How to Respond to a Supercilious Christian

kellym78's picture

Kelly O'Connor
Feb. 7, 2008

Not all Christians are supercilious, of course. Many are content to live and let live, and some even grant that science (despite its lack of supernatural entities) does some good. But Christianity as an organized, evangelizing movement has been on the offensive lately. Witness the new wave of evangelicals and their leaders such as Rick Warren, Lee Strobel, and William Lane Craig with their aggressive stance against scientific materialism and their bestselling books attempting to refute science. So, assuming you're an atheist, what do you say to the theist who asks, "You don't (chuckle) believe in a god (snicker)?"

Anybody familiar with the original article will see that the preceding paragraph is the same paragraph as the opening to "How to Respond to a Supercilious Atheist" by Alan Roebuck. By changing a few words, the same attack can be launched right back at him, and the rest of the article isn't much better. It appears to be a primer in projection. After all, when in doubt, just accuse them of being just like you.

Roebuck advises his fellow theists to take a different approach to defending the faith-instead of coming up with actual evidence, you should just tell atheists how our worldview is the one that is based on assumptions and presuppositions. He eschews using the First Cause argument and the defense of miracles because, "No matter what evidence you give, the supercilious atheist finds a way to dismiss it." I wonder if he has ever considered that it may be dismissed because it is not valid evidence.

The First Cause argument doesn't work because, at best, it can only be used to show that something created the universe, and that something is not necessarily Yahweh. It could be another god or a multitude of gods. Even that is questionable, though, due to the fact that they have yet to show that the universe itself is contingent upon some necessary being and not the necessary "being" itself. I would also advise theists to drop this argument from their arsenal, but not in favor of Roebuck's plan.

Roebuck states that, "it is not the case that your evidence for God is valid but nevertheless is cancelled out by his superior evidence against God." Gee, Sherlock, where can I find this "evidence against God?" How about the absolute penury of evidence for god? Theists have not yet grasped the concept of the burden of proof, apparently. It's really simple, so I find it astounding that it is so easily dismissed-the one who makes the positive claim (ie-god exists) is the one who has to prove that claim, not the person who is in the default position of suspension of belief due to lack of evidence (ie-as far as we know, god does not exist). As much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, if you believe something without sufficient evidence, you are irrational.

Roebuck claims that atheism's vulnerability lies in the "false worldview" that we hold that only material, objectively verifiable things exist. First of all, this is not true. Not all atheists are scientific materialists. There are many who believe lots of different wacky theories that don't involve a god and there are others with other notions of how the universe operates. This argument is only applicable to a portion of atheists who also hold a materialistic worldview.

Roebuck then claims that scientific materialists assume this and have come to their conclusion before examining the evidence. (Is the projection evident yet?) The only evidence that exists is physical, material, verifiable, and falsifiable. The existence of god is none of the above. Any religious statement can be considered factually meaningless by virtue of the fact that it doesn't meet the falsifiability criterion. The only assumptions being made here are that god exists and it's up to atheists to disprove that. Obviously, Roebuck doesn't understand that this is impossible, and that is the very reason why we can say that no evidence for such an entity exists.

He uses an example of a blind man dismissing the existence of color because he cannot sense it, and likens that to the atheist who can't sense god. First of all, the blind man knows he is blind. He recognizes this sensory deficiency and doesn't believe that everybody on earth is also blind. Furthermore, Roebuck is demonstrating his lack of understanding of the functioning of the brain by asserting that color exists in some more than abstract sense. Color appears as it does to us in the small portion of the light spectrum that we are able to perceive. For other creatures, the world around them is entirely different, and we can study how this process operates, what causes disorders such as blindness or the inability to perceive color and from where it stems.

Is Roebuck suggesting here that atheists suffer from a sensory deficiency as well? Does he believe that theists have been endowed with a "sixth sense" that enables them to make contact with the supernatural? If so, I'd like him to demonstrate what part of our anatomy is causing this problem so that it can be rectified. Blindness stems from either the brain or the eye itself not operating properly. Where does "spiritual blindness" originate? Seen as how all of our senses are processed in the brain, and also have an external organ by which the information is received, he should be able to show where our malfunction is occurring.

