6/10/08

The New Atheism: A Quest of Confusion-Part I

It has been a few years now since Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett began their ideological war against Theism. Those on the defense have already attempted their responses and some of them have been the height of excellent thinking, though many Atheists have claimed these rebuttals as mere annoyances and attempts at earning a quick buck off of their ideologues successes. The aspirations of these unholy prophets is to one day usher in a new utopia where religion is regarded as mere superstition, those who follow it as irrational fools, and science establishing itself as the foundation of truth and moral order with those who possess degrees in biology as its arbiters. In order for this goal to come about, however, it was first incumbent that revolutionary thinkers step into this world of ignorance and help guide the intellectually shallow sheep to the proper path of enlightenment. These men, who feel called to express what they consider new or forgotten ideas of brilliance are satirically called “New Atheists” and rightfully so; for they display not only old ideas, but further reason why they shouldn’t be listened to. Perhaps, a more formal label for these individuals would be “Anti-Theists” or “Anti-Supernaturalists”, but it might be too generous and rather insulting to my fellow philosophers out there if I were to make them similar.
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In this article I wish to express all the things I find wrong with the New Atheist’s ideas by exposing them as mere myths and unsubstantiated claims. Being a theist and a philosopher and not an atheist and a scientist will most likely be justification enough for many of my intellectual opponents to regard me as someone not authoritative in speaking about issues of reality or logical arguments; I am, in fact, just a player of words who believes in a big invisible man in the sky who resembles the likes of fairies and gnomes. In the least case, I am a mere “flea” deriving some sort of fame from the true thinkers and successors of academia or fearful of their great influence on the few hundred or so high school students they are able to convert each year; pardon me for my insolent defiance. The myths I wish to expose are listed below by section. It is my aspiration to destroy this dream of a godless utopia and clarify exactly why the arguments being proposed by the New Atheists are no real arguments at all, but mere assertions of wishful thinking promoted, at best, by subjective negative experiences.



Myth #1: Atheism Is Not a Position

Perhaps the biggest confusion among this new band of outspoken Atheists who think they are on a mission to save the world is how they define exactly what they are. Among many of these new converts to rationality are their inability to agree (much less understand) on a definition of what atheism is or the purpose for the word to begin with. Atheism was typically viewed as a “rejection of belief in God”, but since this definition entails a sort of knowledge of whether or not God exist and Atheists do not wish to be as ignorant or stupid as their theistic cousins, they interpret atheism now as more a lack of belief. Now, while many people would simply view this as Agnosticism there is more to this claim than meets the eye. Rather than merely being a lack of belief, it is an affirmation of accepting that there is no God because it is more rational to do so. In order to understand this claim more in depth we need to understand the background to how Atheism has been argued within formal circles of philosophy.

There are two positions of Atheism: Positive and Negative [1]. In more popular terms these are called “Strong” and “Weak” Atheism. Positive/Strong Atheism is a claim that rests on positive ontological and epistemological grounds (thus the name) in reference to a supreme being. The position is that there is evidence to suggests that no God exist. The other position known as Negative/Weak Atheism rest on negative ontological, but positive epistemological grounds, which means there is no knowledge of whether there is a God, but since there is a lack of substantial evidence to prove that one exist it is more rational to believe that it doesn’t. The Negative/Weak position differs from Agnosticism insomuch as it makes a secondary move by assuming that it is more rational to adopt that God does not exist on the basis that there lacks evidence. Contrary to misconceptions of these terms, “positive” and “negative” do not automatically mean that one position is a positive claim and the other a negative claim; all that is mentioned in either of these contexts is whether one has knowledge to the existence of said thing.

Most Atheists today fall within the camp of Negative/Weak, preferring to be on the defensive all the while claiming that their lack of knowledge in whether or not a God exist justifies their criticisms of those who believe otherwise. The position that is usually held against Theists is that there is no evidence for their beliefs, but this claim rests on the positive assumption of what constitutes as evidence, much less if it is there or not.

