11 November 2008

A Proof Of The Existence Of God

1. The concept "God" exists.
2. "Perfection" is an inseparable part of the conception of "God."
3. "Perfection" is that state of being that cannot be bettered.
4. A God that exists is better than a God that does not exist.

Therefore, God must exist.

(This is, of course, St. Anselm's ontological proof of the existence of God. All complaints should be directed to him.)

33 comments:

Peter Burnet said...

Dang right, Ansy-boy! Plus somebody had to put together the friggin' watch.

Hey Skipper said...

A proof of the non-existence of God
Premise 1) Contradictions cannot exist.

Premise 2) God is a transcendent, supernatural, personal being, who created the natural universe.

Premise 3) God is an immanent, non-supernatural, non-personal being, equivalent to the natural universe.

Therefore God cannot exist.

jim hamlen said...

Actually, I don't think Anselm first stated that the concept of "God" exists. In his century, it was just accepted. It is a modern apologetic to begin an argument with the 'pre-supposition' of God.

The simplest way to state Anselm's argument is that because we can conceive of a perfect being, such a being must exist. Otherwise, how could we do it? It seems an archaic, almost ancient formula to us, here in 2008, and yet it is a tantalizing statement. An implacable statement. Atheists have been making hay of Anselm for 300 years, but they always argue at the margins (about perfect islands and such), while avoiding the center (how does man conceive of God).

Meanwhile, the thought of a non-supernatural, non-personal being made me think of rocks. And mud.

Hey Skipper said...

The simplest way to state Anselm's argument is that because we can conceive of a perfect being, such a being must exist. Otherwise, how could we do it? I

I can conceive of flying purple pigs wearing pink tutus that are absolutely perfect in their flying tutued purpleness.

Such a being must therefore exist, right?

The statement is neither implacable or tantalizing, it is just meaningless.

Just like Anselm's.

David said...

Can we imagine a perfect being?

Harry Eagar said...

I suppose I could imagine the concept, but I couldn't define the components of perfection.

Would a perfect being allow, say, suffering?

If he did, and an alternate but competing being who also claimed to be perfect did not, on what basis would you award the prize?

jim hamlen said...

People can imagine all sorts of flying pigs (wearing tutus or not). However, flying pigs have nothing to do with perfection.

Remember, one of the main reasons for Anselm's question(s) in the Proslogion was to examine the statement "The fool says in his heart 'there is no God'". So he wasn't talking about purple pigs, islands, or anything other than what he knew to be moral perfection.

Can we imagine moral perfection? Probably not very well. Holiness is outside of our existence. We all know about weakness, frailty, fear, loss, shame, anger, and sin. In fact, we probably know them better than we know love, mercy, sacrifice, generosity, magnanimity, and grace. So just how do we imagine "God"?

Most apologetics begins (like Lewis in "Mere Christianity" or much of Pascal) with an examination of man in his fragile state. The grandeur and the tragedy. The paradoxes, the yearnings, the confusion. The highs and the lows. The commonality.

Anselm started with God and man's thoughts about him. While it grates against our ears today, it is actually quite interesting that in this 'post-modern' world of ours, the questions he asks crash right into determinism, atheism, even logical positivism.

Two short questions - 1) if man is totally biological, totally Darwinian, totally alone, how did the concept of "God", with all that has been written about it, ever develop? Be careful: natives in New Guinea may have thought God was a thunderstorm and reacted accordingly, but the Jews and Christians (and even the Muslims) never thought that way.

2) Why does the Bible repeat over and over again that man suppresses knowledge of the truth? Is it just a rhetorical device to try to short-circuit opposition, to bludgeon its critics? Or is it a statement about the human condition?

Perhaps we know a little bit more about the 'being' of God than we like to admit.

David said...

If we can imagine a perfect being, then God necessarily exists because a being that exists is necessarily better than a being that doesn't exist and, thus, unless God exists we can't imagine a perfect being, which contradicts our starting point.

