Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The argument that DISPROVES ATHEISM

Some of my Facebook friends have recently signaled that they “like” something called “The argument that DISPROVES ATHEISM” (Update: Just clicking on the link triggers a "like" in Facebook, whether one actually likes it or not). I tried to see what the argument was via Facebook, but the link seemed not to work. Maybe the system automatically detected I was an Atheist!

Thanks to Bypass Facebook Fan Pages, I went to a site called Sharefaith, which had a page called “Christian Arguments Against Atheism” (update: apparently, the site cycles new articles every day or so--or maybe they switched to a different article). I braced myself for a powerful shock to my Atheistic worldview and read on….
There are two major belief systems in the world: atheistic and theistic. The atheistic worldview presupposes the non-existence of any gods. Theists believe in the existence of a god or gods. In this article, we will critique the strong atheistic belief.
What the fuck? Atheism as a belief system? I’m sorry, but I don’t think it’s accurate to say that Atheists systematically disbelieve in gods. Do Christians systematically disbelieve in Zeus? Do Jews systematically disbelieve in Jesus? There's an important difference between an asserted set of co-dependent beliefs, a belief system, and rejection of the single argument that gods exist or have existed.Moreover, while theists enact their faith through contrived rituals and prescribed behaviors, Atheists enact their opinion in a more ad-hoc fashion: someone makes a stupid claim about religion and/or Atheism, for example, and we respond. The writer seems to confuse atheism with materialism, which in my opinion is more like a belief system.

The key error that begins the article is the idea of presumption on the part of the Atheist. To many theists, Atheists reject the existence of gods without proof that gods don’t actually exist. This statement is true in a simplistic way, yet it is more accurate to say that we accept naturalistic explanations because they do have verification, and these naturalistic explanations are often far and away superior to theistic ones, which are often either superfluous or without evidence.

So, Atheism as a belief system? No. Atheism as a presumption against your favorite god? Not really. But let’s move on.
Strong atheists completely deny any form of deity. The existence of true atheist beliefs has been debated over the years, and strong atheism has many inherent flaws in its argument. This kind of claim, called a "universal negative" is impossible to prove or disprove unless one has universal oversight. One who professes to be a strong atheist must first prove that he or she is omniscient (all knowing), and then proceed to assert the fact that there is no god (a universal negative), based on such universal knowledge. Epistemologists, axiologists, philosophers, and theologians concur that it is untenable and logically impossible for anyone to prove a universal negative.
The above makes a floppy paragraph, so we better take it slow.
  • Sentence 1: OK, but I would make “deity” plural, since there are very many proposed deities and demigods. 
  • Sentence 2, Part 1: It would be nice to get some substance around the idea of these debates over “true” Atheist beliefs. 
  • Sentence 2, Part 2: Strong Atheism doesn’t just have flaws, but inherent flaws. I’d love to learn more about the innateness of Strong Atheism’s flaws, but I bet that the writer simply thought the word “inherent” made the text sound more authoritative. 
  • Sentence 3: Refers to sentence 1, but the basic point is that Strong Atheists are too certain in their denial of gods. These Strong Atheists are making a universal negative claim without universal oversight! Unfortunately, most Strong Atheists I know very carefully distinguish between absolute knowledge—which we don’t claim, and yes, I consider myself a Strong Atheist—and virtual certainty. Our basic position often amounts to something like this: There are already so many naturalistic explanations that far exceed theistic explanations that we have no reason to value any theistic proposition especially. Until theistic explanations can marshal direct physical evidence in their favor, it’s unreasonable to prefer them over explanations that do have direct support. 
  • Sentence 4: Theists must love this, since no one I know would ever claim publicly to have omniscience. 
  • Sentence 5: Loosely translated, this says “No one can prove God doesn’t exist.” True enough, no one (yet) can prove this, but the Atheistic point is that it’s not necessary to prove God doesn’t exist.
Let’s continue. Can the argument get any worse?
Not only is the claim of no god impossible to prove, but it is also inherently contradictory. A strong atheist must deny divinity by attributing man with divine abilities. Common atheistic beliefs include that man is a finite being and can only obtain knowledge through personal experience and application, i.e., science. (Theists differ in this because knowledge can be revealed to man through acts of the divine, i.e. revelation.) The strong atheist must possess all the knowledge of the universe.
Well, there’s another “inherent” word—the writer really likes those! More serious is the abject stupidity of the paragraph. Those who have read my previous posts should know that I do not and would not use an expression like “abject stupidity” lightly. I have no idea why the author thinks a Strong Atheist “must” attribute man with divine abilities. This is a patently absurd claim, not least of all because a Strong Atheist rejects divine abilities as well as divinities. The next sentence reduces science to “personal experience and application,” with that oddly inserted word “application.” I suppose application covers experiment, methodology, consistent terminology, technology, quantification, and so on. Finally, we reach the high-water mark of malicious, dangerous stupidity with “The strong atheist must possess all the knowledge of the universe.” Huh? We must? How d’ya figure?

