I usually don’t do this, following various blogs around to comment on their posts here. In fact, I don’t read a lot of blogs these days and if I have a comment, almost without exception, I’ll just post it there and probably forget to follow any responses. I just don’t have the kind of time I once did. However, today I happened to get linked to this blog guest post here and someone posted a response to it here, so I’m going to make a response to the response here. Make sense?
First off though, I want to say that I largely agree with the author, there are some blogs out there, atheist and otherwise, that make you jump through a lot of hoops to be able to comment. There is one popular one, in fact, that makes you log into your Facebook or Twitter account in order to comment. I have neither, I won’t have either, therefore I cannot comment on that blog. Certainly, they are welcome to have whatever restrictions they like, they’re just costing themselves reader participation. I wanted to make it clear that I’m not criticizing the author at Atheism Analyzed in any way, at least not as far as his posting decisions go.
That said though, the author says that he (I’m assuming he’s male, forgive me if I’m wrong) is a former atheist turned theist. Alright, I’m not going to argue, but he also says that he’s going to analyze atheism without resorting to theism, deism, or fantasy. Yet all the way through this reply, that’s all he does. He doesn’t use the word, but he’s constantly comparing atheism to theism, contrasting what atheists supposedly do to what theists supposedly do and he makes the clear conclusion that theists have it right and atheists have it wrong. We don’t need to see the word “God” in order to know that’s really what he’s talking about and since I’m not bound by any such restrictions, I’m absolutely going to put the terminology back in place. This kind of “hands-off-religion” thing isn’t all that original, to be honest. Mostly, it’s done so that the apologist can avoid having their beliefs criticized. “Oh no!” they cry, “I’m not talking about Christianity or religion or anything else, I’m just criticizing atheism!” However, whether you’re being open about it or not, you are comparing atheism to something else, that other thing is clearly theism. As such, I’m going to treat it as it actually is and be open in my criticism of theism and demonstrate that your attacks on atheism are unfounded. There is certainly a bias at work here, but hey, people are entitled to be biased, so long as those biases are rationally derived, so let’s continue and evaluate the response in detail, shall we?
Atheism is dangerous. It claims logic and evidence for itself, but it cannot prove its own position with either logic or evidence. Its main thesis is Materialism which is demonstrably false, being unable to prove its own tenets under its own evidentiary theory, rendering it non-coherent and irrational. Further, Atheist reasoning is post hoc rationalization, and never syllogistic deduction: so it is demonstrably irrational.
We have someone here who, as is far too common, doesn’t have a clue what atheism actually is. That’s funny, considering they claim to have been one for 40 years. Let’s make this clear. Atheism is an answer to a single question, nothing more. “Do you believe in any gods?” If you answer yes, you are a theist, if you answer no, you are an atheist. Full stop. That is all the word means. Trying to attach any further meaning to the term is blatantly dishonest. Any claims of materialism or the like is fully and entirely outside of what atheism means, although I’m sure the apologist will disagree because they need to attach other things to it in order to have any hope of making a point. I will though, for the sake of argument, go with the flow and act as though atheism also includes these other elements.
Atheism, he says, claims logic and evidence for itself. How so? Logic and evidence are the province of critical thinking, something essential for *ALL* forms of rational evaluation. Logic, critical thinking, indeed the scientific method, are all methodologies for determining the most rational and factually correct solution to a problem. I have yet to see an atheist declare that theists are not allowed to use logic or evidence. In fact, I’ve seen atheists beg theists to use them. Unfortunately, the vast majority of theist claims don’t include either of these things. They may try to apply the term “evidence” to things that simply do not qualify, but evidence, like logic, has a specific meaning and anything that doesn’t qualify simply isn’t evidence. Empty claims, without objective evidence, violating established laws of logic, catering to well understood flaws and fallacies, simply cannot be held up as credible uses of logic and evidence. I’d love to have a debate with a theist using nothing but logic and evidence. Unfortunately, to a Christian, evidence is “the Bible says” or “God says”, neither of which is evidence because God has not been demonstrated to factually exist and the Bible has not been demonstrated to be a reliable source of information. You can have faith in those, but they are not evidence.
