Author Topic: The case for a mild version of Ignosticism.  (Read 572 times)

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Offline penfold

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The case for a mild version of Ignosticism.
« on: February 13, 2013, 09:33:38 AM »
I aim to show that properly considered the sentences "God exists" and "God does not exist" are not factual sentences, that I can assert both without contradiction, and that any debate about God's existence or otherwise is not a debate about the world, but merely point to the character of the speaker.

Factual sentences:

Let us take two sentences:

(i)   The traffic light is red.

(ii)   Anger is red.

Both, it seems to me are meaningful; however they function in quite different ways. Looking at statement (i) this claim entails that the sentence:

(iii)   The traffic light is not red;

is false. Thus we can say that sentence (i) not only carries meaning in itself but entails certain realisations about other possible sentences (such as (iii)).

I will call these types of sentences factual. In other words if a factual statement is taken to be true then its negation is taken to be false. [ie: If the truth of sentence x affects the truth of sentence not x then sentence x is factual.] This mutual exclusiveness of a sentence and its opposite is what characterizes a statement as factual. Moreover we can note that this mutual exclusiveness mean that factual sentences purport to tell us about the world - by designating what is true from what is false.

Poetic sentences:

Sentence (ii), however, is different. Just because I assert (ii) it does not tell me anything about the following sentence:

(iv)   Anger is not red.

I could state both (ii) and (iv) without contradicting myself. This relationship where the truth of a sentence does not affect the truth of its opposite I will call non-factual. However there are two types of non-factual sentences; the type like (ii) and (iv) which are meaningful and other sentences which are just nonsense (eg. “Rotund colours ruminate ungratefully.”). So I will call sentences which are meaningful (like (ii) and (iv)) poetic. Thus a poetic sentence  is one that is both non-factual and has meaning. What then are these poetic sentences telling us? Nothing about the world (that would be a characteristic of a factual sentence) rather they tell us about the speakers attitude to 'anger' and 'red'; poetic sentences provide insight into the speaker rather than the world the speaker inhabits.

It could reasonably be objected that poetic sentences like (ii) only seem to carry meaning, but in fact are really meaningless. This is certainly a plausible approach, however it seems to me that such a view is more limiting of language than our experience would suggest. We often make poetic statements; and are often confronted by such statements made by others; usually we can engage meaningfully with them. Were it not so poetry itself would be designated largely meaningless, a view that I think most of us would find unpalatable.

Distinguishing factual from poetic sentences:

The question can now be asked, how do I know if a sentence is factual or poetic? The answer is seemingly obvious: I can independently check the truth of a factual sentence, I cannot for a poetic sentence. [It should be noted that many philosophical bodies are buried in such an assertion, but I will not discuss them here]. It is because I can check the truth of (i) than I can establish the truth-status of (iii) – thus I can know that (i) and (iii) are factual sentences. Just so, it is because I cannot check the truth of (ii) than I cannot establish the truth status of (iv) – thus I can know that (ii) and (iv) are poetic.

We must make one more distinction. There are some sentences which I cannot independently check the truth of, but are none the less factual. Take for example:

(v)   There is a teapot orbiting Pluto.

Now, I cannot reasonably be able to test this claim. However the reason is practical. My inability to test is not because it is impossible, but simply that it is beyond my current powers. What is important is that I could theoretically test it; and having done so will be able to establish the truth value of:

(vi)   There is not a teapot orbiting Pluto.

This (v) and (vi) are factual sentences, even if currently untestable.

Why sentences about God's existence are poetic:

So now let us look at the following pair of sentences:

(vii)   God exists.

(viii)   God does not exist.

At first glance these would seem to be factual sentences; after all most sentences of the form “x exists” are factual, I can independently check on their truth and in doing so can establish the truth value of their negation. Thus if I know that “unicorns do not exist” is true then that automatically entails “unicorns do exist” is false (thus these sentences are factual).

However on closer reflection we might begin to doubt that (vii) and (viii) are in fact factual sentences at all. Certainly they are meaningful; but as established above we can have sentences with are both meaningful and non-factual – what I have called poetic sentences.