Roebuck claims that the theist must challenge our "assumptions" to properly expose the atheist as a pedant, and says that first we have to define our criteria for making the determination that there is no valid reason to believe in god and how we know they are correct. He must be talking to different atheists than I, as most people that I know would respond with the criteria being objectively verifiable evidence, and that we know this method of validation to be the most accurate due to hundreds of years of making advancements as a society thanks to the scientific method.

He moves on to what kind of evidence would be needed to verify the occurrence of an actual miracle. This would be a difficult question because most people with a scientific mindset would not know what it would take because even unexplained phenomena could potentially be explained in the future. Not knowing the answer right now doesn't imply that the answer is unknowable. Besides, an omniscient, omnipotent being would know exactly what was necessary and could provide it if he chose. Unless, of course, we are his "vessels of wrath" created only to go to hell and demonstrate god's wonderful mercy.

He again misconstrues the position of atheists who allow for the possibility of the supernatural, although I personally feel that any knowledge of such a plane of existence is impossible to ascertain, by positing, "How do you know that a super-naturalistic explanation, involving a God who intervenes from time to time, cannot be the correct explanation? Wouldn't one have to be, for all intents and purposes, omniscient in order to know that God could not have been involved?" We don't know for sure that it couldn't be the correct explanation, and he is shifting the goalpost from his particular god to "a super-naturalistic explanation." This is a common tactic in apologetics, and it should be pointed out that he doesn't know that the supernatural being that started it all wasn't Zeus. As far as the omniscience goes, we can answer that we do not have to be omniscient to say that at this time, there is no evidence for such a being and no need to appeal to one. Making up an answer when there is none is called argumentum ad ignorantium.

He attempts to take on the issue of the logical contradictions inherent in the attributes that his god is given but misses most of the salient points. He deals momentarily with omnipotence and claims that god can do "anything that can be done." Didn't god make the rules to begin with? Could he not have made them different than they are? What's the point of having an omnipotent creator of the universe who was beholden to some other rules, and from where or whom did those mandates come?

He dedicates a measly three sentences to theodicy, and just says that a god who allows evil for some unknown reason could exist, but never ties it back into the real contradiction, which is how could that god be considered omnibenevolent? Again, god either created atheists specifically to be tortured for all eternity by no fault of their own, having been given the gift of faith or not, or he just chooses not to intervene for some mysterious reason. Either way, how can one argue that this being loves me? He will send me to hell purposely, either because it's my destiny, or because he just doesn't intervene because we need faith, which is a gift from him that we are supposed to somehow give ourselves. That's not circular or anything.

He moves on to what he calls "arguing presuppositionally", and gives an inadequate explanation of an axiom, which he then changes slightly to allow for the existence of god to be a non-axiomatic axiom. He claims that all knowledge is based upon one foundational principle that cannot be proven, but is intuited. He is muddying the waters here by the use of the word "intuit", as an axiom is just something that is self-evident. I feel he chose that word for the specific purpose of misleading the reader and priming them for the upcoming shift in definition.

He claims that axioms can be tested by deducing whether or not the system is "logically, morally, and existentially consistent." He asserts that the atheist worldview fails because the "nature of knowledge cannot be validated empirically." People have many different epistemological views, and the use of scientific methodology to determine the validity of anything is necessarily going to have some starting point and then system of experimentation. That is all we have with which to work, and he is attempting to negate the materialist worldview by using a point that he himself believes regarding his own-that not everything can be empirically validated.

He claims that one cannot live a purely naturalistic life as that implies that you define your own meaning, and that makes everybody's meaning invalid. We couldn't "stick to it when the going gets rough." I have no idea what kind of data he is using to determine this, but the search for meaning is an individual endeavor-even for the religious. People may claim that they "live for god", but in reality, nobody does. If all they are living for is the promise of an afterlife in paradise, then they logically would all just commit suicide to get there faster. Instead, what we observe is christians not following the dictates of their own belief system and living their daily lives in much the same way that we heathens do. They also use their families, their responsibilities, their hopes, dreams, and future endeavors as "meaning." Being handed a blanket "meaning" for your existence only serves to cheapen the very concept.

