Hard Pills of Atheism

I recently wrote an article targeted at committed atheists who claim that Christians carry all the burden of proof. There, I pointed out that atheism is not a neutral position and is justified only if it, too, can provide answers for the hard questions of science and human experience. In this article, though, I’d like to offer something similar only targeted to the agnostic, who flirts with the idea that this universe may be devoid of a God after all. My intent is to get such persons to consider the impact that true atheism would logically have on their beliefs and values, and to consider whether this package deal sounds more reasonable than theism.

To commit to the rejection of God is a game-changer. Sure the sun would still rise in the morning, and life may go on as usual (if you have no active spiritual life). However, it would make a difference in your outlook on life and what you are justified to believe is true. Many unbelievers live on the borrowed capital of a Christian worldview, just as Christians do not always think consistently with their own worldview. Given that atheism removes all higher authority for truth beyond one’s own mind, atheism permits you to believe whatever you desire. However, that is different than saying what one chooses to believe is actually reasonable to believe.

While a godless universe permits a selective application of reason and consistency (for, what duty do godless creatures have to such principles?), most atheists take themselves to be the champions of reason. Indeed, reason is often the very justification given for their rejection of theism. For someone truly considering the road of atheism on a rational basis I’d like to offer some logical implications of embracing that worldview.

Meaning

“What people cannot abide is the conviction that the Universe and life are pointless. Which is what really, science is telling us. Pointless in the sense that there is no externally imposed purpose or point in the Universe. As atheists, this is something that is manifestly true to us. We make our own meaning and purpose.”

Jerry Coyne, biology professor, atheist

If there is no God, then there is no creator — there is no designer of the universe and of humans. We are all just accidents of nature with no purpose and destined to be forgotten in the depths of time. This means that as much as you might wish otherwise there is no meaning to this world, humanity, or your own individual life.

While it may be possible to base your life upon those things that give you pleasure (as much as the hard edges of life allows) this is not the same as the idea that there is a point to your existence. In a purposeless, material universe, where we are just chance byproducts of chemistry, there’s no sense in which your life counts for something, reason for your being, or purpose to live your life one way versus another. You’re just a biological creature, like any other, that is here for a brief time reacting to stimulus. When things do not go your way, there is no asking “why?”, it’s just the way the cards were dealt in a purposeless game.

Sovereignty

“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice.”

Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist, atheist

Likewise, in a world without a higher power, there is no outside intervention into this world. This means that there is nothing guiding the course of events and nothing that can come to your aid. Just as it would then be meaningless to pray, you can’t ascribe purpose to anything that happens, good or bad. You could not say that anything was “meant to be” or that anything “happened for a reason.” As they say, “shit [just] happens.”

Additionally, where there is no designer or overseer, there is no one to whom you could credit for any beauty, wonder, or good fortune in life. There is no object for your gratitude; it’s all just dumb luck. Some who reject a personal God cannot rid themselves of the instinct to appeal to something higher. This is where they smuggle in substitutes like “the stars” or “the universe,” but this is either a placeholder for their vague idea of God or just hyperbole. Any idea of a universe that contains conscious, intentional power of this sort really doesn’t fit into an atheist framework.

Morality

“The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, not noticing that, in casting God aside, they have also abolished the conditions of meaningfulness for moral right and wrong as well. Thus, even educated persons sometimes declare that such things as war, or abortion, or the violation of certain human rights, are ‘morally wrong,’ and they imagine that they have said something true and significant.”

Richard Taylor, philosopher of ethics and metaphysics, atheist

In order for morality to be an objective thing, which applies to all persons no matter what they think about it, there has to be a moral law-giver that stands above humanity. If there is no God to author and ultimately enforce morality, then it’s essentially a human-construction. One might say it comes from government, or group consensus, or personal opinion, but any human convention can and will change over time, and there’s no sense of “improving” things if there’s no objective standard toward which to move. This means morality boils down to your personal preference for some things over others, and some goals over others. Gandhi had his goals and values, progressives have their, conservatives have theirs, and Islamic extremists have theirs. In a relativistic world there is nothing left but preferences and power plays.