He claims that materialism is demonstrably false. When was this demonstrated? The reality is, we have no evidence of anything else beyond the material world. Theists want to believe there is more, but they simply have not provided a shred of objective evidence that it’s actually so. Until they are able to provide evidence or use logic to show that something exists beyond the material, no one is obligated to take their empty claims seriously. Science isn’t required to prove that only the material universe exists, it rests solely on those claiming that something else is real to demonstrate that it is so. I don’t have to prove unicorns aren’t real either, I just don’t have to take them seriously without corroboratory evidence.
As I was saying before, we use logic and evidence as tools for determining the most likely solution to questions. The goal of science is to reach a true understanding of the universe around us, not to embrace something that makes us feel good. One of the most important tools that we have is the concept of falsifiability. That says, among other things, that if taking a position among two in conflict, choosing the one which is most easily falsified is best. That does not mean that we claim said position is true, just that it is the best option to adopt given it’s ability to be proven wrong. I mentioned unicorns before, I’ll use those in an example. I cannot prove that unicorns do not exist. However, there are really only two options here, either they exist or they do not. They cannot both exist and not exist, nor can they neither exist nor not exist. It is a binary proposition. We could go into a whole discussion about the nature of evidence, but that’s a topic for another time. Let’s just simplify it and acknowledge that we have no evidence that unicorns do exist and no evidence that unicorns do not exist. So which side do we pick? Logically, we have to pick the “unicorns do not exist” side because of falsifiability. In order to falsify my position that unicorns are not real, you only have to produce a single example of unicorns actually existing. Bring me a unicorn. You’ve proven me wrong. To adopt the other position, what would it take to falsify the claim that unicorns are real? You’d have to search everywhere on the planet and prove that there are no unicorns anywhere. For all you know, unicorns exist on one tiny island somewhere in the South Pacific. Worse, maybe unicorns only exist on a planet circling Upsilon Andromadae. How do you go about checking that out? Clearly, you can’t, which makes the second claim unfalsifiable. If you substitute “gods” for “unicorns”, the problem remains. Gods are often very ill-defined or defined in such a way to make finding them through scientific means impossible. Thus, the only rational position one can take is that gods, provisionally, do not exist until someone can demonstrate a single objective example that they do.
This has been a long way to explain why materialism is also the only rational argument one can make. We have trillions of examples of material things, no one has ever produced any evidence of a non-material thing. Until someone does, there’s no reason to take claims of the supernatural seriously. It’s nothing personal, it’s just being logical.
Atheism has no attached moral theory; Atheists get to make up their own morals du jour, tailored to match their own behaviors. When a theory is made to match behaviors, rather than behaviors made to match the theory, the theory is not a moral theory, it is a self-indulgence which is used to claim morality where it does not and cannot exist.
Atheism is not a worldview, it has no requirement to have a moral theory. Yet again, we see an empty claim by a theist about atheism which they clearly do not understand. Certainly you can find a non-religious moral system, secular humanism certainly is one such system to which many atheists subscribe. However, let’s keep assuming that morality is somehow attached to atheism and evaluate it that way. All we have to do is look at the evidence worldwide to find that there just isn’t any single moral standard and never has been. Morality changes regularly. What we think is right today is often rethought and considered wrong tomorrow. There was a time when slavery was not only moral but religiously commanded in America. The great majority of people who supported slavery did so with Biblical justification. They were convinced that God wanted blacks to be slaves, many because they thought blacks bore the Mark of Cain and were being punished. However, today you’d be hard pressed to find more than a handful of people who thought that way. Society, and thus morality changed. Morals are entirely secular in their origin and vary from society to society and time to time. Gay marriage is a big social issue today, declared by many religious people to be the biggest moral issue around. 50 years ago, civil rights and interracial marriage were the “big social issues”. 100 years before that, slavery and so on. If you go back through the writings of the day, you essentially find the same kind of thing going on. “God demands that XXX is immoral, you need to repent!” Yet society does change and the religious fanatics of the day fade into obscurity. In another 15-20 years, we’re all going to look back and wonder why anyone made a big deal about gay marriage. The religious will find some way to justify it by interpreting the Bible differently because they’re part of society as well and they need to fit in. The idea that atheists have no morality is laughable in light of the fact that so-called religious morality is just as malleable. In reality, all morality is secular because all morality comes from our need to live together in a cohesive social group. It wasn’t spoken into reality by some imaginary father figure in the sky, it was made up by people who have to find a way to live together. Atheists recognize this simple and demonstrable fact. The religious do not. If anything, we ought to criticize the theists for their anti-social, immoral behavior. After all, you don’t see atheists dragging gay people around behind their cars or burning crosses on the lawns of their black neighbors. That’s religion, folks.
