Carl Sagan wrote a wonderful example of this debate in his book, “The Demon Haunted Word, Science as a Candle in the Dark.” which I constantly recommend to anyone who is looking for a better “toolkit’ for discussing these types of subjects intelligently while maintaining objectivity and sensitivity.
The thought experiment went as follows (shortened and itemized for space);
- I enthusiasticaly claim that there is a fire-breathing dragon in my garage.
- You open my garage door and see nothing but an empty garage.
- I tell you that the dragon is invisible.
- You say you want to spread flour on the floor to reveal footprints that would indicate a dragon’s presence.
- I say, that won’t work is because the dragon is a floating dragon.
- You say you want to use an infrared sensor to detect its invisible fire.
- I say that won’t work because its heatless fire.
- You say you want to try spray paint to reveal the invisible dragon.
- I say that won’t work either because its incorpreal and the paint won’t stick to it.
(directly quoted from the book because Dr. Sagan had a much better way of saying this than I do)
“Now what is the difference between an invisible, incorpreal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no concievable experiment that would count againt it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that can not be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I am asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.”
I think this excerpt from his book is very relevant to this thread. Other than that, the attempts at labeling different “levels” of Athiesm are, in my opinion, wothless and does nothing to promote free-thinking, objectivity and skeptical inquiry. It is merely a vehicle in which some try to put a quantitive label on how hethenistic, heretical or otherwise “goddless” a person is or isn’t.