Understanding the background to both these positions, we can now understand a little better what the New Atheist is proposing and how they go about doing it. The claim that “Atheism is merely a lack of belief in God” is false, insomuch as both sorts of Atheists carry a positive affirmation of something in regards to their rejection of a belief. Many Atheists today, taking after their idols who like to make rather silly examples, state that Atheism should not even be a word, much less a definition for anything at all. They reason that the lack of belief in God is the same as the lack of belief in such things as fairies, gnomes, invisible pink unicorns, and the satirical flying spaghetti monster. “We do not have terms for these beliefs, so why do we need one for Atheism”, they say. The common reason they are labeled as such is because they are the minority position. Besides that, the comparison between these common child-like inventions and the concept of God are completely different, other than the similarity that Atheists claim regarding the lack of evidences for both. Other examples (which they claim to be factual) refer to such things as people who reject racism or sexism. We as a society do not go around calling ourselves “non-racist” or “non-sexist” as a norm, but the reason for this is because we have no practical reason to do so. The New Atheists believe that by simply referring to their position as a “lack of belief” and mentioning child hood fairy-tales along side them as similarities, they will have redefined the term "Atheist” as “normal” regardless of the fact that they are still the minority position in the world. This disregards what normal means to begin with, much less how it is earned. Further, they seem to want to qualify the term “Atheist” as referring strictly to people who think or are scientists, as though the belief should hold a special status granted over those of a lesser mindset. This is the same tactic (though not as explicit) used by those who label themselves “brights” or “freethinkers”; they try to define their way into normalcy and intelligence rather than earning the title.

Another way that New Atheists abuse this definition is when it comes to defending themselves in arguments. Because Atheism is merely a "lack of belief” as they claim, the burden of proof rests on those that have positive claims; and since the definition of Theism automatically includes a positive affirmation for Gods existence they inherit the burden of proof. In this sharp move, all that is left for an Atheist to do is sit back and relax asking questions and saying “nu-uh” till he or she has nothing more to do other than go to their local community and brag about how they defeated another stupid Theist in a debate. These “debates”, however are nothing more than games of intellectual laziness based on ignorance and the abuse of definitions to suit that ignorance. Imagine going to a debate between an Atheist and a Theist and watching the Theist give their opening remarks. After this has happened and everyone claps, the Atheist pulls up a lounge chair, reclines and says “prove it” into the mic, only commenting when he or she pleases. It would seem silly to even call this a debate at all, much less a discussion. What is an Atheist doing going to a debate formatted by academia where both sides must defend their positions if he or she doesn’t believe there is one to defend? Even moreso, what is the point for Atheists writing books against Theists or badgering them about how irrational they are if there are no positive claims to make? As noted before, Atheists are not without their own positive claims, regardless if they choose to be Negative/Weak or not. Contrary to the comfortable definition that the New Atheists have created for themselves so that they need not have to do anything and can be perceived as the norm, the claim that it is more rational to believe there is no God based on lack of evidence is a positive position. First, we have a claim to what is regarded as “evidence”. Most New Atheists seem to be Core Empiricists of some sort and therefore see evidence as only that which can be observed by sensory experience (or that which can be verified by such). Many theists hold to Empiricism as well, but often fall more within a Concept Empiricists camp (a more balanced view that only states that concepts are derived from the material world rather than strictly being of the material world). Most Theists, it seems, are of the Rationalists sect of Epistemology and therefore have even more differing views of what constitutes as evidence. While I will not go into complete detail over what real evidence is since that is not the point of this particular section, I will state that it seems that most New Atheists do not notice that this claim is a positive one and that it must equally be defended within rational discourse. Similarly, the claim that there is a “lack of evidence” for the existence of X is another positive claim, as well as the assertion that people are irrational for believing in X even if there is no evidence to back that belief. Many Pragmatists would have a bone to pick with the last assertion.

