirror a being with a glowing
soul, but a cramped sub-species of superstitiously (and surreptitiously) indoctrinated
livestock – lied to, bullied and controlled for the sake of material money in
the here and now. He is revealed not as a free man, basking in the glory of the
divine, but a mere slave to the lies of the priests, fed crippling falsehoods and
fattened for the feast.
not really believe in gods, that is a basic reality of life – they say
that they believe in gods because they are afraid of being attacked by others
for expressing doubt, or thought. Religions are the ultimate case of the
emperor’s new clothes, an old fairy tale where thieving weavers pretend to make
a suit for the King, claiming that anyone who is unfit to his position will be
unable to see it. Naturally, everyone pretends to see the suit, and marvels at
its fine colors, until a boy on the street innocently asks why the King is
walking around naked.
If you walk
up to a man and tell him that his parents lied to him about everything that is
true and good and right in the world, and sold his hide to thieving priests
because they were afraid to stand up for truth and virtue, naturally he will be
very, very upset.
this is why agnostics do their n-dimensional somersaults – to avoid the anger,
offense and potential retaliation from the religious.
I have no
particular issue with people who do not want to step into the boxing ring of
philosophy – not everyone is suited for these kinds of conflicts, and certainly
battling superstition is not a strict moral requirement. It can be
extraordinarily uncomfortable to experience the disorientation, bitter anger
and caustic ostracism shooting up from the deep well of discontent when you
shine down the light of reason and evidence. It is not for everyone, it is not
necessary, and one can live a virtuous and happy life without taking on this
kind of combat.
The world is
filled with countless wrongs that I do nothing to prevent or avenge – I do
nothing to feed starving children in North Korea, and while I am unhappy that
they are starving, I recognize that I have chosen not to help them. I think
that I am doing my own part to advance the cause of truth, reason, virtue,
evidence and philosophy in the world, and I am very proud of my achievements in
these areas, but of course there are millions of wrongs I do nothing about, and
I recognize the reality of that, and do not seek to make excuses about my
immediately after I said that I was doing nothing to help the starving children
of North Korea, I immediately said, “But there is no reason to believe that
they are actually starving, because in some alternate universe, they might not
be hungry at all!”
not be a rather bewildering statement for me to make? Why on earth would I need
to create an alternate universe in which North Korean children were not
answer is blatantly obvious – I need to create an alternate universe where
North Korean children are not starving because I am extremely uncomfortable
with not feeding them.
If I were at
peace with my decision, I would not need to create an alternate universe wherein
that decision would be unnecessary. It does not require a high level of
psychological sophistication to understand that if I am unfaithful to my wife,
and then I obsess over an alternate universe wherein I remain faithful to my
wife, that my obsession is driven by guilt and shame and a tortured desire to
have chosen differently in the past. It also is not the summit of psychological
insight to understand that I have a need to create an alternate universe
wherein I am faithful to my wife because I am fairly sure that I will be
unfaithful to her again in the future, and am preparing the way for another
I do not
have conclusive empirical evidence for this, but I have certainly experienced
it during my many years of debating these issues, with friends and strangers
alike, but my strong belief is that agnostics are secular-minded people who
come from religious parents. Deep down, they fear – and I would imagine not
unreasonably – that their parents will choose God over them, if faced with such
a choice. This is a truly tragic situation, which I have not had to face
directly myself, and my heart goes out to people caught in this supernatural
trap. Agnostics and theists are caught in the endless and stagnant
merry-go-round of “let’s agree to disagree.” Agnosticism is a way of fencing
off a topic emotionally with a big cloudy fog bank upon which is inscribed the
blurry letters, “Don’t go there!”
that agnostics only invoke alternate universes for gods indicates not that I
think that agnostics are cowardly, but rather that they themselves are of this
I wish to
reiterate that I do not think that it is cowardly to avoid confrontation with
the religious – I can perfectly well understand why someone who has a
reasonably good relationship with religious parents might wish to avoid
confrontations about the nonexistence of gods. However, honesty is the first
virtue, and the most important honesty is honesty with the self – if that is
absent, everything that follows is false. The true reality for agnostics is
that they do not wish to anger or upset religious people – I can understand
that, but that needs to be admitted. Failing that admission, agnostics need to
apply their “alternate universe” theories to everything, since it is a
principle of epistemology, or fundamental knowledge.
