The White Horseman’s Retort (On Agnosticism)

White Horseman 

You’ve made some bold claims.

Red Horseman

You’re out to make bolder ones.

White Horseman

Before I begin, we need a logical starting point—some common ground. So, let me propose that we agree to this tenet: agnosticism rather than theism or atheism should be a logical person’s point of departure when it comes to this issue.

 Red Horseman 

Why do you say that?

White Horseman 

We can never know for sure whether God exists or doesn’t exist. To take sides on the issue means taking a leap of faith, one way or the other. But to admit that one is doubtful, this is an honest answer, and a more logical starting point than an assertion of atheism. So, let’s agree to begin with an agnostic perspective.

Red Horseman 

You won’t escape my net so easily. What if I defined atheism by beginning with an agnostic perspective, but then leaning toward God’s non-existence on the basis of the evidence at hand?

White Horseman

You’d be right to do define it that way!  On the basis of the evidence, you can evaluate the issue for yourself—is there good reason to think God exists? You should err on the side that seems most persuasive, or remain puzzled. But keep in mind, you’ve implicitly agreed to my starting point—an objective reader would have to admit agnosticism as the most rational point of departure for this discussion.

All of this assumes, of course, that God’s nature can be discussed rationally by beings as humble as we are. Could an ant write a poem, or read a book, or understand the concept of honor? I think, though, there’s good reason to think humans can discuss the nature of God—at the point that we’ve evolved the secret of symbolic communication, nothing lies beyond the imagination.

Red Horseman 

That’s a debate for another day. I presented three arguments to you about why I lean toward atheism, and wasn’t so verbose about it either.

(1) Omnipotence is a logical impossibility.

(2) Omni-benevolence cannot explain the cruelty of the world.

(3) Monotheism seems impossible, insofar as cultural relativism exists.

White Horseman 

Those are three strong arguments. We’ll get to them—I promise you. For tonight, though, let’s agree to an agnostic starting point. Next, I’ll give you the evidence for God’s existence. We can weigh it against your counter-evidence, and then our audience can decide for themselves in what direction a leap of faith seems justified, or whether it’s better to remain agnostic.

Red Horseman 

Good luck. No one seriously believes that anything you say will be any different from what people have been saying for thousands of years. You’ll never convince me, or anyone else.

White Horseman

We’ll see.

May 15, 2011

Next entry postponed to May 29, 2011.


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