What we need is to define God. It is possible that I could define God in a manner which makes (vii) and (viii) factual. For example if I define God as David Attenborough, then sentence (vii) can be independently checked and found true making (viii) false. However this kind of definition is not what we usually mean by God. Rather by God we mean something which in classical theism is transcendent. Everything else which exists does so imminently; that is they exist within the universe and we can interact with them. God, as defined in classical theism, exists transcendentally, and so is neither within the universe, nor can be interacted with in the manner of other objects.

This means that God, so defined, is not merely beyond independent checking on practical grounds (like our teapot orbiting Pluto); but in fact necessarily beyond checking. This is worth re-iterating. As defined in the manner of classical theism, God's existence is, by definition, impossible to independently check.

If we accept this definition of God then we must conclude that sentences (vii) and (viii) are poetic. This means that neither (vii) nor (viii) are factual statements and so do not share any mutual dependency. This leads us to a strange conclusion. The sentence “God both does and does not exist” is not a contradiction!

The ignostic conclusion:

If my reasoning is correct, then both theism and atheism (while meaningful positions) are strictly non-factual positions; even more alarmingly they are not actually mutually exclusive; any more than the sentences “anger is red” and “anger is not red” are. There is no factual contradiction in being a theistic atheist (though of course there would be a deep personal conflict revealed by such a position)!

Sentences about God's existence, both for and against, are in fact poetic statements which tell us about the speaker rather than the world the speaker inhabits.

Put in formal terms: God's existence or non existence are, by definition, not matters of fact.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2013, 09:44:25 AM by penfold »
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Offline screwtape

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Re: The case for a mild version of Ignosticism.
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2013, 09:46:04 AM »
You talk about truth and reality.  That can get messy with some people.  Here is a link regarding truth, reality and evidence.
http://lesswrong.com/lw/jl/what_is_evidence/

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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: The case for a mild version of Ignosticism.
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2013, 10:07:44 AM »
What we need is to define God. It is possible that I could define God in a manner which makes (vii) and (viii) factual. For example if I define God as David Attenborough, then sentence (vii) can be independently checked and found true making (viii) false. However this kind of definition is not what we usually mean by God. Rather by God we mean something which in classical theism is transcendent. Everything else which exists does so imminently; that is they exist within the universe and we can interact with them. God, as defined in classical theism, exists transcendentally, and so is neither within the universe, nor can be interacted with in the manner of other objects.

This means that God, so defined, is not merely beyond independent checking on practical grounds (like our teapot orbiting Pluto); but in fact necessarily beyond checking. This is worth re-iterating. As defined in the manner of classical theism, God's existence is, by definition, impossible to independently check.

This of course is the crux of your argument, but which carries with it the realisation that if the god's existence, or not, is NOT a matter of fact, then god's existence (or not) must also become a matter of indifference.

If god's existence is not a matter of fact, then any assertion that follows from that fact - what god desires, what god demands, issues of salavation, and so forth - similarly become not matters of fact, but merely poetic expressions of the world the speaker would wish to live in. 

Further, if god's existence is an unproveable poetic viewpoint, rather than a fact, then similarly all statements regarding any direct intervention of that god in the world become poetic rather than factual.  Ergo, miracles have no factual existence, prayers cannot be said to be answered, and so on.

Finally, if all that god's existence is, is a poetic vocalisation of the speaker's desired worldview, then there are no grounds for that vocalisation to have any standing in the real and factual world.  Gay marriage, for example - that's a factual yes/no question that people can have an opinion on, but for which there is no basis other than their desires.  The phrase "I oppose GM because my god hates it" should be given no more credence that "I oppose GM because I think anger is red" (to use your example).