To create a
singular exception to a universal rule for that which makes you uncomfortable,
rather than just admitting your discomfort, is dishonest and cowardly.
agnostic can honestly admit that he is afraid of confronting religious people,
then he does not need to continue slithering through the foggy gymnastics of
alternate universes and the certain knowledge of the uncertainty of knowledge.
the avoidance of honesty, not danger. A man who says he did not join an army
because he was afraid of dying is being honest. A man who claims an imaginary
illness – even to himself – is a liar, who is obviously uncomfortable with his
own choices, and chooses to bewilder and confuse others rather than be honest
at least with himself.
Agnosticism and Religion
agnostics will claim courage because they ridicule and attack organized religion.
The fact that we cannot prove or disprove the existence of God, they say, has
profound implications for human theology, rendering any specifics about gods or
their properties utterly imaginary and foolish.
however, does not hold logically. The alternate universe theory, as discussed
above, cannot be specific only to gods, but is a universal principle that
applies to everything. When the agnostic says, “We cannot disprove the
existence of gods,” he is really saying, “We cannot disprove the validity of
This is the
fundamental crux of the matter. Agnosticism cannot be a principle if it only
applies to gods, and there is no logical reason why it should only apply to
gods, and so no human statement or belief or perspective or prejudice or
bigotry can ever be proven or disproven, according to agnosticism.
agnostic to say that organized religion is foolish runs entirely against the basic
principles of agnosticism. If I believe that my God is an invisible spider that
squats in my eardrum and whispers the truths of the universe only to me, how
can this possibly be contradicted according to agnosticism? In an alternate
universe, this could be exactly the case. The agnostic cannot say that this is
definitively false, for the moment that definitive falsehoods can be
identified, the alternate universe theory collapses.
This is what
is so tragic about agnosticism: agnostics often think that they are undermining
religious certainty, but the exact opposite is true. By saying that every
conceivable human perspective could be valid in some alternate universe,
agnostics raise rank subjectivism to the status of scientific objectivity, and
madness to rational skepticism. An agnostic cannot say to a racist that he is
wrong, because in some other universe, the despised race might in fact be
inferior! This failure to identify and apply objective and consistent
principles – the very essence of philosophy – not only drops any and all
rational defenses against subjective bigotries, but rather spurs them on, and
elevates them to the very heights of philosophical wisdom.
agnosticism is a snake that eats itself. If we say that no human statement of
truth can ever be proven or disproven, what are we to make of that statement
itself? Isn’t this just another example of one of the oldest philosophical
piles of sophist nonsense, the statement: “Nothing is true.” Of course, if
nothing is true, the statement that nothing is true is false, which is a self-detonating
In the same
way that agnosticism creates this magical exception for the existence of gods,
it must also by the very logic of its principles create a magic exception for
its own arguments. The moment that we hear the word “except” in a philosophical
statement, we know that we are in the presence of Grade A nonsense. “Nothing is
true – except this statement!” Meh, that isn’t even philosophy, that is just a
Mobius strip fortune cookie.
In the same
way, when agnostics affirm that no statement can be proven or disproven, are they
creating a magical exception for that statement? If so, on what basis do they
create this magical exception? If not, then do they recognize the
ridiculousness of their position?
The Misuses of History
When you are
inventing a new idea, using the word that describes its exact opposite is a
very bad idea. If I want to sell a dessert, I do not describe it as an
appetizer, a mountain or a virus. If I want to sell a map, I do not describe it
as a mystery novel, or switch North with South, East with West.
A man who
wants to sell you something new, while describing it as something very old, is
very likely a con man, looking to pass off a new table as an antique, or a cheap
replica as the original.
is a relatively modern phenomenon; avoiding the question of God’s existence is nothing
new, of course, but agnosticism attempts to hook into a lot of science,
particularly quantum physics, string theory and other multidimensional theoretical
little more than a transparent and obvious con.
the word “God” has never meant, “things that may exist in other dimensions of
the multiverse, as described by modern physics.” “God” has never referred to
some unknowable X factor, Schrödinger’s cat, the unified field theory, the
cosmic craps player so derided by Einstein, or any of the other trappings of
not empty the word “God” of its true and original meaning, which was a cosmic
and spiritual father who created the universe, breathed life into mankind,
burns the wicked and saves the innocent, and so on. This meaty and monstrous superman,
this thunderbolt-hurling patriarch of our dim and brutal histories, this
frustrated and enraged slaughterer of rebels and sceptics – this fearful and
omnipotent beast should not be reduced to some pale and conceptual ghost hiding
out in the dim theoretical alleys between the atoms.
word “God” to refer to some theoretical possibility of mind-bending modern
physics is to take a word steeped in the superstitious blood of our earliest
collective histories, and attempt to propel it like some time-bending slingshot
forward into the future – an exercise in futility, since this old and very
brittle word cracks and collapses in the face of such insane velocity.