He claims the existence of god is axiomatic, but cannot be "intuited" like other axioms. These are, after all, "subtle and cosmic questions." If it is not self-evident, it is not an axiom. Period. He says that any proposition "must be judged true or false in light of what we already know to be true." I'm with him there, but how on earth does that prove the existence of god as axiomatic? His writing goes from merely ignorant to absurd at this point.

Perhaps the most amusing quote is this one: "...some people are content to believe without having any proof of their beliefs, and you can't argue with someone like that." You're telling me. Again, this is an example of projection at its finest. He claims that theism excels at "accounting for the facts of reality", but I'm not sure exactly what type of reality to which he refers. Reality is that which can be observed and generally agreed upon. Imaginary sky-daddys don't fall into that category.

His final snafu is that he comes around full-circle to admit that the foundation of religious belief is faith-that which is believed but cannot be proven. Did he not just spend 5 pages attempting to prove that his god belief is logically superior to a naturalistic worldview? I feel as if I missed the middle ten pages of this argument and walked into the conclusion of a completely different one. He claims that by pointing out our assumptions, theists can claim victory over atheists, but all he is really saying here is that he has the opinion that we do the same thing that they do. If that's true, why is it acceptable for them and not for us? It seems to be a very odd contradiction to say that atheists are wrong because we work from our presuppositions, but then to base your own worldview on presuppositions. How exactly can you determine whose presuppositions are correct? If they cannot be proven, how can anybody know? Given his own argumentation, how does he know that our supposed presuppositions, while I don't believe that a naturalistic worldview implies presuppositions, aren't the correct ones? Can we not take every argument here and turn it around on religion with no difficulty?

To put the nail in the coffin, his endnotes declare that the true impediment to our belief is that we hate god. This laughable notion is constantly used against us and is by far the most ridiculous assertion in their repertoire. It is nothing short of an attack that attempts to discredit our use of rationality by claiming that it is an emotional issue at its core. If anybody is rationalizing their emotions, it is the theist whose fear of death overwhelms him to the point that he makes up fairy tales to assuage the constant anxiety that life in an unknown, unpredictable universe can induce. This article was a pathetic attempt to discredit atheism, or more accurately, scientific materialism, by ascribing to it all of the properties of religion. That alone is enough to demonstrate the intellectual vacuity of their belief.

Original Article

 

 

I wonder if he has ever

I wonder if he has ever considered that it may be dismissed because it is not valid evidence.
The answer is probably no.

Does he believe that theists have been endowed with a "sixth sense" that enables them to make contact with the supernatural?
The answer is probably yes.

Consider the following statement by William Lane Craig:

The way that I know Christianity is true is first and foremost on the basis the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart. This gives me a self authenticating means of knowing Christianity is true wholly apart from the evidence. And therefore, if in some historically contingent circumstances, the evidence that I have available to me should turn against Christianity. I don’t think that that controverts the witness of the Holy Spirit. In such a situation, and I should regard that simply as a result of the contingent circumstances that I am in, and that if I were to pursue this with due diligence and with time I would discover that in fact that the evidence—if I could get the correct picture—would support exactly what the witness of the Holy Spirit tells me.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-fDyPU3wlQ

Craig plainly is willing to follow the evidence only as long as it leads to the conclusion that he wants. When it doesn’t, he simply assumes that there is some other evidence out there somewhere that will and he trumps the known evidence with that secret sixth sense known as the “witness of the holy spirit in his heart.”

Brian37's picture

Atheists have definatly

Atheists have definatly swatted the hornet's nest. But the thing the "hornets" dont realize is that we are offering them something they are not used to, a life without superstition.

When I brought my new cat home, in his first week he was timmid and combative to any appraoch I had to him, and my advances were not to harm him, but to aid him. Since then he has aclimated quite well and accepted that I am not there to harm him, but that I am his friend.

