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Certainty

July 15, 2010

Here’s a good essay called Agnosticism and the Varieties of Certainty. I’m not sure I agree with everything in it, but one paragraph in particular stands out to me:

The real argument is a variant on the familiar point that, of course, you can’tprove with mathematical certainty that there isn’t a God, supposedly making atheism (at least) as unsupportable a position as theism. But then, are there many self-identified atheists who would really pretend to such apodictic certainty? Believers sometimes claim proudly to have access to some kind of special revelation that obliterates the possibility of error. But when I say that I think there is no God, I don’t mean anything so grandiose. I mean just that I see no good reason to think that there is, and that all the various stories told about deities appear to me equally likely to be mythical. I don’t believe in basilisks or psychic powers either—probably neither do most religious believers—but few of us, on reflection, would be so bold as to say this is a belief we are absolutely certain about. It’s possible we could be mistaken, even if the possibility seems too remote to bother much about or, indeed, take all that seriously.

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