I'd be more than happy if all theists accepted the existence of god as a poetic statement with no factual basis.  Trouble is, I've yet to meet any beleiver who actually holds to that definition, with all the ramifications.
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Offline penfold

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Re: The case for a mild version of Ignosticism.
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2013, 11:12:19 AM »
You talk about truth and reality.  That can get messy with some people.  Here is a link regarding truth, reality and evidence.
http://lesswrong.com/lw/jl/what_is_evidence/

I agree they are big topics, I think though my argument works with either a correspondence or coherence theory of truth. So I am not sure it is actually too much of an issue. Though I do concede that both pragmatic (which would claim that my division of factual and poetic is flawed) and logical positivist (which would claim that my poetic sentences are strictly meaningless - actually ending in a stronger version of ignoticism) approaches would contest my reasoning.

As for the good folk of Less Wrong, I am a regular reader, though I find most of their reasoning pretty naive and their 'ethic' of rational self-improvement really unappealing and quite scary...
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away." - P.K.D.

Offline Quesi

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Re: The case for a mild version of Ignosticism.
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2013, 11:23:47 AM »
Interesting exercise, and interesting argument and conclusion. 

Let me tell you where it falls apart for me. 

You see, we go through your whole logical process, assuming that the words that you use have the most common meaning, and are void of context.  It is not until we get to god, that we have the freedom to define the word in a way that is not common, or that we have the opportunity to give context to the word.

Let's go back to the poetic "anger is red" example.  Most English speakers would recognize this as a metaphor, and not a literal statement.  But let's say that a group of scientists are doing a brain scan on a voluntary human subject, and they are using the xyz scanning machine.  And let's say that when the human subject becomes angry, the xyz scanning machine shows the part of the subject's brain where the anger resides as red.  In this case, it would be literally true. 

Teapot around Pluto?  Why didn't we define the teapot?  It is possible that in some obscure astronomical circles, the term "teapot" refers to an unusual asteroid with an inexplicable spout-like protrusion. [1] And there might be some folks with super fancy telescopes, peeking at Pluto right now, and watching a teapot go into a wobbly orbit around the former planet. 

One of the things about logic is, you need to apply the same set of standards universally.  Once you apply an exception to one component of your logical argument, you need to be willing to apply that same exception to all of the other components contained in the argument. 
 1. I made this up, of course.  But it is not really much less likely than a subset of humanity considering David Attenborough to be god.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2013, 11:26:01 AM by Quesi »

Offline penfold

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Re: The case for a mild version of Ignosticism.
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2013, 11:56:14 AM »
This of course is the crux of your argument, but which carries with it the realisation that if the god's existence, or not, is NOT a matter of fact, then god's existence (or not) must also become a matter of indifference.

If god's existence is not a matter of fact, then any assertion that follows from that fact - what god desires, what god demands, issues of salavation, and so forth - similarly become not matters of fact, but merely poetic expressions of the world the speaker would wish to live in. 

Further, if god's existence is an unproveable poetic viewpoint, rather than a fact, then similarly all statements regarding any direct intervention of that god in the world become poetic rather than factual.  Ergo, miracles have no factual existence, prayers cannot be said to be answered, and so on.

Agreed.

Though atheism and theism do remain of psychological interest. My own feeling is that investigating these issues from a psychological aspect is quite revealing. In fact many of the differences between atheism and theism start to break down; and the quixotic nature of the individual shines though. To quote a platitude, there is far more that unites than divides us.

It was reading William James (who I think is an example of a theist who will admit that his belief is largely non-factual) that I first became aware that my own view of theists was far too simplistic; they are more than people who simply hold an erroneous viewpoint (though I think that is true of them). Religion is, in fact, far deeper and more powerful than the kind of analysis a merely intellectual engagement with the issues would suggest.
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Offline jaimehlers

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Re: The case for a mild version of Ignosticism.
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2013, 12:02:21 PM »
I would say objective (a matter of fact) and subjective (a matter of opinion), rather than factual and poetic.  That is to say, we can prove objective statements, but we cannot prove subjective ones.  That brings the subject into rather stark clarity; "God exists" and "God does not exist" are opinions, not facts.  Because they are opinions, and moreover are contradictory opinions, it is exceedingly unlikely that one person could honestly hold both opinions at the same time, so that resolves the problem that penfold brought up at the end of his post about how atheism and theism are not mutually exclusive.  It would be like saying, "I like chocolate" and "I hate chocolate".  The two opinions contradict each other, so one person cannot hold them both in the same esteem at the same time.

