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Apologetics and Strawmen

Gnu Atheism

People who read this blog may have noticed that I speak about apologetics and Christian authors with a kind of disdain, generally labelling them as dishonest and spreading misinformation. I’ve been reading blogs about the research of the Gnu atheists as Apologianick states:

The new atheists in these works are not interacting with Craig, Geisler, Habermas, Licona, Plantinga, Moreland, Kreeft, Zacharias, and numerous others. The argument is entirely one-sided.

As a student who still writes research papers, one of the first things I do when I have decided on my topic is to go and order books from the other side. I want my opponents to have their views presented in the best possible light so I can show all the more how weak that they are.

These books do not do that at all. Richard Dawkins does not interact with Alister McGrath, for instance, who is one of his strongest critics being an Oxfordian trained in the sciences. I find it hard to believe that Harris is a graduate from Stanford in philosophy when I read a book with such poor argumentation as the one that he wrote.

If I was a professor and a student turned in assignments to me written like these books are, that student would fail that assignment. The poor research and weak argumentation should have these authors being seen as shameful disgraces. Instead, there are actually pastors who apparently wrote to Harris saying they deconverted upon reading his book, enough to convince me that they should not have been pastors to begin with.

When I encounter an atheist who cites these books as authoritative, I already know that this is someone who does not take research seriously. The sad reality is that their works get absorbed by the atheists on the net and lower the quality of the debates. It’s really hard to have a serious discussion with someone when they think the question of “Who made God?” is an ultimate stumper that Christians have never answered.

If an atheist wishes to be an atheist, very well. Take my advice in this however. Distance yourself from the new atheism. Read instead the old atheists like Mackie, Martin, Nielsen, and Flew. (Granted, Flew did deconvert, but he was a giant in atheism in his time) These writers took theism seriously. They were not driven by an emotional hatred of theism and were willing to acknowledge some good Christianity had done for the world. (reference: “The Shoddy Research of the New Atheists” (2007)- ApologiaNick)

Now my first reaction before having interactions with Nick might have been reactionary, to attack back, but I actually agree, somewhat, with what he’s saying. In the sense that we should do our own research and we should reject poor research.

Gnu Atheism Versus Apologetics

This doesn’t mean, that the ‘New theists’ are the well-spring of integrity and knowledge either, your average apologetic author like Craig, Dembski, Strobel, Moreland, Plantinga and Comfort are simply the flip side to the Gnu atheists. It seems what’s really going on is a passion for days gone by, with authors and literary devices long gone; authors of the past like Hume, Descarte, Plato, Artistotle, Augustine, Voltaire,  Aquinas etc were writers who really brought something to the table, based on limited scientific knowledge, and great philosophical knowledge.

It’s a different time now, with authors bringing a different style to the table, more scientific and somewhat less philosophical, simply because science and the discoveries therein have dominated the last 150 years. There is simply less room for the philosopher to hide, perhaps. Even I admit, reading people like Loftus, Sagan, Martin, Dennett, Smith, Russell etc can make the polemic, rhetoric of the Gnu atheists seem somewhat fake, shallow and redundant. But, and I’ve made this argument before, the Gnu atheists are challenging the believer in the pew, not the theologian who sets doctrine, not the philosopher who hides in metaphysics, the Gnu atheists are a response to apologetics, which are empty and rarely meaningful.

Let’s kick down some strawmen.

Atheism Defined

So there’s no doubt, here are the definitions of atheism:

As Michael Martin states:

Well known atheists of the past such as Baron d’Holbach (1770), Richard Carlie (1826), Charles Southwell (1842), Charles Bradlaugh (1876) and Anne Besant have assumed or explicitly characterized atheism in the negative sense of absence of belief in God. Furthermore, in the twentieth century George H. Smith, in Atheism: The Case Against God (1979), maintains, “An atheist is not primarily a person who believes that god does not exist; rather he does not believe in the existence of god.” Antony Flew, in “The Presumption of Atheism” (1972), understands an atheist as someone who is not a theist. Gordon Stein, in An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism (1980), says an atheist “is a person without a belief in God.” A recent pamphlet entitled ‘America Atheist: An Introduction” says an atheist “has no belief system” concerning supernatural agencies…..Still there is popular meaning of “atheism” according to which an atheist not simply holds no belief in the existence of a god or gods but believes there is no god or gods. This use of the term should not be overlooked. To avoid confusion, let us call this positive atheism, and the type of atheism derived from the Greek root held by the atheistic thinkers surveyed above let us call that negative atheism. Clearly positive atheism is a special case of negative atheism: Someone who is a positive atheist is by necessity a negative atheist, but not conversely. In my useage, positive atheism is positive only int he sense that it refers to a positive belief- the belief that there is no god or gods. It is positive in contrast to negative atheism, which has no such positive belief. Martin M. (1990). Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Pp- 463-4.

As George H. Smith states:

Derived from the Greek atheos (meaning “godless, not believing in the existence of gods”), an atheist is “one who does not believe in the existence of a deity.” Atheism, or the absence of belief, is therefore a perspective, not a philosophy. Although there can be atheistic philosophies that are based solely on naturalistic principles, there cannot be a “philosophy of atheism” per se, because a negative position can never serve as a satisfactory foundation for a philosophical system.

Consider the British atheist G.W. Foote editor of the Freethinker and the author of many books and articles on atheism. Foote’s atheism was scarcely of timid variety; convicted of blasphemy and sent to prison, his case provoked a young John Stuart Mill to write a passionate defense of religious freedom. Yet Foote repeatedly insisted that atheism is properly defined as the absence (or lack) of theistic belief, and not the denial of God’s existence. In a typical exchange, Foote challeneged a critic to “refer me to one Atheist who denies the existence of God.” The atheist is a person without belief in a god; “that is all the ‘A’ before ‘Theist’ really means.”

This was the view of Charles Bradlaugh, the most influential atheist in Victorian Engleand. In The Freethinkers Textbook (1876), after noting that the meaning of “atheism” had been “continuously misrepresented,” Bradlaugh went on to say: “Atheism is without God. It does not assert there is no God.” Similarly, in Why I Do Not Believe In God (1887) Annie Besant defined atheism as “without God.”

No historian has yet undertaken a thorough investigation of this negative definition, so we don’t know when it came into common use, but we do see traces of it as early as the seventeenth century. For example, John Locke, in Essays concerning human understanding (1690), cited travel accounts that reported “whole nations” of atheists, “amongst whom there was to be found no notion of a God, no religion.”The negative definition also appears in the first comprehensive defense of atheism, Baron d’Holbach’s The System of Nature (1770). “All children are atheists,” according to d’Holbach, because “they have no idea of God.”

Christian scholar Robert Flint understood that atheism, as defined for many decades by prominent atheists, is negative rather than positive in character. In Agnosticism (1903), Flint pointed out that the atheist “is not necessarily a man who says, There is no God.” On the contrary, this “positive or dogmatic atheism, so far from being the only kind of atheism, is the rarest of all kinds…..” The atheist is simply a person “who does not believe that there is a God,” and this abscence may stem from nothng more than “want of knowledge that there is a God.” Flint concludes: “The word atheist is a thoroughly honest, unambigious term. It means one who does not believ in God, and it means neither more nor less.” Smith G. H., (2000). Why Atheism? Pp 18-24.

As Dan Barker states:

Basic atheism is not a belief. It is the lack of belief. There is a difference between believing there is no god and not believing there is a god–both are atheistic, though popular usage has ignored the latter. [Dan Barker. Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist. p. 99. Freedom From Religion Foundation, 1992.]

As Antony Flew states:

The word “atheism,” however, has in this contention to be construed unusally. Whereas nowadays the usual meaning of “atheist” in English is “someone who asserts there is no such being as God,” I want the word to be understood not positively but negatively. I want the originally Greek prefix “a” to be read in the same way in “atheist” as it customarily is read in such other Greco-English words as “amoral,” “atypical,” and “asymmetrical.” In this interpretation an atheist becomes: someone who is simply not a theist. Let us, for future ready reference, introduce the labels “positive atheist” for the former and “negative atheist” for the latter. [Antony G.N. Flew and Paul Edwards, God, Freedom, and Immortality p. 14.  Prometheus, 1984.]

As Gordon Stein states:

The average theologian (there are exceptions, of course) uses “atheist” to mean a person who denies the existence of a God. Even an atheist would agree that some atheists (a small minority) would fit this definition. However, most atheists would stongly dispute the adequacy of this definition. Rather, they would hold that an atheist is a person without a belief in God. The distinction is small but important. Denying something means that you have knowledge of what it is that you are being asked to affirm, but that you have rejected that particular concept. To be without a belief in God merely means that the term “god” has no importance, or possibly no meaning, to you. Belief in God is not a factor in your life. Surely this is quite different from denying the existence of God. Atheism is not a belief as such. It is the lack of belief.

When we examine the components of the word “atheism,” we can see this distinction more clearly. The word is made up of “a-” and “-theism.” Theism, we will all agree, is a belief in a God or gods. The prefix “a-” can mean “not” (or “no”) or “without.” If it means “not,” then we have as an atheist someone who is not a theist (i.e., someone who does not have a belief in a God or gods). If it means “without,” then an atheist is someone without theism, or without a belief in God. [Gordon Stein (Ed.), An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism, p. 3. Prometheus, 1980.]

As Sam Harris states:

Myth 3) Atheism is dogmatic.

Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that their scriptures are so prescient of humanity’s needs that they could only have been written under the direction of an omniscient deity. An atheist is simply a person who has considered this claim, read the books and found the claim to be ridiculous. One doesn’t have to take anything on faith, or be otherwise dogmatic, to reject unjustified religious beliefs. As the historian Stephen Henry Roberts (1901-71) once said: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” (Harris S., (2006). 10 myths—and 10 Truths—About Atheism. http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/10-myths-and-10-truths-about-atheism1/)

As Great Christina states:

Myth 1: Atheists are 100% convinced that there is no God, as blindly faithful as religious fundamentalists.

Atheism means different things to different atheists. But for the overwhelming majority, it doesn’t mean being 100% certain that there’s no god. It means being certain enough. It means we’re as certain that Jehovah or Allah or Ganesh don’t exist, as we are that Zeus or Thor or the Flying Spaghetti Monster don’t exist. (I’ve read and spoken with hundreds of atheists… and have encountered exactly two 100 percenters.)

Atheists aren’t saying, “We’re 100% convinced that there’s no god, nothing could persuade us otherwise.” Atheists are saying, “We’re not convinced. The arguments for God are weak and circular; the evidence falls apart under close examination. Show us better evidence or arguments, and we’ll reconsider. Until then, we’re assuming that God doesn’t exist.  (Christina G., (2009). Eleven myths and truths about atheists. http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2009/03/myths-and-truths-.html)

As the Freethinker blog states:

A theist gnostic is someone who believes in god/gods and thinks that the existence of gods can be known. This position is usually referred to as just ‘theist‘, since people who believe in gods, usually also think that their existence can be known.

A theist agnostic is someone who believes in gods, but thinks that they could not know for sure that their god exists. Another fairly unusual position, as people who have faith in gods usually also think that their god can be known to be real.

An atheist agnostic is someone who does not believe in gods and also thinks that the existence of gods cannot be known. This might mean that they don’t believe in gods because they haven’t seen any evidence that supports their existence.

An atheist gnostic is someone who does not believe in gods, and who thinks that we can know that gods do not exist. A fairly unusual position, they might think they have found proof of the non-existence of gods, or might have been persuaded by life experiences. (The Freethinker- http://freethinker.co.uk/2009/09/25/8419/).

So What Are The ‘New Theists’ Saying?

As Gary Habermas strawmans:

As many writers have noted [citations?], this last trend has manifested some very interesting characteristics. For example, leaders of the New Atheism such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris have been referred to as atheistic evangelicals, secular fundamentalists, preachers, (emphasis added) and so on [inaccurately, there are no fundamentals to atheism, no preachers, no evangelicals. These are religious icons meant to subtly imply to the reader a specific mentality, and is a common strawman fallacy]. These epitaphs are apparent references to the zeal, fervor, and bombastic methods with which they not only write, but perhaps apply even more to their public presentations, debates, and interviews [as mentioned there are also apologetical authors attempts to subvert what the Gnu atheists say by attempting to make atheism appear as a religion, therefore without merit. Which is ironic considering apologetical authors spend their time attempting to sell the authenticity of their faith]. (reference: “The Plight of the new atheism: A critique.” (2008).- Gary Habermas)

As Alister McGrath strawmans:

Atheism, I began to realize, rested on a less-than-satisfactory evidential basis [wrong, atheism is not a belief system, or a religious system, or a knowledge one. It merely states your position on a single specific claim, no more. Atheists define why they are so based on different criteria, which are not necessarily tied to any particular basis.]. The arguments that had once seemed bold, decisive, and conclusive increasingly turned out to be circular, tentative, and uncertain [ presumably you based your atheism on a review of the evidence presented for the claim that there is a God, as no evidence can be provided that God doesn’t exist. If that is the case, what positive evidence was presented to you that made a belief in God tenable? Also, you really found the arguments for the existence of God to be complete, solid and certain? This implies not a fault of atheism, but your fault, respectfully]. The opportunity to talk with Christians about their faith revealed to me that I understood relatively little about their religion, which I had come to know chiefly through not-always-accurate descriptions by its leading critics, including British logician Bertrand Russell and German social philosopher Karl Marx [this suggests that (a) you were an atheist for very weak reasons, it seems you did no research or had no intellectual basis for your atheism, as there has been no break through in Christianity and (b) if you’d talked to Muslims you would have become a Muslim and so on for every religion.]. I also began to realize that my assumption of the automatic and inexorable link between the natural sciences and atheism was rather naïve and uninformed [if there is a link to be made between nature and science at all it is due to the fact that that is all the cold hard positive evidence suggests, to add anything else is to speculate an inference, with no evidence]. One of the most important things I had to sort out, after my conversion to Christianity, was the systematic uncoupling of this bond. Instead, I would see the natural sciences from a Christian perspective-and I would try to understand why others did not share this perspective [it’s really simple, because there is no reason or evidence to suggest that belief is warranted or rational, to the best of my knowledge].

