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Infinite Knowledge Print
Written by Mike Noel   
Thursday, 21 June 2007
I've heard people say "there is no god". Think about this statement a bit. At face value it implies infinite knowledge. That is, the speaker is saying that they know absolutely everything and they have discovered that there is no god. Of course no one can actually mean that. I think instead they mean that there is no god based on their definition of what a god would be and how a god would act. And, it is not a statement of fact as much as it's a statement of opinion (even a reasoned opinion).
Let me give you a couple of examples. Suppose the speaker is saying "there is no god because I haven't seen him (or her or it)". That line of reasoning expects that the "god" that the speaker is denying is a god who, if he (or she or it) exists, can be and would be seen by people. Otherwise it is an empty statement, similar to saying "there is no such thing as sweetness because I've never seen it with my own eyes". Sweetness isn't something you "see" it's something you "taste". Besides, supposing that the god in question was one that had a physical form that could be seen, what's to say that he (or she or it) couldn't be so clever as to always hide from the person looking for him (or her or it)? The arguement that there isn't a god because he (or she or it) hasn't been perceived physically assumes certain qualities of the god. A god who didn't play by those rules could easily exist yet not be noticed in that way.
A slightly more sophisticated approach to the "I haven't see him (or her or it)" line of reasoning is the one that acknowledges that the god might not be physically perceived but his (or her or its) actions would be. But again this falls into the same trap as the first argument. What if the actions are not perceptible or what if the actions are performed in such a manner that the relationship between the action and the result is not obvious? Again, by a lack of observations all that has been shown is that there doesn't exist a god who follows those rules.
A related line of reasoning is "if there was a god then he (or she or it) would have done/not done XYZ". This is most noticed when someone says "if there was a god he (or she or it) would not have allowed my neighbor's child to die". Notice what is being smuggled in here. There is an implicit statement that if there was a god then he (or she or it) would act in a certain way that made sense to the speaker. If there was a god who, for his (or her or its) own reasons, chose to act in a different way, then that god would be perceived as nonexistent.
There are zillions of other arguments for or against the existence of god. I'm not trying to go address any of those here. I'm simply pointing out that most of the arguments (for or against, actually) are always assuming a certain definition of god and most of the time that definition provides the leverage to prove the point. In other words, it's a self-proving statement. Unless, of course, the speaker really does have infinite knowledge.
 

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