With theism it is quite different. They not only see you as an outsider, but have been deeply indoctrinated by use of fear, to deem the atheist as the enemy. That certainly, by any perspective, is a tough stereotype to crack.

 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37

ragnarok's picture

A Different Direction

Kelly, once again you have proven yourself worthy of the title, "All That And A Bag Of Chips." But while I was reading your post, something occurred to me: atheists have been appealing to the wrong part of the Christian brain the whole time.  I have been an atheist for almost 30 years, and in that time I have witnessed many articles, essays and books that debunk Christianity and Judaism (and by extension, Islam and every other irrational belief).  I argue with none of their content or intent.  But, perhaps a plaintive tone is the wrong one to take?  Perhaps a more aggressive attitude is in order.

All of the books and such contain much of the same information; there is little variance among the reasons given for disbelief or nonbelief, and there are almost no new arguments that have been made.  The battle between Theists and Atheists is at an intellectual impasse.  Neither can gain any real ground on the other, due in large part to the lack of new information, or new theories or new discoveries.  Even Intelligent Design is an old theory, merely picked up again and dusted off and given a shiny new coat that does nothing to improve its faulty logic or hide its blatant abrogation of the scientific method.

During all of this time we, the atheists of the world, have been sitting back in an extremely passive aggressive stance that hasn't really worked for us.  I propose we attack.  Maybe we could find a way to take out a full page ad each day in a different newspaper, with photos of a horrible crime scene, or a natural disaster, or something else that induces a visceral reaction in the viewer.  Give the photo a brief description if necessary, and then ask "Where was your God when this happened?"  It would help if the event depicted in the photo was local to the newpaper in which the ad appears, but it isn't always necessary, given the proclivities of the media to flood the airwaves with shocking images of all types from areas all over the world.  If we could organize locally, maybe those ads could appear on a daily basis.  We could challenge them every day to defend the either horribly deviant or horribly apathetic entity that causes or allows these things to happen.  The Blasphemy Challenge was a great start, but we must keep doing it.  We must find other ways of challenging them publicly and openly.  If your area has public access television, you as a citizen are allowed to use it to express your views on just about anything.  It is the law and the cause of atheism can benefit from it.  Debunk the lies they print about us by taking them to court whenever possible; print flyers describing the truth about the religious holiday or festival being celebrated, and promptly place one on every windshield and in every mailbox; for every evangelical Christian television show that allows call-ins, an atheist to debate on camera over the phone (you log everything as proof, so that when they surreptitiously hang up, you can then present the entire record to the people); investigate every sect you can and expose them as the money-grubbing frauds they are.  And there is no need for violence; in every instance we make sure that what we do does not violate established law and does not physically harm, unless we need to defend ourselves against physical attack, and in that case, the law will be on our side.  A world without religious oppression and repression would be a wonderful thing, but we cannot expect to enlighten anyone with our staid approach; we are the ones who need to bring it to fruition.

And we need to breed more atheists!  I've seen far too many Biblical literalists churning out babies like Tleilaxu axlotl tanks!  Everyone, commence fucking!

I have little poignant or anecdotal to share in this space, but I'm glad I wrote something that made someone like you waste their time reading it. HAVE SOME.

Hambydammit's picture

Quote: I've seen far too

Quote:
I've seen far too many Biblical literalists churning out babies like Tleilaxu axlotl tanks!

This is by far the coolest simile anyone has ever made on this site.  Good work.

 I think atheist advertising is a great idea.  All we need now is for every atheist to send us 10% of their income so we can afford it...

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

Vessel's picture

Looks like Roebuck deserves

Looks like Roebuck deserves the title of the 'Supersilliest Christian'. Well, perhaps not as competition for that title is probably pretty stiff.