As many cultural analysts have argued, atheism is the religion of modernity [false, this is such a common strawman it’s hard not to charge the ‘New theists’ with the same charge of shoddy research that the Gnu atheists receive]. But the rise of postmodernity has unseated this settled assumption [false, atheism is not an assumption, but rather the default position to the God claim, we all begin with lack of belief it’s only some that acquire belief]. Atheism now seems a little old-fashioned [then why call it “New atheism”? If they weren’t bringing anything new to the table?], the establishment position of a previous generation [establishment position? Maybe I’m misunderstanding something here, but it seems to me this is the first time ever, or since the enlightenment, where atheists are allowed to peddle their ideas without fear of repercussion and death from Christians. Christianity is the establishment sir.]. And in its place, postmodernity has recovered an interest in spirituality [he uses this word specifically, precisely because it has no meaning. What is spirituality? I doubt any Christian is willing to accept the claims of every person who calls themselves spiritual, this is a word used to collect all non atheists to a specific cause, the problem being of course, Christians do not accept the claims of other religions and in some cases of other Christians].. I have no idea where this trend will take us, but certainly it seems to take us away from atheism. (reference: “Breaking the Science-Atheism Bond” (2005). -Alister McGrath)
As Ravi Zaccharias strawmans:

The emotion-laden question is not nearly as troublesome to answer if the questioner first explains all the killing that has resulted from those who have lived without God, such as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao, et all [that’s like accusing everyone who killed who had moustaches as being related and causal. You don’t kill because of what you don’t believe, you kill because of what you do believe, Zacharias is making the fallacy of cum hoc ergo propter hoc.]. The antitheist is quick to excoriate all religious belief by generically laying the blame at the door of all who claim to be religious, without distinction [that’s a pretty extravagant absolute truth claim, I don’t personally do that and know many who don’t]. By the same measure, why is there not an equal enthusiasm to distribute blame for violence engendered by some of the irreligious? [because it is easy to cite examples of things done in the name of God (inquisition, the crusade, Salem witch trials), yet very hard to identify the same done in the name of atheism, without any on hand statistics, I would be hard stretched to even conceive that happening.] (reference: “Can Man Live Without God” (1994). Ravi Zacharias)

By definition, atheism  is the doctrine of belief that there is no God. (emphasis added) [no it’s not, and this yet again demonstrates that strawman the ‘New theists’ love to erect. This is categorically wrong, and if this is the basis for his argument and his book, then it is dishonest and misinformed.]. It is an affirmation of God’s non-existence (emphasis added)  [no it’s not, it is the lack of a belief in a God or gods, that’s it, it is a negative position which people come to for any number of reasons, but it’s what everyone starts out as.]. This ought not to be confused with agnosticism which claims not to know [it seems no-one but these authors seem to misunderstand the very subject matter they’re writing on, if we can’t trust what they say, why should we listen?] . Postulating the non-existence of God [which atheism does not do] , atheism commits the blunder of absolute negation, which is self-contradictory [no it doesn’t]. For, to sustain the belief that there is no God, it has to demonstrate infinite knowledge, which is tantamount to saying, “I have infinite knowledge that there is no being in existence with infinite knowledge. [there are weak, agnostic or implicit atheists, these people lack the belief in a God or gods, this is the default position of all people before they accept the God claim and it is generally what is meant by the term atheist. It derives from the Greek word atheos which literally means without God.  Ravi is discussing strong, explicit or gnostic atheism, which is less common and is a positive belief system that is untenable as Ravi suggests, hence why most atheists don’t use the term. (reference: “The Real Face Of Atheism”. (1994) pp-36- Ravi Zacharias)

Commonality

You can see from this very brief sample set that apologetics seem to strawman atheism. This isn’t all apologists and every Christian, you can only rationally base your opinion on what I’ve written here. But, I’m going to do more blogs on what the other side says, as I want you, the reader, to see, honestly, what the other side has to say.

References/Further reading:

ApologiaNick. (2007). The Shoddy Research of the New Atheists.

Habermas G., (2008). The Plight of the new atheism: A critique.

McGrath A., (2005). Breaking the Science-Atheism Bond.

Zacharias, Ravi K., (1994). Can Man Live Without God.  Word Publishing. p. 22-24.

Zacharias R., (1994). The Real Face Of Atheism. Pp-36.

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Categories: Apologetics, Atheism, Theism
  1. January 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Let’s go through this:

    First off, I notice you did not disagree with my main point. The new atheists did shoddy research. Note that my main source to show this was the bibliography and index of the works I cited. Did you do the same with Habermas, Zacharias, Geisler, Licona, etc.? (I do not reference Comfort at all.)

    It’s quite the opposite with the ones I read. When I read them, I find the other side referred to often and then the arguments interacted with. Go to the bibliography and see what you find. As much as I loved Berlinski’s “The Devil’s Delusion”, I do not recommend it because he has no bibliography. I only recognized the quotes due to my own reading. However, he does acknowledge people on the other side at least.

    On to you:

    You: This doesn’t mean, that the ‘New theists’ are the well-spring of integrity and knowledge either, your average apologetic author like Craig, Dembski, Strobel, Moreland, Plantinga and Comfort are simply the flip side to the Gnu atheists. It seems what’s really going on is a passion for days gone by, with authors and literary devices long gone; authors of the past like Hume, Descarte, Plato, Artistotle, Augustine, Voltaire, Aquinas etc were writers who really brought something to the table, based on limited scientific knowledge, and great philosophical knowledge.

    Reply: And the ones today are supposed to be standing on the shoulders of those who went before. For Aquinas, how many are interacting with him? You might think Dawkins does, but he doesn’t. Dawkins doesn’t have a clue about the Five Ways. He should present such a case that the most ardent Thomist would think “I need to examine what I believe.” Thomists instead just laugh at his arguments. I can tell by his writing that he is not familiar with the Summa Theologica, and I do consider myself a Thomist of some authority.

    Also, you’re comparing apples and oranges. My point was that the new atheists do shoddy research. Have you shown the same of the Christians you mentioned? Have you gone through their bibliographies and their indexes?

    You: It’s a different time now, with authors bringing a different style to the table, more scientific and somewhat less philosophical, simply because science and the discoveries therein have dominated the last 150 years. There is simply less room for the philosopher to hide, perhaps. Even I admit, reading people like Loftus, Sagan, Martin, Dennett, Smith, Russell etc can make the polemic, rhetoric of the Gnu atheists seem somewhat fake, shallow and redundant. But, and I’ve made this argument before, the Gnu atheists are challenging the believer in the pew, not the theologian who sets doctrine, not the philosopher who hides in metaphysics, the Gnu atheists are a response to apologetics, which are empty and rarely meaningful.

    Reply: If they are a response to apologetics, they are a bad one. To begin with, apologetics is nothing new. It’s been around since the beginning of the church and even before that with arguments being made for other belief systems.

    Second, even for just challenging the believer in the pew, they’re still giving bad argumentation. They’re not showing the other side at all. It’s hardly a fair way to present the evidence. I consider Strobel writing for a popular audience, for instance, but after reading Strobel, one at least has a good indication that there are people on the other side strongly opposed to Christianity and how they argue it and what leading Christian scholars say in response. If all you had were the new atheists, would you see any evidence that there are opponents on the other side?

    You: As many writers have noted [citations?], this last trend has manifested some very interesting characteristics. For example, leaders of the New Atheism such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris have been referred to as atheistic evangelicals, secular fundamentalists, preachers, (emphasis added) and so on

    Reply: No need for a citation. This is common knowledge.

    You: [inaccurately, there are no fundamentals to atheism, no preachers, no evangelicals. These are religious icons meant to subtly imply to the reader a specific mentality, and is a common strawman fallacy].

    Reply: False. The fundamental to atheism is the claim that God does not exist. The new atheists also strongly emphasize science as a disproof of Christianity and the history of Christianity. Fundamentalism refers to a mindset. There definitely are fundy atheists. Many of them were fundy Christians who just switched sides with the mindset remaining. It’s rooted in individualism.

    You: These epitaphs are apparent references to the zeal, fervor, and bombastic methods with which they not only write, but perhaps apply even more to their public presentations, debates, and interviews [as mentioned there are also apologetical authors attempts to subvert what the Gnu atheists say by attempting to make atheism appear as a religion, therefore without merit. Which is ironic considering apologetical authors spend their time attempting to sell the authenticity of their faith]. (reference: “The Plight of the new atheism: A critique.” (2008).- Gary Habermas)

    Reply: The problem here is that no apologist I know bases his argument on “The new atheism is just as much a religion!” Instead, Habermas goes through and examines the arguments. The new atheists don’t do that. They act like there are no arguments. The closest I see otherwise in Dawkins’s chapter in The God Delusion, and he doesn’t get the arguments right most of the time.

    Reply: Atheism, I began to realize, rested on a less-than-satisfactory evidential basis [wrong, atheism is not a belief system, or a religious system, or a knowledge one. It merely states your position on a single specific claim, no more. Atheists define why they are so based on different criteria, which are not necessarily tied to any particular basis.].

    Oh? You’re making a claim that’s not evidenced in reality? Okay. If you are stating a claim, it is a claim to what you believe to be true, so how can it not be a belief system? However, atheism is correctly the claim that there is no God. It is a claim about reality and not a person holding a belief.

    You: The arguments that had once seemed bold, decisive, and conclusive increasingly turned out to be circular, tentative, and uncertain [ presumably you based your atheism on a review of the evidence presented for the claim that there is a God, as no evidence can be provided that God doesn’t exist. If that is the case, what positive evidence was presented to you that made a belief in God tenable? Also, you really found the arguments for the existence of God to be complete, solid and certain? This implies not a fault of atheism, but your fault, respectfully].

    Reply: If he found the arguments for God’s existence strong, then how is that his fault? Could it actually be that the arguments are strong? If you want to see why he believes what he does, you could read his book “The Twilight of Atheism.” You say what you presume he based his belief in atheism on but you give no evidence of that.

    You: The opportunity to talk with Christians about their faith revealed to me that I understood relatively little about their religion, which I had come to know chiefly through not-always-accurate descriptions by its leading critics, including British logician Bertrand Russell and German social philosopher Karl Marx [this suggests that (a) you were an atheist for very weak reasons, it seems you did no research or had no intellectual basis for your atheism, as there has been no break through in Christianity

    Reply: He did. He did the reading of Bertrand Russell for instance. Russell was a leading philosopher in his day. Again, his book gives more reasons for his atheism at the time. There was also no need for a new break through in Christianity. The old arguments have yet to be refuted.

    You: and (b) if you’d talked to Muslims you would have become a Muslim and so on for every religion.].

    Reply: Demonstrate this.

    You: I also began to realize that my assumption of the automatic and inexorable link between the natural sciences and atheism was rather naïve and uninformed [if there is a link to be made between nature and science at all it is due to the fact that that is all the cold hard positive evidence suggests, to add anything else is to speculate an inference, with no evidence].

    He didn’t say between nature and science. He said between the natural sciences and atheism. The evidence cannot lead to that. You cannot look at the world and say “By looking at the world, I know that there is nothing beyond the world.” How could you come to such knowledge?

    You: One of the most important things I had to sort out, after my conversion to Christianity, was the systematic uncoupling of this bond. Instead, I would see the natural sciences from a Christian perspective-and I would try to understand why others did not share this perspective [it’s really simple, because there is no reason or evidence to suggest that belief is warranted or rational, to the best of my knowledge].

    Reply: McGrath found it. Habermas found it. Zacharias found it. Have you interacted with their claims?

    You: As many cultural analysts have argued, atheism is the religion of modernity [false, this is such a common strawman it’s hard not to charge the ‘New theists’ with the same charge of shoddy research that the Gnu atheists receive].

    Reply: Saying false does not count as a refutation. McGrath’s claim could be wrong, but you give me no reason to believe it. In fact, I believe it is right as he has modernity going for some time, such as since Descartes, and atheism getting a boon from the French Revolution.

    You: But the rise of postmodernity has unseated this settled assumption [false, atheism is not an assumption, but rather the default position to the God claim, we all begin with lack of belief it’s only some that acquire belief].

    Reply: By this standard, my PS2 is an atheist since it lacks God belief and that’s just silly. Atheism is not saying you lack a belief. Atheism is saying you are making a claim about reality.

    You: Atheism now seems a little old-fashioned [then why call it “New atheism”? If they weren’t bringing anything new to the table?],

    Reply: Because in the past atheism wrote for a more academic audience. This atheism is going mainstream and writing to a popular audience and really wanting to crusade against Christianity. The old atheists disagreed with it, but they respected it too.

    You: the establishment position of a previous generation [establishment position? Maybe I’m misunderstanding something here, but it seems to me this is the first time ever, or since the enlightenment, where atheists are allowed to peddle their ideas without fear of repercussion and death from Christians. Christianity is the establishment sir.].

    Reply: This shows very poor historical research on your part. Where do you see atheists being regularly put to death by Christians? On the contrary, I can tell you about the church in China today actively being put to death.

    And yes, it was the establishment position. The French Revolution paved the way and then came Darwin and the logical positivists as well as the higher critics in Germany of the text of Scripture.

    You: And in its place, postmodernity has recovered an interest in spirituality [he uses this word specifically, precisely because it has no meaning. What is spirituality? I doubt any Christian is willing to accept the claims of every person who calls themselves spiritual, this is a word used to collect all non atheists to a specific cause, the problem being of course, Christians do not accept the claims of other religions and in some cases of other Christians]..

    Reply: Yes. Christians do not accept the claims of other religions, therefore there is no spirituality? It doesn’t follow. The reason I don’t accept the claims of other is I don’t find the reasons convincing. McGrath is however right. Why do you think the New Age movement is so popular in America?

    You: I have no idea where this trend will take us, but certainly it seems to take us away from atheism. (reference: “Breaking the Science-Atheism Bond” (2005). -Alister McGrath)

    Reply: I see you have no response.

    You: As Ravi Zaccharias strawmans:
    The emotion-laden question is not nearly as troublesome to answer if the questioner first explains all the killing that has resulted from those who have lived without God, such as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao, et all [that’s like accusing everyone who killed who had moustaches as being related and causal. You don’t kill because of what you don’t believe, you kill because of what you do believe, Zacharias is making the fallacy of cum hoc ergo propter hoc.].

    Reply: What emotion laden question? You are interrupting Ravi mid-sentence. It would help your reader to know what he is speaking about. As it is, he is asking about the thousands who have been killed in the name of God. He replies that it works both ways. Several have been killed in the name of atheism.

    And yes, people do kill because of what they don’t believe. If they don’t believe that there is a right and a wrong and that there is no justice beyond themselves, then they are more prone to do whatever suits them.

    You: The antitheist is quick to excoriate all religious belief by generically laying the blame at the door of all who claim to be religious, without distinction [that’s a pretty extravagant absolute truth claim, I don’t personally do that and know many who don’t].
    By the same measure, why is there not an equal enthusiasm to distribute blame for violence engendered by some of the irreligious? [because it is easy to cite examples of things done in the name of God (inquisition, the crusade, Salem witch trials), yet very hard to identify the same done in the name of atheism, without any on hand statistics, I would be hard stretched to even conceive that happening.] (reference: “Can Man Live Without God” (1994). Ravi Zacharias)

    Reply: All you need to do is read some of the works such as The Dawkins Delusion of McGrath. See all the killing that took place under Mao, Stalin, and Pol-Pot. The Khmer Rouge had its relation to Sartre for instance.

    You: By definition, atheism is the doctrine of belief that there is no God. (emphasis added) [no it’s not, and this yet again demonstrates that strawman the ‘New theists’ love to erect. This is categorically wrong, and if this is the basis for his argument and his book, then it is dishonest and misinformed.]. It is an affirmation of God’s non-existence (emphasis added) [no it’s not, it is the lack of a belief in a God or gods, that’s it, it is a negative position which people come to for any number of reasons, but it’s what everyone starts out as.].

