“I am an Ignostic – I refuse to be drawn on the question of whether God exists until somebody properly defines the terms.” – John Lloyd in TEDtalk: Tour of the Invisible
Asking the question “Does God exist?” is kind of like trying to ask “are drugs bad?” Well, which drug are we referring to? In what quantities and in what situation? What does ‘bad’ mean? Addictive? Bad for you physically? Mentally? You see, the answer to a question depends on what the question actually means, and “does God exist?” is an extremely vague question with a million possible meanings. What God do you mean? What are his characteristics? We’d probably be best off scrapping the word God altogether because, at this point, it’s a completely subjective term.
Even within theistic religions people’s definitions of God can vary greatly. Not only are there typically different sects and sometimes even sub-sects within religions that debate on the nature of God, but even two people who may claim to believe in the exact same God might actually have very different personal views on who God is to them.
When you look at things that way, the terms atheist and theist seem sort of silly and irrelevant, at least to me. Given the specific definition of God, which can be damn-near well anything the user of the term pleases, the person’s view may and probably will change. A Muslim, for example, can refer to himself as a theist but in relation to the Hindu God, they are an atheist. The same can go for Christians in relation to Allah. Someone who is an ‘atheist’ in one sense might be agnostic in another (though, I think we’re technically all agnostic we just can’t admit it).
What I’m trying to say is we’re all just playing a silly name-game here instead of just looking at things as they are, no labels involved at all, and making a claim about the validity of a statement after you have actually been confronted with it. There’s no reason to try and reject something up-front; that is unscientific. If someone makes a statement you don’t agree with, argue with them about that specific statement using reason and logic, but there’s no reason to be like “Oh, I’m an atheist, I reject all notions and definitions of God no matter what they are or how you came up with them, even though I know it is not actually possible to prove that God doesn’t exist any more than that he does and in making the claim that God does not exist I’m claiming to know something that is actually unknowable.”
The renowned “atheist” Sam Harris has made similar arguments regarding the use of the term atheist and I tend to agree with him. What we need to combat the ignorance involved in religion is not just another group of people who will devolve in to group-think and get glued to their ‘pillar beliefs’ of God “not existing” – basically an anti-religion. What we need is for people to realize that the problem in religion is not necessarily the belief in God or a higher power, but the lack of logic involved when it comes to defending one’s beliefs in said higher power, typically because of the group-think that comes into play when you decide to slap a label on yourself and say “I believe these things and that’s all there is to it.”
Labels have a place, but when it comes to making truth-claims about things that are at this point unknowable, I think we should refrain from using them as much as possible. People get easily attached to certain identities they’ve constructed about themselves, and labels tend to only further that attachment. They also obviously encourage sticking to one’s current beliefs – even in the face of conflicting evidence – rather than being open to changing them.
So, does God exist or not? That is not something I can tell you. I can tell you that I personally believe that we puny little humans know nothing, and that it is more likely that there are things ‘out there’ that we simply cannot comprehend at this stage in our evolution than not. Are those things God? I don’t know. Are they something we might consider God-like? Perhaps. But I’d much rather go into this inquiry with an open mind, ready to accept any answers that come to me, than with a mind closed off by a label – even if the label is as well-intentioned as that of, say, an “atheist.”
Love to you all,