While it may be fun and games for many New Atheists to go about finding Theists so as to scorn them for their beliefs and challenging them to discussions while doing nothing at all to add to the dialogue, this is clearly ridiculous and contrary to what is to be understood of definitions and philosophical claims. Further, the claims that Atheism is the default position does nothing more than raise the question (note the difference between begging the question, which is fancy way of saying “circular”) as to why this is the case. The common basis for this assumption is that because babies don’t believe in God (can’t for that matter) therefore we are born with this lack of belief first and therefore this is the basis from which we must work off. This is clearly ridiculous as well if we consider what is being said. A child is conditionally atheistic on the basis that they lack knowledge of the concept to begin with, much less if there is reason to reject it or not. There is a difference between being conditionally ignorant and willfully so; we make the distinction everyday. Similarly, if an Atheist wishes to use this argument they may as well claim that the lack of knowledge in mathematics, reading, writing, speaking, etc. are all similarly “default positions” and therefore more rational because babies do not possess them.

The final way that this redefining of Atheism as a mere “lack of belief” is used is in context to particular individuals that are claimed to have not been motivated by their Atheism to commit particular atrocious acts in history. Take for instance, Stalin, who killed millions. This claim is also absurd if we go back and examine what “Atheism” actually entails. We must remember that the rejection of something does not leave us with simply a rejection, but a reason or position behind that rejection (a positive claim). As another example, being a Theist I do not simply define my position as a "lack of belief in metaphysical naturalism". While this is part of the definition it is not the whole story. It seems that when a New Atheist claims that “Stalin did not kill because of his atheism” he may very well be right, but not on the assumption that this is the case because Atheism is not a position. Stalin could have very well been a Positive/Strong Atheist going around thinking that Theists were inferior because they were too stupid to see the truth of this belief. He could have also been very much a Negative/Weak Atheist who believed that Theists were too irrational to live.

We even see today a group of atheist “activists” who use their negative atheism in such a way as to degrade and dehumanize their opposition. They’re called the Rational Response Squad and based on their epistemological beliefs regarding evidence and such evidence for God, they consider Theists to be mentally inadequate or mentally unstable.

To conclude, the first myth that New Atheists try to promote for their new found enthusiasm for anti-theism is simply an illogical and incoherent misunderstanding of clever rhetoric guised as intelligent discourse. The hypocrisy is that while many New Atheists like to blame Theists for being "conversation stoppers" when they pull out the faith card, they similarly are conversation stoppers when they try to redefine Atheism in this manner.

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[1] Martin, Michael. The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. Cambridge University Press. 2006.





PART II COMING SOON

18 comments:

  1. I will give you my three reasons why I think there are atheists in our world: the doctrine of hell, the bible, including the Old Testament and the Old Testament God, and the problem of evil, which I believe is only a problem for a theistic worldview. Come see the responses at my own blog if you think otherwise. The New Atheists do not desire for people to think critically, for that could seriously undermine their arguments against God and Christianity. They want to make atheism appear as the answer to a better world. They want their audience to be receptive of their rhetoric, not their arguments. That is why Dawkins thought his book would be so successful; he did not have to know much about philosophy or history. He only needed to attack the character of God in a blistering sentence filled with moral judgements. Again, look at the responses at my blog and tell me that these atheists are not emotionally attached to their belief system as well. Have you experienced the same treatment here?

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  2. Can you say straw man? Aside from that nonsense accusing the antitheists of basically being communists, their is also "height of excellent thinking"...

    Seriously- I would LOVE to hear what theistic response falls under that. All I have seen so far would probably fall under "argument from ignorance". So if you have a super special argument that atheists have missed say it. Otherwise admit you don't.

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  3. Samuel, I have no idea what you're talking about...

    Where did I even mention the word "Communist" in my article? Are you sure you're responding to the right topic?

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  4. Adam,

    I have, to some degree experienced similar things, but I must admit that many of the Atheist that come here are rather well learned and reasonable.

