I really hate to admit when I am wrong, especially about ideas that I have cherished or lines of reasoning that I have ardently defended. Perhaps it just feels like such a waste of mental effort and time to intellectually retrace my steps, yet I find this to be a necessary move as I am hopelessly entangled in convoluted thinking. In particular, my mind has been coddled by a romantic notion of epistemology as I touted an ethereal stance of agnosticism. Now, I face recanting all of my arguments as I possibly abandon this shiny little mirage.
I can imagine the irritated groans and envision the rolling eyes as I launch this airy agnostic label aloft to float upon the subjective breezes of rumination. But this time I am armed with logic, and I am ready to do some target shooting. Squinting one eye along the cold barrel of a rational gun, I finally fire unrelenting bullets of reason at my beloved agnosticism. I can only wonder if I will strike enough holes to send the entire concept crashing to the ground, never to rise again.
Previously, the primary tenets of my worldview concerning the supernatural had been:
1. The supernatural exists beyond the natural world.2. We can only know the natural world.3. Therefore, the supernatural is unknowable.
From this, I concluded that humanity must be fundamentally agnostic about the supernatural. I then accepted that any statements made about the supernatural realm were beliefs, as beliefs are assertions held in the absence of knowledge. Because beliefs can only exist in this void of knowledge, all belief systems are necessarily dependent upon the condition of agnosticism. Therefore, I held that theism is only possible because of a fundamentally unknowable supernatural. I also held that because atheism is conceptually dependent upon theism, atheism is also therefore indirectly dependent upon agnosticism. (I did not argue that the atheistic worldview would not exist without agnosticism, but that it would simply not be defined as such if there were not a belief in a deity which, in turn, was dependent upon a lack of supernatural knowledge.)
So I had settled myself down in a quiet corner of reason on a soft agnostic hassock, happily rejecting any and all supernatural beliefs on the basis of a complete--and necessary--lack of evidence. For all intents and purposes, I considered myself an atheist; technically, I was not wrong. I did reject the belief in any deity or supernatural entity. However, I still held the grand lack of supernatural knowledge as the reigning cornerstone of my worldview. Really, I did not even give it much more thought; as the supernatural can never be known, I found it to be wholly irrelevant and nothing more than a metaphysical timesink. I dismissed the supernatural and all beliefs connected to it.
Concerning irrelevancy, I was correct. However, when I really examined why I rejected the belief in anything supernatural, I was forced to confront a glaring error in my reasoning. Immediately, I noticed that the first axiom of my previous line of logic:
1. The supernatural exists beyond the natural world.
is fundamentally illogical. What does it mean to exist beyond the natural world? How can anything exist beyond the material world? Isn't existence dependent upon matter and energy? How could something that is wholly immaterial and completely beyond the boundaries of the natural world even be said to "exist?" If anything, wouldn't this redefine existence itself, whittling the concept down until it bore little relevance?
Prior to identifying this flawed logic, I had touted my rejection of theism as a rejection of belief systems in general. In the same manner, or so I thought, I had rejected homeopathy, astrology, and other unevidenced assertions. I failed to notice, however, one key difference: the rejection of these other belief systems was not just based upon a lack of supporting evidence, but also upon a wealth of contradictory evidence. Whereas homeopathy is clearly disproved by examining the finite dilutive properties of water and the astrological influence of celestial bodies crumbles in the face of the laws of physics, my rejection of theism had been solely based upon a lack of evidence; I held no contradictory evidence to the belief in supernatural deities.
Finally, I quit my intellectual lassitude and examined the basic concept of the supernatural upon which I had based my entire position. I now realized that besides being fundamentally unknowable, the supernatural is also fundamentally illogical. How could anything possibly exist in any meaningful way outside of the boundaries of the material world? Even mathematics--perhaps the final remnant of Plato's supposedly immaterial universals--is necessarily related through the material world to even be relevant or logical. Can we really think about immaterial quantities? Does a number really exist without anything material to quantify? Dividing something into separate entities would seem to suggest the necessity of a material which can be divided. Mathematics may be intangible, but it is not immaterial. A presence in the material, natural world is necessary for existence.
And so I realized that my rejection of supernatural beliefs is not due to agnosticism and a lack of evidence. Instead, my rejection of supernatural beliefs--theism included--is entirely based upon the material concept of logic. Logic is the fundamental principle by which we understand the characteristics of the material world; logic underlies all knowledge. The very notion of a supernatural entity violates the principles of logic; this violation provides the contradictory evidence with which I now reject theism. No longer may I claim the lofty perch of an agnostic mystic, as I am no longer wholly without knowledge of the supernatural. I now know that all supernatural entities--deities included--are fundamentally illogical. My stance towards a deity can no longer be a matter of belief; I cannot believe or disbelieve in God any longer because I now know that it is completely impossible for a supernatural deity to exist. I am exactly what I always adamantly claimed was impossible: a gnostic atheist.
Of course, this is only my current philosophical soapbox on which I perch, watching the shattered clay disc of my agnostic ideals fall to the ground in a million pieces; I wonder at the stability of this new platform as I loft this new logical precept on high to fare against the brisk winds of reason. I can only hope that I have not replaced one faulty cornerstone for another; perhaps I will come to understand the true meaning of the figurative "slave to logic" and again mentally retrace my steps to an earlier truth. But, at the very least, I do not mourn these intellectual transitions anymore; life would be exceedingly dull were we not to continually evolve.