An epistemological review by – Heather Spoonheim

In the case against the existence of gods I would like to submit the Gettier Problem. Essentially the Gettier Problem postulates that even if claimed knowledge turns out to be true, it may not actually constitute knowledge. As an example, consider a variation of Case 1 of the Gettier Problem:

Tamara works in an office where her friend, Bob Romanchuck, has applied for a job. While walking past the Human Resources office, she hears two administrators talking about how they intend to hire Bob Romanchuck for the new position. Now Tamara leaves, believing that Bob Romanchuck is going to get the job, and tells her friend that he is about to be hired. As it turns out, however, there were two Bob Romanchucks who applied for the job and it was the other Bob Romanchuck who got hired.

This example varies a great deal from Gettier's 10 coins but only in that rather than possessing an equal number of coins the applicants possess equal names. In this case, although (a) Tamara believed that a man named Bob Romanchuck would get the job, (b) a man named Bob Romanchuck did in fact get the job, and (c) Tamara had good reason for her belief – she did not in fact have knowledge and, in point of fact, she actually had false knowledge.

Consider then that a god exists: for instance, Anu. Anu is a sky-god, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, spirits and demons, and dwells in the highest heavenly regions. He also has the power to judge those who have committed crimes. Should irrefutable proof be uncovered of Anu’s existence, Christians and Muslims might instantly claim that this is their beloved Yahweh or Allah but they would in fact be irrefutably wrong. Although Anu possesses similar traits to Yahweh or Allah, he is neither Yahweh nor Allah and sent neither Jesus nor Mohammed to earth to guide mankind to salvation.

In this instance, both Christianity and Islam would be wrong, even though they believed in a god and a god did in fact turn out to exist. Most importantly, however, their epistemology was flawed because the stories of Yahweh and Allah are known to be fabricated in the minds of men and there is no good reason to believe in their existence.

It is not enough, therefore, to simply abstract the concept of a god and say that perhaps there is some conscious prime mover and that conscious prime mover constitutes a god. Without the third criterion of knowledge being met – (c) the believer must have good reason for their belief – the purported knowledge is not knowledge at all, such as illustrated in Case 2 of the Gettier Problem. Without falsifiable evidence for a conscious prime mover, there is no good reason for such a belief and it is therefore not knowledge.

Furthermore, even though a conscious prime mover may in fact exist, there is no way of tying that conscious prime mover to the belief of such held by any deist. Without a specific claim of justified knowledge there is no justification in asserting that the sheer coincidence of the true case of unjustified knowledge constitutes any specific thing, least of all a ‘god’ – whatever that word even means at this point in time. Like the Tamara of the aforementioned example, the deist has nothing more than knowledge of a label/name that, even in the most charitable of circumstances, may be shared with a circumstance that turns out to be true.

To this end, one cannot rule out the possibility that a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away there was a young humanoid named Luke Skywalker who looked exactly like Mark Hamill. The existence of such a being, however, does not affirm that the fiction of George Lucas was, in fact, non-fiction. The creation of the mind of George Lucas remains a fiction regardless of the literal existence of a being that fits the description of one of his fabricated characters – the actual Luke Skywalker, regardless of how similar his life might have been to George Lucas’ Luke Skywalker, was not and is not George Lucas’ Luke Skywalker.

Considering all of these things and given that there is no evidence for the existence of gods, any and all claims of the existence of gods do not constitute knowledge and no such gods exist. Even if some evidence is one day discovered to prove the existence of a mighty being, creator of all things, that being must then and there be evaluated to determine whether or not it is in fact a god. Until such a time, no gods can possibly be said to exist or even postulated to exist in the form of anything one can rationally define as knowledge. There are no gods.

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Comment by Claudia Mercedes Mazzucco on June 16, 2011 at 7:15pm
In his Letter Catechism (1529), Luther explains in simple terms what it means to believe in God as creator:

“I believe that God created me, along with all creatures. He gave me my body and soul, eyes, ears and all the other parts of my body, my mind and all my senses, and preserves them as well. He gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink; house and land, spouse and children, fields, animals and all I own. Every day He abundantly provides everything I need to nourish this body and life. He protects me against all danger, shields and defends me from all evil. He does all this because of His pure, fatherly and divine goodness and his mercy, not because I have earned it or deserved it.” (pp. 129)

That is not interesting or enlightening. It just states the obvious.
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on June 16, 2011 at 7:34pm
The obvious that it states is that Luther was delusional.  His food and drink were either purchased with his wages or gifted to him by kind people - they didn't magically appear on his table from divine intervention.  Such beliefs ignore the efforts of those who till the soil and harvest the barley and reveal the amorality of religious dogmas.
Comment by Derek on June 17, 2011 at 1:27am
Great. But Mark Hamill actually exists. As for God, well, I don't know what that is.
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on June 17, 2011 at 6:26am
Yes, Mark Hamill exists, but Luke Skywalker does not - even if it turns out that there actually was a Luke Skywalker.
Comment by Derek on June 17, 2011 at 9:35am

To this end, one cannot rule out the possibility that a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away there was a young humanoid named Luke Skywalker who looked exactly like Mark Hamill.


Is it probable? . . . is the correct question to ask. Possible? Yes, well hmm I'm not even sure on that but it's so improbable that we can reasonably rule it out. We are not losing any sleep over  this : )




Comment by Heather Spoonheim on June 17, 2011 at 6:18pm
The point here, following Gettier, is that even if said alien did exist it would still not be the Luke Skywalker we know.  It's like Tamara's instance of thinking her friend Bob was going to get the job but he's the wrong Bob.  Ultimately, even if one of the many deistic/theistic claims turned out to coincide with a matching circumstance (Gettier, Case 2), the deistic/theistic claims would remain as fictional as Star Wars.
Comment by MikeLong on June 20, 2011 at 7:10am
"There are no gods."
You made it! Congrats. How you got here, epistemologically, is over my head. But welcome anyway. :-)
Comment by oneinfinity on June 24, 2011 at 7:53pm
What cracks me up is thinking about trying to convince a theist that they were wrong even if a deity shows up
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on June 25, 2011 at 12:08am
For me, even if some super being shows up, I don't know if that means it is a 'god' or not because the word has lost so much meaning.  If advanced aliens show up, would theists just drop to their knees in worship?  If a super powerful alien shows up and demands to be worshiped lest it kill us, does that qualify as a god?  This whole god thing is a fucked up idea.
Comment by oneinfinity on June 25, 2011 at 12:37am
I've finally pretty much come to the same conclusion. As I was saying in that other thread, I now see that the idea of 'god' itself is really meaningless. The idea just has such a force from being the focal point of intense discussion and debate, not only in the present world, but in the history of philosophy, that it takes a while to just completely free yourself from thinking that it's even a topic worth considering (except in the context of psychological or metaphorical meaning.)


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