Anyway, I have to agree with Anfauglir here.  If another person hates chocolate, it does not impact my liking of chocolate, unless they decide to start trying to force their opinion onto other people (such as trying to pass laws banning the sale or manufacture of chocolate).  And in that latter case, I'm perfectly justified opposing his actions.

Offline kcrady

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Re: The case for a mild version of Ignosticism.
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2013, 12:29:15 PM »
What we need is to define God. It is possible that I could define God in a manner which makes (vii) and (viii) factual. For example if I define God as David Attenborough, then sentence (vii) can be independently checked and found true making (viii) false. However this kind of definition is not what we usually mean by God. Rather by God we mean something which in classical theism is transcendent. Everything else which exists does so imminently; that is they exist within the universe and we can interact with them. God, as defined in classical theism, exists transcendentally, and so is neither within the universe, nor can be interacted with in the manner of other objects.

This issue of defining "god" is always the sticky bit.  I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "classical theism," as there are significant differences between different versions of traditional theism.  That is, the Hellenistic monotheism of Pythagoras and Plato is not identical with Judaic theism, neither of them is identical with traditional Christian theism, and all differ in various ways from Islamic theism, even though all have at least some elements in common with one another.

In the case of the Abrahamic theisms, all claim that "god" has intervened in human affairs in various ways, causing "miracles" and communicating through humans (prophets, etc.) to humans, said self-revelations of "God" being preserved in certain books.  "God" is said to be not only transcendent, but also immanent ("omnipresent") in the created Cosmos.  In the case of (non-Gnostic) Christianity, "God" is said to have directly incarnated himself in human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.  The Abrahamic monotheisms make testable claims: Yahweh unleashed devastating plagues on Egypt as recounted in the Exodus story--or not.  Yahweh resurrected Jesus from the dead in the midst of various extremely public cosmological displays of power (a great earthquake, darkness upon the land, a resurrection of dead "saints" who went into Jerusalem)--or not.  Etc. 

Nor am I sure that the Hellenistic monotheists would agree with your argument.  Plato's famous allegory of the Cave relies on the premise that the transcendent realities are made imperfectly manifest by the appearance of their shadows on the cave wall.  For the Pythagoreans, the nature of the Divine was revealed in the nature of Number as manifested in mathematics, geometry, and the study of vibrational tone.  For the Gnostics, their transcendent "God," though wholly detached from matter, could be experienced in the state of gnosis.  So, I'm not sure that any of the traditional variations of monotheism would agree that their "god" fit entirely and solely within your "poetic" category.

This means that God, so defined, is not merely beyond independent checking on practical grounds (like our teapot orbiting Pluto); but in fact necessarily beyond checking. This is worth re-iterating. As defined in the manner of classical theism, God's existence is, by definition, impossible to independently check.

Any proposed god (or entity of any other sort), the existence of which is indistinguishable from its non-existence, even in principle (as you're arguing here) is, for all practical intents and purposes non-existent.  Occam's razor dispenses with any solely "poetic" gods.  As Anfauglir points out, theists would dispense with them as well.  A "poetic"-only god cannot receive worship, hear prayers, provide hereafters, offer commandments, "inspire" books, or any of the rest of it.

If we accept this definition of God then we must conclude that sentences (vii) and (viii) are poetic.

I don't think this follows.  Your argument assumes that there are only two possible kinds of statements: "factual" (statements about real things) and "poetic" (statements whose meaning and "truth" are purely subjective).  A theist could argue that there is a category of "spiritual" statements to which their understanding of god-talk belongs, and that the truth of "spiritual" things is apprehended via direct mystical experience of "spirit."  It is arguably possible to talk about "mathematical" statements.  For example, "It is impossible to calculate all of the digits of pi."  As far as we can tell, this seems to be the case; yet, the Cosmos does not have to accomplish the impossibility of calculating an infinite number of digits before it can produce a soap bubble.