    Reply; No. Not at all. To be a theist does not mean simply “I have God belief” but that I say the statement “God exists” describes reality. When you put the alpha before it, it negates it so that it says the statement “God exists” doesn’t describe reality. Have you done ANY research on this or are you just asserting something. Have you checked Ravi’s source for his definition? Do you know what it is?

    You: This ought not to be confused with agnosticism which claims not to know [it seems no-one but these authors seem to misunderstand the very subject matter they’re writing on, if we can’t trust what they say, why should we listen?] .

    Reply: No. You’re the one not understanding.

    You:Postulating the non-existence of God [which atheism does not do] , atheism commits the blunder of absolute negation, which is self-contradictory [no it doesn’t].

    Reply: Check Ravi’s source again for his claim. That would require that you read his book and not just look it up online. Just having online research is lazy.

    You: For, to sustain the belief that there is no God, it has to demonstrate infinite knowledge, which is tantamount to saying, “I have infinite knowledge that there is no being in existence with infinite knowledge. [there are weak, agnostic or implicit atheists, these people lack the belief in a God or gods, this is the default position of all people before they accept the God claim and it is generally what is meant by the term atheist. It derives from the Greek word atheos which literally means without God. Ravi is discussing strong, explicit or gnostic atheism, which is less common and is a positive belief system that is untenable as Ravi suggests, hence why most atheists don’t use the term. (reference: “The Real Face Of Atheism”. (1994) pp-36- Ravi Zacharias)

    Reply: If you read the Q&A at the end of “Can Man Live Without God?” you’d know Ravi addresses this very point as someone brings it up to him. This tells me you have not done your homework just as the new atheists haven’t. Did you look at the bibliographies? Did you look at the indexes? Finding areas where you disagree does not mean that the other side is not interacted with.

    Commonality

    You can see from this very brief sample set that apologetics seem to strawman atheism. This isn’t all apologists and every Christian, you can only rationally base your opinion on what I’ve written here. But, I’m going to do more blogs on what the other side says, as I want you, the reader, to see, honestly, what the other side has to say.

  2. Atheist's RoBe
    January 6, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Nick: First off, I notice you did not disagree with my main point. The new atheists did shoddy research. Note that my main source to show this was the bibliography and index of the works I cited. Did you do the same with Habermas, Zacharias, Geisler, Licona, etc.

    Reply: Firstly, thanks for the long review, and handing my ass to me where it needed to be. I’ve actually spent a lot of time toning the language down on this blog, but for some reason, kinda went crazy on this one again. I’d appreciate, if you have the time, any other butt kickings you wanna serve on the other blogs I’ve written on here.

    I didn’t necessarily disagree with your point, I also wasn’t necessarily trying to contradict it. I liked the idea of examaning the other side of the argument and I liked what you said about atheists not doing that, whether it’s true or not, for me, is beside the point, I thnk it’s a good idea to address the other sides arguments, and I certainly haven’t done that enough on this blog. And as you’ve suggested I haven’t done it correctly on here. But it’s how we learn eh?

    Nick: And the ones today are supposed to be standing on the shoulders of those who went before. For Aquinas, how many are interacting with him? You might think Dawkins does, but he doesn’t. Dawkins doesn’t have a clue about the Five Ways. He should present such a case that the most ardent Thomist would think “I need to examine what I believe.” Thomists instead just laugh at his arguments. I can tell by his writing that he is not familiar with the Summa Theologica, and I do consider myself a Thomist of some authority.

    Reply: Well, whether Dawkins does or not, really matters not to me, I understand why it matters in principle, but I can look for other atheist writers for discussions on that stuff surely? He did discuss Aquinas in the God Delusion. And he touches on the 5 proofs in enough detail for your average person in the pew who might have likely never heard of Aquinas. Which is all I’ve ever said he was attempting.

    Nick: Also, you’re comparing apples and oranges. My point was that the new atheists do shoddy research. Have you shown the same of the Christians you mentioned? Have you gone through their bibliographies and their indexes?

    Reply: No, you’re right, I messed up on that one. And that’s a big one, I admit!

    Nick: Second, even for just challenging the believer in the pew, they’re still giving bad argumentation. They’re not showing the other side at all. It’s hardly a fair way to present the evidence. I consider Strobel writing for a popular audience, for instance, but after reading Strobel, one at least has a good indication that there are people on the other side strongly opposed to Christianity and how they argue it and what leading Christian scholars say in response. If all you had were the new atheists, would you see any evidence that there are opponents on the other side?

    Reply: The new atheists are still debating apologists though, Stenger, Ehrman, Loftus, Hitchens, these guys are addressing them, via public debate, so yeh I think you would see opposing viewpoints. With Strobel, I went through his :The case for Christ, he provides very basic skeptical questions and then completely accepts the Christian answer, I didn’t see much in that book that I couldn’t find an answer for, from biblical scholars, atheist authors or that I hadn’t heard before, it didn’t seem to me he interviewed any atheists, am I wrong?

    Nick: The fundamental to atheism is the claim that God does not exist. The new atheists also strongly emphasize science as a disproof of Christianity and the history of Christianity. Fundamentalism refers to a mindset. There definitely are fundy atheists. Many of them were fundy Christians who just switched sides with the mindset remaining. It’s rooted in individualism.

    Reply: Sorry but I have to disagree with you, that is not a fundamental claim by atheism. A lack of belief is necessarily not a claim, atheism is a negative position.
    Regarding science, yes, some of the atheist writers suggest science makes God useless, but it doesn’t count as disproof as you can’t disprove God doesn’t exist, you need evidence suggesting he does. And that is only because some theists claim, generally using the Bible that life had to be created a certain way or that the universe was created a certain way etc etc, which generally contradict scientific findings. For a claim to be accepted it needs evidence, science, and the evidence found by it, is essentially ‘blind’, meaning there is no positive evidence discovered by science to suggest a God or gods. It doesn’t rule out that we are just explaining God’s mechanism, but you need to demonstarte that, and until that’s done, based on that, there is good reason to not believe that specific claim.
    Fundamentalism refers to following a specifc set of basic principles, of which atheism has none, so I’m at a loss as to what fundamentals an atheist would follow?

    Nick: The problem here is that no apologist I know bases his argument on “The new atheism is just as much a religion!” Instead, Habermas goes through and examines the arguments. The new atheists don’t do that. They act like there are no arguments. The closest I see otherwise in Dawkins’s chapter in The God Delusion, and he doesn’t get the arguments right most of the time.

    Reply: Nancy Pearcey does it, McGrath does it in the above post, Zacharias, without using the word religion, uses words like: “atheism is a belief”, a “doctrine”, which are religious concepts, which, yes, can be applied to other areas, but I get the impression thats the subtext, though I could be wrong.
    John Loftus examines the arguments he goes after Plantinga, Moreland and Craig, Matt Dillahunty does that, so does PZ Myers, so does Michael Martin, so does Jerry Coyne, so does Daniel Dennett etc. There are atheist authors out there, that are part of the Gnu atheism who defend against apologetical arguments, I think limiting yourself to Harris, Hitchens and Dawkins is misrepresenting atheism and the new atheism.

    Nick: Oh? You’re making a claim that’s not evidenced in reality? Okay. If you are stating a claim, it is a claim to what you believe to be true, so how can it not be a belief system? However, atheism is correctly the claim that there is no God. It is a claim about reality and not a person holding a belief.

    Reply: I said it was a response to a specific claim, not making a counter claim. You continue to make that claim. Are you asking if I believe to be true, my lack of belief? Well, I’m not a Christian and don’t believe in God, so yes, I do hold my lack of belief to be true. How can a lack of belief be a belief system? What do I believe when I lack a belief? How would I form a system based on that? That’s nonsense. And again, I’m going to go on how atheists define atheism not Christians, would you let me define your belief for you?

    Nick: If he found the arguments for God’s existence strong, then how is that his fault? Could it actually be that the arguments are strong? If you want to see why he believes what he does, you could read his book “The Twilight of Atheism.” You say what you presume he based his belief in atheism on but you give no evidence of that.

    Reply: Because, as I said, presumably his atheism was based or developed on certain standards of evidence, otherwise he would have become a theist as soon as he was able to comprehend the arguments and evidence. It would suggest that he would have had to be provided with reliable positive evidence for God, as far I’m aware that doesn’t exist, or else I’d believe in it, and so would everyone else. I’ve never seen an argument for or against God, that couldn’t be deconstructed well, by someone, that’s why I personally don’t like argumentation to prove God’s existence.

    Nick: There was also no need for a new break through in Christianity. The old arguments have yet to be refuted.

    Reply: Really? C’mon, that’s a bit of a stretch, how many arguments demonstrate the Christian God as promoted in the Bible and as believed by say, Catholics? Most arguments I’ve seen, if you buy the premises, seem to get you only to an unknown, or a logical possibility, and we don’t really live by either of those criteria do we. Although, having said all that, I would love, as a matter of interest, to see what arguments there are that demonstrate the Christian God, say, as defined by Catholics. The reason I ask for a specifc version of Christianity is a Protestant might not accept what a Catholic does (i.e on the significance of Mary, and saints etc) an vice versa, and if the arguments are so rock solid why are there 38,000 different types of Christianity? This would suggest that even amongst theists there is no clear revelation. As mentioned, argument is a tricky one, perhaps just for me, does it really demonstrate why, emotionally, anyone should believe something? The best I would think you could get with an argument is part of a culmative case method of evidence, but I could be wrong…

    Nick: Demonstrate this.

    Reply: He talked to Christians and became a Christian, simple as that it seems.

    Nick: He didn’t say between nature and science. He said between the natural sciences and atheism. The evidence cannot lead to that. You cannot look at the world and say “By looking at the world, I know that there is nothing beyond the world.” How could you come to such knowledge

    Reply: No, you got me, that was my error. You’re right of course, but, again, (default) atheism makes no claims of knowledge. We can, by looking at the world, establish evidence that does not require supernatural means, we only observe ‘blind’ natural causes, you need evidence to suggest otherwise, until that time, I’m justified in my lack of belief.

    Nick: McGrath found it. Habermas found it. Zacharias found it. Have you interacted with their claims?

    Reply: I don’t believe they have, and based on the above articles I only see a strawman of atheism, which is dishonest. I have not interacted with their claims about their God, but as mentioned at the end of the article that is something I intend to do later. I can admit I haven’t done it in the sexist way possible, but that’s why I rely on you to keep me in line 🙂

    Nick: Saying false does not count as a refutation. McGrath’s claim could be wrong, but you give me no reason to believe it. In fact, I believe it is right as he has modernity going for some time, such as since Descartes, and atheism getting a boon from the French Revolution.

    Reply: fair enough! Claiming atheism to be a religion is false, as I have discussed many times in the above post and with you. It is impossible for a lack of belief to be a religion, the point is there are no gods, no tenets, no beliefs, no fundamentals, nothing, only a rejection of the claim that a God or gods exist.

    Nick: By this standard, my PS2 is an atheist since it lacks God belief and that’s just silly. Atheism is not saying you lack a belief. Atheism is saying you are making a claim about reality.

    Reply: Do we ascribe sentience to inanimate objects? How many times have you asked your PS2 it’s thoughts on things? It is silly to bring that up, you’re right, and I thought it went without saying, that during discussion about belief, we mean what sentient entities with the capabilities to make choices and decisions based on information would do, not on all objects. Nope, sorry, again, atheism is what it is, it is defined this way, I’m sorry if Christians don’t like that terminology, but it’s also not my terminology. I understand it’s easier to attack someone who makes an absolute claim about reality, but I don’t and many atheists do not either. Why would you expect me to just bow down to this view of atheism that isn’t mine or many other atheists position and doesn’t describe our response to the claim. You as a claimant are making a claim, I don’t have to believe it’s false to not accept it’s true.

    Nick: Because in the past atheism wrote for a more academic audience. This atheism is going mainstream and writing to a popular audience and really wanting to crusade against Christianity. The old atheists disagreed with it, but they respected it too.

    Reply: Is this any different than the majority of the new apologetics authors? Isn’t that what Strobel, Comfort, Dembski etc are doing?

    Nick: This shows very poor historical research on your part. Where do you see atheists being regularly put to death by Christians? On the contrary, I can tell you about the church in China today actively being put to death.

    And yes, it was the establishment position. The French Revolution paved the way and then came Darwin and the logical positivists as well as the higher critics in Germany of the text of Scripture.

    Reply: I said without fear of death and repurcussion, you’re saying copernicus and galileo weren’t threatened, and all the people killed and threatened by the inquisition (which finished mid 19th century) and the crusades? No atheists were killed or threatened there?
    And China is about breaking the law right? They say “you’re not allowed to preach here, the penalty is death”? But I admit, I’m ignorant to this issue.

    Nick: Yes. Christians do not accept the claims of other religions, therefore there is no spirituality? It doesn’t follow. The reason I don’t accept the claims of other is I don’t find the reasons convincing. McGrath is however right. Why do you think the New Age movement is so popular in America?

    Reply: Spirituality is a word used to define, what exactly? The reason spirituality and new age is so popular is precisely because it has a different meaning to everyone, to say you’re spiritual seems to mean in common nomenclature to just believe whatever religious and pseudo religious junk you want, put it all together and call yourself new age or spiritual. My point was that McGrath was using the word spiritual to encapsulate every theist, every hippy, every single person with a belief in the supernatural into one cause, to make it appear as if it is more reasonable to believe than not. But that’s not the case as all the religions disagree, quite violently in some cases, about what spirituality means, and they don’t accept each others claims.

    Nick: I see you have no response.

    Reply: Only because it wasn’t worth one, the rise of the New atheism whose authors are on the best seller list, are theists buying these books? Based on this it is just wrong to say that we are heading away from atheism. Atheism hasn’t had a boom of interest like this, since when, the enlightenment?

    Nick: What emotion laden question? You are interrupting Ravi mid-sentence. It would help your reader to know what he is speaking about. As it is, he is asking about the thousands who have been killed in the name of God. He replies that it works both ways. Several have been killed in the name of atheism.

    And yes, people do kill because of what they don’t believe. If they don’t believe that there is a right and a wrong and that there is no justice beyond themselves, then they are more prone to do whatever suits them

    Reply: True I cut him off, you’re right. But nobody, to my knowledge has killed in the name of atheism, you just can’t. You can’t kill based on what you don’t believe, as stated, that’s a fallacy, to which it seems you have no response.

    If you kill when you don’t believe in right and wrong you don’t kill because of that, you kill for a reason, for a belief. i.e because you believe that killing a store owner will get you money and you don’t care what the harm is. The lack of belief is necessary but not sufficient.

    Nick: All you need to do is read some of the works such as The Dawkins Delusion of McGrath. See all the killing that took place under Mao, Stalin, and Pol-Pot. The Khmer Rouge had its relation to Sartre for instance.

    Reply: I haven’t read that book, but again, see above, atheism would have been necessary but not sufficient for Stalin and the others. This is the fallacy I charged Zacharias with: cum hoc ergo propter hoc. Thoughts?

    Nick: No. Not at all. To be a theist does not mean simply “I have God belief” but that I say the statement “God exists” describes reality. When you put the alpha before it, it negates it so that it says the statement “God exists” doesn’t describe reality. Have you done ANY research on this or are you just asserting something. Have you checked Ravi’s source for his definition? Do you know what it is?

