Ignosticism - Theological Noncognitivism

"God" is a literary notion. "God" is only a word defined into existence by engaging attributes that either (1) do not exist beyond the interior realm of language, or (2) are cognitively unsound, incompatible, inconsistent, and contradictory, thereby creating cognitive dissonance and the conjuring of denial. What does this mean exactly? Simply put, "God"—like "Heaven" and "Hell" and "Soul" and "Spirit"—is constructed entirely of definitions without interactive or measureable counterparts in the 'real world' making such definitions inherently meaningless. Religion, you see, needs language to exist, and in the absence of language all religious notions have no basis for belief. Would you have any reason to believe in the Christian "God" or the Hindu "Gods" or the Greek or Viking or Navaho "Gods," et al, if you never heard or read about them? The same question applies to "Heaven" and "Hell." Outside the narrow interior realm of religious language, would you have any reason to believe in the existence of Heaven or Hell, the Soul or Spirit, Life-After-Death, or anything claimed by any religious person no matter how wise or learned? Supernatural ideas are the products of words, and it is only through words that they can be discovered. Would you have a reason to believe in anything supernatural if you were never told about it first? Reality, then, is what exists in the absence of language, words in books, exhortations from the pulpit. Reality does not need words in order to exist.


I am an ignostic. If you tell me that you believe in "God" I will ask you what you mean by "God" and how you might define "God" (whether a Him or a Her or an It). When you are done explaining yourself and your meaning of God, and the various words you used to define "God," I will ask you how you came to know this meaning and these definitions. I will ask you how you came to know the character and attributes you used to describe and define your notion of "God." if you are honest with me (and with yourself), you will explain that you either (1) were told this meaning and these definitions, or you (2) read this meaning and these definitions. In other words, you did not come upon this meaning or experience these definitions outside the interior and artificial realm of language. You can quote, you can reference, you can open your mouth and argue, but you cannot show, you cannot point to, you cannot touch or taste or see or smell or hear. You have books that you use, or one specific so-called "holy" book, the "Word of God," and you keep quoting from it again and again, for years and years, for without the book, without the ability to quote, you have nothing else you can point to. Religion needs its so-called "holy" books—whether the Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon, Upanishads, etc—for without them "God" is nowhere to be found, "Heaven" and "Hell" are nowhere to be found, the "Soul" or "Life-After-Death" or "Eternal Life" are nowhere to be found. Religion exists because it can be quoted. In silence, without the quotes, in the absence of language, in the closing of the books, all religion disappears.

God Is...

In all actuality, religious people don't have "faith" in God. They have faith in a particular set of "words" they use to "know" God, in their presupposing of one particular book as "holy" and their descrediting of all other "holy" books as not holy. They have 'faith" that their particular "holy" book is the one and only true "Word of God" while all other "holy" books are not. How do they prove to themselves that they do, in fact, have the one and only true "holy" book in their possession while everyone else does not? They quote from their "holy" book as 'proof' that their book is the correct holy book. They embrace theological and philosophical notions about their particular "holy" book like "inerrancy" or "infallibility" or "inspired" while completely overlooking its many inconsistencies, contradictions, and incoherencies. They may not have actually read their particular "holy" book from cover to cover, but only those passages that were either quoted to them or best suited the narrow "doctrines" of their particular church or sect. They may pick and choose some passages, while completely ignoring other passages in order to support their particular belief system or worldview, sometimes rejecting entire books as belonging to the "old" covenant and not the "new." They may find themselves needing to embrace far-fetched and meandering arguments to wiggle past the unsupported assumption that their "holy" book is the one and true "holy" book, using slippery notions like Presuppositionalism ("If you don't presuppose the Bible to be the Word of God going in, well, this proves you're damned and have no business discussing the Bible or God with us anyway"), the Cavinist TULIP ("Some are predestined to be saved before they are even born, some are predestined to go to Hell, and the fact that you're causing trouble by asking questions is proof that you've been predestined for Hell"), or Reconstructionism ("The whole world must bow down and do things EXACTLY like it says in the Old Testament, which means we should be able to execute people for heresy, adultry, homosexuality, and disobedience, meaning you. Hallelujah!"). Regardless of the "holy" book being used, religious people are putting their "faith" in words, in artificial language, in supernatural presuppositions that have no counterpart in the real world. They will go to their graves without ever witnessing or experiencing a single supernatural thing, but they will go "quoting" about supernatural things the entire distance.