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  5. No, you didn't accuse them of being communists- you did however use a strawman and imply they are.

    unholy prophets
    new utopia
    science establishes moral order
    biology as its arbitrars
    guide the shallow sheep

    Hmm... what does that sound like? The classic attacks on the communists! Note, that unlike the communists who 1,2 and 5 apply, NONE of these apply to anti theists.

    None of them have declared they can foretell the future

    None have declared that eliminating religion will produce a utopia.

    None have declared science defines morality (science is is, morality is should)

    None have declared that biologists should be in charge of determining morality.

    None have declared it is their duty to "guide" people.

    In addition, none of their actions are remotely fitting for those accusations.

    I'm still waiting for the brilliant refutal of atheism you think you have. My bet? Transendant argument. I'd rebut it by explaination, but it is simpler and more accurate to point out it is an argument from ignorance.

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  6. Samuel,

    I honestly have no idea why you believe I'm referring to them as communists.

    I wasn't "accusing" them of anything. It's just called flowery writing and expresses how I personally feel about them and their content. The primary argument in the first portion relates to the myth that "Atheism is not a position". It has nothing to do with whether or not God exist or if Atheists (as a whole) are communists or whatnot.

    I seriously think you need to actually read what I wrote rather than spout off your baseless emotionalism.

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  7. If you truly want to read a Philosophical argument by me against the position of Atheism as a whole, please refer to a previous post made by me called "My Thesis Against Atheism".

    Thanks.

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  8. You all but accused them of being insane fanatics. I used the label "communism" because...

    Well, you basically accuse them of that. I know what poetic lisence is, and what we have here isn't exactly poetic lisence. Mad prophets is, but saying they plan on basis morality on science isn't- it is a factual claim and a false one.

    I took a look at your "thesis against atheism"... and it has nothing to do with God or faith... sort of irrelevant for this discussion.

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  9. Samuel,


    I'm a little aggrivated by your accusations because they aren't even close to what I was intending, much less backed by any sort of textual or contextual evidence from my article.

    You all but accused them of being insane fanatics.

    I never said anything about anyone being "insane". Perhaps "fanatical" would make sense in this context, but I never said insane. You need to stop jumping to conclusions.

    I used the label "communism" because...

    Well, you basically accuse them of that.


    Please prove that I accuse them of that, because no where do I even suggests any sort of government system or anything else related to that.

    I know what poetic lisence is, and what we have here isn't exactly poetic lisence. Mad prophets is, but saying they plan on basis morality on science isn't- it is a factual claim and a false one.

    Actually that is. If you'd like for me to summon up some videos and interviews for you where Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins proudly claim that morality will be solved by science and directed as such then I will be more than happy to. I can also summon similar quotations from their own writings.

    They do not understand the difference between prescriptive and descriptive assertions.

    I took a look at your "thesis against atheism"... and it has nothing to do with God or faith... sort of irrelevant for this discussion.

    Then you clearly didn't "take a look" at my thesis, because it's all about the Epistemological claims made by skeptics against Theists and a counter-argument that is also Epistemological in nature, where I claim that belief in God is rational.

    All you've said thus far has only led me to believe that you haven't really bothered to consider anything I've written seriously, much less read it at all. What is sounds like is that you're lazy and decided to skim through my comments and articles and then gave up half-way through because they do not fit your stereotypical views of how Theists are supposed to argue.

    Am I right or am I right? Excuse the assumption if it offends you, but I'm just a little frustrated that you would say such blatantly ignorant things.

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  10. Lets see... accusing them of plotting to make it so that "science establishing itself as the foundation of truth and moral order with those who possess degrees in biology as its arbiters"... to my knowledge, none of the 4 have ever declared anything remotely like that. In addition, none of them have none of them have declared descriptive statements work for reality (might be wrong, but I've NEVER heard anything like that).

    I did read your paper. It is this, no?
    http://atheismisdead.blogspot.com/2008/05/my-thesis-against-atheism.html
    Now, you don't mention God, religion or... just about anything relevant once. All you do is state the obvious- ideas and beliefs have to be based on reality and be provable and falsible... oh! the plus/minus thing... stupid internet... er sorry about that...
    ...
    ...
    Okay, first you attack Hume's approach on cause and effect...
    Okay, there is a differance- cold weather has been observed to happen. It may be rare in the tropics but you can experience it yourself.