This is one of the hardest pills to swallow, because we very much want to believe that our causes are just, that our enemies are wrong, and that our values are noble. Atheism threatens to cast all of that as a hollow conceit. It even removes the basis for making moral objections to theology, scripture, and religious practices. To reject God because He allowed the Holocaust also leaves you with no justification for calling it truly “evil.” This is why, even though most atheist philosophers have historically agreed with my point, many of the “new atheists” work very hard to deny it so that they can justify their moral positions. But there is no agreed upon grounding for morality and they will admit that an atheist is free to appeal to any ethical system he chooses, including relativism. Where all views of a thing are equally valid, the thing itself is effectively meaningless.

Rights

“The problem is that whatever attribute we use to differentiate between humans and animals — intelligence, language use, moral sentiments, and so on — will equally differentiate between human beings themselves. If people are more important to us than orangutans because they can articulate their interests, why aren’t more articulate people more important still? And what about those poor men and women with aphasia? It would seem that we have just excluded them from our moral community.”

Sam Harris, neuroscientist, philosopher, atheist

Universal human rights presuppose that each of us has unique, intrinsic value. The Founding Fathers asserted that our rights were endowed by God, and Scripture claims it is His own image within us that makes us special. If you dispense with this idea, what standard do you use to ground human rights?

We are not equal by any measure one could offer, such as fitness, talent, race, or intelligence. Even grounding it in our mere humanity is arbitrary, since there is no higher standard that would favor humans over the rest of the biological world, and some animals are more fit or intelligent than young, elderly, or disabled humans. Animal rights activists understand this and traffic in this “speciesist” notion. They point out the blight of the human race’s impact on nature, and do not temper that with any belief in the special value of humanity.

The loss of intrinsic human value leads to creative redefinitions for personhood and rights which traffics in things like contribution to society and a life worth living. This road leads to infanticide for the unwanted, eugenics for the unfit, and euthanasia for the elderly. We saw these ideas on display in Nazi Germany as well as, to an extent, the US and other European countries. However, they have been making a comeback in an increasingly secular western culture that has forgotten its dark past. But what principle does atheism offer you to object to any of this beyond your instinctive revulsion?

Mind

“Do not underestimate the likelihood of artificial thinking machines. Humankind is arriving at the horizon of the birth of a new intelligent race. Whether or not this intelligence is ‘artificial’ does not detract from the issue that the new digital populace will deserve moral dignity and rights, and a new law to protect them.”

Hutan Ashrafian, surgeon, atheist

With the rejection of God naturally comes the rejection of the spiritual realm in favor of a cosmos consisting only of matter, energy, and physics. This means there is no place for the idea of a “self” or “soul” that is distinct from the physical body. Our “mind” is then only a product of our physical brain. As some have characterized the brain, it is a “computer made of meat.”

It must then be concluded that what constitutes the mind is simply emergent properties of a sufficiently complex system. The prerequisite arrangement of matter may results in self-awareness, emotions, beliefs, intentions, and qualia. This means that the human mind is not unique, and may similarly be found or reproduced elsewhere. Other minds may well be found in random constructs in the universe, creatures on other planets, or other lifeforms on own planet, like the dolphin or even trees (why think it requires an animal-like brain?).

It also follows that we should, ourselves, be able to construct programs or machines that mimic the human mind. It’s pretty uncontroversial to claim that we can or will create things that act like humans (in at least particular ways), but the materialist conception of the mind suggests that such artificial intelligence could be every bit as self-aware as we are.

This has led some to conclude that AI robots must eventually be granted rights and personhood as full members of human society, and that they may even achieve a level of superiority over humans. A number of movies have traded on these themes, but often that leap from mere robot to self-aware machine (ironically) often comes as a result of some inexplicable event.

One of the main problems in all of this is that even if we create a system that mimics the outward behavior of a human, we could never, in principle, know what was going on inside of its “head” to confirm that it was a self-aware, feeling, and free creature. However, atheism give you no good reason to believe it could not be so.

