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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words

Do-It-Yourself Ontology

The same arguments for or against the existence of gods have been around since ancient times. It is often said that there has been nothing new on this front and that and innovations are extremely unlikely. To test this statement, I present here the classic arguments against the existence of gods, and an image for each that should be versatile enough to serve as a background for your own twist on the argument.

While a true innovation may be unlikely, you might find that you have a new twist on an old argument. In any event, mastering these four arguments should serve you well in most any ontological discussion. The arguments are mutually complementary, but each has  its own distinct domain. There are four classic arguments against the existence of gods. Each is foregrounded in a modern atheist movement.

Freethought: Reasonable Non-Belief

Reasonable non-belief is the argument that the divine is not self-evident and that the burden of proof rests with religion. Freethinkers reject the imposition of alien notions of the sacred. Blasphemy is a victimless crime. The god hypothesis is no more likely that any number of claims that we don't take on faith. Any claim that relies on special pleading is suspect. For the freethinker, inquiry trumps faith.

Skepticism: Lack of Empirical Evidence

Lack of empirical evidence is an argument from skepticism. The supernatural is beyond the reach of empirical proof. The skeptic rejects the "god of the gaps" argument, by which anything we don't yet understand is attributed to the supernatural by default. The incorporeal is immaterial. For the skeptic, discovery trumps revelation.

Secularism: Inconsistent Revelations 

Secularism can be understood as a logical extension of a the argument from inconsistent revelations. Particular claims of primacy by any religion seem to be rooted in ancient tribalism. To the non-believer, it is self-evident that the very idea of divine revelation is indefensible. Religious moderates cherry-pick to reconcile revelation with tolerance. For the secularist, reason trumps custom.

Humanism: The Argument from Evil

Humanism follows from the argument from evilEverything has a natural explanation. Humanism rejects craven worship of venal gods. It resolves the problem of evil by accepting that there is no divine plan. It's up to us to negotiate the conditions of our existence. For the Humanist, autonomy trumps piety.

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