It’s possible that you may have been out driving recently and seen on the back of someone’s car this rather strange looking icon:

Meet the flying spaghetti monster.  The flying spaghetti monster (FSM) is shorthand for any number of expletives and other derisive statements aimed at the idea of a creator deity that could be behind the universe and life as we know it.  The basic idea is, if you posit that an undetectable god created everything, then the FSM is just as valid an identity for this creative deity as any other.  If you’re dumb enough to say that the Judeo-Christian God could have created the world, you’re essentially as stupid as if you’d said the FSM created the world.
The FSM has gained a bit of Internet fame and I’ve actually seen one or two vehicles with one of these little symbols (or a variation thereof) on the back where Christians place their fish symbols and where other atheists often put their little fish symbols that have legs (demonstrating evolution).  Ha ha ha, we might think.  What a silly argument.  How could anyone believe that the FSM is just as likely a source for the created order as the Judeo-Christian God?
Somebody who doesn’t accept that a god – if one exists – could or would actually reveal itself in a meaningful way to it’s creation.  
After my discussion with my friend the other day, this seems to be the harder sticking point in conversations about theology.  My friend was willing to concede that God might exist, and that this God might even exist in such a way that we can’t measure Him in a test tube.  But when it came down to saying anything meaningful about this God, anything that impinges on how we live our lives and why we make the decisions we do, then she was a lot more cautious.  For her, going to that next step meant that she had to retract her biting assertions and criticisms of religious people asserting that their theology is correct and others are not.  Because if God is capable of revealing Himself in a way that we are capable of apprehending, then clearly there is a path for further examination of comparative truth claims.  If the Hindu claims that there are many divinities and the Jewish person claims that there is only one, we have to compare their truth claims in some fashion to determine which one appears to be more truthful.  
That sounds judgmental and we’re conditioned more and more to reject anything that might sound judgmental (except for the insistence that we aren’t to judge, of course – that dictate must stand according to current powers of political correctness.  How convenient.).  But it’s not judgmental.  If someone asserts that the sky is blue and another person asserts that it is red, I can investigate to see which claim seems more accurate.  I can bring my own observations and experiences to bear, as well as the observations and experiences of others.  Someone who has been brought up to believe that the sky is indeed red may not be convinced that they are in error, but the hypothetical objective outsider has some means for trying to make sense of the options presented to them and then following the one that appears to be more reflective of what they see and hear and experience.  
The idea of a God somewhere out there probably doesn’t bother a lot of people.  But a God out there who has created everything – including you and I – and who may have some very specific ideas on what this creator-creation relationship looks like and how we ought to live our lives – that’s a frightening proposition.  As long as we’re talking theory without application, I think people are more comfortable in admitting there could be something out there they don’t know about.  The issue is application, and application requires revelation of some sort.
Every religion asserts some level of revelation, so this isn’t some quirk of Judeo-Christianity.  Whether it’s the impersonal Brahma of Buddhism or the one-of-many gods of Mormonism, there is some level of assertion that we can reach a better understanding of this entity and our own relationship to it.  This may come through meditation and enlightenment as Buddhism stresses, or through divine revelation in a sacred text, but it has to happen for there to be anything meaningful to say about this entity, including whether or not it exists at all.
If someone is not willing to allow that a divine entity can and would reveal itself intentionally to us, and insists that outside some sort of empirical scientific study that classifies a newly discovered something-or-other as ‘god’ there can be no basis for believing in a deity, then there’s not much room to talk further.  If they’re willing to grant the former, then there’s room to begin talking about the various revelations that different religions assert that either a divine entity has made or that individuals have achieved by any number of means.  It also rules out the idea that all religions are basically equivalent or equal, because as soon as you start examining them in any detail, it’s obvious that they aren’t equivocal or equal, but rather are completely contradictory to one another.  If one of them is true, the others necessarily can’t be.  
That’s going to be a big step in my discussion with my friend.  But it’s a critical one.  Those who claim that they can’t know anything about God often do so for convenience sake – they don’t want to go to the trouble of examining what all the different revelation options are to sort through them.  What they’re really saying, however, is that they don’t believe that a god can or would reveal himself in a meaningful way to humankind.  Or they’re demanding that he reveal himself (or herself) in a particular way to them personally.  
Agreeing on whether divine revelation can happen in a meaningful way seems like the bigger obstacle in a certain vein of discussion with certain types of non-theists.  That’s a revelation for me.  

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