The article, taken as a whole, is nothing but an unnecessarilly wordy attempt at shifting the burden of proof. We simply don't determine what exists by not being able to prove something does not exist. I do not come to understand that the computer I am typing on, or the desk on which it sits, or the house in which the desk sits, or the land on which the house sits, exist because I can't prove they don't. If such was the case, I would have to accept the existence of every possible non-contradictory existence as an actually existing thing. No one does this. He doesn't do it himself, except for with his god. Why does the god concept (?) deserve this special exemption of 'no proofs required'?

Its ridiculous to me that any self respecting publication would even print an article like Roebuck's. It is nothing but old tired rhetoric. It accomplishes nothing but to perhaps make the theist feel better about their beliefs, which if they have reasonable justification for holding, they shouldn't need to feel better about. They should simply be able to present the justification for their beliefs and let them stand on their own merits.

Anyway, another good read. Thanks.   

“Philosophers have argued for centuries about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but materialists have always known it depends on whether they are jitterbugging or dancing cheek to cheek" -- Tom Robbins

RaspK's picture

An extension to what you

An extension to what you said in your post is this: isn't atheism much less like blindness and more like a dismissal of auras?

Most scientists say that there is no evidence of the existence of auras, therefore the scientific method cannot accept such an existence just because x people around the globe say they exist - the scientist simply points out that it now is their job to falsifiably prove that auras exist (the most common method would be trying to prove that auras don't exist and encountering an obstacle that makes this impossible, ergo proving the opposite - reductio ad absurdum).

Blind men and color

He uses an example of a blind man dismissing the existence of color because he cannot sense it, and likens that to the atheist who can't sense god. First of all, the blind man knows he is blind.

What if we're blind and don't know it? I think the blind man and colors is an excellent chance to illustrate the principle of skepticism. What would a skeptic do if people around him claimed they could do something they called "see", which gave them access to this property of things called "color"?

"So you claim this tomato in my hand is 'red', eh? Would you mind if I asked a bunch of people I found at random if they would agree that in fact the tomato is 'red', the apple is 'green' and the lemon is 'yellow'?"

Carrying out the experiment would definitely convince the blind skeptic that there is quite a bit of useful agreement regarding color.

Carrying out a similar experiment with God seems to come to the conclusion that if people could conceivably disagree about some property of God, they invariably do so. If the blind skeptic was faced with the same situation, he would indeed be justified in believing that "color" was baloney.

Hambydammit's picture

As we (should) know,

As we (should) know, analogies don't prove things -- they illustrate them.  With that in mind, I'm not a big fan of the blindness analogy precisely because it encourages people to make the mistake that jhannes has made.

In the case of vision, we know precisely what it is.  It is a complex set of light sensitive cells transmitting chemical data to the brain, which processes it as images of the visible light spectrum.  This is not analogous to "spiritual" existence, which is....

um...

errrr...

What was spirit again?

As you can see, the analogy fails.  Just to be overly pedantic, it's like this:

Color Perception::Sight   as Non-Color Perception::Blindness

where blindness refers to a lack of a known capacity, namely light sensitivity.

Color Perception::Sight as Atheism::Theism would only be accurate if theists could demonstrate empirically that they have sensory capacity that atheists do not.  Until such a conclusion is demonstrated scientifically, we must assume that no such sensory capacity exists.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

rdmiller3's picture

Projection is the key issue.

I would like to see more about the "projection" effect.   That's obviously the major thing going on.

There are a lot of "christian" self-help guides out there with the latest fads in pop-psychology, but I don't remember any of them talking about projection.  Recognizing the phenomenon of projection would be too revealing.  It would open the flood-gates of self-examination.

It happened to me.

I hope it's not discouraging if I give some constructive criticism... but these blog entries seem much longer than they need be.  Yes, you're thorough... but how thorough must one be with nonsense?  It's kind of like debugging software...

When I write software, it usually doesn't compile on the first try.  I get a horribly long list of error messages.  Do you suppose I go through that list, addressing each error in turn?  Well, NO, I DON'T.  The very first error may have screwed up the whole interpretation of the program.  All the other errors may have resulted from misinterpretations due to the first one.  So I only look at the FIRST ERROR.  I fix it, then I try the compile again.