Freewill

“The very first question we have to ask is: Are we human beings 100 percent governed by the laws of physics? Or do we, as conscious creatures, have some wiggle room that allows us to act in ways that are outside of the laws of physics? Almost all scientists will tell you that of course it’s the former.”

Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist and philosopher, atheist

If our mind really is merely a projection of our brain this would mean that all our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors are the product of this biological computer and its environmental inputs. Your genes and your experiences make you who you are, and you effectively have no choice in the matter. There’s nothing that stands apart from your physical self that could facilitate anything like a free choice to overrule your “flesh” and act on higher principles. This would call many things into question that we instinctively believe.

The idea of guilt is the first casualty, since a person’s criminal or anti-social behavior could be said to be due to bad genetics and/or upbringing. For such unfortunate persons, who are merely victims of their circumstances, the ideas of punishment and justice hardly apply. These are replaced with rehabilitation, improving their lot, and, at worst, comfortably quarantining them from the rest of society. Such ideas can be seen in modern judicial philosophy.

The other end of this equation is that there’s no grounds for praise for those who do well in life. They are merely the heirs of good genes and good life circumstances. Such people are not virtuous or worthy of considering the principles and choices they made leading to their success — it is essentially manifest destiny. We see this idea played out by those who most strongly believe in “social justice” to level the field between life’s lottery winners and losers, without factoring in any good or bad free choices made by either parties.

The most corrosive thing of all is that in a mental landscape lacking freewill, even the nature of your beliefs is suspect. We like to think we have come to our ideas by way of unencumbered reason and choice, but what grounds do you have for this where you mental states are mere products of your biochemistry? Indeed, some scientists have sought to prove that there are some brains wired for belief in God. But where brains can be wired for any belief, they can likewise be wired for unbelief in God. If atheism is true, it undermines your justification for believing atheism or anything else.

Science

“Science is an amazing, wonderful undertaking … But it has not revealed to us why the universe came into existence nor what preceded its birth in the Big Bang. Biological evolution has not brought us the slightest understanding of how the first living organisms emerged from inanimate matter … Neither does it explain … how consciousness arises in living things? Where do symbolic thinking and self-awareness come from? What is it that allows humans to understand the mysteries of biology, physics, mathematics, engineering and medicine? And what enables us to create great works of art, music, architecture and literature? Science is nowhere near to explaining these deep mysteries.”

Amir D. Aczel, mathematician, agnostic

In a universe with no creator or divine intervention all facts, effects, and questions must, in principle, be answerable by way of mindless “scientific” forces and causes. There would be no outside forces to appeal to for bridging functional chasms or loading the dice for improbable events. All the mysteries of the universe would be the atheist’s to answer, and any unanswerable question would either be due to lack of knowledge or an incorrect model of nature. In any case, all proposed theories will favor a non-supernatural explanation, no matter how outlandish or counter-intuitive, because a commitment to atheism demands it.

There are many unanswered questions for science, many of which are in line with our current knowledge and represent details and refinements on current theories that have every hope of being solved. However, some mysteries are of a different category and have been the subject of exploration for decades and even centuries. Science thus far has only served to deepen the mysteries and eliminate proposed explanations. Theism comes with its own questions, but the path of atheism puts all these enigmas into your lap and requires you to live with these deep existential mysteries.

Here are some important examples:

  • All empirical evidence tells us that this universe had a beginning. Where did it come from?
  • The laws and constants of physics seems to be fine-tuned for order, complexity, and life. Did we just get lucky?
  • Physicists and mathematicians often remark on the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics to describe reality. Why does the universe come equipped with a language to describe itself?
  • There is no evidence of life less complex than the modern bacteria, which is far too elaborate to produce from random chemistry. How did life come from raw chemistry?
  • The evolution of new species requires the massive injection of information (genes), which is likened to paragraphs, pages, and chapters of text. This also seems to come in spurts (biological big bangs, like the Cambrian Explosion). What is the mechanism for regularly creating new information in the cell?
  • Consciousness is a seemingly non-physical property of the brain, which neuroscientists and philosophers of the mind call the “hard problem.” How does matter become conscious?
  • Quantum physics suggests that human observers have an impact on the particles they measure. How is it that the mind, a presumed product of physics, can have an influence on the state of physical matter?