    Reply: Yes it does. Gnostic theism says “I believe God exists”, agnostic theism states: “I have a God belief”, you are accepting a claim, the strength of that acceptance is in the label. That’s why we generally have hard and soft version of all philosphical positions and beliefs (re: atheism, agnosticism, theism etc).

    Atheism is defined by philosophers and atheists a certain way, this way (Martin/Smith). Which stems from the Greek word atheos which means without God, not Belief that a God does not exist!

    But no, I haven’t checked his source, but then again he doesn’t cite one either, these are his words. And he is wrong in those words. I can back up my assertions, regarding the definition of atheism, and have done so everytime, you simply keep asserting I’m wrong, where’s your evidence that I’m incorrect?

    Nick: No. You’re the one not understanding

    Reply: I can admit to flaws in context, and flow of the blog, I admit my mistakes. On this one, regarding Zacharias’ characterisation of atheism, he’s wrong, and if you agree with him, you are too, sorry.

    Nick: Check Ravi’s source again for his claim. That would require that you read his book and not just look it up online. Just having online research is lazy.

    Reply: that’s fair enough, I can accept that. At what point in the book though, would he give context I wonder, for definition errors and strawman fallacy? Unless he said “On page 36 I was just joking” he’s just wrong, in or out of context.

    Nick: If you read the Q&A at the end of “Can Man Live Without God?” you’d know Ravi addresses this very point as someone brings it up to him. This tells me you have not done your homework just as the new atheists haven’t. Did you look at the bibliographies? Did you look at the indexes? Finding areas where you disagree does not mean that the other side is not interacted with.

    Reply: Yeh you got me again, I haven’t done research into Zacharias, but based on his argumens above, he makes weak ones. In fact the exact kind of weak arguments, based on faulty understanding and research you charge the new atheists with, what, exactly, is this difference?

    Thanks for the verbal punch up buddy! Always appreciate the time you spend interacting with me, especially considering how busy I know you are! Hope you’re recovering ok!

  3. January 10, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Yo Robe!

    RoBe: Firstly, thanks for the long review, and handing my ass to me where it needed to be. I’ve actually spent a lot of time toning the language down on this blog, but for some reason, kinda went crazy on this one again. I’d appreciate, if you have the time, any other butt kickings you wanna serve on the other blogs I’ve written on here.

    Reply: If I have the time. So much stuff to refute. So little time. That and I get in my own reading as well.

    Robe: I didn’t necessarily disagree with your point, I also wasn’t necessarily trying to contradict it. I liked the idea of examaning the other side of the argument and I liked what you said about atheists not doing that, whether it’s true or not, for me, is beside the point, I thnk it’s a good idea to address the other sides arguments, and I certainly haven’t done that enough on this blog. And as you’ve suggested I haven’t done it correctly on here. But it’s how we learn eh?

    Reply: Correct, and the new atheists do not do this. They are a discredit to the old atheists who were willing to tangle with the Christians they were writing against.

    Robe: Well, whether Dawkins does or not, really matters not to me, I understand why it matters in principle, but I can look for other atheist writers for discussions on that stuff surely? He did discuss Aquinas in the God Delusion. And he touches on the 5 proofs in enough detail for your average person in the pew who might have likely never heard of Aquinas. Which is all I’ve ever said he was attempting.

    Reply: Yes. He does speak about Aquinas. However, he does not understand Aquinas. I was interacting with an atheist on the topic on another blog who was trying to argue against the first way and he gave me the reasons why he didn’t consider it valid. I had to congratulate him. He had used nearly every misunderstanding that there can be of the first way.

    That’s the danger. The person in the pew thinks Aquinas has been refuted. He hasn’t been. A straw man has been refuted and if you’re making an argument, do you want to use a straw man? Do you realize what you’ve said? It’s essentially “I don’t care if a straw man has been used, it at least convinces the person in the pew that Aquinas has been refuted.” That’s saying “It doesn’t matter to me what Aquinas really argued, all that matters is that people think he’s been refuted.” I don’t think you want to think like that.

    Want to understand the first way? Read something like “Aquinas” by Edward Feser, or “The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas” by John Wippel, or “An Elementary Christian Metaphysics” by Joseph Owens.

    Robe: No, you’re right, I messed up on that one. And that’s a big one, I admit!

    Reply: It’s a huge one. Note this is one reason I don’t recommend “The Devil’s Delusion” by Berlinski. I recognize many arguments he deals with by reading the books of the new atheists myself, but he does not have a bibliography and does not give references. If he had done that, I would recommend it. It’s a shame he didn’t.

    Robe: The new atheists are still debating apologists though, Stenger, Ehrman, Loftus, Hitchens, these guys are addressing them, via public debate, so yeh I think you would see opposing viewpoints. With Strobel, I went through his :The case for Christ, he provides very basic skeptical questions and then completely accepts the Christian answer, I didn’t see much in that book that I couldn’t find an answer for, from biblical scholars, atheist authors or that I hadn’t heard before, it didn’t seem to me he interviewed any atheists, am I wrong?

    Reply: He didn’t. Why should he? I think he asked some of the best questions. You know my ministry partner has dealt with many objections to the Case for Christ. You’re free to talk to him. Also, while they’re interacting in public debates, they’re not in books and regularly, the new atheists are getting beat. Loftus lost to D’Souza. Stenger to Ross and Craig. Hitchens to Turek and Craig.

    However, few people will really attend these debates or watch them. Most material is argued in the books. I consider the new atheists highly dishonest in their books as straw manning the other side and leaving the reader unaware.

    Robe: Sorry but I have to disagree with you, that is not a fundamental claim by atheism. A lack of belief is necessarily not a claim, atheism is a negative position.

    Reply: Atheism again is not a lack of belief. It’s a positive assertion that there is no god in existence. That is what the Greek of it means.

    Robe: Regarding science, yes, some of the atheist writers suggest science makes God useless, but it doesn’t count as disproof as you can’t disprove God doesn’t exist, you need evidence suggesting he does.

    Reply: Incorrect. You can prove God doesn’t exist by showing a necessary contradiction in his nature. Also, you do need evidence. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been given in science. What has been argued is that God doesn’t function a certain way. That’s a far cry from existence. It’s as if it was said “Science has proven God did not create by fiat. Therefore God doesn’t exist.” That’s a huge leap.

    Robe: And that is only because some theists claim, generally using the Bible that life had to be created a certain way or that the universe was created a certain way etc etc, which generally contradict scientific findings.

    Reply: Correct. Thus, you can disprove an interpretation. That does not mean the text is disproved. Also, disproving the Bible on creation does not equal to a disproof of Christianity or even one of theism. There’s works by writers such as John Walton with very different interpretations.

    Robe: For a claim to be accepted it needs evidence, science, and the evidence found by it, is essentially ‘blind’, meaning there is no positive evidence discovered by science to suggest a God or gods. It doesn’t rule out that we are just explaining God’s mechanism, but you need to demonstarte that, and until that’s done, based on that, there is good reason to not believe that specific claim.

    Reply: Which is a form of scientism. It’s one Dawkins and others follow. It’s a dead remains from logical positivism, something no philosopher today would defend. It was a colossal failure. Dawkins and Stenger still think in that way. I see no reason to think they know anything about philosophy and that is what you need to argue against theism. Science is meant to tell you about matter only. It cannot tell you about anything definitively beyond that.

    Robe: Fundamentalism refers to following a specifc set of basic principles, of which atheism has none, so I’m at a loss as to what fundamentals an atheist would follow?

    Reply: No. Fundamentalism refers to following a way of thinking. Dawkins and Stenger have a theology. They have in mind a kind of god they believe they’re disproving. That God is one just like one found in fundamentalism. They have a weak view of God and then knock down that God. They also just believe anything that fits their claim, just like a fundamentalist does. The fundamentalist doesn’t examine to see if it’s true. He just cares that it backs his view. Thus, who cares if there’s no evidence that Mithra was born of a virgin? It goes against Christianity. Meanwhile, I say, “Who cares if the ontological argument is for God’s existence? It’s still a bad argument.”

    Robe: Nancy Pearcey does it, McGrath does it in the above post, Zacharias, without using the word religion, uses words like: “atheism is a belief”, a “doctrine”, which are religious concepts, which, yes, can be applied to other areas, but I get the impression thats the subtext, though I could be wrong.

    Reply: They could say it acts like a religion, but that is not what the case is built on. The argument is not based on how they act, but on the arguments themselves.

    Robe: John Loftus examines the arguments he goes after Plantinga, Moreland and Craig, Matt Dillahunty does that, so does PZ Myers, so does Michael Martin, so does Jerry Coyne, so does Daniel Dennett etc. There are atheist authors out there, that are part of the Gnu atheism who defend against apologetical arguments, I think limiting yourself to Harris, Hitchens and Dawkins is misrepresenting atheism and the new atheism.

    Reply; I have a full review of John’s first book at my blog. Also, we’ve done work on it through Tektonics. Later books of his don’t really have anything new. I’ve read Martin’s Case against Christianity and found it decidedly wanting. I have not got around yet to Myers or Dilahunty. I have been referring to the best known, the four horsemen.

    Also, keep in mind Loftus does what I call a shotgun approach. He fires a whole lot of arguments out at once, but they don’t really hit. He thinks he can deal with the Thomistic five ways in just a paragraph. Just looking over his material in his first book on the Kalam, I see the same blunder of “even if it could prove a god, it does not prove the Christian God of the Bible.” That was never its purpose. You can see my response to his *coughs* arguments *coughs* against the five ways by contacting JPH.

    Robe: I said it was a response to a specific claim, not making a counter claim. You continue to make that claim. Are you asking if I believe to be true, my lack of belief? Well, I’m not a Christian and don’t believe in God, so yes, I do hold my lack of belief to be true. How can a lack of belief be a belief system? What do I believe when I lack a belief? How would I form a system based on that? That’s nonsense. And again, I’m going to go on how atheists define atheism not Christians, would you let me define your belief for you?

    Reply: I’m arguing from the word itself. Theism means “God.” Atheism negates that meaning “No God.” Theism does not mean “God belief.” It means “God exists in reality.” Otherwise, our argument would be “I have a belief God exists.” “No. You don’t have a belief God exists.” If God belief as you would term it is my view, how would you argue that I don’t possess that? It’s the content of that belief. In the same way, to just say it means you lack a belief is to say “I’m taking a position that requires no argument while I make sure my opponents have a position that requires one.” You do lack a belief in that you do not believe X applies to reality.

    My source is also the Encyclopedia of Philosophy. What’s yours?

    Robe: Because, as I said, presumably his atheism was based or developed on certain standards of evidence, otherwise he would have become a theist as soon as he was able to comprehend the arguments and evidence. It would suggest that he would have had to be provided with reliable positive evidence for God, as far I’m aware that doesn’t exist, or else I’d believe in it, and so would everyone else. I’ve never seen an argument for or against God, that couldn’t be deconstructed well, by someone, that’s why I personally don’t like argumentation to prove God’s existence.

    Reply: Meanwhile, the classical arguments I do not see refuted, such as the existence/essence distinction. I also haven’t been presented with a good argument yet to explain the resurrection and the rise of Christianity. You have this idea that if something is true, everyone would believe it. I am glad to see then you are abandoning evolutionary theory since not everyone believes it. Oh wait. That’s probably an exception isn’t it?

    You see, I don’t base belief in an argument on how many people believe it. I base it on the argument. Most people are confining themselves to science so of course they miss it. In fact, it’s like science has become a safety bubble. I don’t believe theists are in a retreat now. It’s rather atheists who are.

    Reply: Really? C’mon, that’s a bit of a stretch, how many arguments demonstrate the Christian God as promoted in the Bible and as believed by say, Catholics? Most arguments I’ve seen, if you buy the premises, seem to get you only to an unknown, or a logical possibility, and we don’t really live by either of those criteria do we.

    Robe: Most arguments do get you to an unknown. Yes. The classical theists realized that, like Aquinas. That’s the same classic error that I’ve spoken about above. Even if unknown, it is still a deity. You need special revelation to know what deity. I do not believe for a moment that Christianity can be known by reason alone. You need the person on the other side to reveal special information about Himself.

    Robe: Although, having said all that, I would love, as a matter of interest, to see what arguments there are that demonstrate the Christian God, say, as defined by Catholics. The reason I ask for a specifc version of Christianity is a Protestant might not accept what a Catholic does (i.e on the significance of Mary, and saints etc) an vice versa, and if the arguments are so rock solid why are there 38,000 different types of Christianity?

    Reply: So many blunders. So little time. The topic of Mary means zilch to the question of if God exists or not. Also, I am not arguing yet for the God of special revelation but the God of reason. I do not argue that the two are distinct, but I only want to show what can be known by reason at this point. That was the purpose of the five ways. Show what can be shown by reason.

    As for the 38,000 different types, I know you think you’ve made a big point with that, but instead, you’ve shown me another mistake atheists make. They don’t realize the problem at all. They just repeat it assuming it’s true. (That’s the fundamentalist mindset) Since there are 38,000, then I want you without a google search to be able to name fifty.

    When you find yourself struggling, you can ask me about the source of that quote and I’ll be glad to tell you why it doesn’t fit your case. It’s just fundamentalist thinking.

    Robe: This would suggest that even amongst theists there is no clear revelation. As mentioned, argument is a tricky one, perhaps just for me, does it really demonstrate why, emotionally, anyone should believe something?

    Reply: Maybe it’s just me, but it looks like you’re giving an argument to demonstrate why demonstration in argument cannot lead someone to believe anything. You want me to believe your side then?

    Robe: The best I would think you could get with an argument is part of a culmative case method of evidence, but I could be wrong…

    Reply: I think you are. I can make my case strongly on the existence/essence distinction. Of course, the argument itself is multi-faceted relying on Aristotlean thought.

    Robe: He talked to Christians and became a Christian, simple as that it seems.

    Reply: You really think that’s all he did? He was a skeptical scientist. I’d recommend reading his book “The Twilight of Atheism.”

    Robe: No, you got me, that was my error. You’re right of course, but, again, (default) atheism makes no claims of knowledge. We can, by looking at the world, establish evidence that does not require supernatural means, we only observe ‘blind’ natural causes, you need evidence to suggest otherwise, until that time, I’m justified in my lack of belief.

    Reply: Again, I don’t accept that viewpoint that atheism says nothing. Also, unlike many theists, I do not accept the natural/supernatural distinction. I just accept different degrees of existence. This is a split from the Cartesian time left over. Thomists like myself can’t stand that nonsense.

    Robe: I don’t believe they have, and based on the above articles I only see a strawman of atheism, which is dishonest. I have not interacted with their claims about their God, but as mentioned at the end of the article that is something I intend to do later. I can admit I haven’t done it in the sexist way possible, but that’s why I rely on you to keep me in line

    Reply: You’ve read internet resources. That’s hardly research. I’ve read their books. (Not all granted, but enough to know many of their arguments.) McGrath is the one I find least convincing there honestly. Ravi is a personal hero of mine. Dr. Habermas is someone whom I value greatly and his main area is history.