Likewise, you might try tackling only the principle error at hand.  In this case, "projection".  Tackle it!  Rip it's shorts off!  Show everyone what a dickless abberation it really is!  But don't get distracted with minor issues that won't even matter once the primary argument has been put down like a rabid dog.

Hambydammit's picture

Quote: Yes, you're

Quote:
Yes, you're thorough... but how thorough must one be with nonsense?

Herein lies the dilemma.  I don't know how much you've tried talking to theists (I'm guessing you're not a theist...) but if you leave the tiniest hole through which they might wriggle, they will.  They will find any and all flaws and omissions, and post them all over their blogs, claiming that because we don't have our facts straight, we aren't to be trusted.

The double standard is huge.  To be a Christian, they say all you need is faith the size of a mustard seed  (which is  not the smallest seed, by the way).  To be an atheist, they expect us to literally have all the answers -- to everything...

In pamphlet form.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

RaspK's picture

Hambydammit wrote: The

Hambydammit wrote:
The double standard is huge. To be a Christian, they say all you need is faith the size of a mustard seed (which is not the smallest seed, by the way). To be an atheist, they expect us to literally have all the answers -- to everything...

In pamphlet form.


But therein lies the even worse moment - whoever has watched the whole "peanut butter argument" (check http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZFG5PKw504 for that) has had a most patent example of how they go about their "argumentation:" the Strawman Fallacy and Argument from Ignorance are their greatest faults, maybe even more so than Projection.

Take the above presentation of their reasoning for example: first, an obvious confusion regarding what evolution is (that's abiogenesis he's talking about), then a muddled "x may lead to z, so y cannot be true" sort of argument. I am a student of food industry, and I can assure you that his argument is, frankly, not worth even debunking it! Abiogenesis suggests extreme conditions that even sterilisation rarely reaches, and comparing the organic puddle of peanut butter and canned beef with the likes of the inorganic substances congealing into organic matter in the abiogenetic profile is much like trying to debunk nuclear fusion by suggesting that light bulbs work under the principle that no nuclear fusion will take place - good grief, Sherlock, how did you find that out!?

first cause etc,.

I suggest that people read Kant's book " Critique of Pure Rreason" -- in it he shows that the Thomastic arguement -- borrowed from Aristotle, can be use to prove there is a god -- or there isn't a god.. theisis vs. antithisis.

kellym78's picture

I would rather punch myself

I would rather punch myself repeatedly in the face than read "Critique of Pure Reason" again. Not only was Kant's argumentation for a moral imperative not based on belief in god (Kant was a likely a deist--not a christian), but deontological ethics are absolutely absurd and not a single person on the planet does, or should, behave in that fashion.

 Other than that, I don't understand your point. What does that have to do with anything?

Delontological ethics is a

Delontological ethics is a good arguement against free-riding. That is essentially the only moral thing it is good for.

Does anyone use pure reason? I think most poeple also use evidence.

Kelly Has Not Answered My Main Point

 

Dear Kelly

 

It was clearly not the intent of my "Supercilious Atheist" essay to give an argument for God.  That would take an entire book.  Instead, the essay made one main point, which is preliminary to any proof of God, along with some subsidiary assertions for the purpose of placing the main point in its context of how to argue for God. I could defend any of these subsidiary assertions at length, but I am under no obligation to prove them, especially because the main point, which I discuss below, stands on its own. Also, your essay shows that you would not be able to properly appraise these arguments, because of your inadequate worldview, i.e., basic way of thinking.  You dismiss the common arguments for God by declaring them to be invalid, but they are only invalid to you because you assume naturalism. I also note that you do not fully understand my position, but that is to be expected, as I gave only an outline of my full position on God.

 

That essay's main point, to which you did not respond adequately, is this: Any proposition you know, you know because you have validated it in some way, and all validation takes place within a definite worldview, i.e., comprehensive philosophical system based on certain axioms.  But since more than one worldview is possible, and since man is capable of being mistaken even about his premises, one must have some sort of justification for his worldview.