Also, your statements "anger is red" and "anger is not red" are incomplete as written.  The first implicitly assumes some particular person's nervous system and/or "poetic" metaphorical construct.  For example, "Anger is red [in this cartoon I'm drawing where the angry character's face turns red and steam comes out of his ears, because I'm analogizing anger to heat and to the reddening of the face of an angry person]."  The latter statement is either straightforward ("Anger is not red [because it's an emotion silly, and it doesn't emit or reflect red light]") or differently poetic ("Anger is not red [because we sapient cephalopods from Tau Ceti turn blue when we get angry"]).

The reason "Anger is red" and "Anger is not red" do not contradict each other (as you're using the statements here) is because the implicit portions (which specify whose neural structures and/or metaphorical constructs are defining anger as red or not-red) are not the same in both statements.  IOW, "anger" is not "red" and "not-red" at the same time and in the same respect--because the implicit portions you've left out differ from one another.

So, you have not created some separate category of statements that exist in a permanent Schrodinger-state of "true/not-true" in some "transcendent" or "poetic" realm forever safe from any kind of fact-checking.  The use of E-Prime (English, but without any of the forms of "is") is a handy way to clear this up.  Instead of "Anger is red," E-Prime flushes out the hidden component: "My mind analogically models anger as red."  Instead of "Anger is not red," we get: "My mental conception of 'anger' does not include a color; I view it as an intangible emotion" or "My mind analogically models anger as blue, not red, because on Tau Ceti IV, we turn blue when we get angry."  Once you include the poet in the "poetic" statements, they become subject to fact-checking.  A given person "poetically" considers anger "red" at a given time, or they do not.

This means that neither (vii) nor (viii) are factual statements and so do not share any mutual dependency. This leads us to a strange conclusion. The sentence “God both does and does not exist” is not a contradiction!

To "exist" is to be part of reality.  Poetic statements, metaphors, similes, analogies, etc. exist as products and procedures of human consciousness.  We can say "Shakespeare's sonnets exist" even though they are poetic statements.  We can even verify this by going to the library or Googling them.  In the same way, we can say "Darth Vader exists"--as a character in a set of stories.  We can also say that "Darth Vader does not exist"--as a real man with magical Force powers.  The two statements do not contradict one another because of what comes after the dashes. 

In like manner, we can say "God exists"--as a memetic construct that many people believe in and worship.  We can also say "God does not exist"--as a real, omnimax super-spirit of the Cosmos outside of human minds.  However the statement "God both does and does not exist" as you're using it here is a bit of a semantic shell-game, because the "exist" and "does not exist" clauses are meant in different respects, so the validity of "both" as a connecting term is dubious at best.  "The San Francisco 49'ers are and are not Super Bowl Champions."  This is true, but dodgy, and it does not mean we need to be "ignostic" about the San Francisco 49'ers.  The aces up the sleeve are the unstated parts: they "are" Super Bowl Champions because they've won Super Bowls in the past.  They "are not" Super Bowl Champions because they lost this time around.  No one would suggest that it's impossible to fact-check and find out if the 49'ers won the Super Bowl or not.

Sentences about God's existence, both for and against, are in fact poetic statements which tell us about the speaker rather than the world the speaker inhabits.

I do not see a legitimate dichotomy here.  "The speaker" is an inextricable part of the world (reality).  If "the speaker" believes that "god" exists, this belief will have certain effects, even if it's only to cause the speaker to say "Yes" when asked if they believe in "god."  It might well cause them to vote Republican, or throw acid in the face of a little girl because she's going to school.  Or, it could motivate them to work tirelessly to aid the poor.  In other words, the state of "the speaker's" consciousness with regard to "god" (believing, or not believing) is itself an element of "the world" (reality).

If you try to distinguish "god" from "the speaker"--that is, examine the question of whether or not "god" exists independent of human minds like "the speaker's"--then "god's" existence is a factual question again.  If "the speaker" tries to argue that their "god" is "poetic" only, and cannot be found anywhere outside "the speaker's" poetry, then they're admitting that their "god" does not exist--as a separate, independent, real agent.  It is this latter sense of "existence" that atheism is concerned with.  To say that "god" is "poetic" (as you're employing that category here) is to agree that it does not exist as a real Being.  Which is to agree that atheism is correct.   
"The question of whether atheists are, you know, right, typically gets sidestepped in favor of what is apparently the much more compelling question of whether atheists are jerks."

