There is No Such Concept as God

I am increasingly certain that it is possible to be neither an atheist nor an agnostic nor religious, and that this is where I stand. Here is how these categories go:

The atheist says “There is no such thing as God.”

The religious person says “There is such a thing as God.”

The agnostic says “I do not know whether God exists or not.”

I say “I have no idea what we’re talking about.”

Then everybody looks at me as if I am being intentionally irritating and disruptive. But there’s nothing intentional about it at all! Here’s why I’m lost: I can’t offer a position on the existence question without understanding what it is that God is supposed to be. But I don’t understand at all; I just don’t know what it is I’m being asked to affirm, deny, or remain neutral on. I cannot conceive of what a God is; it just seems like a word to me without much communicable content. When I ask for us to make clear exactly what it is I’m being asked, what the definition of God is, I just get synonyms like Higher Power and Creator. But all of it means nothing to me.

Weirdly, I think atheists are actually closer to believing in God than I am. The atheist thinks there is no God, I think the concept of God is too incoherent to even affirm, deny, or interrogate the existence of. In that way, the atheists actually grant the religious premise that there is content to this discussion; they seem to be able to understand the religious conception of God, so that they can deny it. You might think that I’m an agnostic, then. But the agnostic has the same problem! They still seem to see it as a meaningful question.

To illustrate how it looks to me, just replace God with a random string of characters. Ypsdjf. “Does Ypsdjf exist?” “I don’t know what that even means. What’s the definition?” “Ugh, don’t be pendantic, of course you know what Ypsdjf means. It means Fdlfjsjdl!” And so my answer is “?” while the atheist says “There is no such thing as Ypsdjf,” and the agnostic says “I do not know whether Ypsdjf exists or not.” Now, yes, technically I am in the same camp as the agnostic here, because I too do not know whether it exists or not. But the agnostic still generally grants the premise that we are talking about something that can be rationally discussed, and sees it mostly as an evidentiary question. Like if we were archaeologists trying to determine whether an ancient civilization had had wheeled transit or not. “The evidence is inconclusive on the question,” says the agnostic after looking at the dig site. They do not say “What the fuck is this ‘wheeled transit’ thing supposed to be?”

Or take the Russell’s Teapot business. Bertrand Russell said being asked to believe in God was like being asked to believe, on no evidence, that there was a teapot in space hovering near the sun. But it’s not really, because I know what a teapot is. And so that more easily sets up only three sensible positions: “Yes, there is a teapot,” “No, there isn’t a teapot,” or “I am not sure whether the teapot is there,” since nobody (except, yes, the irritating and disruptive) is asking what we mean by the word teapot. But the teapot parallel is inapt in one respect, because that is a valid question in the God debate, since nobody seems to have the same idea of what the thing under discussion is, and even when the conception is shared, it means absolutely nothing to me.

My position, then, is not that there is no such thing as God, but that there is no such concept as God.

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