    I suggest going to The Tekton Ticker and taking up JPH’s challenge that he put up this year as a counter to Loftus’s.

    Robe: fair enough! Claiming atheism to be a religion is false, as I have discussed many times in the above post and with you. It is impossible for a lack of belief to be a religion, the point is there are no gods, no tenets, no beliefs, no fundamentals, nothing, only a rejection of the claim that a God or gods exist.

    Reply: And again, no reason is given and I still do not accept this “Lack of belief” claim.

    Robe: Do we ascribe sentience to inanimate objects? How many times have you asked your PS2 it’s thoughts on things? It is silly to bring that up, you’re right, and I thought it went without saying, that during discussion about belief, we mean what sentient entities with the capabilities to make choices and decisions based on information would do, not on all objects. Nope, sorry, again, atheism is what it is, it is defined this way, I’m sorry if Christians don’t like that terminology, but it’s also not my terminology.

    Reply: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    “Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.”

    Ernest Nagel, an atheist, would also disagree with you.

    “I shall understand by ‘atheism’ a
    Responding to Rhetorical Arguments
    critique and a denial of the major claims
    of all varieties of theism. … [A]theism is
    not to be identified with sheer unbelief,
    or with disbelief in some particular
    creed of a religious group. Thus, a
    child who has received no religious
    instruction and has never heard about
    God, is not an atheist—for he is not
    denying any theistic claims.”
    [Ernest Nagel, “Philosophical Concepts of Atheism” in Critiques of God: Making the Case
    Against Belief in God, Peter A. Angeles, ed. pp. 4-5.

    Robe: I understand it’s easier to attack someone who makes an absolute claim about reality, but I don’t and many atheists do not either. Why would you expect me to just bow down to this view of atheism that isn’t mine or many other atheists position and doesn’t describe our response to the claim. You as a claimant are making a claim, I don’t have to believe it’s false to not accept it’s true.

    Reply: I expect you to accept it because that’s what it is so says Nagel and the Encyclopedia of Philosophy. You have here instead a move meant to make the theist have the sole burden of proof. I think theists do have a burden. I think atheists do as well.

    Robe: Is this any different than the majority of the new apologetics authors? Isn’t that what Strobel, Comfort, Dembski etc are doing?

    Reply: The problem is not writing to a popular audience. My ministry partner does that. I do that. I’m just saying how the new atheists are different. The old atheists could blow the new ones out of the water.

    Robe: I said without fear of death and repurcussion, you’re saying copernicus and galileo weren’t threatened, and all the people killed and threatened by the inquisition (which finished mid 19th century) and the crusades? No atheists were killed or threatened there?

    Reply: Copernicus was not threatened. He was a devout Christian all his life and died as one. Galileo had a problem in that he and the Pope were both egoists at the time. They were ready to accept heliocentrism as an interpretation, but it had not yet been established. Galileo’s biggest argument was very weak.

    As for the Inquisition, that was a tool of maintaining social harmony. You remove the church then and the world falls into chaos. Most welcomed the Inquisition. It is also highly overblown in writings today. Have you got to read anyone like Henry Namen?

    Meanwhile, for the Crusades, those were defensive wars at the start. Were some misused? Yes. Not all. A work like Rodney Stark’s would be helpful.

    If you want to show that this was the norm, please give your historical sources.

    Robe: And China is about breaking the law right? They say “you’re not allowed to preach here, the penalty is death”? But I admit, I’m ignorant to this issue.

    Reply: Many have died for being Christians. So did many in Russia. My own pastor had a Russian pastor visit once who cried over how we do church saying that his parishioners know that by showing up at church, they are risking their lives. Of course, this was several years ago.

    Robe: Spirituality is a word used to define, what exactly? The reason spirituality and new age is so popular is precisely because it has a different meaning to everyone, to say you’re spiritual seems to mean in common nomenclature to just believe whatever religious and pseudo religious junk you want, put it all together and call yourself new age or spiritual.

    In a sense, yes. Spiritual means you believe in something else that is a higher plane of existence. The new age is popular not because it can be whatever you want alone, but because atheism left such a vacuum behind. Now you can do science and say you are following a pantheistic god and get your spiritualism in.

    Robe: My point was that McGrath was using the word spiritual to encapsulate every theist, every hippy, every single person with a belief in the supernatural into one cause, to make it appear as if it is more reasonable to believe than not. But that’s not the case as all the religions disagree, quite violently in some cases, about what spirituality means, and they don’t accept each others claims.

    Reply: And that they disagree doesn’t matter a bit to me. They do not tend to disagree on reason. They disagree on matters of special revelation. The Muslim, Jew, and Christian can use many of the same arguments for the God of reason. It’s revelation where they differ. That demonstrates nothing about the existence of God.

    Also, the one that I know that disagrees violently is Islam. We don’t hear many stories about Christians and Jews being suicide bombers or flying into buildings.

    Nick: I see you have no response.

    Robe: Only because it wasn’t worth one, the rise of the New atheism whose authors are on the best seller list, are theists buying these books? Based on this it is just wrong to say that we are heading away from atheism. Atheism hasn’t had a boom of interest like this, since when, the enlightenment?

    Reply: I don’t base it on that. Many people are buying these because they’re talked about only and that’s what they need to do in the social scene. If this is the intellectual battlefront the new atheists put forward however, they’re really dead in the water. It’s like a movement making a dying gasp for a last stand.

    Robe: True I cut him off, you’re right. But nobody, to my knowledge has killed in the name of atheism, you just can’t. You can’t kill based on what you don’t believe, as stated, that’s a fallacy, to which it seems you have no response.

    Reply: Have you ever read The Communist Manifesto? It was what Lenin based his rule over Russia on and he wanted Stalin to be under him because of Stalin’s hatred for things religious. People do kill in the name of atheism. Look at the Khmer Rouge.

    Robe: If you kill when you don’t believe in right and wrong you don’t kill because of that, you kill for a reason, for a belief. i.e because you believe that killing a store owner will get you money and you don’t care what the harm is. The lack of belief is necessary but not sufficient.

    Reply: But note that it is necessary. That’s the point. Not all atheists will do this, but many who did in the past in dictatorship regimes did so because of a hatred of religion and a desire to abolish it.

    Robe: I haven’t read that book, but again, see above, atheism would have been necessary but not sufficient for Stalin and the others. This is the fallacy I charged Zacharias with: cum hoc ergo propter hoc. Thoughts?

    Reply: You’re too quick to call it a fallacy. It isn’t. The water began steaming on the stove after I started boiling it. Post hoc ergo propter hoc! No. That’s a result that is consistent with what happened. So is the killing that took place in Russia and China and the other places. A new philosophy took over that suddenly targeted religion. If not, then why did the killing of people in religion en masse not exist before? What did lead to that?

    Robe: Yes it does. Gnostic theism says “I believe God exists”, agnostic theism states: “I have a God belief”, you are accepting a claim, the strength of that acceptance is in the label. That’s why we generally have hard and soft version of all philosphical positions and beliefs (re: atheism, agnosticism, theism etc).

    Reply: Gnostic theism? No no no. Gnostic theism was a kind of heretical movement around the time of Christ which reached its full fruition several decades afterwards. Agnostic theism would say “I believe there is some god, but I don’t know enough about Him to tell you what He is like.” It’s still an affirmation.

    By the way, check up what the word “Agnostic” means in Latin.

    Robe: Atheism is defined by philosophers and atheists a certain way, this way (Martin/Smith). Which stems from the Greek word atheos which means without God, not Belief that a God does not exist!

    Reply: See Nagel and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

    Robe: But no, I haven’t checked his source, but then again he doesn’t cite one either, these are his words. And he is wrong in those words. I can back up my assertions, regarding the definition of atheism, and have done so everytime, you simply keep asserting I’m wrong, where’s your evidence that I’m incorrect?

    Reply: See above.

    Robe: I can admit to flaws in context, and flow of the blog, I admit my mistakes. On this one, regarding Zacharias’ characterisation of atheism, he’s wrong, and if you agree with him, you are too, sorry.

    Reply: See above. Ravi gave a source and then he explained why it means what it means. You can read about it in the back of “Can Man Live Without God?”

    Robe: that’s fair enough, I can accept that. At what point in the book though, would he give context I wonder, for definition errors and strawman fallacy? Unless he said “On page 36 I was just joking” he’s just wrong, in or out of context.

    Reply: Again, an atheist in the audience raised this very objection and he answered it then.

    Robe: Yeh you got me again, I haven’t done research into Zacharias, but based on his argumens above, he makes weak ones. In fact the exact kind of weak arguments, based on faulty understanding and research you charge the new atheists with, what, exactly, is this difference?

    Reply: You haven’t researched him, but you know his arguments? False. I have most of his books as he’s a favorite of mine and he has extensive bibliographies and indexes. He backs his claim as was said. Get off of the internet and read some books.

    Robe: Thanks for the verbal punch up buddy! Always appreciate the time you spend interacting with me, especially considering how busy I know you are! Hope you’re recovering ok!

    Reply: Doing just fine. I’m back to normal entirely. You should come back to TWeb sometime.