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Online wheels5894

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Re: The case for a mild version of Ignosticism.
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2013, 01:31:13 PM »
I'm not so convinced that we can't see statements about god as factual. The be factual we would have to derive objective evidence of the object, god, that we could all see as distinct from personal experiences which only one person can experience.

Now, if we ask Christians about their god, it turns out that not only do they talk to it but that it talks to them too. If we have 'words' coming from a god to a person's brain and that those 'words' change the physical state of the brain (they have to to make and effect), then, in principle, we might be able to detect this change taking place. Somewhere, some force has to be affecting the brain to cause the change in the brain and we could look for it. Thus I contend that this is far from poetic but potentially factual.

Another approach to this problem might come from the appearances of Mary in various parts of the world. It appears that Mary shows up for a period of time, every night say, so that the location could be rigged after the first night to try and trace the source of the appearances. Something must cause the light to appear to enable people to see Mary so it is potentially traceable and, if it turned out to be be something of which science knows, we have good evidence for the existence of god and the supernatural. Of course we might conclude that the 'visions' are in the heads of the observers and not real. This might be considered evidence against the existence of a god.

So, however we might define god, as long as the definition includes some interaction with the physical world we can say it is potentially a factual statement to talk of that god's existence. Of course, if the god is defined like the deist god, one that has not contact with the world at all, it is unlikely that anyone would be concerned if it existed or not.
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such that its falshood would be more miraculous than the facts it endeavours to establish. (David Hume)

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Re: The case for a mild version of Ignosticism.
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2013, 11:28:53 PM »
I have been indentifying myself in circles as being Ignostic since 2007/8. Though really, in all seriousness, I find it all to be meaningless. However, people like labels[1] and therefore I state that I am Ignostic who leans atheist: Ignostic-atheist: my label for the masses.

-Nam
 1. for some reason
This thread is about lab-grown dicks, not some mincy, old, British poof of an actor. 

Let's get back on topic, please.


Offline penfold

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Re: The case for a mild version of Ignosticism.
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2013, 10:56:08 AM »
I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "classical theism," as there are significant differences between different versions of traditional theism. 

This is a fair point; by classical theism I mean the theism borne in the European tradition from the thinking of figures like Plotinus, Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Al-Kindi etc...

The argument, as presented only runs for a belief in a metaphysical God, that is a God who necessarily cannot be clearly and distinctly perceived. The line I have taken is broadly empiricist in the Humean sense. Essentially I am saying that if an object is necessarily beyond any type of empirical verification/falsification then the question of its existence is non-factual. This means that if we define God differently, as empirically verifiable, then their existence is factual.

Your excellent discussion of various types of theism does raise many good points. In particular it leads me to reconsider the choice of the transcendent/immanent distinction I relied upon in the OP; I now think that physical/metaphysical would have been a more appropriate choice. While I do take the point that in various traditions God does have physical nature (such as in the incarnation of Jesus, or in Mormonism); these claims beg the question and, in any case, are untestable. Let us say I had a fist full of Jesus’ DNA, what would I look for to identify it as God?

Quote
Any proposed god (or entity of any other sort), the existence of which is indistinguishable from its non-existence, even in principle (as you're arguing here) is, for all practical intents and purposes non-existent.  Occam's razor dispenses with any solely "poetic" gods.  As Anfauglir points out, theists would dispense with them as well.  A "poetic"-only god cannot receive worship, hear prayers, provide hereafters, offer commandments, "inspire" books, or any of the rest of it.

I agree with this but it is not really the point I am driving at. I have no problem with the notion that the existence of God has doxastic implications which in turn have behavioural ones. My point is that theological statements are purely doxastic and fail to refer to anything in the world (or if you prefer a coherence theory of truth, fail to operate in the manner of factual statements).