A MENTAL EXERCISE: Instead of saying God, Heaven, and Hell, you could just as easily say Glavin, Homatron, and Jyklumoo. Like God, Heaven, and Hell, the only way you can know anything about Glavin, Homatron, and Jyklumoo is through word association. You can't point to Glavin, Homatron, and Jyklumoo, or see them, or measure them, or know what they're suppose to be or whether they even exist, or where, or how, or why. In fact, any words used to define Glavin, Homatron, and Jyklumoo are applied not because of anything experienced in reality, but solely out of artificial and abstract word associations that go round and round and round in an endless textual loop. The only we we think we know anything about Glavin, Homatron, and Jyklumoo at all is through word associations and for no other reason! Since the existence of Glavin, Homatron, and Jyklumoo cannot be proven and are nowhere in evidence anywhere in the real world, anything that anybody might say about them is completely contrived, invented, speculative, and made-up. If I say "Glavin is All-Knowing and All-Powerful" how do I know this? Since the existence of Glavin cannot be proven and is nowhere in evidence, I could just as easily have said "Glavin is ignorant and weak." Why? Because 'Glavin' is by itself a meaningless term that appropriates meaning solely from the words associated to it and from nothing else! This being the case, any words could be associated with it no matter how far-fetched, ridiculous, or contrary. You can't prove that one set of word associations is correct and a different set of word associations is incorrect, because 'Glavin' is composed of nothing but word associations. And that is the nature of religion.

Religion is nothing more than a carefully crafted series of word associations whereby X = A + B + C + D . Remove A + B + C + D and you have nothing else to show for X. While you can make these same types of word associations with a tree or a dog or a car, trees and cars and dogs don't need word associations to argue their existence or make themselves known, but terms like God and Heaven and Hell are wholly constructed by word asociations alone.

Don't believe me? You can't show me 'God' but you can show me words associations that add up to define God. Where did these word associations come from? The term 'God' is meaningless without the word associations, but what about the word associations themselves?

Let's look at the Christian doctrine assertion that God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (everywhere), and omnibenevolent (all-good, all-loving). How do we know God is any of these things? Did we determine this by pointing to God or did we determine this by pointing to words?

There's a very simple test to determine the answer.

Without pointing to words, without relying on word associations, what can you tell me about God? If you can't tell me anything without refering back to word associations, then the word associations themselves—omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent—are meaningless since they also or composed of associations that cannot be proven and are nowhere in evidence. For example, what does it mean to say that God is omnipotent (all-powerful?) Is there really such a thing as omnipotence or does its very definition entail contradictions and paradoxes? This quote by Epicurus (341-270 BCE) clearly exemplifies the issue: "Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?"

It's almost like an elaborate con game is going on. The term 'God' is meaningless without the word associations, but the words used to make the associations are also meaningless since taken together they are inherently contrary, paradoxical, and still manage to beg the question. And isn't all doctrinal language just this way? You can't point to God, so you make word associations instead. You can't point to life-after-death, so you make word associations instead. You can't point to Satan, so you make word associations instead.

Without words, without making word associations, there would be no knowledge of the Soul or Heaven or Hell or Judgement Day or Eternal Life, etc. Even the notion of 'Sin' depends on word associations, for what is a 'sin' without the declaration of sin? It may be said that "it's a sin to tell a lie" but the 'sin' and the 'lie' are both products of the 'telling' word associations.

Without language, without words, you cannot tell a lie and you do not sin. Both come into existence with a declaration and not before. And, if you think about it, the same can be said for 'truth'. Outside of telling, there is no truth. Like God, like Heaven, like Hell, you can't show Truth. Truth is a product of language and requires words to exist. Prior to language, notions of God, Heaven, Hell, Soul, Salvation, Truth, etc, are not an issue. With language they are defined using any consensual word assocations that anyone can make. This being the case, such words—because they can be defined as anything—are ultimately meaningless, hollow, and empty. Reality is not based on definitions or word associations or quotes from a book. Reality is what you have after all the books have been put away and you keep your mouth shut. Reality has been around for billions of years and language for only a few thousand. You don't need language to know reality. Anything that requires language to make itself known is not reality but the artifice of words, simply word associations, predicates on paper that can nowhere else be seen.

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Copyright © 2007 by Craig Lee Duckett. All rights reserved
LAST UPDATED: May 20, 2009
May 20, 2009