  4. Atheist's RoBe
    January 13, 2011 at 1:38 pm
    Nick: If I have the time. So much stuff to refute. So little time. That and I get in my own reading as well. Reply: Well It’ll only make me better at this, help me understand concepts and ideas I’ve been ignorant to thus far, so bring it. I don’t know how you manage to find the time to get it all in…. Nick: Yes. He does speak about Aquinas. However, he does not understand Aquinas. Reply: This is the famous courtiers reply (http://freethoughtopinions.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default ), that I’ve let slide, as I understand there are intense theological issues, but you’re burgeoning on misinformation. You said he doesn’t interact with Aquinas that is not the case, but if you meant in the sense that he doesn’t engage Aquinas as you would have him? Well that’s, hardly his fault, and if he doesn’t address him as scholarly theologians would? See, the courtier’s reply. The points he addresses about creating a terminator for an infinite regress, are valid. The point seems to be, as I made to you, the arguments for a 1st cause, uncaused cause, design etc don’t get you to a God or gods, and certainly not the God of the Bible, they get you to an unknown, and not even an unknown deity, just an unknown, to posit otherwise is something done without evidence, dishonestly. Nick: That’s the danger. The person in the pew thinks Aquinas has been refuted. He hasn’t been. A straw man has been refuted and if you’re making an argument, do you want to use a straw man? Do you realize what you’ve said? It’s essentially “I don’t care if a straw man has been used; it at least convinces the person in the pew that Aquinas has been refuted.” That’s saying “It doesn’t matter to me what Aquinas really argued, all that matters is that people think he’s been refuted.” I don’t think you want to think like that. Reply: And what I’m saying is he has refuted it, it’s not scholarly, but there is no reason to think a God exists based on these arguments, other than as a logical possibility, demonstrated by reason. If the best you can get to is an unknown, well that’s exactly the same mentality as the ‘God of the gaps’ way of thinking you hate so much. ‘We don’t have an explanation for something, therefore, God’, surely you don’t want to think like that? Nick: Want to understand the first way? Read something like “Aquinas” by Edward Feser, or “The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas” by John Wippel, or “An Elementary Christian Metaphysics” by Joseph Owens. Reply: I, of course want to learn something and see if I’m wrong, so again, thanks for the books. Nick: He didn’t. Why should he? I think he asked some of the best questions. Reply: Your whole point has been that the atheists don’t represent the other side of the argument, they don’t interact, I have provided examples of atheists interacting (for more see below) and an apologist that doesn’t and you wave it away, that’s a double standard. He made no reference to any atheists, didn’t discuss any of his questions with any atheists. Nick: You know my ministry partner has dealt with many objections to the Case for Christ. You’re free to talk to him. Reply: I’m using Strobel’s lack of research as an example. Nick: Also, while they’re interacting in public debates, they’re not in books and regularly, the new atheists are getting beat. Loftus lost to D’Souza. Stenger to Ross and Craig. Hitchens to Turek and Craig. Reply: Hitchens (Is Christianity good for the world- Hitchens v Douglas Wilson) and Dennett (Science and religion- Dennett v Plantinga) have done books exclusively debating and addressing Christians, Dawkins, as we’ve discussed has interactions with the arguments, just not to your liking, he has debated and interacted with McGrath, Harries, Collins and Miller. Harris has debated Aslan, Chopra, Houston, D’Souza, Boteach, Ball, Wolpe, Hedges, Warren, Prager and Sullivan. How is this not an interaction? It seems atheists have to do what you want them to do, in the format you want them to do it in, or it doesn’t count. And regarding the debates you mentioned? The Stenger/Craig one, I thought Craig had nothing, Craig and Ehrman, same thing. Hitchens and Craig, I’d be willing to concede that one was probably in Craig’s camp. Haven’t seen the others you’ve mentioned. This, however, is all still interaction with the arguments, and the apologists who write them. Nick: However, few people will really attend these debates or watch them. Most material is argued in the books. I consider the new atheists highly dishonest in their books as straw manning the other side and leaving the reader unaware. Reply: I disagree, the videos get up to 50,000 views, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FhT4IENSwac), that’s a lot of viewing, reposting and interaction. I don‘t think so, but would love some examples where they misrepresent the Christianity or God that some or most theists believe in? In fact I would consider the new apologists far more dishonest, simply in their mischaracterization of atheism, as presented above. Nick: Atheism again is not a lack of belief. It’s a positive assertion that there is no god in existence. That is what the Greek of it means. Reply: Firstly, I don’t characterize myself that way, I do not assert no God or gods exist, I merely don’t accept the general claim one does, my argumentation has only been why I don’t believe, not why you shouldn’t, or what doesn’t, absolutely exist. And no it doesn’t, to quote Martin: “In Greek the “a” means “without” or “not” and “theos” means “god”. From this standpoint an atheist would simply be someone without a belief in god, not necessarily someone who believes that god does not exist. According to its Greek roots, then, atheism is a negative view, characterized by the absence of belief in god.” (Martin M., (1990). Atheism: A philosophical justification. Pp 463.) Nick: Incorrect. You can prove God doesn’t exist by showing a necessary contradiction in his nature. Reply: That’s simply a defined term, not a demonstrated existing being, backed by positive evidence. You still need to provide positive, reliable evidence for that being; otherwise, established by argument alone, you have a logical possibility only. Showing a necessary contradiction in a terminology is only conceptual, and not based in reality. It’s not positive evidence it doesn’t exist, only that this definition of this particular god can’t. Nick: Unfortunately, it hasn’t been given in science. What has been argued is that God doesn’t function a certain way. That’s a far cry from existence. It’s as if it was said “Science has proven God did not create by fiat. Therefore God doesn’t exist.” That’s a huge leap. Reply: If a theist wants to say, based on a holy book, that a God or gods work a certain way, have done things in a certain way, that’s a hypothesis, when we make discoveries that are counter to that hypothesis, or don’t find evidence for this hypothesis that we would expect to find (in this case absence of evidence is evidence of absence) the hypothesis becomes falsified. There is no evidence, as far as I’m aware, given by science for the existence of a God or gods, only forces that act without the need for a mystical influence, which works counter to the idea of a God or gods proposed. Science works on accepting things that have mechanisms that have and can be demonstrated, thus far there has been no demonstration of a God or gods, or a mechanism by which a God or gods work through this environment, reliably. Hence, we can’t say a God or gods don’t exist, only that it’s plausible to have a lack of belief in the claim they do, like any claim that lacks reliable evidence. Nick: Correct. Thus, you can disprove an interpretation. That does not mean the text is disproved. Also, disproving the Bible on creation does not equal to a disproof of Christianity or even one of theism. There’s works by writers such as John Walton with very different interpretations. Reply: No, it only shows that there is no positive evidence, for the God or gods, it doesn’t demonstrate by fiat that that God or gods don’t’ exist. You need positive evidence to show something doesn’t exist, which is impossible to generate, as mentioned. I wouldn’t suggest that if we find counter evidence to one specific claim from the Bible that it falsifies the whole, that’s a composition fallacy, I would say that if we find evidence contrary to what’s claimed then we have reason to reject that claim, with more veracity depending on the preponderance of evidence. It’s when you add many of those up that disbelief in the whole begins to be more reasonable. Nick: Which is a form of scientism. It’s one Dawkins and others follow. It’s a dead remains from logical positivism, something no philosopher today would defend. It was a colossal failure. Dawkins and Stenger still think in that way. I see no reason to think they know anything about philosophy and that is what you need to argue against theism. Science is meant to tell you about matter only. It cannot tell you about anything definitively beyond that. Reply: There are 2 different types of scientism, weak scientism and hard scientism, as defined by Craig and Moreland: “Strong scientism states: There are not truths apart from scientific truths, and even if there were, there would be no reason whatever to believe them. Weak scientism: allows for the existence of truths apart from science and are even willing to grant that they can have some minimal, positive rationality status without the support of science. But advocates of weak scientism still hold that science is the most valuable, most serious, and most authoritative sector of human learning…field outside science gain if they are given scientific support and not vice versa.” Moreover if weak scientism is true: “Then the conversion between theology and science will be a monologue with theology listening to science and waiting for science to give it support.” (Moreland J.P., Craig W.L., (2003). Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. P 347.) I can’t speak for Dawkins and the others, but given the fact that they seem not to make absolute statements, and at least in Dawkins case we know he is not a strong atheist (see: below), it might be safe to assume they subscribe to weak scientism, if they subscribe to scientism at all, that’s your claim, I expect you to back it up. I could be ok with accepting weak scientism, unless it’s demonstrated to be inferior, then I’m perfectly happy in dropping it. Not true regarding philosophy. Christian theism, based on the Bible, makes testable truth claims about reality, claims that are counter, in some instances, to the discoveries of science, these are true or not, but many of them, thus far, are disconfirmed through scientific discovery (i.e much of Genesis), they may still be true, in an objective sense, but we have no reason to assume they are true, in a functional sense. If the Bible says something and we discover different, we are warranted to follow the evidence where it leads and base our ideas on what the evidence says, strictly. There are philosophical implications sure, there always are, but if you think your god is strictly limited to philosophy and metaphysics then you think it has no measurable effect on this planet, if it doesn’t, then it’s indistinguishable from something that doesn’t exist. If it does affect this planet, at all, then it has a measureable affect and interaction that science can discover, on some level (the difference between methodological and ontological naturalism). If you’re going to claim there is anything beyond matter, or anything that is not an emergent property of matter, you need to demonstrate that, otherwise weak scientism and methodological naturalistic stances are perfectly justified, based on their history of success, and the amount of reliable evidence produced. We need positive evidence to confirm the existence of the logical possibility that is a God or gods, not just reason, reason get’s us to a possibility. Dawkin’s and Stenger are basing their beliefs (or lack thereof) on what has been demonstrated, they recognize the possibility a God or gods may exist (Dawkins says: on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is certitude that God exists and 7 is certitude that God does not exist, he rates himself a 6: “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.” That sounds like agnostic atheism to me, and not an assertion no God or gods exist) but we have no reliable demonstrable evidence, and according to that, we have no reason to believe one does, we only need recognize in the realm of all logical possibilities, a God or gods is among them. Nick: Fundamentalism refers to following a way of thinking. Dawkins and Stenger have a theology. They have in mind a kind of god they believe they’re disproving. That God is one just like one found in fundamentalism. They have a weak view of God and then knock down that God. They also just believe anything that fits their claim, just like a fundamentalist does. The fundamentalist doesn’t examine to see if it’s true. He just cares that it backs his view. Thus, who cares if there’s no evidence that Mithra was born of a virgin? It goes against Christianity. Meanwhile, I say, “Who cares if the ontological argument is for God’s existence? It’s still a bad argument.” As Great Christina states: “Myth 1: Atheists are 100% convinced that there is no God, as blindly faithful as religious fundamentalists. Atheism means different things to different atheists. But for the overwhelming majority, it doesn’t mean being 100% certain that there’s no god. It means being certain enough. It means we’re as certain that Jehovah or Allah or Ganesh don’t exist, as we are that Zeus or Thor or the Flying Spaghetti Monster don’t exist. (I’ve read and spoken with hundreds of atheists… and have encountered exactly two 100 percenters.) Atheists aren’t saying, “We’re 100% convinced that there’s no god, nothing could persuade us otherwise.” Atheists are saying, “We’re not convinced. The arguments for God are weak and circular; the evidence falls apart under close examination. Show us better evidence or arguments, and we’ll reconsider. Until then, we’re assuming that God doesn’t exist.” (Christina G., (2009). Eleven myths and truths about atheists. http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2009/03/myths-and-truths-.html) Reply: As Sam Harris states: “Myth 3) Atheism is dogmatic. Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that their scriptures are so prescient of humanity’s needs that they could only have been written under the direction of an omniscient deity. An atheist is simply a person who has considered this claim, read the books and found the claim to be ridiculous. One doesn’t have to take anything on faith, or be otherwise dogmatic, to reject unjustified religious beliefs. As the historian Stephen Henry Roberts (1901-71) once said: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”” (Harris S., (2006). 10 myths—and 10 Truths—About Atheism. http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/10-myths-and-10-truths-about-atheism1/) Words have meanings and when you twist them like this, it makes you look dishonest. Every single definition of fundamentalism requires doctrine, theology, religious faith, religion and the strict adherence to the fundamentals of such. There is no such thing in atheism; any 50 atheists can believe far different things from each other, nothing ties them together, except their lack of belief in a God or gods. There are no tenets, no doctrines, no belief, no authority; you are simply incorrect in stating they are fundamentalists. You are, however, demonstrating your own fundamentalism in this straw man of Dawkins and Stenger, in being unable to research atheism correctly and understand the definitions, and views of its proponents. Instead you spew the same rhetoric based on faulty definitions that apologetical authors propagate. If you’re saying they’re attempting to disprove the God of Christian fundamentalism, fine so be it. You may not believe in that God, but many do, this is again, you simply stating: I don’t agree with them, or their definitions, or how they argue (or perhaps their subject matter in general?) hence they’re bad writers and dishonest. That’s fine, it’s your prerogative to do so, but there are many who believe in the God these atheists go after, if you don’t believe in it, don’t listen to what Dawkins and Stenger have to say, because they’re not talking about you, or what you believe. Your God remains untouched. Nick: They could say it acts like a religion, but that is not what the case is built on. The argument is not based on how they act, but on the arguments themselves. Reply: To quote Nancy Pearcey: “There is no such thing as a non religious person, there are only people who have turned away from God to worship false idols.” “Every alternative to Christianity is another religion.” (Pearcey N., (2004). Total Truth. Chapter 1: Breaking Out of The Grid.) Nick: Just looking over his material in his first book on the Kalam, I see the same blunder of “even if it could prove a god, it does not prove the Christian God of the Bible.” That was never its purpose. Reply: What is its purpose? What exactly has Craig spent the last what 30 years of his life doing with this argument, if it doesn’t get you to God? I’ve never heard of companion arguments that go with it to get you to the Christian God, even in his book On Guard he simply states the argument then lists a bunch of flat assertions about what it must be, this is hardly reliable, and it’s certainly untested and unverifiable. Or as Christopher Hitchens states: “What Can Be Asserted Without Evidence Can Be Dismissed Without Evidence.” (Hitchens C., (2010). Christopher Hitchens: ‘You have to choose your future regrets’.) Nick: You can see my response to his *coughs* arguments *coughs* against the five ways by contacting JPH. Reply: To be honest in the stuff I’ve seen of JPH, his interactions with the Pixie on Tweb, he just seemed, well, mean. I’m sure he was just tired of the discussion. I’m sure he’s a great author, but this whole debate thing is about mutual respect, we’re all here to learn, we’re all here to respect each other, and if writers can’t do that, I don’t want to just spend my time being abused for my ideas. Which is a gripe I’d take with you too, supposedly you represent Christianity, but the tone with which you write is extremely condescending, how, for example am I supposed to get a good view of Christianity and Christians when the discussions I have and see, are abrasive. I have never said your beliefs are false, I make no claim that your God doesn’t exist, only that I personally don’t believe in him, and moreover that’s how atheists in general think, so I don’t know why you have a gripe against atheism and me for that matter, and if you don’t? I’d consider a friendlier tone. Nick: I’m arguing from the word itself. Theism means “God.” Atheism negates that meaning “No God.” Theism does not mean “God belief.” It means “God exists in reality.” Otherwise, our argument would be “I have a belief God exists.” “No. You don’t have a belief God exists.” If God belief as you would term it is my view, how would you argue that I don’t possess that? It’s the content of that belief. In the same way, to just say it means you lack a belief is to say “I’m taking a position that requires no argument while I make sure my opponents have a position that requires one.” You do lack a belief in that you do not believe X applies to reality. Reply: As the Freethinker blog states: “A theist gnostic is someone who believes in god/gods and thinks that the existence of gods can be known. This position is usually referred to as just ‘theist‘, since people who believe in gods, usually also think that their existence can be known. A theist agnostic is someone who believes in gods, but thinks that they could not know for sure that their god exists. Another fairly unusual position, as people who have faith in gods usually also think that their god can be known to be real. An atheist agnostic is someone who does not believe in gods and also thinks that the existence of gods cannot be known. This might mean that they don’t believe in gods because they haven’t seen any evidence that supports their existence. An atheist gnostic is someone who does not believe in gods, and who thinks that we can know that gods do not exist. A fairly unusual position, they might think they have found proof of the non-existence of gods, or might have been persuaded by life experiences.” (The Freethinker- http://freethinker.co.uk/2009/09/25/8419/). Well, what is your view, do you believe in a God or gods and believe it to be knowable or not? If it is just your position that you believe in a God or gods yet believe it to be unknowable, then why would I want to debate you? It’s your personal belief. If you believe in a God or gods, and believe it is knowable (and perhaps further, that you know it’s true) then we might have a discussion, but it’s not my job to convince you you’re wrong or right. I don’t believe in a God or gods, but don’t profess to believe that they can’t or don’t exist, hence, I’m not trying to take away your beliefs and I’m not sure why we’re debating at all? My position requires that I respond to arguments, but not make them, I don’t claim that you’re wrong, as this is my personal stance, but I do need to justify, given evidence or argument, why I don’t agree with either. Nick: My source is also the Encyclopedia of Philosophy. What’s yours? Reply: Ummm every popular atheist writer I have ever read, as well as every atheist writer I’ve seen? As Michael Martin states: “Well known atheists of the past such as Baron d’Holbach (1770), Richard Carlie (1826), Charles Southwell (1842), Charles Bradlaugh (1876) and Anne Besant have assumed or explicitly characterized atheism in the negative sense of absence of belief in God. Furthermore, in the twentieth century George H. Smith, in Atheism: The Case Against God (1979), maintains, “An atheist is not primarily a person who believes that god does not exist; rather he does not believe in the existence of god.” Antony Flew, in “The Presumption of Atheism” (1972), understands an atheist as someone who is not a theist. Gordon Stein, in An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism (1980), says an atheist “is a person without a belief in God.” A recent pamphlet entitled ‘America Atheist: An Introduction” says an atheist “has no belief system” concerning supernatural agencies…..Still there is popular meaning of “atheism” according to which an atheist not simply holds no belief in the existence of a god or gods but believes there is no god or gods. This use of the term should not be overlooked. To avoid confusion, let us call this positive atheism, and the type of atheism derived from the Greek root held by the atheistic thinkers surveyed above let us call that negative atheism. Clearly positive atheism is a special case of negative atheism: Someone who is a positive atheist is by necessity a negative atheist, but not conversely. In my useage, positive atheism is positive only int he sense that it refers to a positive belief- the belief that there is no god or gods. It is positive in contrast to negative atheism, which has no such positive belief.” Martin M. (1990). Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Pp- 463-4. As George H. Smith states: “Derived from the Greek atheos (meaning “godless, not believing in the existence of gods”), an atheist is “one who does not believe in the existence of a deity.” Atheism, or the absence of belief, is therefore a perspective, not a philosophy. Although there can be atheistic philosophies that are based solely on naturalistic principles, there cannot be a “philosophy of atheism” per se, because a negative position can never serve as a satisfactory foundation for a philosophical system. Consider the British atheist G.W. Foote editor of the Freethinker and the author of many books and articles on atheism. Foote’s atheism was scarcely of timid variety; convicted of blasphemy and sent to prison, his case provoked a young John Stuart Mill to write a passionate defense of religious freedom. Yet Foote repeatedly insisted that atheism is properly defined as the absence (or lack) of theistic belief, and not the denial of God’s existence. In a typical exchange, Foote challeneged a critic to “refer me to one Atheist who denies the existence of God.” The atheist is a person without belief in a god; “that is all the ‘A’ before ‘Theist’ really means.” This was the view of Charles Bradlaugh, the most influential atheist in Victorian Engleand. In The Freethinkers Textbook (1876), after noting that the meaning of “atheism” had been “continuously misrepresented,” Bradlaugh went on to say: “Atheism is without God. It does not assert there is no God.” Similarly, in Why I Do Not Believe In God (1887) Annie Besant defined atheism as “without God.” No historian has yet undertaken a thorough investigation of this negative definition, so we don’t know when it came into common use, but we do see traces of it as early as the seventeenth century. For example, John Locke, in Essays concerning human understanding (1690), cited travel accounts that reported “whole nations” of atheists, “amongst whom there was to be found no notion of a God, no religion.”The negative definition also appears in the first comprehensive defense of atheism, Baron d’Holbach’s The System of Nature (1770). “All children are atheists,” according to d’Holbach, because “they have no idea of God.” Christian scholar Robert Flint understood that atheism, as defined for many decades by prominent atheists, is negative rather than positive in character. In Agnosticism (1903), Flint pointed out that the atheist “is not necessarily a man who says, There is no God.” On the contrary, this “positive or dogmatic atheism, so far from being the only kind of atheism, is the rarest of all kinds…..” The atheist is simply a person “who does not believe that there is a God,” and this absence may stem from nothing more than “want of knowledge that there is a God.” Flint concludes: “The word atheist is a thoroughly honest, unambiguous term. It means one who does not believe in God, and it means neither more nor less.””Smith G. H., (2000). Why Atheism? Pp 18-24. As Dan Barker states: “Basic atheism is not a belief. It is the lack of belief. There is a difference between believing there is no god and not believing there is a god–both are atheistic, though popular usage has ignored the latter.” [Dan Barker. Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist. p. 99. Freedom From Religion Foundation, 1992.] As Antony Flew states: “The word “atheism,” however, has in this contention to be construed unusally. Whereas nowadays the usual meaning of “atheist” in English is “someone who asserts there is no such being as God,” I want the word to be understood not positively but negatively. I want the originally Greek prefix “a” to be read in the same way in “atheist” as it customarily is read in such other Greco-English words as “amoral,” “atypical,” and “asymmetrical.” In this interpretation an atheist becomes: someone who is simply not a theist. Let us, for future ready reference, introduce the labels “positive atheist” for the former and “negative atheist” for the latter.” [Antony G.N. Flew and Paul Edwards, God, Freedom, and Immortality p. 14. Prometheus, 1984.] As Gordon Stein states: “The average theologian (there are exceptions, of course) uses “atheist” to mean a person who denies the existence of a God. Even an atheist would agree that some atheists (a small minority) would fit this definition. However, most atheists would stongly dispute the adequacy of this definition. Rather, they would hold that an atheist is a person without a belief in God. The distinction is small but important. Denying something means that you have knowledge of what it is that you are being asked to affirm, but that you have rejected that particular concept. To be without a belief in God merely means that the term “god” has no importance, or possibly no meaning, to you. Belief in God is not a factor in your life. Surely this is quite different from denying the existence of God. Atheism is not a belief as such. It is the lack of belief. When we examine the components of the word “atheism,” we can see this distinction more clearly. The word is made up of “a-” and “-theism.” Theism, we will all agree, is a belief in a God or gods. The prefix “a-” can mean “not” (or “no”) or “without.” If it means “not,” then we have as an atheist someone who is not a theist (i.e., someone who does not have a belief in a God or gods). If it means “without,” then an atheist is someone without theism, or without a belief in God.” [Gordon Stein (Ed.), An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism, p. 3. Prometheus, 1980.] And there’s many more… Nick: Meanwhile, the classical arguments I do not see refuted, such as the existence/essence distinction. Reply: If they only get me to an unknown, why do I need to refute them? They’re irrelevant, made more so by the fact that you say below it’s only by revelation that we can know God. Nick: You have this idea that if something is true, everyone would believe it. I am glad to see then you are abandoning evolutionary theory since not everyone believes it. Oh wait. That’s probably an exception isn’t it? You see, I don’t base belief in an argument on how many people believe it. I base it on the argument. Most people are confining themselves to science so of course they miss it. In fact, it’s like science has become a safety bubble. I don’t believe theists are in a retreat now. It’s rather atheists who are. Reply: The Christian God is largely defined as perfect, therefore, his expression should be such, he knows exactly what to do, to make me and everyone else believe in him, the fact many don’t and most believe very different things, is meaningful. As you say below, it’s about his revelation, he has made many atheists and most believers believe completely different and contradictory things, again, this is meaningful. Evolution is different, it is tested for and discovered by humans, with our flaws and limited intelligence, human discoveries and the acceptance of such are bound by our flaws, and God isn’t. His word, his will, his presence is propagated by him, and if he wanted you to know him you would, simple as that. The point, was that presumably his atheism was based on a researching of the evidence and arguments and he found them wanting, then all of a sudden after discussing Christianity with Christians he becomes one? Who am I to say what was going on, but whatever the evidence was that convinced him, I’d love to see it, and so would everyone else. I base belief in personal entities on whether they can be demonstrated to exist, if they can’t, I don’t accept them. I can’t speak for others when it comes to science, but for me personally, I like its discoveries, its inquiry, its demonstrable results, its testable evidence, its falsifiable hypothesis, its predictable theories etc. I like that it provides a measure of reality, that everyone can review, test, falsify and disconfirm, and if it stands up to these, it means we can be, with a high degree of certainty, sure of the reliability of whatever piece of information gleaned, to better humanity, to create tools, medicines, technology that help us and further push forward the human race. I can’t see any other tool provide a demonstrable reality like science; I haven’t found anything that has advanced our practical knowledge etc. Nick: Most arguments do get you to an unknown. Yes. The classical theists realized that, like Aquinas. That’s the same classic error that I’ve spoken about above. Even if unknown, it is still a deity. You need special revelation to know what deity. I do not believe for a moment that Christianity can be known by reason alone. You need the person on the other side to reveal special information about Himself. Reply: Still a deity? Demonstrate that. If it’s unknown, how can you possibly assert it’s a deity, you can’t assert you know what it is, that’s what unknown means? When I say unknown, I mean literally unknown. So, you’re telling me, if I listen to say the cosmological argument, I then need God, at the point of understanding the argument to reveal himself to me, only then I can understand the argument? That’s circular reasoning. Why do I need the argument then if God is going to reveal himself to me? Or does God need the argument to reveal himself to me? And why do you need the argument to demonstrate God to me? Wouldn’t it be better to just have God reveal himself to me? Nick: So many blunders. So little time. The topic of Mary means zilch to the question of if God exists or not. Also, I am not arguing yet for the God of special revelation but the God of reason. I do not argue that the two are distinct, but I only want to show what can be known by reason at this point. That was the purpose of the five ways. Show what can be shown by reason. Reply: Again, you’ve missed the point. The point of mentioning Mary is that Catholics place different emphasis on her (almost deity like status: praying to her etc), as they do saints, whereas Protestants don’t and some/many wouldn’t accept Catholicism based on things like that, which means, one of them is wrong, and not worshipping God, but a false God. So basically all you want to argue for is a logical possibility with no positive reliable evidence demonstrating its existence? That is the exact reason I don’t claim to believe that no God or gods exist, precisely due to the fact that it is a logical possibility that one could exist, I need much more than a logical possibility to believe in one. So, if the God of reason and revelation are the same, why bother with the God of reason? If it’s just a matter of time before the God of revelation shows up, why bother discussing it with me? I ask for an argument that gets me to the God of Christianity, as defined by Catholics and you can’t do that, so it’s “so many blunders. So little time”? Why don’t you try answering my questions before you condescend? It’s petty and perhaps you’ve noticed I don’t do that to you? I try to respect your opinions even when I think they’re b.s, I ask for the same courtesy in return! Nick: As for the 38,000 different types, I know you think you’ve made a big point with that, but instead, you’ve shown me another mistake atheists make. They don’t realize the problem at all. They just repeat it assuming it’s true. (That’s the fundamentalist mindset) Since there are 38,000, then I want you without a google search to be able to name fifty. Reply: I vary rarely think I’ve made a big point, I wish you would get over this, feeling threatened persona you seem to have, we’re just having a friendly discussion, you can’t be polite, don’t have one. I’m not a Christian how can I be expected to name them, by heart? I guess the point is, if God is communicating to all of you, why is he giving such a confused message, and to some, no message at all? These are just some I’ve found, they obviously don’t include all of the versions of Christianity or the other religions on the planet, and the sects and derivations amongst them too, which add to the problem of inconsistent revelation: “Catholic, Orthodox/Eastern Christian, African indigenous sects (AICs), Pentecostal, Reformed, Presbyterian, Congregational/United, Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Adventist, Latter Day Saints, Apostolic/New Apostolic, Stone-Campbell (“Restoration Movement”), New Thought (Unity, Christian Science, etc.), Brethren (incl. Plymouth), Mennonite, Friends (Quakers), Amish, Anabaptism, Assemblies of God, Calvinism, Christadelphians, Christian Identity, Church Universal and Triumphant, Church of Christ, Church of England, Congregationalism, Coptic Christianity, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopal Church, Ethiopian Christianity, IURD, Lutheran Church, Maronites, Old Catholic Movement, People’s Temple, Pilgrims, Protestant, Mormonism, Uniting church, Non-denominational, Puritanism, Roman Catholicism, Shakers, Spiritual Baptists, Thomas Christians, Unification Church, Unitarianism, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Acoemetae, Adelophagi, Adventist Movement, Amillennialism, Arminian Theology, Augustinians, Benedictines, Cahenslyism, Capuchins, Carmelites, dispensationalism, Dominicans, Evangelicalism, Franciscans, fundamentalism, Gnosticism, Huguenots, Hutterites, Liberation Theology, Mainline Protestant, Mendicant Orders, Neo-Orthodoxy, Pietism, postmillennialism, Primitivism, Quietism, Sabbatarianism, staret, premillennialism, Scholasticism, Thomism, Transcendentalism, Trinitarianism.” Source: http://askville.amazon.com/denominations-Christianity/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=7157160 Nick: Maybe it’s just me, but it looks like you’re giving an argument to demonstrate why demonstration in argument cannot lead someone to believe anything. You want me to believe your side then? Reply: But that’s the point, I’m not trying to get you to believe my side, I am merely saying why I don’t believe your side, based on things you’ve said, arguments that have been provided and the evidence I’ve seen etc. I want my reality to be as congruent, and even as possible. That means setting up a standard by which I accept claims, I do, after all, want to remain consistent in my reality. I’m not sure argument alone is enough to warrant belief in something like a God or gods. Everything that I believe is demonstrated by reliable, testable, reproducible, falsifiable, disconfirmable, predictable evidence. Depending on the evidence and the reliability of such is how I determine how much I accept something, I can use reason, logic, rationality, evidence and the Socratic method to help in this process, to help determine my reality. But if I’m going to believe in something big, something that has eternal consequences that affects my one short life, you can be damn sure I’m going to need a good demonstration of that thing. Everything else I believe and accept, regarding practical reality can be demonstrated and tested, to a satisfactory reliability (but not to absolute certainty), I expect God to be held to the exact same standard, like all things. That’s my personal standard, I don’t ask you to hold it, but the point is, yes I don’t think argument, on its own, without reliable, testable, confirming evidence is enough to demonstrate the existence of a being that is alive and affects reality. Nick: I can make my case strongly on the existence/essence distinction. Of course, the argument itself is multi-faceted relying on Aristotlean thought. Reply: But as stated, doesn’t that argument get you to an unknown? And even if it didn’t, a demonstration of a logical possibility by argument is not demonstrable proof of existence, backed by evidence, I require that, you may not, but as mentioned, everything else I accept can be easily demonstrated, not by argument, or argument alone, but by reliable, verifiable evidence. And not to be too blunt, but if you could demonstrate a God or gods with this argument, to a certainty that is fitting the claim, it wouldn’t be called faith, it’d be fact, and you could demonstrate it in papers, journals, get it submitted, propagated, tested and add all number of reliable knowledge to the collective. If this is your proof of God, why are you sitting on it? Get it out there! Nick: You really think that’s all he did? He was a skeptical scientist. I’d recommend reading his book “The Twilight of Atheism.” Reply: That’s all he said in the article. I’ve got it, but my girl has it at the mo. Nick: Again, I don’t accept that viewpoint that atheism says nothing. Also, unlike many theists, I do not accept the natural/supernatural distinction. I just accept different degrees of existence. This is a split from the Cartesian time left over. Thomists like myself can’t stand that nonsense. Reply: I’m not entirely sure on the supernatural myself; I do know I haven’t seen any reliable evidence for its existence. Reply: You’ve read internet resources. That’s hardly research. I’ve read their books. (Not all granted, but enough to know many of their arguments.) McGrath is the one I find least convincing there honestly. Ravi is a personal hero of mine. Dr. Habermas is someone whom I value greatly and his main area is history. Reply: So what? This is your personal standard again, I notice you haven’t quibbled that I have put up quotes they haven’t said. They’re referenced online articles and book quotes that represent their ideas, which I addressed, accurately I might add! That’s great that you respect them and that Ravi is a personal hero. I’m not making sweeping statements about their character or their entire body of professional work, I quoted them, and they were wrong in their statements. Doesn’t mean they don’t ratify them in other texts, doesn’t mean they don’t say true things in others, but these texts are straw men, hence why I used them. Nick: I suggest going to The Tekton Ticker and taking up JPH’s challenge that he put up this year as a counter to Loftus’s. Reply: You seem to have this thing, where you hand me off to someone you think is going to give me a beat down, you don’t see me going “contact this atheist, he’ll get you”. No, I address your concerns, admit when I’m wrong and stand up for myself when I think I’m right. Nick: And again, no reason is given and I still do not accept this “Lack of belief” claim. Reply: If I haven’t met my burden of proof on that, you have unrealistic standards. I have multiply attested definitions, spanning hundreds of years, with every definition saying the same thing; I’m not sure what else you’re going to need. If the above quotes don’t convince you, I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this one. Nick: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.” Ernest Nagel, an atheist, would also disagree with you. “I shall understand by ‘atheism’ a Responding to Rhetorical Arguments critique and a denial of the major claims of all varieties of theism. … [A]theism is not to be identified with sheer