If we can't imagine a perfect being, then we have no ability to come to any conclusion about God's existence.

jim hamlen said...

I have to admit, I love the word "necessarily". I would probably vote for any politician I heard use it.

We are also taught that man was made 'a little lower than the angels', and, of course, was made in the image of God. That is 'necessary' for us to begin to imagine God.

Hey Skipper said...

Jim:

People can imagine all sorts of flying pigs (wearing tutus or not). However, flying pigs have nothing to do with perfection.

No, of course they don't

However, Anselm's reasoning is this, quoting from you: The simplest way to state Anselm's argument is that because we can conceive of a perfect being, such a being must exist.

Now, unless there is something uniquely privileged about the concept of perfection (even granting that we can collectively agree on a perfect conception of perfection), then it is perfectly consistent with Anselm to restate his assertion in general terms:

If we can conceive of X, then X exists.

So, despite flying purple tutood pigs have nothing to do with perfection, they do have everything to do with Anselm's reasoning. Or lack thereof.

I should note, BTW, that my post of 11/11 contains reasoning every bit as conclusive, and empty, as Anselm's.

Remember, one of the main reasons for Anselm's question(s) in the Proslogion was to examine the statement "The fool says in his heart 'there is no God'".

That is completely true. It is foolish to conclude there is no God.

Just as it is equally foolish to conclude there is a God.

Can we imagine moral perfection? Probably not very well. Holiness is outside of our existence. We all know about weakness, frailty, fear, loss, shame, anger, and sin. In fact, we probably know them better than we know love, mercy, sacrifice, generosity, magnanimity, and grace.

That cannot possibly be right. We cannot possibly know about weakness et al unless we also know love et al: you cannot identify what you do not know. We may experience one set of characteristics more often than the other (for instance, I have seen far more of the latter than the former), but that doesn't mean we don't know them.

Which, in turn, indicts Anselm's reasoning. If we can imagine a totally imperfect being, then does God necessarily exist because a being that exists is necessarily more imperfect than one that does not and, thus, unless God exists we cannot imagine an imperfect being, which contradicts our starting point?

1) if man is totally biological, totally Darwinian, totally alone, how did the concept of "God", with all that has been written about it, ever develop?

As an emergent property of a brain sufficiently complex to develop explanations, comprehend futurity and fear the unknown.

2) Why does the Bible repeat over and over again that man suppresses knowledge of the truth?

Even superficial observation of human behavior leads to that conclusion, so on the surface it is a simple statement of the human condition.

However, since it belabors the obvious in defense of the indefensible, it functions as a rhetorical device to defend the indefensible.

Harry Eagar said...

How did the ancient Hebrews manage to imagine their vengeful, protective, violent, murderous god?

Same way as the ancient Sumerians. Same god, pretty much.

Monotheism is overrated. The inhabitants of Uruk believed there were many gods, but they worshipped their god more or less exclusively.

The story I read in the OT says exactly the same thing about the worshipful behavior of the Hebrews.

jim hamlen said...

It is foolish to conclude that God exists. It is foolish to conclude that God does not exist.

I suppose then, it is foolish to conclude anything.

People "decide" on the existence of God based on a lot of things. What influences them, their personal history (with 'religion'), their place in life (young, old, successful, broken). Many of them change their minds, some over and over again. And Christians would add that belief requires some outside nudging.

Nothing dramatic in all that. It hasn't changed a lot in thousands of years (from "I believe - Help thou my unbelief", and "Unless I see the wounds, I will not believe", to "Who are you, Lord?").

I would be careful in saying that we know and experience 'goodness' more than 'badness', especially within ourselves. I certainly do not. Life in the West may not have the same stark differences that we see in the Congo or other places, but we are not higher than the people there. What they experience externally, we know internally. And what happens in many families (behind the four walls) is just as 'bad' as what happens in the jungle, the desert, the ghetto, or wherever.

Hey Skipper said...

I suppose then, it is foolish to conclude anything.