Quote
If we accept this definition of God then we must conclude that sentences (vii) and (viii) are poetic.

I don't think this follows.  Your argument assumes that there are only two possible kinds of statements: "factual" (statements about real things) and "poetic" (statements whose meaning and "truth" are purely subjective).  A theist could argue that there is a category of "spiritual" statements to which their understanding of god-talk belongs, and that the truth of "spiritual" things is apprehended via direct mystical experience of "spirit."

I think this line of reasoning is self-defeating. It seems to concede that such sentences are not factual in the manner of ordinary factual sentences. Let us take the two sentences “God exists” and “God does not exist” and argue that we can accept them as true; we have to establish a whole new species of ‘truth’; moreover we are left with no mechanism to distinguish which spiritual sentences are true or false; nor any mechanism by which the truth of one spiritual sentence (ie “God exists”) affects the truth of another related spiritual sentence (ie “God does not exist”) – and we are right back where we started.

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Also, your statements "anger is red" and "anger is not red" are incomplete as written.  […]

The reason "Anger is red" and "Anger is not red" do not contradict each other (as you're using the statements here) is because the implicit portions (which specify whose neural structures and/or metaphorical constructs are defining anger as red or not-red) are not the same in both statements.  IOW, "anger" is not "red" and "not-red" at the same time and in the same respect--because the implicit portions you've left out differ from one another.

So, you have not created some separate category of statements that exist in a permanent Schrodinger-state of "true/not-true" in some "transcendent" or "poetic" realm forever safe from any kind of fact-checking.  The use of E-Prime (English, but without any of the forms of "is") is a handy way to clear this up.  Instead of "Anger is red," E-Prime flushes out the hidden component: "My mind analogically models anger as red."  Instead of "Anger is not red," we get: "My mental conception of 'anger' does not include a color; I view it as an intangible emotion" or "My mind analogically models anger as blue, not red, because on Tau Ceti IV, we turn blue when we get angry."  Once you include the poet in the "poetic" statements, they become subject to fact-checking.  A given person "poetically" considers anger "red" at a given time, or they do not.

This is really interesting (I have never come across the notion of E-Prime and I suspect it is a bogus notion, I reckon that ‘is’ is always implicit in language (cf Hiedegger) – but that is a whole different discussion).

I think that your analysis rests on a slight misunderstanding of my position (though it is just as probable that this response rests on a misunderstanding of yours!) We have to distinguish between the sentences “anger is red” and “I [think/believe/possess neural architecture which implies] anger is red”. The first is a statement which carries meaning of itself (though non-factual) the former is a factual sentence relating to the subject’s doxastic state. I am talking about the former; I think you are talking about the latter.
This should also help clear up this disagreement:

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I do not see a legitimate dichotomy here.  "The speaker" is an inextricable part of the world (reality).

Finally:

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If you try to distinguish "god" from "the speaker"--that is, examine the question of whether or not "god" exists independent of human minds like "the speaker's"--then "god's" existence is a factual question again.  If "the speaker" tries to argue that their "god" is "poetic" only, and cannot be found anywhere outside "the speaker's" poetry, then they're admitting that their "god" does not exist--as a separate, independent, real agent.  It is this latter sense of "existence" that atheism is concerned with.  To say that "god" is "poetic" (as you're employing that category here) is to agree that it does not exist as a real Being.  Which is to agree that atheism is correct.

Here we completely disagree. If “God exists” is poetic, it is not the same thing as saying “God does not exist”; rather it is saying that “God’s existence” is non-factual; ie that neither “God exists” nor “God does not exist” are properly factual. I am not proposing, as you describe it, a Schrodinger like “true and false” state for God, but rather arguing that “God” is not an object that can take the predicates “exists” or “does not exist” in any factual sense. Just as I cannot properly discern the colour of anger – because such an issue is non-factual, so too I cannot properly discern the existence of God. When I use the term “God” (in the sense outlined above) I am not actually designating a factual object at all. Bear in mind “unicorns” don’t exist but are not the less factual objects. Saying an object is non-factual is not the same thing as saying the object doesn’t exist.
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away." - P.K.D.