    Seriously, it is a pretty pathetic strawman. "Hume wouldn't believe in cold weather if he was consistant"... well, given that the more you delve into cold weather the more you understand it, the fact it follows a pattern and natural laws mean it isn't exactly a miracle. Next you are going to tell me Hume doesn't believe people have birthdays because each individual person's birthday only occurs once.

    The differance between miracle and cold weather is the former is completely unlike any

    As for the "miraculous events" there is an interesting correlation with time and location and supernatural occurances. Specifically, supernatural occurances happen in the past and in backwaters... hmm... maybe a correlation?

    Hume is rejecting things that are physically impossible- given that physically impossible things can't happen you generally look for alternate explanations. Given we DO have reasonable alternate explanations, there is no reason not to view them as true.

    People can comprehend infinity. If you look up into the night sky the dark patches?

    Apparently working by pure logic doesn't work. Not a big find. The justification for things needing evidence to back them? By examining reality we learn about it. How do we know it is true? Because reality is that way.

    Dennet and other atheists don't believe showing a natural origin proves something wrong- they use it as a refutation of "religion must be true because everyone has it".

    Darwinian evolution has alot of "weird parts". It doesn't make perfection- it simply is driven by survival of the fittest and natural selection. A good example would be pecocks tail- horribly inefficient, but driven by sexual selection.

    Basically you are claiming what we believe are natural laws aren't natural laws...

    That is a major atheist point- if the supernatural existed, it would be part of science. You don't get it, do you?

    Supernatural defines itself out- Hume is just being honest. Supernatural thing don't have to rely on evidence, repeatability or a host of other qualifications, making them essentially nonsense. "You flew? And no one was around to see? And you can't do it again surrounded by skeptics? Right..."

    I can have a religious experience with drugs- it isn't a good piece of evidence if you can get a natural explanation so easily.

    Imagination is proof of the supernatural? Just because we can imagine things an infinite number of things doesn't mean their is an external realm- it just means people are good at recombining things they see.

    The argument is refering to belief, not causes. Belief is based in a person's mind.

    So I apologize that I didn't realize there was more to your paper? The problem? All your arguments are wrong. Every last one.

    The truely fun part is they are also irrelevant. None of these prove the existance of God, Christinaity or even make it any more likely. Why? Because if miracles can occur and they can be supernatural and not follow the rules... why should they be caused by God(s)? You can't switch back and forth from basing your beliefs on the same standards of evidence the rest of us use and special rules.

    Are you happy now? I looked at your paper and all it did was attack the idea of naturalism. Big deal. There have been (and are) supernaturalist atheists.
    http://stars-sliding.blogspot.com/2008/06/typing-out-loud-about-atheism.html
    What you are attacking is strong atheism, which goes to "God doesn't exist". Your thesis doesn't work. Sorry.

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  11. I found your post too annoying to read the entire thing. Anyway, here’s why I call myself an atheist. The Bible makes the claim the God exists. But there is just no evidence for it. That claim is neither testable nor falsifiable. As a rationalist, I dismiss that claim. I don’t say I believe there is no God, and I don’t say I have no belief in God. I say I know God does not exist. Just as I know psychics have no psychic powers, that ghosts do not haunt houses, that homeopathic drugs are ineffective, and that people are not abducted by space aliens.

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  12. Orandat,

    So you're a Positive/Strong Atheist. Okay. And I'm sorry my article was too annoying for you.

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  13. I'll be responding to you shortly, Samuel.

    Thanks for your patience.

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  14. Orandat: "I found your post too annoying to read the entire thing."

    I hope I may offer Gentle Reader what I believe to be a trust-worthy translation of today's text: "If I read the whole thing, the danger exists that I might encounter some of that evidence-for-God which I need always to assert does not, and cannot, exist."