Exactly.

For some questions, "dunno" is the only intellectually honest answer.

I would be careful in saying that we know and experience 'goodness' more than 'badness', especially within ourselves.

In terms of relative amounts, that might be true. In societies not riven by tribalism in all its virulent forms, I suspect that the 'goodness' column has gained at the expense of badness.

That said, you assertion was that we know badness better than goodness.

That simply doesn't make sense: no matter how much of one or the other we experience, I doubt very many people are unable to easily distinguish one from the other.

In that sense, people know each equally well.

Harry Eagar said...

It's a comfort not to have to worry about witches.

Unlike, say, Sarah Palin.

On a practical basis, unbelief is much more efficient.

Peter Burnet said...

Skipper, we do know badness much better than goodness, at least in the sense of being able to concretize it. There are a lot more paintings depicting the torments of Hell than the serenity of Paradise. Injustice, hatred, ugliness, etc. are much easier to recognize and generate a consensus over than love, justice and beauty.

I think one of our main stumbling blocks to conceiving perfection is that whenever we try, we find it boring and if we don't, our children tend to. It's more fun to be bad than good, and most humans can't abide boredom.

I suspect that the 'goodness' column has gained at the expense of badness.

That's an astoundingly breezy statement to make at the end of a century of all-time record mass slaughter.

Hey Skipper said...

That's an astoundingly breezy statement to make at the end of a century of all-time record mass slaughter.

All-time record? On what basis?

Yes, if you choose to focus on head count, then the 20th century was an all time record.

However, as with so many things, perhaps rate counts as much, or even more, than quantity.

During the Reformation, sectarian slaughter beset Europe.

In some areas, 50% of the population was killed. That rate dwarfs anything managed during the 20th century.

Beyond that, do you wish to deny that, since the demise of Nazism and Communism, the tally in the badness column has decreased?

Your comment seems unnecessarily dark, considering the hundreds of millions pulled from grinding poverty over the last 20 years, or the record numbers of people dying from old age.

I think one of our main stumbling blocks to conceiving perfection ...

Keep in mind that I was replying to Jim's contention [We cannot imagine moral perfection very well.] We all know about weakness, frailty, fear, loss, shame, anger, and sin. In fact, we probably know them better than we know love, mercy, sacrifice, generosity, magnanimity, and grace.

He made two errors, which you echoed.

The first is a false comparison: the impossibilty of imagining moral perfection, compared to the ease of imagining immorality on the other. The latter is not the opposite of the former. Rather, he (and you) need to contrast the difficulty of imagining moral perfection with perfect evil.

Second, there is the problem of being able to define the very thing you are talking about: Jim, and you, ignore dichotomy: you cannot know one thing unless you know its opposite. Happiness is meaningless unless one knows unhappiness.

Just so with good and evil. To know either, we have to know both.

There are a lot more paintings depicting the torments of Hell than the serenity of Paradise.

There are?

Okay, let's take that as stipulated. Is that more a reflection of people's experiences, or a religion that hopes to keep people in its thrall?

Injustice, hatred, ugliness, etc. are much easier to recognize and generate a consensus over than love, justice and beauty.

They are?

You must be blind to all the paintings of landscapes, seascapes, children, beautiful women, etc.

I haven't been through an art museum in awhile, but my recollection is that there are far more works containing love and beauty than hatred and ugliness.

As for justice -- I dunno. I'll bet there aren't a lot in that category, one way or the other.

Harry Eagar said...

'There are a lot more paintings depicting the torments of Hell than the serenity of Paradise.'

A surprising statement. Not true of Buddhist art, and of course irrelevant for Islam. Might be a close call for Hinduism.

Certainly untrue of Christian art. Think of all those Tiepolo ceilings.

It is notorious, though, that people quit Dante after the 'Inferno.' I had to read the 'Paradiso,' and it was, indeed, boring.

As for goodness, I return again to the guinea worm. A hideous parasite that affects only Muslims.

