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Discussion 1 to Meditation 556
Why I claim that the existence of god is unknowable

by: JT

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The three articles of faith started out as a statement of my personal view of agnosticism. The brief commentary which follows each article is not part of the article, but simply a brief comment intended to support it. The article can be accepted on its own without necessarily agreeing with the commentary.

The first article of faith would normally be interpreted as a statement of strong agnosticism. Not only do we not know whether god exists or not, but we cannot possibly know now, or at some future date. (While we are alive that is. Who knows what we might know after death, if indeed it is possible to know anything after death?)

On the other hand, weak agnosticism says only that we do not know right now. It leaves open the possibility that knowledge of a god's existence or non-existence might be obtained in the future.

On the surface, this would rule out weak agnostics from becoming members of the Church of the Apathetic Agnostic. However, if a person wants to look for it, there is sufficient ambiguity in the first article of faith to permit a weak agnostic to accept it. You don't have to read it as "The existence of a Supreme Being is unknown and unknowable and always will be." It can be read as "The existence of a Supreme Being is unknown and unknowable in the light of all current knowledge."

You might want to argue that "unknown and unknowable" contains a redundancy in this interpretation. It does not. I would interpret it as "I don't know with the knowledge I now have, and even if I possessed all the current knowledge in the world, I still would not know."

So, weak agnostics are fully welcome in the Church of the Apathetic Agnostic. It is not necessary to see the first article of faith as a statement of strong agnosticism. Nevertheless, I personally am a strong agnostic. I claim that we will never know whether a deity exists or not.

Why?

There are two ways to approach it.

First because I believe it. Inasmuch as it is possible to regard the claim of permanent unknowability to be an unprovably assertion, then the first article of faith really is a matter of faith for me.

Secondly, rather than faith, the issue can be addressed logically.

One of the claims believers make, particularly when something troubling or inconsistent comes up in their belief, is that "God is beyond human understanding." It is the ultimate excuse. Essentially believers who say this place their god in the class of unknowable and unprovable propositions.[1]

Also, if we consider the second article of faith and commentary:

2. If there is a Supreme Being, then that being appears to act as if apathetic to events in our universe.

All events in our Universe, including its beginning, can be explained with or without the existence of a Supreme Being. Thus, if there is indeed a God, then that god has had no more impact than no god at all.

Essentially, that article claims that so far, if there is a deity, it has left no verifiable traces of its existence. Hugo suggests that a deity might do so in the future. But to do so, would be inconsistent with the claims made by believers of omniscience, omnipotence, and the desire of the deity that we believe and worship it. If a deity were to choose on (say) 29 April 2007 to rearrange all the stars in the sky to read in every known language "I, God, exist," then it would be an admission of failure - that past efforts to get everyone to believe have failed. The previous policy of relying on individual and occasional prophets to communicate the message to everyone did not work and could not possibly have worked.

So, in my view, from a position of logic, the god defined by believers is and always will be unknowable.

However, I do not insist that everyone who accepts the first article of faith should think my way.

Footnote:

  1. See also footnote 1 to Meditation 91, Ask the Patriarch 48, and Ask the Patriarch 111 where I have dealt with unknowablity previously