unbelief, or with disbelief in some particular creed of a religious group. Thus, a child who has received no religious instruction and has never heard about God, is not an atheist—for he is not denying any theistic claims.” [Ernest Nagel, “Philosophical Concepts of Atheism” in Critiques of God: Making the Case Against Belief in God, Peter A. Angeles, ed. pp. 4-5. Reply: “Atheism means the negation of theism”? That hardly means, “I believe there is no God”, to negate would only mean to refuse or deny the claim a God or gods exist, not to believe the opposite. And “the denial of the existence of God” is not the positive affirmation that there is no God only that you deny the existence of one, that’s still in the negative. Firstly he said “I shall understand” ok, it’s his personal definition and his first definition of atheism is: “I shall understand by ‘atheism’ a Responding to Rhetorical Arguments, critique and a denial of the major claims of all varieties of theism. …”. I’d agree, that’s what an atheist does, responds to claims, arguments, critique, investigates, reviews, tests (if possible) and if the arguments and evidence are found wanting to them, they deny those claims, that’s common, that’s part of scientific methodology and more importantly that’s exactly how I’ve defined weak , agnostic, implicit, negative atheism. “[A]theism is not to be identified with sheer unbelief, or with disbelief in some particular creed of a religious group” he goes from discussing atheism in the negative to discussing it in the positive, it seems now he is talking about strong, gnostic, explicit, positive atheism, while, although extremely rare, does occur, and is not what is colloquially meant by the term atheist (as demonstrated by the many, many atheist writers of note above). “Thus, a child who has received no religious instruction and has never heard about God, is not an atheist—for he is not denying any theistic claims.” I would be ok, with saying a child is an agnostic, as they don’t know, that doesn’t contradict the many definitions I’ve given. So it seems we agree. I’m not sure what you’re point was with this exactly? Nick: I expect you to accept it because that’s what it is so says Nagel and the Encyclopedia of Philosophy. You have here instead a move meant to make the theist have the sole burden of proof. I think theists do have a burden. I think atheists do as well. Reply: Well as shown above I think Nagel’s definition describes what has been consistent with what I have been saying. It’s not a move dude, that’s really cynical of you. This is actually how I think! If I was trying to convince you that a God or gods don’t exist, I would agree, I absolutely do have a burden of proof, but seeing as that’s not my position I don’t. You seem to want me to have this position, but sorry, I don’t. I don’t take positions that are undefendable, that’s the point; I’m simply waiting for evidence that convinces me, simple as that! You may have found that evidence to satisfy your standards of evidence, I haven’t. Nick: The problem is not writing to a popular audience. My ministry partner does that. I do that. I’m just saying how the new atheists are different. The old atheists could blow the new ones out of the water. Reply: No, what you have been doing is judging their writing on purely personal standards and then calling them dishonest when they don’t meet those standards. They tackle arguments, they tackle apologists, depending on the author, they tackle theologians, you seem to expect them all to tackle theologians or they don’t count, that’s just silly. Nick: Copernicus was not threatened. He was a devout Christian all his life and died as one. Galileo had a problem in that he and the Pope were both egoists at the time. They were ready to accept heliocentrism as an interpretation, but it had not yet been established. Galileo’s biggest argument was very weak. Reply: You’re right; I misspoke on Copernicus (although his work was later rejected by the church, which is directly related to what happened to Galileo, and others). But Galileo? You’re saying he deserved what he got, for questioning the authority of the time? Weak arguments deserve that? Wow! Nick: As for the Inquisition, that was a tool of maintaining social harmony. You remove the church then and the world falls into chaos. Most welcomed the Inquisition. It is also highly overblown in writings today. Have you got to read anyone like Henry Namen? Reply: That completely misses the point of what I was saying, for whatever good it did, it still persecuted and in some cases tortured, imprisoned and killed, those that disagreed with the church. Such examples of atheists, rationalists and freethinkers that were imprisoned, or killed are; Galileo Galilee, Taommasa Campanella, Francis of Marchia, Giordano Bruno etc. And no I have not read Henry Namen. Nick: Meanwhile, for the Crusades, those were defensive wars at the start. Were some misused? Yes. Not all. A work like Rodney Stark’s would be helpful. If you want to show that this was the norm, please give your historical sources. Reply: I refer you to Joseph McCabe’s article for evidence of the Inquisitions methods and cruelties. McCabe .J., The Story Of Religious Controversy Chapter XXIII. http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/joseph_mccabe/religious_controversy/chapter_23.html#2 As Joseph McCabe states about authors of the Columbia encyclopaedia: “The list of its chief contributors includes the famous Baron de Montesquieu (the real pioneer of modern democracy, whose great work “The Spirit of the Laws” makes Bellarmine and Suarez look like thimbleriggers), the still more famous Count Buffon (the greatest scientist of his age), Voltaire (certainly the most brilliant writer and historian of his age), Rousseau, Turgot (the founder of economic science and one of the ablest ministers of state), Laland (one of the finest astronomers and mathematicians of the time), Euler (“probably the most talented mathematician that ever lived” says Dr. Barnes), D’Alembert (who was hardly second to him), Diderot (one of the most learned men in France), Bernouilli (famous Italian scientist), Marmontel (one of the most brilliant French writers of the time), Baron D’Holbach, Helvetius, and others of the most cultivated writers in Paris. It is strange to find Dr. Barnes, who has only a few lines on the work — he calls it “a monumental survey of knowledge” — saying that these writers “shared with Aquinas and Duns Scotus many of the problems they discussed” (II. 185). In spite of the high position of the chief writers they had to produce their work in the teeth of fierce hostility. As volume after volume was more or less secretly printed and published they were repeatedly condemned and the authors threatened. When the work was near completion the clergy bribed the printers to mutilate the finest articles after Diderot had passed the proof. But the leading Minister, the Due de Choiseul, a secret skeptic, and — it is amusing to learn — the king’s chief mistress Mme. de Pompadour protected the rebels, and the great work circulated freely when its arch-critics the Jesuits, were suppressed by the pope as grave offenders.” (McCabe J. The Columbia Encyclopedia’s Crimes Against The Truth: HOW A POPULAR REFERENCE WORK IS BEING USED AS A WEAPON AGAINST FREE CULTURE AND TWISTED TO FIT THE PURPOSES OF LYING OBSCURANTISTS. http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/joseph_mccabe/encyclopedia_crime.html#7) There are many more examples simply in that article alone. This quote below from William Edelen includes the crusades: “On the front page of all my daily newspapers is the story of Pope John Paul II in Athens apologizing for all of the “sins” of the Roman Catholic church against the Greek Orthodox Church. Last year the Pope went to Jerusalem’s Western Wall and apologized for all of the damage the Christian church had inflicted upon the Jews. Several years ago he finally apologized to Galileo (now dead) for his persecution by the Christian church. You remember Galileo. He told the Pope at that time that the bible and church dogma about the universe and the earth was totally false. Not a word of truth in it said Galileo. So, naturally the church went after him with all the power at their command. Of course, Galileo was correct and the bible and church were wrong. Unfortunately, there are probably not enough days left in Pope John Paul’s life to apologize for all the damage done by the Christian church in the last 2000 years. When Alfred North Whitehead was the Chair of Philosophy at Harvard University, he made this observation: “Christian theology has been the greatest disaster in the history of the human race.” Was he correct?’ A brief review: 391 C.E. (A.D.):’ Christians burn down one of the greatest libraries in the world in Alexandria. Over 700,000 scrolls were destroyed. [note from the editor: the consensus of modern scholarship is that only the extension library was destroyed by Christians, containing over 40,000 scrolls] 500 to 1000 C.E.:’ The church takes over and brings with it the cancer of the dark ages destroying almost everything that defined civilization. The Christian church all but wiped out education..technology…science.. medicine…history…art..and commerce. During this period the church amassed enormous wealth. 1099 C.E.:’ Christian crusaders take Jerusalem and massacre Jews and Muslims.’ In the streets were piles of heads, hands and feet. Millions were killed as a result of the Crusades. (note: Billy Graham still calls his preaching a “crusade”). 1208 C.E.:’ Pope Innocent orders a’ Crusade against the French Cathars.’ Over 100,000 were killed by Arnaud’s men at Beziers. 1231 C.E.:’ Pope Gregory IX establishes the Inquisition.’ Inquisitors were given license to explore every means of horror and cruelty. Victims were rubbed with lard or grease and slowly roasted alive.’ Ovens built to kill people, made famous by Nazi Germany, were first used in the Christian Inquisition of Eastern Europe. Hitler, by the way, said he admired Martin Luther more than any other German, because Luther despised the Jews. Gruesome tortures used on hundreds of thousands of non-Christians in the Inquisition were so repugnant and horrible that I cannot even describe them to you. The Inquisition spread as far as Goa, India. 1377 C.E.:’ The Pope’s army descended on the Italian town of Cessna. For three days and nights beginning on February 3, the slaughter continued. The squares were filled with blood. Women were violently raped…a ransom was placed on children and priceless works of art destroyed. Over 5000 were butchered. 1497 C.E.: The Church began an enormous burning in Florence. The works of Latin and Italian poets, illuminated manuscripts, women’s ornaments, musical instruments, and paintings were all burned. 1500’s C.E.:’ The’ witch hunts are going full speed ahead. Members of the clergy proudly report how many they have killed.’ The Lutheran prelate Benedict Carpzov bragged that he had killed over 20,000 “devil worshippers.” Historians estimate that more than nine million persons were executed after 1484, mostly women. This was as brutal as anything that happened in the Nazi’s twentieth-century holocaust. 1572 C.E.: On St. Bartholomew’s Day over 10,000 Protestants are slaughtered in France. Wrote Pope Gregory XIII:’ “We rejoice that you have relieved the world of those wretched heretics.”” (Edelen E., (2001). Apology for Christianity. http://www.infidels.org/kiosk/article97.html) http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/john_murphy/apologyofjohnpaul2.html http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/john_murphy/ http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/john_murphy/giordanobruno.html I hope that’s enough sources. Nick: In a sense, yes. Spiritual means you believe in something else that is a higher plane of existence. The new age is popular not because it can be whatever you want alone, but because atheism left such a vacuum behind. Now you can do science and say you are following a pantheistic god and get your spiritualism in. Reply: That suggests there was ever a time when atheism was the dominant thought, as far as I’m aware, it has never been. Nick: And that they disagree doesn’t matter a bit to me. They do not tend to disagree on reason. They disagree on matters of special revelation. The Muslim, Jew, and Christian can use many of the same arguments for the God of reason. It’s revelation where they differ. That demonstrates nothing about the existence of God. Reply: I agree with you, hardly anyone is disagreeing that the God of reason might exist (I’m certainly not at least), atheists agree with that, that’s the point of the negative position: lack of belief versus the positive assertion no God or gods exist. Those theists all believe very different things about their God or gods, not from special revelation (at least from an outsiders perspective after all, how do you test for or demonstrate special revelation?), but from the doctrines and dogma of their faith. The fact that these people all believe very different and conflicting things about a God or gods suggests there is no God or gods, only human imagination, wonder, need, ignorance etc. The reason every theist can use the same arguments is no big mystery, we’ve discussed this, those arguments get you to an unknown, at best, which allows the believer to assert their God or gods into the picture, to make the puzzle fit, that’s dishonest and it’s a failure of the arguments. Nick: Also, the one that I know that disagrees violently is Islam. We don’t hear many stories about Christians and Jews being suicide bombers or flying into buildings. Reply: How many Christians killing people would be tolerable to your mind? Nick: Have you ever read The Communist Manifesto? It was what Lenin based his rule over Russia on and he wanted Stalin to be under him because of Stalin’s hatred for things religious. People do kill in the name of atheism. Look at the Khmer Rouge. Reply: Notice how it’s the communist manifesto? Not the atheist manifesto? As Hector Avalos states (regarding Stalin): “Most of Stalinist violence resulted from the forced collectivization, and recently published documents show the complicity of the church authorities in Stalinist agenda….. Moreover, in the sense of a system of collectivized property, is a biblical notion found already in Acts 4:32-27. That Christian communist system also results in the killing of a married couple (Acts 5:1-11) that reneged on a promise to surrender their property. Thus the principle of killing those who did not confirm to collectivization of property is already a biblical one. The defense that it was simply lying about turning over property that was the motive for the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira overlooks the brute fact that the value of life was put below handing over all their property. For instead of just being expelled, they were killed. Stalin and Mao probably would have done the same thing. Since communism is advocated by some biblical authors, then Maoist and Stalinist deaths cannot simply be attributed to atheism, as enforcing collectivization can be deadly in both atheist and Christian forms.” (Avalos H., (2010). Atheism was not the cause of the holocaust (The Christian Delusion). Pp 368-9) The Khmer Rouge is an example of dogmatic thought, based along communist lines, as Sam Harris states: “Myth 2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history. People of faith often claim that the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the inevitable product of unbelief. The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions. Such regimes are dogmatic to the core and generally give rise to personality cults that are indistinguishable from cults of religious hero worship. Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields were not examples of what happens when human beings reject religious dogma; they are examples of political, racial and nationalistic dogma run amok. There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.” (Harris S., (2006). 10 myths—and 10 Truths—About Atheism. http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/10-myths-and-10-truths-about-atheism1/) Nick: But note that it is necessary. That’s the point. Not all atheists will do this, but many who did in the past in dictatorship regimes did so because of a hatred of religion and a desire to abolish it. Reply: You’re confusing correlation with causation. Nick: So is the killing that took place in Russia and China and the other places. A new philosophy took over that suddenly targeted religion. If not, then why did the killing of people in religion en masse not exist before? What did lead to that? Reply: And you’re using post hoc ergo propter hoc in the fallacious sense (in reference to atheism). What came after was not necessarily due to what came before. As I said, atheism is necessary, but not sufficient to get anyone to a place of action, of positive belief, as it is not defined such. The people who killed may well have been atheists, but they didn’t, and in fact, couldn’t, kill due to their atheism. A philosophy that targets religion is not what atheism is, it is defined in the negative, and it is not a philosophy. What targeted religion was the dogmatic belief in power, in control, as Victor Stenger states: “In The Plot to Kill God, sociologist Paul Froese claims that the Soviet Union waged a relentless war on religion that he attributed to the violence of atheism and, despite his effort, it failed to eradicate faith. It turns out there is another side to the story supported by hard evidence that disputes Froese’s conclusion. In fact, since 1943 he Soviet Union has supported the Russia Orthodox Church. Despite that support, only 25 percent of Russians today are believers. In his 2005 book, Fighting Words: The Origin of Religious Violence, Iowa State Religious Studies professor Hector Avalos reports on his examination of archival materials released after the fall of the Soviet Union. He found no evidence that Stalin killed because of atheism. Rather the data indicate that Stalin’s genocide was driven by the politics of forced collectivization. Historian Edvard Radzinsky has also examined the archives and found several examples where Stalin supported the church. Priests were allowed in the Soviet camps during the siege of Stalingrad and Leningrad. The icon Our Lady of Kazan was carried in a procession on the streets of Leningrad. On September 8, 1943, with Stalin’s permission, Metropolitan Sergius was elected patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) thus normalizing Soviet relations with the Church. Avalos writes in 1944 about 144,000 people attended Easter services in Moscow churches. A single church in the city of Kuibyshev recorded 22,045 baptisms in 1945 and 5,412 in the first three months of 1946. Stalin provided financial support to the ROC of 550,000 rubles in 1946 and 3,150,000 rubles in 1947. …Governments have always used religion to help them maintain power and keep people in line. Although officially atheist because of its commitment to the Marxist dogma, the Soviet Union under Stalin and his successors, up to and including the current Russian regime, have recognized the benefit of the Russian Orthodox Church had always provided the czars and put it to use to help maintain their own power.” (Stenger V., (2009). The New Atheism. Pp115-6) Nick: Gnostic theism? No no no. Gnostic theism was a kind of heretical movement around the time of Christ which reached its full fruition several decades afterwards. Agnostic theism would say “I believe there is some god, but I don’t know enough about Him to tell you what He is like.” It’s still an affirmation. By the way, check up what the word “Agnostic” means in Latin. Reply: You’re confusing agnosticism/gnosticism with the Christian movement of Gnosticism, which is not what I was referring to (refer to definitions above). A Gnostic theist believes, but doesn’t believe it to be knowable, that’s not an absolute assertion of a God or gods existence, it’s tentative. Greek, agnostos: “unknowable”, therefore in Greek gnosis “knowledge”, so what? Nick: Ravi gave a source and then he explained why it means what it means. You can read about it in the back of “Can Man Live Without God?” Reply: He gave no source for his definition of atheism, in the “Real Face of Atheism” excerpt I used so at the very least, it’s bad writing, and dishonest. If he covers it elsewhere that’s fine, I’d have no reason to judge that, as I haven’t seen it. Nick: Again, an atheist in the audience raised this very objection and he answered it then. Reply: As I said above, if he’s defining atheism the way he does in the article above, reference or not, he’s wrong, straw manning, and dishonest, the kicker is, he provides no reference. Nick: You haven’t researched him, but you know his arguments? False. I have most of his books as he’s a favorite of mine and he has extensive bibliographies and indexes. He backs his claim as was said. Get off of the internet
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