Offering naturalistic solutions to these problems has caused some theorists to descend into science fiction-like explanations, which can be impossible to experimentally prove, in principle. For example: There is a metaverse that created our universe and an infinite number of others, and we are just the heirs of one of the lucky ones with the right combination of forces and constants. There is some principle of yet-to-be-discovered self-organization that inevitably creates life wherever conditions allow. Consciousness is a property of the universe that precedes matter. The universe created itself from a quantum singularity of future exhaustive knowledge.

Atheism requires you to simply accept that these questions will someday be answered, or that such explanations are true regardless of supporting evidence. Theism provides answers for these and many other of the most pressing questions of existence, but atheism requires some things to just be taken on faith.

Closing

Embracing atheism has consequences. Removing God from your life is not like removing a piece of furniture from your house. It’s more like replacing the foundation, which impacts anything that has been built upon it. I’ve discussed several important things that are affected, but many more could be offered, like beauty and the arts, logic, truth, and even the reliability of our senses. In fact, every area of thought and life are affected, or are at least fair game for deconstruction by the universal acid that is atheism.

Now, all this doesn’t mean that atheism is false, it only points to the true scope of atheism’s impact on your beliefs and values. Of course, as an atheist you are free to live in a state of mental inconsistency, since, as with meaning and morality, atheists have no obligation toward truth itself (whatever that even means within atheism), but then you cannot claim to be an atheist as a result of a commitment to truth and reason. This means that an intentional, rational embrace of atheism (assuming we have freewill to do so) is not solely the elimination of belief in God, but comes accompanied by a big handful of pills to swallow.

Posted on June 21, 2022, in Atheism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. “I pointed out that atheism is not a neutral position and is justified only if it, too, can provide answers for the hard questions of science and human experience.”

    atheism is a neutral position, since there is no evidence for a god. We are taking things as they appear. You claim that some magical being exists and does things. Okay, show the evidence for it.

    And nope, atheism doesn’t have to provide answers at all. it is a conclusion. Worldviews, like Stoicism, Christianity, etc do have to provide answers. Unfortunately, none of these can show that their answers are true.

    I was a Christian. I am not now. Nothing changed at all, no lack of foundation, etc. Chritianity is a series of baseless opinions, and even Christians can’t agree on them. I still appreciate art, logic and truth. I have found out that Christianity offers none of these.

    There is no “mental inconsistency” at all. Morals come from humans, not some magical being. Thus morality is indeed subjective and can change. Meaning is invented by humans, and trruth is easy to find when you aren’t expecting magic to happen. I am not burdened by the need to shoehorn a god into this.

    I can most certainly claim to be an atheist “as a result of a commitment to truth and reason.” It’s so nice that you try to make such claims with no evidence to support them at all.

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    • Perhaps the other article I referenced would be better suited to you. In there I tackle the “just a neutral position” head-on.

      Atheism’s Burden of Proof

      Atheism is a wordview like any other. It comes with necessary (or implied) beliefs and it has to make sense in its own way of the observations of this world, many of which I enumerate in the other article. However, there is much flexibility in atheism, because there is no incumbency in a godless universe to adhere to any principle of reason or action (not that some atheists don’t give it a go). As you’ve said yourself, morals are subjective and meaning is a human invention. These are implications of the atheist’s worldview that are distinct from a view that the universe is created for a purpose. If these and the many other beliefs of materialism did not change for you upon rejecting Christianity I have to wonder exactly what you thought Christianity to be. I certainly underwent a renaissance in thinking when going from a secular to a Christian worldview. You would consider it a devolution, but it at least made a difference.

      I don’t like to inflate the dialogs too far beyond the scope of my posts, but I do want to comment on this in a way that is in line with it: “We are taking things as they appear.”

      A theist might say the exact same thing.

      It could be said that theists take the observation that the universe had a beginning at face value, or that fine-tuning in the laws of physics are exactly because it *was* designed, or that life from chemistry seems a miraculous mystery because it *was* a miracle, or that the “hard problem of consciousness” is hard exactly because matter and mind are categorically different things, or, as Dawkins said, “biology [gives] the appearance of having been designed for a purpose” precisely because it *was* designed, or that morality feels objective to us because it actually *is*, and, as the king of Siam said, “etc., etc., etc.”

