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Thread: The simplest refutation of theism

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    The simplest refutation of theism

    After a yoga class I found myself in a discussion with a group of people with a wide array of beliefs. None of them were traditionally religious, but they had a bunch of mystical pseudo-theistic beliefs. With my skeptical mind I did my best to pose Socratic questions and (I think) came up with the simplest, yet water-tight, refutation of anything remotely mystical.

    The argument goes like this: In order for us to be able to evaluate whether to believe in something or not, we have to be able to define it. If only to talk about it intelligently. If we can't, then I just shift it over into the category of things I cannot possibly know and I stop worrying about it.

    All theistic religions, to my knowledge, posit the ineffability of God. Once they've admitted this the argument is won IMHO.

    So guys, is my logic solid or am I making life too easy for myself?

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    This btw is one step above the atheist, agnostic, theist dichotomy. Since it enters before the existence of God is even evaluated. It's a fourth category. Atheist, agnostic, theist and "who cares?". The "who cares" category is operationally identical to being an atheist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg
    In order for us to be able to evaluate whether to believe in something or not, we have to be able to define it. If only to talk about it intelligently. If we can't, then I just shift it over into the category of things I cannot possibly know and I stop worrying about it.
    You are not saying that God does not exist. You are saying that if he does exist but you cannot understand him then you are going to ignore him.

    We are only fairly recently evolved from monkeys. If some thing as mystically supreme as a master of puppets behind the entire universe does exist then he may simply be beyond the limits of our primitive monkey cognitive grasp.

    God can wriggle out of any knot you try to to tie him up in. He is the slipperiest greased monkey in the barrel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mojorising View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg
    In order for us to be able to evaluate whether to believe in something or not, we have to be able to define it. If only to talk about it intelligently. If we can't, then I just shift it over into the category of things I cannot possibly know and I stop worrying about it.
    You are not saying that God does not exist. You are saying that if he does exist but you cannot understand him then you are going to ignore him.

    We are only fairly recently evolved from monkeys. If some thing as mystically supreme as a master of puppets behind the entire universe does exist then he may simply be beyond the limits of our primitive monkey cognitive grasp.

    God can wriggle out of any knot you try to to tie him up in. He is the slipperiest greased monkey in the barrel.
    No. I dobt think he ays anything about reality but about what can be known and what it is to know something.

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    Elder Contributor Keith&Co.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mojorising View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg
    In order for us to be able to evaluate whether to believe in something or not, we have to be able to define it. If only to talk about it intelligently. If we can't, then I just shift it over into the category of things I cannot possibly know and I stop worrying about it.
    You are not saying that God does not exist. You are saying that if he does exist but you cannot understand him then you are going to ignore him.
    I don't think so. I think Zoidberg is not rejecting God. He's rejecting theists talking incoherently about God.
    He's saying that if the theist telling him 'there is a god' cannot make his claim clear, then it's much like any other theory that's based on gibberish.

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mojorising View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg
    In order for us to be able to evaluate whether to believe in something or not, we have to be able to define it. If only to talk about it intelligently. If we can't, then I just shift it over into the category of things I cannot possibly know and I stop worrying about it.
    You are not saying that God does not exist. You are saying that if he does exist but you cannot understand him then you are going to ignore him.
    Yes, exactly. I equate an existing ineffable God with the unknown. An unknown existing God is functionally equivalent with a non-existing unknown God. Since we know nothing of the unknown (by definition) then it follows that belief or non-belief is an irrelevant. Atheism isn't the equivalent with not-playing tennis. It's equivalent with not-[insert random made up word].

    Quote Originally Posted by mojorising View Post
    We are only fairly recently evolved from monkeys. If some thing as mystically supreme as a master of puppets behind the entire universe does exist then he may simply be beyond the limits of our primitive monkey cognitive grasp.
    I can accept this since this is equivalent with not believing in this master of puppets. Both theism and atheism (and agnosticism) become redundant labels.

    Quote Originally Posted by mojorising View Post
    God can wriggle out of any knot you try to to tie him up in. He is the slipperiest greased monkey in the barrel.
    He can wriggle as best he can. As long as he/she/it remains ineffable I just won't care.

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith&Co. View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by mojorising View Post

    You are not saying that God does not exist. You are saying that if he does exist but you cannot understand him then you are going to ignore him.
    I don't think so. I think Zoidberg is not rejecting God. He's rejecting theists talking incoherently about God.
    He's saying that if the theist telling him 'there is a god' cannot make his claim clear, then it's much like any other theory that's based on gibberish.
    Not quite. It's not the clarity of the argument that matters. It's the claim. If the claim is that God is ineffable, then any further speculation is irrelevant.

    There's two possible positions for a theist.

    1) God is ineffable.
    2) God is knowable*

    3) From 1. If God is ineffable we can stop speculating.
    4) From 2. If God is knowable we can evaluate God's existence in a lab just like we would any scientific hypothesis.

    *Effable is not the antonym of ineffable. I checked.

    - - - Updated - - -

    What this does is that it puts a cork in the "God works in mysterious ways" or the "God of the gaps" type God (I think, if my logic holds up)

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    Veteran Member PyramidHead's Avatar
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    Reminds me a little bit of non-cognitivism about metaphysical claims. So it goes, when people talk about things that are "ineffable", they appear to the casual observer to be making grammatically correct statements about real things, but in actuality they are just making funny noises. There may be some internal relationship between the noises that roughly corresponds to the semantics of whatever language they're speaking, but beyond that there's no relationship to anything in the tangible sphere.

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    Many (most?) religionists have created a circular double-out for God. His loving nature (for the in-crowd, anyway) is known by revelation. The existence of cancers, encephalitis, meteorites hitting Joel Osteen (a hypothetical), crib death, tsunamis -- that's where we must simply quail before an inscrutable deity. Your argument is fine for people who will use rationality. Religion is designed for endless end runs around rationality.

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    Formerly Joedad
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    Can't remember the poster from the old days of Internet Infidels, but the refrain was, "Show me your god."

    It doesn't get any more direct than that. I think that's what the OP is about.

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