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Discussion 11 to Meditation 832
I want you to commit to a definition

by: Christian Bieck

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JT, the wordplay was intentional to get past the wordplay of the Articles - I wanted to gradually get you to commit to an actual _definition_ of a SB. The answer was the one I feared; so far, we are still at the stage of a simple tautology: "a being which I refuse to define is unknowable." Big deal. What does it mean, Selassie was not aware of his existence as a god - what IS a god? He was aware of his own existence, period. That was all I asked.(1)

And sorry, "supernatural" is not a definition, but rather the refusal of a definition. I would never let a theist/mystic get away with "explaining" something with the term supernatural - and I suspect neither would you. Yet you use just that non-definition, and your first Article relies on the same proposition to work - a SB as seen by most religions has to be logically impossible. "Supernatural" is unconvincing even in fiction - fantasy authors (good ones) try to give magic a basis in the physical reality of their worlds and not just say "it's unexplainable and unknowable."(2)

I see agnosticism as a deeply rational position: no being that is (forever) outside of logic or understanding has any real meaning; the apathetic is almost built in. Supernatural is a meaningless term, which is why most religions have meaningless deities. (I would say all, but I don't claim to know all.) Shouldn't we be bound to a higher standard of rationality than a religion? If that is what you actually want to say with the First Article (i.e. sarcasm) then we are not apart - I am just quibbling with your wording, which could be clearer. But the existence of an objectively unknowable being is logically impossible - so if you really are undecided on the matter of existence or non-existence of that unknowable being you are believing the logically impossible, just as a normal religion does.

As Dr. Incitatus writes, an article of faith does not have to be logical – but why replace the irrationality of religion with a belief just as irrational?


Christian (who once again finds his name in the context of this discussion ironic)


  1. Btw, we are continuously mixing "unknown nature" and "unknowable existence" here. Not quite the same thing. "God is the unknown" sounds mightily mystical, but is about as meaningful as the first lines of Lewis Caroll's Jabberwocky. Does that mean that god is shrinking daily as our knowledge increases?
  2. Try Larry Niven's "The Magic Goes Away". You might say "then it's not magic, it's physics" – my point exactly. Define it or discard it.
  3. NB: On the matter of any being outside of current scientific knowledge revealing itself - rearranging the stars would not be a very creative way of doing it. Can you hallucinate something which is outside of human experience or imagination? From what I understood about psychology you can't - which is why we can be so sure the bible and other "holy" books are human fiction.