    Orandat: "The Bible makes the claim the God exists. But there is just no evidence for it. That claim is neither testable nor falsifiable. ... I say I know God does not exist."

    You pretend-atheists never quite think-through the incredibly silly things you say, do you?

    Now, I realize it's very likely that this will be just beyond your grasp, but I'll try, anyway:

    You, Orandat, silly, non-critically thinking pretend-atheist that you are, have asserted that: "But there is just no evidence for it;" that is, that there exists no evidence to support the claim that there exists a being we may rightly call "God."

    Now, IF you, Orandat, silly, non-critically thinking pretend-atheist that you are, truly are in a position to rationally and with logical and rational justification assert that there exists no evidence to support the claim that God exists, THEN it *must* be the case that you, you personally, know just what *might* count as such evidence, were any to in fact exist.


    For, after all, it is neither logical nor rational to simultaneously assert both that "There is no evidence that God exists" and that "I wouldn't be able to *recognize* evidence that God exists if such evidence bit me in the ass!"

    So, which is it?

    Is it really true that "... there is just no evidence for [the claim "God exists"]" and therefore that *you* can tell us what would count as such evidence, should any possibly exist?

    Or, is it really true that (for whatever reason, whether honest or no) "[You] wouldn't be able to *recognize* evidence that God exists if such evidence bit [you] in the ass?"


    Orandat: "That claim [i.e. "God exists"] is neither testable nor falsifiable."

    And, on top of liking to say incredibly silly things, you pretend-atheists seem to like to say blatantly false things.

    You have previously asserted: "But there is just no evidence for [the claim "God exists"]" Now, IF this assertion is indeed true, THEN it is not true that "That claim [i.e. "God exists"] is neither testable nor falsifiable."

    But, on the other hand, IF it is indeed true that "[You] wouldn't be able to *recognize* evidence that God exists if such evidence bit [you] in the ass," THEN your assertion that "That claim [i.e. "God exists"] is neither testable nor falsifiable" ... coming from *you* ... is a lie (regardless of whether it is true, in fact). FOR, if you cannot even recognize evidence for the existence of God, then you will never be in a position to *honestly* assert that the claim is not testable.


    Orandat: "As a rationalist, ..."

    How cool is this? I, too, loathe irrationality: we may be able to get somewhere.

    Now, being a 'rationalist,' you surely can understand that IF atheism is indeed the truth about the nature of reality, THEN it is impossible for *anyone* to be a 'rationalist.' For, if there is no transcendant Creator-God, then there is no such thing as "reason" in the first place.


    Orandat: "As a rationalist, I dismiss that claim."

    Oh! Silly me! You're not a 'rationalist,' you're a 'rationalizationist!'

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  15. Adam: "I will give you my three reasons why I think there are atheists in our world: the doctrine of hell, the bible, including the Old Testament and the Old Testament God, and the problem of evil, which I believe is only a problem for a theistic worldview."

    "... the doctrine of hell, ..."

    Objections to this are not rational. It's not merely that the objections are generally emotional, it's that they are nearly always anti-rational.

    And, since these objections are but variations on the atheistic response to and use of "the Problem of Pain/Evil," I'll tackle it at one go below.


    "... the bible, including the Old Testament and the Old Testament God, ... "

    Likewise [and as you note: the New Atheists "want their audience to be receptive of their rhetoric, not their arguments. That is why Dawkins thought his book would be so successful; he did not have to know much about philosophy or history. He only needed to attack the character of God in a blistering sentence filled with moral judgements."], the atheistic "arguments" against God's character are emotional and moralistic, rather than rational and moral ... even as they *deny* that there even exists such a thing as real/objective morality. Which is to say, these "arguments" are just another sort of variation on atheistic response to and use of "the Problem of Pain/Evil," so I'll tackle it at one go below.


    "... and the problem of evil, which I believe is only a problem for a theistic worldview. "

    Well, no, the "Problem of Evil" is a *bigger* problem for atheism than for "theism" -- for, the "Problem of Evil" presupposes the "Problem of Good!"