It is easily controlled, though.

As for the correlation of goodness with religion, it is a historical fact that Muslims never made any effort to control it, and it is, of course, impossible even to imagine pre-Enlightenment Christians trying to control it for them.

Nevertheless, in this supposedly degenerate century, guinea worm has been largely eradicated. It would have been the first human parasite ever eliminated except for Muslim intransigence.

The work was done by Americans and Norwegians. (And to add gall and bitter wormwood to the tale, much of the organization was done by Jimmy Carter.)

It is, of course, beyond the mind of man to conceive of Muslims going into a non-Muslim country to alleviate suffering. Never happened in 14 centuries.

I have no problem conceiving of 'good.' Eradicating guinea worm is 'good.'

It can happen, and did happen, without reference to god.

jim hamlen said...

Regarding good vs. evil and our 'modern' position, I would think that 1975-79 (Cambodia) and 1994 (Rwanda) put any thought of new moral light to rest. The slaughter of 7000 men and boys in Srebernica alone (in the heart of Europe) should disabuse us of that. And how many hundreds of thousands have died in Darfur, while the chatterers have just chattered?

Then there is the mention of dichotomy, and "the difficulty of imaging moral perfection with perfect evil".

What is 'perfect evil'? We say that Auschwitz was evil, but perfectly so? North Korea is a living evil, but perfectly so? Are Putin, Mugabe, Chavez, little Madmood, and every other thug in the world perfectly evil? No, they are merely men with almost no constraints. We pretend that they are orders of magnitude different than we are (almost another species, as it were) but that is wishful thinking. The same is true for serial killers. They are monsters, yes - but we are not that far away. Every one of us is much closer to a Bundy or a Stalin than we are to moral perfection.

And with respect to knowing both good and evil - isn't that just a recitation of Genesis? Sure, we know both. But one of them is always right at hand, while the other takes a long time to truly desire and pursue. That is what I meant by 'knowing' things like frailty, fear, and sin much better than knowing mercy, grace, etc. The 'good' side has to be learned, while the dark side we know innately.

Nobody much likes the explanation for why man is this way. The good and the evil. But the fact that we know the difference (and that there is a difference) is crucial.

The idea of 'moral perfection' had its origin somewhere. Not with Anselm.

Harry Eagar said...

There are many holes in that argument, but the big, fat one is that in, say, Rwanda, the victims were a specific set of actors. I could have walked across the country at the height of the killings without being molested.

When religion enters, then every single unbeliever is at risk.

And, unless you are a pantheist, then the god being worshipped by torture and murder was, in at least every instance but one, was non-existent.

Clearly, the world is a worse placer with religion than without it.

David said...

Harry:

We might as well say that, since oxygen has been a necessary component of every fatal fire from the beginning of the world to today, the world is clearly a worse place with oxygen than without it.

jim hamlen said...

The victims are always a specific set of actors in a genocide, aren't they?. And they are always helpless, as well. And there are always "bystanders". Although you wouldn't have lasted 30 seconds in Cambodia. No westerner would have, once the forced marches started.

But genocide is not the only example of man's depravity - there are plenty of others. Large and small, personal and impersonal.

Hey Skipper said...

Jim:

Regarding good vs. evil and our 'modern' position, I would think that 1975-79 (Cambodia) and 1994 (Rwanda) put any thought of new moral light to rest ...

Thank you for proving my point for me.

All of the instances you cite, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Srebrenica, are the consequences of tribalism and its evil twin sectarianism.

Societies that have largely put paid to those forms of collectivist thinking produce societies for which the biggest threat facing virtually all their citizens is death by old age.

Religion, practiced as a serious matter, has never been led to that effect.

Then there is the mention of dichotomy, and "the difficulty of imaging moral perfection with perfect evil".

I think you missed my point. It is not fair to compare the difficulty of imagining perfect goodness against common, garden variety, badness.

Perfection, as a concept, excludes everything that does not belong to the essence of the thing under discussion.