      Now, you certainly have plenty to say about all of that (most of which I will have heard and debated before), but to give an answer to these kinds of things will require you to reach into your catechism of materialist doctrines in order to exegete nature for me.

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      • Oh no, your failed claim about neutral positions are quite sufficient here to point out, dear.

        Atheism is a conclusion, that there are no god or gods. Christians are atheists too, since you all aver that there are no gods other than your own, though you can’t show this to be the case. Atheists can have all sorts of worldviews, from nihilism to capitalism, to stoicism to Christianity.

        Atheism has no more necessary or implied beliefs other than there are no god or no gods. I also love your entirely baseless claim that for some reason atheism doesn’t have to adhere to reason. Do explain that. You see, Pruett, you simply make rules up for atheism so you might attack your very own strawmen, in order to demonize atheism.

        I am glad you agree that morals are subjective and meaning is a human invention. You have yet to show that the universe is made for a purpose or what that purpose supposedly is. What you insist is supposed required for atheism simply isn’t. I also love that you then try to claim that I must have misunderstood Chrsitainity. Happily, I have not, and am quite aware of all of the versions of Christianity that Christians have invented. I do wonder, how did your thoughts change when you became whatever variant of Christian you are?

        There is no evidence that a theist takes things as they appear since they must make up excuses on why their god can’t be found, Pruett. Do show evidence your version of the Christian god exists.

        You mention “fine-tuning”, one of the most amusing arguments that Christians try to use. Unfortunately, for you, there is no evidence that there is indeed “fine-tuning” at all. Humans fit the universe, there is no evidence that the universe was made to fit humans. We also have no idea how far off the supposed “constants” that we could be and still get the same thing.

        There is no sign of “design” either, nor that any particular god, yours included, did it. For example, you claim design and your perfect god did it. One would have to wonder why this supposed “perfect” god managed to put the esophagus beside the trachea and kill thousand of its supposed favorite species every year. If you wish to claim design, go ahead since it shows an incompetent designer. Are you good with that?

        You claim chemistry a “miracle”. There is no evidencen of that or of any miracles at all. And considering that, per your bible, JC himself promised that all of his followers would be able to to miracles like him, it seems you are all frauds. You also falsely claim that “consciousness” is a miracle, when all you have for that nonsense is that we haven’t found out how it works *yet*. Your “miracles” depend on humans never doing another minute of research. We may never entirely figure it out, and that still doesn’t mean your god did anything at all. I also love the quote-mining of Christians, when Dawkins doesn’t agree with your baseless claims at all.

        You have yet to show morality is anything but subjective. Indeed, your own morality is subjective since Christians excuse their god when it does heinous things that they, hopefully, would be horrified if a human did the same. Your morality is subject to who does something, not the objective morality of an action. This usually ends up as a morality of nothing more than might equals right. And the fact that Christians can’t agree on what they want to pretend their god considers moral, you have nothing to stand on at all. Just what you baselessly claim.

        Oh dear, “materialist doctrines”. What are those, Pruett? I’m afraid I have no idea what you’ve made up there. And “exegete nature”? Oh such big words. So, do tell how you want me to explain nature. Physics? Biology? Chemistry? Geology?

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      • I’m tempted to answer you point by point, as I’ve had a tendency to do in past dialogs, but I’d really like to stay focused on the main point of this post rather than go down the many rabbit holes you’ve placed here. I’m not much inclined to respond to “new atheist” ridicule, or offer a comprehensive case for Christianity here, so I’ll stick to elaborating and refining my current thesis. To that end, I’ll respond to some of those things that are worth clarifying or can move the ball forward in thinking about the atheist worldview.

        “Christians are atheists too, since you all aver that there are no gods other than your own”

        There is a metaphysical difference between believing in a particular God and believing in no God at all. When you get to zero, there are certain premises that are just off the table. It’s like watching a long train and debating over how many engines are pulling it. Saying “zero” is a different claim than saying just “one.”