 

[In retrospect, I would modify the above claim in one way: it seems that we can know a few things without formally "validating" them.  For example, we can know what we ate for breakfast without having to validate it within a specific system of axioms.  But knowledge about God does not fall into this category.]

 

 

You said:

 

The only evidence that exists is physical, material, verifiable, and falsifiable.

 

And also

 

…the use of scientific methodology to determine the validity of anything is necessarily going to have some starting point and then system of experimentation. That is all we have with which to work…[Italics added]

 

I use the word "naturalism" to describe the worldview you call "scientific materialism," and these comments are naturalistic beliefs.  And the arguments you give all presuppose naturalism, so I'll assume you are a naturalist. But how do you know that naturalism is true?

 

You also said:

 

…an axiom is just something that is self-evident.

 

But something is not self-evidently true just because you believe it is. I have given an argument why naturalism is not true, and therefore you cannot just say "it's obviously true, and that's all there is to it."

 

 You also said:

 

...most people that I know would respond with the criteria [for knowing if there is a God] being objectively verifiable evidence, and that we know this method of validation to be the most accurate due to hundreds of years of making advancements as a society thanks to the scientific method.

 

Of course, "objectively" means truly, but how do you know that "objectively verifiable evidence" must be naturalistic evidence?  If there existed a non-physical God, his existence would not be detected with the senses, and yet He would nevertheless really exist.  The argument that "society has advanced due to science" is not a compelling one. Aside from the fact that social change is not advancement just because you say it is, most of science does not assume that there is no God.  It only assumes that the physical universe operates according to natural law the vast majority of the time. For most (if not all) of science, naturalism need not be posited.  You have not justified naturalism.

 

And the point of the blind man analogy was simply this: Just as the blind man would not be justified in disbelieving in color because he cannot perceive it, the fact that God is not detectable scientifically does not prove that He is not there.  There may be other means of detecting Him.

 

In fact, you take the position "the supernatural may exist, but until we see scientific evidence for it, we can safely ignore it."  For example, you said:

 

We don't know for sure that [a supernatural explanation] couldn't be the correct explanation...

 

And in other places, you clearly specified that you will only accept naturalistic evidence. So you require naturalistic evidence before you will believe in the supernatural, in exact analogy with the illogical blind man of my analogy.  You need to stop being inconsistent, and either disbelieve in the supernatural, or else admit that it may exist, in which case you cannot dismiss its existence based only on naturalistic science.

 

The basic argument for God is this: with a naturalistic worldview, we cannot adequately account for all that we know to be true, for example, consciousness, objective morality, the creation of the cosmos.  We can certainly know that these things exist, because their existence is pretty much self-evident.  Or, to put it another way, we know intuitively that we really are conscious, that some things would be wrong even if the authorities said otherwise, and that something other than the cosmos would have to have brought the cosmos into being.  ["Intuition" meaning: "Our ability to know some things directly, without having to engage in some sort of proof by gathering and analyzing evidence."] We know that these things are there, but what can adequately account for why such things are there?  Until you can give a persuasive account of why naturalism gives a better explanation of all known phenomena, not just some, naturalism is suspect.

 

The naturalist responds, "Yes we can adequately account for these things naturalistically."  Or at least, he says, we can explain most of them, and anything not explained will either be explained later, when science has progressed, or else is not explainable even in principle.

 

In this connection, you said:

 

...at this time, there is no evidence for ... a [supernatural] being and no need to appeal to one.

 

Sure, a naturalistic explanation that sounds plausible to the naturalist can usually be found, but how does the naturalist know it is the correct explanation?

 

Only by examining his worldview.  And unless you can give an account of why you believe naturalism to be true, your arguments against God all fail (all of your arguments I've seen are based on naturalism), and you are left with agnosticism at best.  Real agnosticism, that is, not the agnosticism that is just a disguise for atheism.

 

I have given elsewhere more detailed arguments against naturalism. There, I argue that naturalism is contradictory, and that it cannot account for some of the basic facts of reality. So you need to give a better answer to the following question: why do you believe naturalism to be true?  Don't refer to success, or to other authorities: What is your evidence?

