Even though it's true that usually people aren't described by their unwillingness to believe in imaginary things -- there aren't afairyists who proclaim their skepticism about the existence of fairies -- the situation is different in regard to God.
Below I've shared an excellent comment from Appreciative Reader that was left today on a recent post of mine. The comment explains why even if the notion of God is incoherent, which of course it is, there's still good reason for atheists to object to the belief in God held by billions of people.
After all, believers in fairies don't try to impose their belief on other people, whereas highly religious countries like the United States have their politics greatly influenced by fundamentalists who consider that whatever they imagine their God wants, like an end to legal abortion, should apply to everybody.
Plus, atheism is a stand for truth, reality, reason, evidence. Even if religious believers didn't try to impose their beliefs on others, many atheists (certainly me included) would feel the need to point out that God is a hypothesis lacking any demonstrable factual foundation.
Here's the comment from Appreciative Reader, which is a reply to another commenter, 271 Days. His mention of Adam Dalgliesh led me to Google the name, which I'd never heard before. Wikipedia told me this is a fictional character in a series of fourteen mystery novels by P.D. James, a British thing from what I could tell.
Heh, okay, I get what you’re saying. You’re saying the term “God” itself is incoherent, so that the term “theist” would be incoherent and meaningless too; and, as such, its obverse, that is to say, “atheist” or “atheism” would also not be quite coherent. Fair enough, that makes sense, so far as it goes.
Here’s three separate observations, as far as this, that I’m enumerating separately in the interests of clarity:
(1) Your argument is based squarely on how wide, in fact wide to the point of incoherence, is the term “God”. Therefore, it fails the moment we move from the general to the particular.
So that when it comes to the Christian God, or the Judaic, or the Islamic, atheism continues to be a valid position. Likewise, when it comes to the Hindu gods, or the Shinto gods, or for that matter the Roman and Greek pantheons of yore, then too atheism continues to be a sound position to take. Ditto the RSSB God.
Even, for that matter, some kind of Deistic impersonal Oneness-God, or some completely watered down abstract Aquinian “prime mover” God, or whatever --- the moment you move from wide-open generalization to any kind of exactitude, immediately atheism once again makes complete sense.
(2) This is kind of topsy-turvy, in the sense that you’re suggesting that atheism does not make sense because theism, generally speaking, itself does not make sense. In order to suggest that atheism is an invalid position, you’re first and foremost suggesting that theism itself is an incoherent and invalid position.
And you know what? I can live with that. It is entirely possible that if, a century or two down the line, theistic superstitions become relegated to arcane history books, and the word “God” and “theism” will draw blank stares from everyone other than history nerds; should that come to pass, then the term “atheism” itself will become meaningless, absolutely.
Unfortunately we’re not there yet, though. As long as there remain theists, so long atheism remains a valid position. If the moment a theist comes out and declares himself such, you’re willing to jump out and tell him that what he’s saying is incoherent and nonsensical, the atheist will be content to stay silent in the sidelines. Of course, if and when the theist, in response to your ridicule, now moves from the general to the particular, well then, that’s when you GO TO #1.
(3) This third point is merely a variation on #1 and #2 above, but still might be meaningful for the sake of emphasis. Do you believe in the existence of ampembalanxes, 271Days? Yes, or Not-Yes? If the censor arrives at your door with his clipboard and asks you, “Do you tick a “Yes” to the question, ‘Do you believe in ampmbalnxes?’ ”, I guess you won’t agree to tick it, right?
You may either just say “No” (choosing to define “No” in this context as simply “Not-Yes”); or you may just tell him his question is not meaningful without further clarification. The point is, you don’t tick in a “Yes”, you don’t say you believe in said undefined ampembalanxes. I don’t see why the atheist wouldn’t be content to do the same for the God question.
I don’t think the reasonable atheist has any kind of fixation over God. If people around him stopped going on and on and on about unsupported claims about God, the reasonable atheist would be content to not say anything at all. Let theism disappear completely from the face of the earth; and so will atheism.
If what I’ve tried to convey, in some detail, by those three (overlapping) points above, is what you’re saying here, then I guess we’re in agreement. But if you’re somehow trying to claim that while atheism is an incoherent position, but at the same time theism makes sense to you, then I’m afraid your argument is totally mistaken, and I disagree with you in the strongest possible terms, for reasons already discussed very clearly above.
“Forgetting about that book for a second my view is simple. No matter what you posit ie. cosmos, universe, laws, you have already posited awareness first. You can’t get behind awareness. Whatever you say requires awareness first. Awareness is the First Principle. So I think we can logically say Awareness/Being/Spirit/ is God. You don’t have to question if awareness exists. It exists before anything else possibly can.”
I don’t see that, at all.
I think you’re conflating two things here: on one hand, what we know about something; and on the other, how we’ve come to know of it.
Sure, as far as the latter, awareness is indeed the first principle. You cannot become aware of some facet of existence without first having become aware in the first place. That’s tautological, absolutely. First principle, as you say.
However, that most certainly does not apply to the thing we’re becoming aware of. Sure, you need to first to become aware in order to become aware of the universe/cosmos. But that is most certainly not to say that awareness itself must first have existed in order for the universe/cosmos to exist or to have come into being.
You’re basically stating the former position, and ending up implying the latter; and this latter position, when you unwrap your implicit argument and look clearly and closely at it, makes absolutely no sense at all, and in fact is plain wrong.
An analogy may make this obvious point doubly clear. Is it necessary for James’s Adam Dalgliesh to be alive in order for him to finally understand who is (or are) the one (or ones) that did away with the publishing magnate, whose murder he’s been investigating? Absolutely, yes.
But that speaks only to Dalgliesh’s personal understanding, and not the subject of his investigation. Dalgliesh’s life, his consciousness if you will, is necessary to his personal understanding of the perpetrator’s identity, yes, absolutely; but his life and/or his consciousness have nothing at all to do with who the perpetrator(s) actually might be.
Of course, as earlier (that is, as with your argument about the semantics around theism and atheism), if you’re merely making the former argument without in fact meaning to slip in, by implication, the latter argument, then once again I don’t disagree with you.
If all you’re saying is that in order for there to be awareness of the universe/cosmos, there must first be awareness --- and if you just stop there, not making any further implicit claims --- then fine, we’re agreed. But that’s just a blindingly obvious truism, an out-and-out tautology, and I don’t see the point of making that argument at all.
Still, and like I said, if you choose to make that focused argument, entirely pointless though that argument seems to me (“pointless” in that it leads nowhere at all, and is most certainly not a refutation of atheism in any shape or form), then okay, I don’t disagree with you.