        “Atheists can have all sorts of worldviews, from nihilism to capitalism, to stoicism to Christianity.”

        Perhaps I should clarify what I mean by a worldview. It is a foundational, metaphysical position upon which all other particular beliefs are built. Something like capitalism, communism, or anarchy are not worldviews, but only political views that may be influenced by one’s worldview. Nihilism would be a similar subsequent position (involving one’s view on value, purpose, morality, etc.), though it more consistently fits into the atheistic worldview than any other I can imagine. Things like classical Stoicism and Christianity can more accurately be considered worldviews, since they make claims about the very nature of the world, but then also offer details on how we are to respond to it. While atheism is a worldview that suggests certain truths, it doesn’t offer any imperatives on what to do about any of this, and so you can find atheists holding to various ethical, social, and political sub-philosophies.

        “I am glad you agree that morals are subjective and meaning is a human invention.”

        I did not “agree” with this; I only indicated that it was consistent with atheism. This is a crucial point about atheism, and one that has consequences as we’ll come to starting on the next point.

        “[my] baseless claim that for some reason atheism doesn’t have to adhere to reason. Do explain that.”

        To say that one *must* adhere to any given thing is a moral claim. A commitment to logic is one such thing, and where moral relativism rules the day, logic, like anything else, may be selectively redefined or applied.

        “you then try to claim that I must have misunderstood Christianity. … how did your thoughts change when you became whatever variant of Christian you are?”

        I said this because you said that going from a Christian to an atheist made no difference in your thinking, which suggests to me either an anemic form of Christianity or a casual application of it. In my case I moved from a theologically liberal (yet functionally atheistic) perspective to a classical Christian position, and it had a profound impact on me.

        I loved cosmology, yet had never really put the pieces of the origin and design of the universe together like I can now. I liked nature, yet never really thought of it as manifesting design, and I became fascinated with biochemistry and started allowing myself to hear the design arguments. I was a moral relativist and liberal on social issues, then became a moral realist and began applying both natural and special revelation to various issues. It changed the way I thought of consciousness and it discouraged me from thinking that AI would ever reach self-awareness. It changed the way I thought about human nature and psychology. It rekindled my interest in philosophy, because it offered foundational truths upon which I could build knowledge, rather than just being a depressing tool for deconstructing everything. Since I started believing that the world had meaning and ideas had consequences, I started caring about history and current events, and began preferring non-fiction to fiction. I became less of a narcissist, realized my faults were important, and started curbing behaviors. It modified my view on marriage, the nature of love, and sexual teleology and ethics. But I’m getting into the weeds now.

        “There is no evidence that a theist takes things as they appear since they must make up excuses on why their god can’t be found”

        Leaving aside those cases where people have had experiences with God, God’s fingerprints on nature and theism-as-the-best-explanation are legitimate evidences. My argument in the other article makes the case that we have some deep mysteries in nature and human experience, which atheism likewise is required to give an answer to. More in points below.

        “You mention “fine-tuning”, one of the most amusing arguments that Christians try to use.”

        Diving into this is off-topic (though one I love and is on my short-list to write about, again), but I do want to point out that this is not just an amusing argument from Christians. This is a matter of speculation and research by some of the top physicists who could hardly be called Christian. I don’t even need to make the case, as they’ve done it so well for me in book-length treatments. Sample article:
        https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/our-improbable-existence-is-no-evidence-for-a-multiverse/
        The only real question is what to do about the observation of “apparent” fine-tuning. Atheists have their speculative answers, Christians are willing to hear them, but the face-value observation is…fine tuning.

        “You claim chemistry a ‘miracle’.”

        This is also a rabbit hole (that I have a similar love affair with), so I’ll just clarify. It’s not that chemistry is a miracle (though fine-tuning has things to say about complex chemistry), but that life arising from raw chemistry seems miraculous, especially given that the simplest thing we have evidence of is as complex as modern bacteria. Some years back I remember watching a couple different (secular) videos on early earth history and in both cases they actually filled in the abiogenesis void by saying “then a miracle occurred.” I know they were just being scientifically sloppy, but there’s really been no workable theories established since then. Again, though, it’s a big functional lacuna just in the kind of place one might expect in a theistic universe.