Perfect goodness is essentially impossible to imagine not because of the goodness part, but because of the requirement for perfection.

Perfect evil is essentially impossible to imagine for the same reason.

We might as well say that, since oxygen has been a necessary component of every fatal fire from the beginning of the world to today, the world is clearly a worse place with oxygen than without it.

No, we might as well not say that, because argument from analogy only works where the analogy holds.

Here, it does not.

Ooops -- gotta run -- I have a plane to catch.

Harry Eagar said...

You guys are missing the point.

In Cambodia, I would have been an 'actor' and thus a victim. In Rwanda, 'not an actor.'

But religion makes every non-adherent an actor.
Therefore, it is inherently more evil than what Skipper calls tribalism, which picks and chooses its victims. No tribalism ever names the entire outside world 'victim.'

If we were to eliminate religion, then the residue of man's inhumanity to man would not be increased by religion's not being present; but we would have reduced the amount of mayhem done in the name of (some) god. Therefore, the world is a worse place with religion than without it.

Unless you could show that the intervention of religion had reduced non-religious mayhem by a greater amount than religion had increased mayhem on its own, then you have to conclude that religion is a net negative.

It would be difficult to show that religion has reduced violence anywhere during my lifetime, I think. I cannot think of even one example.

Peter Burnet said...

Harry:

I could have walked across the country at the height of the killings without being molested.

No doubt they would have called you Bwana as you passed by in safety, C'mon, cut the crap. There have been many dozens of wars in the past hundred years with fatalities totaling more than the population of the world before your blessed Enlightenment. No more than a small handful have been remotely connected to religion. Your shibboleths are well passed their sell-by date,

Harry Eagar said...

The percentages of the ones that were connected to religion have been impressive, though:

South China: 50% dead

Spain: 4% dead

Poland: 25% dead

Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

There have been many dozens of wars in the past hundred years with fatalities totaling more than the population of the world before your blessed Enlightenment.

Rate and quantity are not the same.

Most of the slaughter in the 20th century was intrinsically religious -- in that bin I include Nazism and Communism.

(As does, BTW, the Christian apologist Meic Pears in The Gods of War, who dutifully attributes them to the all purpose bogeyman secularism near the beginning of the book. Unfortunately, he fails to review his own writing, and calls Nazism and Communism "religions in all but name" by the book's end.)

I doubt you can find more than a handful that haven't been connected with religion.

The fewer people there are practicing religion as a serious matter, the more people there are who die of old age.

David said...

Peter:

Can't you accept simple logic.

1. Genocides are caused by religion.

2. X caused genocide.

3. X is a religion.

Ergo, if its a genocide then it was caused by religion.

jim hamlen said...

Since Nietzsche and Stalin were once seminary students, I suppose one could say that the SS (and the death camps) along with the famines and the Terror and the Gulag were caused by religion as well. And if only Mao had gone to a religious school, then we would have the trifecta (and, for all I know, he did).

But the real question isn't with raw numbers (by that standard, Mladic and Karadzic and guys like Chavez don't even rank, and the serial killers are practically saints).

"Religion" has caused a lot - good and bad. But why? How did it become so compelling?

If the unfiltered modern Darwinian view is correct, then why is there religious obsession at all? What drives man, especially now, to fight and kill on such 'spurious' grounds? Tribal societies killed for more basic reasons, no? Is it more enlightened to kill for religion?

Try thinking about a 'perfect' God after reading and writing about genocide (and/or the violence inflicted under the banner of 'religion'). It ain't easy and it sometimes isn't very comforting. God is not a soft pillow.

As I understand it, some religions have man appeasing the Big Spook (to use a hackneyed phrase). Some have man living in confusion, but offer pabalums. Some offer surety, but only through mass conformity. Some make wild claims about personalized (usually secretive) instruction. Some have 'authoritative' documents, most do not. Many are just too bizarre to be serious.

