Why I am not an atheist

The reason is not that I am a religious person or that I have faith in the Supernatural or God. The reason rather lies in a conjunction of of my view of the nature of the question Does God exist and what atheism itself means.

The question of God’s existence has been attempted to be resolved countless times both in the positive as well as in the negative using a plethora of arguments. I am, however, not interested in the specific answers but more in the fact that the debate is ongoing. Does this not hint at a problem with the question itself? Does this question not defy all answers if only because the definition of God renders the concept unfalsifiable? Indeed already in 1781 Immanuel Kant came to the conclusion that this question is essentially unanswerable when he classified it as the fourth antinomy of pure reason. Antimonies are logically contradicting answers to a question in the form of a thesis and an antithesis. It is possible to come up with sound logical arguments for each while neither can be proven empirically.  The only resolution according to Kant is to identify the antimony and to disengage from the discussion. A similar treatment of such questions is the Buddhist concept of Mu (Japanese for “not have; without”) which states that a question without answer should be unasked. It is thus possible to identify the question of God’s existence as principally unanswerable and to consequently refute it altogether. With regard to the question there is thus not only the option of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but of leaving the dichotomy by responding ‘mu’. This stance is by no means new and has been termed ignosticism.

After having briefly introduced the concept of ignosticism it is time to move to the concept of atheism. This can be split into a strong (1) and a weak (2) form. (1) Strong atheism is being absolutely convinced that there is no God. This is atheism in its most dogmatic form and might be considered faith in the sense that it is a belief that is not based on proof. (2)Weak atheism acknowledges that it is impossible to either proof or disproof God. At this point it is necessary to further subdivide it. (2.a) There exists an answer but practically we cannot, as of yet, arrive at it. This form of atheism dissolves into agnosticism. (2.b) The question is by definition unanswerable. In case one nevertheless retains the question one is repeatedly forced to discuss and answer it which ultimately leads to a convergence towards one of the more dogmatic positions of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ thus leading one to at least deism on the one hand or strong atheism on the other. Refuting the question as epistemologically empty (unanswerable or unknowable) leads one to ignosticism. The only stable form of atheism is thus the strong form with the other forms either dissolving into different concepts or leading right back to the strong form. Given that I am not a strong atheist I am not an atheist at all.

Epilogue:

If I had to place myself into a category it would be ignosticism although I am a bit wary of the fact that the principle of unasking a question which basically frees one from labels has again been labeled when applied to the question of God’s existence. I usually consider myself outside of the discussion which allows me to evade any ingroup-outgroup conflicts with regard to faith. Additionally, I am aware that the question always has been and always will be asked and that it therefore must be meaningful in a sense. To this I would reply that the meta-question of “why do we ask: Does God exist?” is certainly epistemologically meaningful and answerable while the original question is not. The original question might, however, be regarded as psychologically meaningful. Finally, refuting the question of God’s existence does not imply that I am indifferent to institutionalized religion. Independent of whether the faith claims of a religion can be proven or not their actions in this world are very real and must be open to criticism.

-M

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