        “Your ‘miracles’ depend on humans never doing another minute of research. We may never entirely figure it out”

        Not so. They turn out to be perennial problems where much work *has* been done and the mysteries have only deepened as a result. In some cases it was the research that turned up new mysteries. Some problems are categorically different than what science has proven to solve in the past. And if theism is true, then intractable problems of certain kinds will exist and should serve, at least in theory, as evidence. Science-of-the-gaps does not eternally carry the argument (in spite of how one atheist responded to my question of how long we should wait until we figure it out: “until humanity goes extinct.”)

        “I also love the quote-mining of Christians, when Dawkins doesn’t agree with your baseless claims at all.”

        I wasn’t implying that Dawkins agreed that it was designed for a purpose. I was just showing that he admits that it “appears” so, which was germane to the point I was trying to make.

        “Christians excuse their god when it does heinous things”

        Here’s where that moral relativism comes back to haunt you, because to object to God or any Christian behavior it first has to be the case that your objection is something more than personal distaste.

        “‘materialist doctrines’. What are those?”

        In your worldview grab-bag alone, you’ve pulled out (to paraphrase): moral subjectivism, meaning is ours to define, a throw-away response to fine-tuning, the still-working-on-it defense of abiogenesis, and a round-about nod to evolution as the creation story. The “materialist doctrines” are those alternate explanations and metaphysical denials that I encounter in every exchange with atheists. If atheism is nothing other than lack of belief in God with no consequent beliefs, then it’s weird that I should have such a common experience with every one I talk to. The big issues have categorical similarity, but I’ll grant that there are different flavors in how each fleshes things out, like what they do with their ethical liberty or how they deflect the fine-tuning question.

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      • I always love the claim of “metaphysical difference” since that means you have nothing at all, Pruett. Again, you are an atheist, just like me. And why do you doubt that other gods exist? I’m guessing that its because there is no evidence for them. Just like me.

        I’ll be back in a few days to disassemble the rest of your excuses.

        and still no evidence for fine-tuning. Shucks.

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      • Look, Vel, I appreciate you being willing to invest the time here to mock one of us poor, deluded, intellectually inferior Christians, but I’d like to set some ground rules (which I seldom have need to do). If you’re just looking for a place to trash with your snark and ire toward religion, then I’m not interested. If you’re wanting to spam all your objections to Christianity and get me to write a book in response, I’m also not interested. If I thought you were actually interested in hearing my take on anything and kicking around ideas in good faith, then this might be different. As it stands, it looks like you’re here just to trample the “pearls”, so to speak.

        My preference is that the comments expand upon, refine, or challenge the point of the article. You’re going far afield of that, though I’m tempted to take the bait because of my interest in some of the topics. If you’ve got further things to say about what is and is not consistent with atheism then you’re welcome to play here. Otherwise we’re done and you risk a rare blocking.

        I’ve got two blog topics on my to-do list that are in line with your last two challenges:
        Pink Unicorns and Flying Spaghetti Monsters
        Fine Tuning and the Puddle Analogy

        You can keep an eye out for those and engage in the comments where you think I’ve rationally missed the boat.

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      • clubschadenfreude, I want to let you (and the readers) know that I’ve put your recent reply back into pending status until I can determine whether it’s worth my time to respond to it and you. It gives no indication of interest in an actual dialog, understanding the points I’m making, or being civil. I don’t get the sense that any of that was even the intent. Shotgun comments with a demand to answer every iota, framing topics in your own particular way, and requiring me to offer a complete apologetic defense of Christianity (to your own satisfaction) here in this comment thread are no invitation to dialog. I’ve had many interesting and productive dialogs with bright atheists in the past, but this isn’t of that nature.