    Atheism can't explain evil; how much less ability has it to explain good? This is why 'atheists' (*) typically "explain" evil and good by asserting that there are no such things, or that our every-day understanding of the terms refers to an illusion, that the terms are actually meaningless.

    (*) I tend to put the word 'atheist' in single quotes because most of them are only playing at atheism. A serious atheist would be a nihilist. A serious atheist would understand and accept the fact that if atheism were indeed the truth about the nature of reality, then it wouldn't and couldn't matter that it's the truth about the nature of reality -- for nothing at all matters or can matter. And even that doesn't matter.


    'Atheists' begin their assault on God with an emotional wail: "There's so much evil in the world! If you were really there, this evil would not exist!" And, generally, they take it no further: they emotionally make the observation that evil does exist; they emotionally assert that a contradiction exists between the assertion that God exists and the observation that evil exists; and then they (generally) stop: QED, Game Over! they imagine.

    Now, we "theists" -- we Jews and Christians -- are not unaware that evil really does exist in the world. And, we have always had an answer or explanation for it -- but this explanation is not an emotionally satisfying answer. And, since the atheisic "argument" against God begins with emotion, and rarely rises above emotion, rational explanations tend to go right over their heads: that's not what they want; and they're not listening.

    At the same time, they want to assert that they are making rational and logical arguments against God -- and they want to assert the right to get incredibly emotional and indignant if anyone scoffs at the prior assertion.


    Some 'atheists,' the New Atheists, for instance, will attempt to put a gloss of rationality, or at least logic, on the above emotional and flawed/incomplete "argument."

    As you alude, Richard Dawkins "disproves" God by trying to attack his character, by making moral assertions (though, I think 'moralistic' is a more appropriate term) and asserting that God does not live up to what we human beings know to be moral truth. Of course, his plan of battle must ignore iinconvenient realities, including (though not limited to):
    1) Is God *really* subject to the same moral constrants as we are?
    1a) And how/why would that be, if so?
    1b) Where do these constrains come from? *Who* has the authority and moral standing to decree these constrains?
    1c) And is *that* "super-God" under the same or even "higher" moral constraints? From whom?
    2) Or, does morality exist all by itslef, so to speak, without reference to minds and persons?
    2a) And how would *that* work out, logically?
    3) Do we have enough knowledge of the particulars to even attempt to pass judgement on God?
    3a) If we don't know what we're talking about, then calling an act of God immoral is just meaningless, even if emotionally satisfying for some, blather.
    4) If we assert that some act of God is immoral, then we are asserting that there indeed exists some objective moral standard (without explaining where it is grounded), and we are asserting that we can discover it, or at least part of it ... it is hardly intellectually honest to then turn around and assert that there exists no objective moral standard which is binding upon us (**), or that even if there is, we cannot discover anything about it.

    (**) And yet, Richard Dawkins does just that: Let's all stop beating Basil's car


    It seems to me that if a person is genuinely concerned about the reality of evil in the world, he would *first* do what is within his ability to fix the evil, before trying to use evil as a handy stick with which to whack God. Instead, among the New Atheists at any rate, we see such as Christopher Hitchens "arguing" simultaneously: 1) that evil exists "proves" that God doesn't exist; 2) belief in God produces great evil; 3) Mother Teresa was the epitome of stupidity for spending her entire life trying to fix the evils she could reach; 4) by the way, there exist no such things as 'good' and 'evil.'

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  16. ilion,

    the christian god is concerned with morals. He became a person who walked around and talked about human moralism. he clearly understood the pain of evil, especially in the 'natural disaster' sense - he went around healing the sick - as well as in the social sense - see sermon on the mount. If jesus was god, then god clearly does care about morals.

    So it's completely fatuous to say human morals don't apply to god, or that it's impossible to judge god on such a basis. If we can't make any judgment about god's moral character then we can't worship him either, except out of fear. How can you 'love' someone or open up to them and trust them if you decide that their moral principles or motivations are unknowable? What else can you actually know about anyone??