When it was
first discovered that the world was round and not flat, the word “flat” was not
enlisted to describe the newly discovered roundness. When ancient
mathematicians first invented the concept “zero,” they did not attempt to reuse
the number one to describe it – for the simple and obvious reason that if you
attempt to use the same word to describe something very different, you will
spend the rest of your life trying to slice and dice peoples comprehension of
your meaning. “Wait, do you mean the word ‘one’ to mean the old number one, or
the new symbol for zero?”
It is so
obviously inefficient to use the same word for opposite things – or even
different things – that we should be immediately suspicious when this problem
arises. A man who proposes calling his wife his mother, and his mother his
wife, is complicating not only his relationships, but also his psyche. A cab
driver who tries to start using the word “uptown” to mean “downtown” will
simply annoy his customers and lose his job.
visceral, crazed and dangerous deities of the ancient world were called “gods.”
The word refers to Stone Age superstitions, not modern theoretical definitions
of physics. “God” refers to not only a pre-scientific period, but an anti-scientific
and anti-rationalist stage of our development, if development is even the right
word. To the Egyptians of 6,000 years ago, the gods were living beings that you
prayed to, feared, obeyed, and slaughtered virgins for. They joined you in war,
contemplated healing you in sickness, cursed your enemies and strengthened your
offspring. They did not hide in some possible alternate universe, waiting for
almost 6,000 years for some scribbles on a mathematicians paper to reveal their
potential hiding place.
We do not
see agnostics attempting to rehabilitate the phrase “human sacrifice” by
referring to it as a synonym for benevolence, because the strangeness,
irrationality and quite frankly psychological problems that would be revealed
by such a goal would be far too obvious.
not strenuously advocate for the legalization of rape, arguing that it might be
moral in some other universe – yet they strenuously oppose atheists who deny
the existence of God. This is a most strange position to see – surely if evil
might equal good in some other universe, then violently banning evil in this
universe is utterly unjust! If certainty is impossible in this universe, then
surely we should start by opposing violently enforced certainties – such as physical
self-defense – rather than merely strongly worded opinions, such as the fact
that gods do not exist.
enough agnostics slither right past violently enforced views such as the evils
of rape, murder, theft, parking in a handicapped zone, the non-payment of
property taxes, failing to come to a proper stop at a stop sign, speeding and
everything else. All these legally enforced perspectives are utterly ignored, although
they are inflicted with infinitely greater absolutism than a mere philosophical
argument – and the agnostic reaches with open fingers for the throat of the mere
words, the violent enforcement of certain perspectives is perfectly
acceptable to the agnostic, but mere arguments for other perspectives
must be aggressively and endlessly opposed.
This is why
I call agnosticism cowardice.
And if you
are still an agnostic, after reading and failing to rebut these arguments, you
have well earned the label.
virtue is always honesty, and the first honesty is always with the self.
I do not for
a moment imagine that agnostics have reached their conclusions by
dispassionately looking at the available arguments and evidence. Agnosticism –
like determinism and other forms of self-detonating superstition, arises from a
fear of social attack, and a staunch denial of self-knowledge.
If you do
not have the stomach to encourage the potentially rational, expose the
irrational and condemn the anti-rational, you have nothing to be ashamed of. I
feel queasy at the sight of blood; I’d make a terrible surgeon – but I know and
accept this fact, so I don’t need to recast my queasiness as other-dimensional
If you are
afraid of sticking your neck out in this highly unprofitable realm, that’s
completely fine. If you’re scared of how others may react to the truth, that’s
natural, normal and healthy. Just – accept that. We don’t all have to be good
at everything. Leave this heavy lifting to others. I don’t drill my own
cavities, and you can leave the perilous advancement of reason to the
All that we
ask is that you get out of the way.