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    • Clubschadenfreude, I’m curious about one thing you said. Well, actually two things you said. On the one hand, you said, “Atheism is a conclusion, that there are no god or gods.” Then in the very next sentence you said, “Christians are atheists, too, since you all aver that there are no gods other than your own, though you can’t show this to be the case.” If Christians believe in one God, but atheists believe in NO gods, then how can Christians be atheists?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hello Sam,

        If a Christian says that Odin doesn’t exist, this means he has come to the conclusion that this god, Odin, doesn’t exist. Since atheism is defined as not believing in a god, or gods, this is how a Chrsitain is an atheist.

        Being a theist doesn’t mean you can’t be an atheist, Sam, since there are many gods claimed to be real.

        I say that the Christian god, God/Yahweh/ YHWH/jesus/holy spirit does not exist because there is no evidence.

        Sam says that Zeus does not exist because there is no evidence. Sam says that God/
        Yawheh/YHWH/Jesus/Holy Spirit exists.

        Abdul says that Allah exists. Abdul says that God/Yahweh/YHWH/Jesus/Holy Spirit doesn’t exist.

        Most theists are terrified to be called an atheist too. It removes what they imagine to be a potent weapon in their arsenal. When it is pointed out that they are atheists too, they find that they can’t claim that various horrible things are somehow caused by atheism. One of these would be how many Christians try to claim that atheism caused various genocides because Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao etc were atheists. They can’t try to claim that it is okay for their god to commit genocide if they can’t claim that atheists commit genocide too if atheism doesn’t do such a thing. And, Sam, its megalomania that often causes genocide, like in those three instances.

        Now, i do think it would be clearer if the term “pan-atheist” was used to describe us atheists who have concluded that there are no gods at all, like me. But as it stands, atheist doesn’t mean disbelieving in all gods, just any god.

        Understood? Or do you have any questions?

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  2. I think this is a pretty good post. My only reservation is in conflating atheism with naturalism. I don’t see how it follows that if there are no gods, then there is no spirit world at all. Of course if there is a spiritual world, then that does raise the question of origins, and maybe one could run a kind of “cosmological” argument for a God from the existence of spirits. That sort of reasoning would have to be fleshed out, though. Is that what you had in mind? I used to have an atheist friend a long time ago who believed in life after death. He was not a naturalist. Of course I admit he was a rare bird. But on the surface, I don’t think his view was inconsistent. Or if it was, the inconsistency would require a bit of argument to bring out.

    You said that none of your points disprove atheism, but I do think each one of them could be used as the basis for an argument for theism. Each argument would go something like this. . .

    1. If there is no God, then such and such would be the consequence.
    2. But such and such isn’t actually the case.
    3. Therefore, there is a God.

    I think it was a great touch to quote atheists, showing that many atheists have recognized the consequence of their atheism. Not all have. But you are simply agreeing with them.

    Sam

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey old friend. I enjoy seeing you here.

      You’re right about the atheism/naturalism thing, and I hesitated a bit on blurring the lines there. Perhaps it is a theoretical possibility to have a non-physical plane where conscious entities exist. I think it’s probably a niche belief, and I’ve never encountered someone holding that view that didn’t also put deities within it. It seems a larger metaphysical leap from naturalism to a spiritual reality than it would be from a spirit reality with just “normal” persons in it to one with a powerful one in it. Perhaps a godless cosmos with a supernatural layer would offer some flexibility here, but I think it puts a hole in the boat of atheism.

      I agree with your cumulative argument, and even each individual point could succeed for a given person to act as a proof. For instance, the moral argument: moral relativism may actually be true, but if you are intent upon retaining moral realism then your attempt to ground that may lead you to theism. Many people, though, are fine just believing what they believe without making sense of it in a larger context.

      The quote inserts were a late consideration after I realized I should have constructed my arguments around quotes to begin with. Some sections were harder to find relevant quotes for than others, but there’s gold mines out there for things like meaning, morality, mind, and freewill. The whole point of the article really shouldn’t be too controversial, other than some bickering over things in the science section that some atheists are convinced to be non-issues. But even there the argument can be made between them and other atheists who *do* take such things to be problematic. Fine-tuning is one such thing, and it’s why another article on that is on my to-do list.

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  1. Pingback: What happens to your worldview if you reject a Creator / moral lawgiver? | WINTERY KNIGHT

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