    I guess i'm saying if morals don't apply to god, that's surely deism or dystheism. god has certainly made an effort to 'look' like he cares, and most religious people around the world think he does.

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  17. “1) Is God *really* subject to the same moral constrants as we are?”

    If God is a person, then God is subject to the same moral constraints we are. If God is not a person, or if God is a person we’re not fit to judge for some reason, then it either makes no sense to speak of morality as if it is something that applies to God in any way, or it is foolish to say anything concerning the morality of God’s actions – and this cuts both ways: it is meaningless (in the case of God’s being impersonal) or simply presumptuous and foolish (in the case of God’s being beyond our powers to judge) to say that God is morally good.

    “1a) And how/why would that be, if so?”

    Morality describes the actions that an acting being ought and ought not do. If God is a being that acts, morality applies to his actions. To say otherwise just is to say, either that God is not a being that acts, or that God is alogical and thus is neither speakable, nor thinkable, nor showable. In the latter case we can’t say God is good, or for that matter, anything else about him – even that he is beyond understanding, or that he exists. Anything we say about him is literally meaningless.

    “1b) Where do these constrains come from? *Who* has the authority and moral standing to decree these constrains?”

    Morality does not come from authority. It is the grounds for authority. Authority without moral justification is mere rule of might; saying morality comes from authority is saying it comes from mere rule of might. But since rule of might is a kind of action it is something that is either justified, or not justified.

    “1c) And is *that* "super-God" under the same or even "higher" moral constraints? From whom?”

    See above.

    “2) Or, does morality exist all by itslef, so to speak, without reference to minds and persons?”

    Morality is grounded in basic (basic in the logical sense) truths about personhood. So it exists “all by itself” without reference by minds or persons, but not without reference to minds or persons.

    “2a) And how would *that* work out, logically?”

    You’re getting logic mixed up with concrete actuality. A world without persons would still be a world in which morality applied to persons. There’d just be no persons to apply it to.

    “3) Do we have enough knowledge of the particulars to even attempt to pass judgement on God?”

    This is only a problem for utilitarians. And even if we accept utilitarianism, see the answer to 1.

    “3a) If we don't know what we're talking about, then calling an act of God immoral is just meaningless, even if emotionally satisfying for some, blather.”

    No further comment on this line.

    “4) If we assert that some act of God is immoral, then we are asserting that there indeed exists some objective moral standard”

    One can make a conditional argument from evil, in which case one simply argues that if God exists and moral realism is correct then evil also exists (which is (at least the argument says) inconsistent with the existence of a morally good and all-powerful being). For my own part, I think free will more or less solves the problem of evil; unfortunately the main monotheistic faiths (at least the orthodox variants thereof) deny free will, or at least they deny any kind of free will strong enough to solve the problem of evil. Other theodicies have the problem that they either deny God’s omnipotence or (in the case of Liebniz, Malebranche, etc.) they deny the existence of (moral) evil. Liebniz also has the unfortunate side effect of denying contingency, whereas Malebranche makes God’s glory contingent (ouch!), but that’s neither here nor there.

    “…and we are asserting that we can discover it, or at least part of it ... it is hardly intellectually honest to then turn around and assert that there exists no objective moral standard which is binding upon us (**), or that even if there is, we cannot discover anything about it.”

    Insofar as this is directed at Dawkins et al., then I agree. But I’d say their error lies in their belief that there is no objective good or evil; their judgments of God (as the Bible describes him) seem sound.

    “It seems to me that if a person is genuinely concerned about the reality of evil in the world, he would *first* do what is within his ability to fix the evil, before trying to use evil as a handy stick with which to whack God.”

    Well. One can certainly walk and chew bubblegum at the same time… Though I agree that Hitch is an intellectual and moral train wreck.

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  18. M: (to Adam) "I have, to some degree experienced similar things, but I must admit that many of the Atheist that come here are rather well learned and reasonable."

    I'm just not seeing it.

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