Trust requires that a fixed moral system exist and that behaviors match the moral theory, not the other way around. That Atheists do not understand this requirement makes them even more suspect to those around them.
Since I’ve already shown there is no such thing as a fixed moral system, this becomes moot. In fact, even Christians acknowledge that morality changes over time. There are tons of things deemed immoral sins in the Bible that we ignore today. Wearing mixed-fabric clothing? Eating shellfish? Working on the Sabbath? These are all moral commandments which aren’t taken seriously anymore. Christians find some way to justify it, saying Jesus came and “fulfilled the law” and made them moot, but hey, a fixed moral system is a fixed moral system. If it can change, if it demonstrably has changed, it’s not fixed is it?
So where is the much vaunted claims of theist logic and reason? We have a word for what’s happening here, it’s “hypocrisy”. Purely “do as I say, not as I do” and that’s absolutely dishonest. Now maybe this individual has never thought about their religion that way, certainly I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt, but I can’t tell you how many Christian apologists I’ve run into who make exactly these kinds of claims and when I point out the exact same thing I’ve pointed out here, they run and hide. They knew about the inconsistencies in their beliefs, they just choose to ignore them.
If you want to think that God gave you these moral laws, fine by me. At least be honest and follow all of them. Don’t let me catch you down at Red Lobster in your blue jeans and t-shirt and tell me you’ve got a fixed moral system.
Demonstrable irrationality and amorality are natural, necessary consequences of the variable and relativist universe which Atheists create for themselves. There is no religious bias here, it is the rational conclusion based on the inability of Atheists to meet the fundamental requirements of trustworthiness. Yet Atheists fail to even recognize the inevitable consequence of their choice, and call those necessary consequences “delusions”, which indicates that it actually is the Atheists who are self-deluded, as well as irrational and amoral.
Come on, there’s nothing but religious bias here. Maybe you can describe what those consequences might be, since you’re insisting that you’re not arguing from a standpoint of theism, deism, or fantasy. We have people who are working for the betterment of society, for improved social cohesion and for a superior understanding of the universe around us, what bad consequences are you claiming may come to these people? Certainly not eternal hellfire or the like, that would be arguing theism. In fact, arguing that we’re displeasing any sort of god goes out the window entirely. I’m having a hard time seeing the downside. Maybe you could explain it from an entirely non-theistic, non-deistic and non-fantastic standpoint.
Self-delusion, irrationality and amorality; these are the inevitable natural and logical consequences of Atheism.
Nothing could be farther from the truth, but we’ve already seen that this individual has no clue what he’s talking about. Working entirely from the standpoint of logic and evidence, I fail to see how one can come to the conclusion that there is a god of any sort. There simply is no evidence and no line of reasoning or logic from which one could rationally draw that conclusion. Theism is self-delusion, it is the demand that embracing an emotionally comforting position, solely for the reason that it is emotionally comforting, ought to be respected. One of the most essential tenets of logic is to start with the evidence and follow where it leads. Do not start with the conclusion you favor and seek out evidence that supports it. The former is the hallmark of skepticism and science. The latter is the hallmark of religion.
In fact, our writer has things entirely ass-backwards. Self-delusion, the belief in something that makes them feel good without a shred of objective evidence to suggest it’s actually true; irrationality, the failure to exercise critical thinking skills, logic and reason in coming to determinations about factual reality and amorality, the belief that some imaginary friend made up moral laws, many of which are demonstrably harmful in modern day life, seems to indicate that the inevitable natural and logical consequences of theism are far, far more damaging than anything atheism can possibly do.
Of course, the author is more than welcome to challenge my conclusion, so long as he does it with logic and evidence. That would be a welcome change from the kind of irrational, self-delusional, amoral nonsense I usually get from theists.