Anselm wrote a commentary on the question of first things. How do we think about God? All "theologians" wrote about it, from Job to Niebuhr and now millions of us doing it in blog-world. My only comment is that some thoughts on the subject are better than others, and that our experience (internal and external) should give us some idea, however limited, of which ideas are better. It is easy to blame religion for all mankind's ills, but that is basically a dodge. It is more obvious to say that 'religion' has done much evil, but in the end that doesn't say a whole lot about God (the first things). It says a lot about people, but not a lot about God. I think that might be why the idea of 'perfection' doesn't get the thought it should.

Harry Eagar said...

I am about halfway through Sam Harris' 'The End of Faith,' an extended version, with attitude, of this thread.

I take the position that there is no evidence for gods or a god, but there is strong evidence for a human propensity to 'be mystic,' for lack of a better short expression.

I propose that this propensity arose as a byblow of evolution of a complex brain and was not selected for as much as not selected against -- religion is the evolutionary equivalent of brown eyes. Harris tries to explore (in Chapter 2) the physical origins of belief, which seems not very helpful.

He argues that belief is now too dangerous to accept.

Well, I'd say it always was dangerous, so the change is not qualitative, as he seems to think.

If belief leads to murder (too obvious to debate), but the brain is wired for belief, then, it seems to me, the only possible remedy is to consciously override belief.

Not so easy to do.

Hey Skipper said...

David:

Apparently, you can't accept grouping by salient characteristics.

Religious belief, as a state of mind, is characterized by: submitting to argument from solely from authority, typically relying upon a revealed text; creating an exclusionary moral community; genuflecting to a god, or a god-like figure; and, establishing some sort of priesthood.

There are other qualifiers on the list, but the above conveys the idea.

I'd be willing to bet you have thought -- if not, in fact, outright said -- of both AGW and Obama that many of their believer's mindset is religious.

Just so for Nazism and Communism: by every term you could mention, their adherents belief qualified as religious; they were religions. Hayek and a great many historians have seen it that way.

To say those -isms were not religions in all but name simply because they didn't have a supernatural deity (at least in the case of Communism) is akin to stating that an Aspen isn't a tree because its bark is smooth.

Yep, that makes it different from most trees, but not any any way that particularly matters.

Hey Skipper said...

Jim:

... famines and the Terror and the Gulag were caused by religion as well.

Not quite. They were caused by belief systems that belong to the category "religion" because they instilled a religious fervor in their followers.

As I noted above, you must allow for the existence of a state of mind we call "religious" -- because it is most often associated with a revealed religion -- in the absence of a god. Otherwise, you have absolutely no way to account for the behavior of Obama's more ardent followers. What else could Obamamania possibly be?

It is also worth noting, particularly when religionists are trying to disassociate their particular form of revealed argument from authority from its Nazism analog is that the Holocaust was not created from whole cloth. Thanks to Christianity, all of Europe was rabidly anti-Judaic. The words "reap what you sow" have never been truer.

If the unfiltered modern Darwinian view is correct, then why is there religious obsession at all?

Pure guesswork follows.

I'm with Harry on this one: religion is an emergent property of a brain capable (heck, intent) on forming explanations, able to conceive of the future, and afraid of death.

Just as with, say, mathematics. Nothing in our past has "selected" our brains for, say, Calculus. However, mathematical reasoning is probably an emergent property of a brain capable of the complex mental constructs required for language.

How do we think about God? ... our experience (internal and external) should give us some idea, however limited, of which ideas are better. It is easy to blame religion for all mankind's ills

Did you notice how you slid from God to religion? They are not -- cannot possibly be -- the same. Yet Job, Niebuhr, et al always seem to reach the same conclusion: here is God, and He endorses My religion.

How convenient. And, how wrong for at least all the religions that have ever existed minus one.