Thankfully, the article quickly gets to its conclusion.
It can be concluded that a strong atheistic worldview, no matter how eloquently explained, is impractical and illogical. Clinging to a strong atheistic view requires that one must reject scientific and philosophical evidence.
Unfortunately, these two statements are simply unsupported assertions. They are also incorrect, but I’m actually more irritated that the thrust of the claims remains unsubstantiated. Impractical—how? Illogical—in what way? “Clinging” to Strong Atheism requires no such rejection of scientific and philosophic evidence. Just the opposite, in fact. Strong Atheism is a perfectly reasonable inference from science and philosophy, and as substantiation I will offer some of my earlier posts that touch on matters of science and philosophy.
And so we reach the final paragraph of this article. Please remember that the article was billed as “The argument that DISPROVES ATHEISM” and titled “Christian Arguments Against Atheism.”
Typical self-proclaimed atheists are truly unaware of what atheism really is. Few people do not realize that their professed disbelief in god is a belief that is fallacious, self-contradictory, and unprovable. When a Christian better understands the claims of the atheists, it provides the ability to better defend one's faith. Christians need not attempt to logically persuade others to become a Christian, but rather should attempt to explain their faith from the Bible. The act of regeneration is something that the Holy Spirit alone can do. We as Christians have the responsibility to boldly proclaim our faith and pray for nonbelievers.
Sentences 1 and 2 are simple name-calling. Sentence 3 is actually dangerous because it raises the possibility that the Christian seeking understanding of Atheist claims might actually go to Atheists to hear the claims. However, notice that the article has abruptly shifted from the Strong Atheist to the general Atheist, gliding over the nuances separating the positions. The other danger for the Christian is going to the Bible—not some of it but all of it. The Bible is one of the more effective “de-converters” of religious believers because a lot of what the good book says is bizarre, irrelevant, tyrannical, and evil.
See, for example:
Maybe I'm a "typical self-proclaimed" atheist, but I am aware of what Atheism and Theism truly are. Obviously, this poorly-written, un-researched, and un-reasoned article is written by believers for believers. In the end, the believers congregate together “to boldly proclaim our faith and pray for nonbelievers.” To them I say go and pray if it floats your boat. Pray for an amputee to grow a limb back. Proclaim your faith amongst yourselves, but don’t try to convince me what you’re doing is anything other than what it really is, a circle jerk.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems the big argument that disproves Atheism was nothing more than a weak parry against Strong Atheism: Strong Atheists are not omniscient! This is a sad, sad argument. Sadder still is the time I wasted in reading the "disproof." Saddest of all is that people would actually give this article a "like." The joke's on them, I'm afraid.


  1. Great article and I particularly like your tag "nutbuggery"

  2. fantastic article, I'm excited to read the rest of the blog!!

  3. I read until this point:
    Q:"Do Christians systematically disbelieve in Zeus?"

    Q: "Do Jews systematically disbelieve in Jesus?"
    A: They systematically disbelieve he was God's son.

  4. Thanks for the post. I recently saw this "liked" by someone as well and expected it was just another self-aggrandizing Christian diatribe. Nothing new, move along people...

  5. @James,

    I think you (and the author of the "disproving" article) are playing fast and loose with the definition of "systematically." Unlike religions, atheism has no founder and no prescriptions of what to think or say. Atheism does not dictate behavior or establish a social/political hierarchy; religions do. Atheism does not establish certain days as holy, and does not require people to perform certain rites or to refrain from other acts on these days. So, where is the system?

  6. The "liking" is actually a scam on Facebook. Just clicking the link causes your account to post a link saying you "like" it. Go ahead and check your wall - it should say the same thing.

    Regardless, great article.

  7. I don't think you did justice to the claim about divine attributes. The point is, I think, that to make the strong atheist claim would require one to have divine attributes - that is, omniscience. I think this is true - you could only justifiably make that particular claim with omniscience. I don't think it's helpful to the attempt to disprove general atheism, though.

    I really liked the way you went after him on Zeus. Consider the Shema. Either you interpret it in the traditional way, or you interpret it as the words actually suggest. In the first case, it's a strong atheist statement about all claimed gods other than YHVH. Hence, if the complaints in the original argument were valid, they'd apply here too. On the other hand, if you interpret it correctly, then early Hebrews were polytheistic, and the Christian is left in an odder position explaining what's wrong with Zeus.

  8. Puzzled,

    Thanks for the comment. You may have a point that I don't completely engage the claim that the strong atheist (SA) position requires the SA to be omniscient.

    I duck it a bit by arguing that the SA position is actually different than what the article criticizes. I think my argument is right, and if so, the real SA claim is not one that actually requires the SA to herself/himself have divine attributes (such as omniscience).

    On the other hand, does the SA position as the article presents it require omniscience on the part of the atheist? I don't think so.

    Omniscience, as I understand it, is the idea of knowing everything that is true. In denying the biblical God or other deities, the atheist is not claiming to know all true propositions; the atheist is instead pointing out the falsehood of god-assertion. One doesn't need to be omniscient to point out that the god-assertion is false, unproven, or weaker than other explanations of the same phenomena.

    1. Boo. Your post is an ad hominem attack. In the comments, you admit To ducking the omniscience being required for SA to be tenable issue. Subsequently, you go on to tailor the definition of omniscience to suit your cause...weak dude. A man of your apparent intelligence ought to know that omniscience means total awareness and Knowledge of all things. I don't think we will get many objections on that. So then, if that's true, then you would necessarily be omniscient if you could truthfully claim that you Know of Gods non-existence...or to phrase it another way, that you know God doesn't exist. Why use rhetoric to duck a good point?Also, I don't view the presence or absence of the word "systematic" as being important to the overall argument, regardless of whether it's well chosen.
      Before you paint me a bible-thumping troll, you should know that I don't believe in the existence of any God. I don't carry such a belief around with me because I don't have sufficient evidence to justify that belief. On the other hand, I also do not believe that there isn't a God. I don't carry that belief around for the exact same reason. Am I FORCED to have a belief about the existence/absence of an entity that I've never never had a direct experience of??
      The reason you had to do some ducking is that SA is begging the question. By this I mean that in order to prove your point, you must either pre-suppose it or hide it in the premises...or duck it altogether.
      You've quit your blog, so I doubt this will reach you


Feel free to comment if you have something substantial and substantiated to say.