22 August 2009

Disbelief is just another belief

I've heard this a couple of times now. 'Saying that there is no god is as much a statement of faith as saying there is a god.'

This was bothering the hell out of me because the best answer I was able to give up until now is, 'Uh, no dude, it's not' which isn't satisfying to anyone, especially not me.

Well, watching the YouTubes this week, someone made a good point. If someone says, 'I believe in bigfoot' and you answer, 'There's no bigfoot', would you say that you and the bigfootist are both exercising the same amount of faith?

On some level, I guess you are: we've fallen into this hole in the discussions here, which end up in a sort of, how do you know anything, epistemological mire. Because yes, I can't say with certainty that there is no bigfoot: I can only say that based on the evidence I have been presented and looking at the claims of the bigfootists, that it seems very unlikely that bigfoot exists. However, given that I cannot know all things, I have to say that, under the circumstances and given the claims made about bigfoot by people who claimed to have seen one, that it is very unlikely.

We have, the person in the video pointed out, a pragmatic understanding of 'knowing' that works for us most of the time. You can see this in how we even differentiate between knowing and believing. I think this is because we mostly trust what we know and can test and what we can know and test against other people's knowledge. And given that criteria, it seems reasonable to say, that at least in the sense that Christians conceive of a god, that given what I know and what I can test, this god likely does not exist. This is not a statement of faith. It might be something else, but it is not a statement of faith.