(This reminds me of a discussion of about a year ago, where David confidently asserted how it was possible to distinguish cult from religion. Unfortunately, all his criteria were completely material, thereby proving the point of the post, which was that within religion there is no way to distinguish gilt from dross)

It is possible, on material grounds, to say a great deal about religious belief, especially when it is unburdened by the cart loads of doubt it always deserves.

It isn't possible to say anything whatsoever more involved than "dunno" about god.

Including, in particular, the notion that god must be perfect. Who is to say the end of Men In Black isn't revelatory?

jim hamlen said...

It is interesting that in Stalinist Russia, there were probably only two real 'believers' - Yezhov and Beria. And perhaps Yagoda. Everybody else was living in fear. The real 'believers' were in Europe and the US.

In Nazi Germany, there were millions of true believers (though not in Hitler per se - most Germans disdained him). And Naziism did not really inspire a mass following outside of areas contiguous to Germany (Austria, etc.).

Sure, they were 'religions', but that wasn't the point I was making.

I have heard about Harris's book, but I have not read it. Although the chapter on 'the physical origins of belief' sounds just delicious. I would like to speculate on that phrase, but I need to check it out first.

It is funny, isn't it, that many of the leading figures in the Bible are pretty reluctant followers. From Jacob to Moses to Gideon to Samson to Saul on through the Kings and some of the prophets (Elijah, Jonah, Amos), most of those who wrote about direct experience with God were quite ambivalent in their reactions. David was noticeably different in the beginning, but look what happened to him when he got complacent.

People say - if only I saw God, or he spoke to me - then I could believe. But be careful: even Peter denied the 'perfect' man he lived with for 3 years (to a slave girl, no less).

H.S. - your comments about the difference between religion and God are exactly right. That is why I wrote about 'first things'. I wasn't sliding from one to the next myself, but pointing out how they are conflated, almost always. Not many atheists scream at God the way Sartre did at times - most scream at the church, or at Christians, or just make fun of them (but rarely towards Muslims). And remember, it was Luther who wrote: "Love God? Sometimes I hate him." And Theresa of Avila wrote: (paraphrasing here) "If that is how you treat your friends, perhaps it is why you have so few."

What, other than smart-aleckyness, does the end of Men in Black reveal?

Hey Skipper said...

Jim:

Sure, they were 'religions', but that wasn't the point I was making.

That was directed more at David, who seems to believe that the mental state we call "religious belief" springs from a different well if there is no supernatural deity involved.

Apologists call that well "secularism", but they do great violence to logic and meaning every time they do.

Not many atheists scream at God the way Sartre did at times - most scream at the church, or at Christians, or just make fun of them (but rarely towards Muslims).

(BTW, I take a shot at Islam here, before the UN makes it a crime.)

English really needs some new words in its vocabulary, as atheist cannot capture everything piled upon it: the existence of God, and the instantiation of that existence in a specific religion.

With regard to the existence of God, one may be a deist, agnostic, or, (my made up word) adeist: there is a god; the question is unanswerable (the stance of a dunnoist, also my made up word); there is no God.

With regard to religion one may be a theist or an atheist: there is a theology that is objectively or subjectively true; there is no theology that is objectively or subjectively true.

By objectively true, I mean that one is both a Deist, and a Theist. That is, one is certain God exists, and that God specifically endorses a religion.

By subjectively true, one is either a Dunnoist, or an Adeist, but believes in the importance of a specific religion to a society. The religion may be a complete concoction, but necessary nonetheless.

It is worth nothing that essentially all theists are atheists who suspend skepticism at their church's door.

For my part, I am a dunnoist who is a weak theist: a religion is a net good so long as none, or very few, of its believers take it particularly seriously. Nearly all Christians fit this description.

Unfortunately, the "atheist" is tossed at very Cartesian cross-product of the variations on hand.

What, other than smart-aleckyness, does the end of Men in Black reveal?

That every notion of why-there-is-anything-at-all is equally ridiculous.

IIRC, the movie ends with an ET on some extra-universe driving range, and our universe is just one of the balls.

Ridiculous, but no more so than Genesis.