 

 

HisWillness's picture

Alan Roebuck wrote:I use the

Alan Roebuck wrote:
I use the word "naturalism" to describe the worldview you call "scientific materialism," and these comments are naturalistic beliefs.  And the arguments you give all presuppose naturalism, so I'll assume you are a naturalist. But how do you know that naturalism is true?

Can we speak in terms of probability? It is highly probable that observable behaviours in our natural environment will continue as they have done for thousands of years. 

Alan Roebuck wrote:
Of course, "objectively" means truly, but how do you know that "objectively verifiable evidence" must be naturalistic evidence?  If there existed a non-physical God, his existence would not be detected with the senses, and yet He would nevertheless really exist.

Unfortunately, non-physical is the same as "really" not existing. You could say "he could nevertheless really non-exist." But I guess you're getting to the "limitation of detectability" bit.

Alan Roebuck wrote:
The fact that God is not detectable scientifically does not prove that He is not there.  There may be other means of detecting Him.

Absolutely. That would be the atheist agnostic position. I don't know if a supernatural being is there, but there isn't enough evidence for me to consider believing it.

Alan Roebuck wrote:
So you require naturalistic evidence before you will believe in the supernatural

This isn't the slam-dunk it may look like to you. Something for which a reasonable amount of evidence was provided would no longer be supernatural.

Alan Roebuck wrote:
Until you can give a persuasive account of why naturalism gives a better explanation of all known phenomena, not just some, naturalism is suspect.

If by "suspect", you mean open to reasonable criticism, you've highlighted one of the beauties of a naturalistic worldview. To accept any arbitrary answer to a question is not necessarily more valid than not having an answer.

Alan Roebuck wrote:
And unless you can give an account of why you believe naturalism to be true, your arguments against God all fail (all of your arguments I've seen are based on naturalism), and you are left with agnosticism at best.  Real agnosticism, that is, not the agnosticism that is just a disguise for atheism.

Observable reality is true to a reasonable degree of probability, so I'm not sure what your problem with it is. Absolute truth is a red herring, anyway. Agnosticism is just "not knowing", and atheism is not believing in supernatural creatures. I think you're mixing up simple definitions.

Also, why would someone have to justify believing observable reality? It's a completely reasonable premise.

 

Saint Will: no gyration without funkstification.
fabulae! nil satis firmi video quam ob rem accipere hunc mi expediat metum. - Terence

Vessel's picture

Alan Roebuck wrote: And in

Alan Roebuck wrote:

 And in other places, you clearly specified that you will only accept naturalistic evidence. So you require naturalistic evidence before you will believe in the supernatural, in exact analogy with the illogical blind man of my analogy.  You need to stop being inconsistent, and either disbelieve in the supernatural, or else admit that it may exist, in which case you cannot dismiss its existence based only on naturalistic science.

This is an obvious shift in the burden of proof. Sorry, but this is not the way we (meaning any rational human being) determine whether something exists or not. If you want to claim that the immaterial or supernatural exist then provide evidence of their existence. If you can not then we have no basis by which to determine whether what you are claiming exists is actual or a fiction.

 

Quote:
The basic argument for God is this: with a naturalistic worldview, we cannot adequately account for all that we know to be true, for example, consciousness, objective morality, the creation of the cosmos.

We can account for all these things in a naturalistic worldview. We may not have evidence for our accounts (actually all these things are fairly well evidenced to be wholly material and natural with the possible exception of the origin of the cosmos which may not even be an applicable question) but we can easily account for these things as well as one can by positing a god. In fact, all we have to do is say, "They are all natural occurrences" and we have bettered the god claim as an explanation as we have provided an equally evidenced explanation of their existence that is, at least, based in something we know exists, the natural.

 

Quote:
We can certainly know that these things exist, because their existence is pretty much self-evident.  Or, to put it another way, we know intuitively that we really are conscious, that some things would be wrong even if the authorities said otherwise, and that something other than the cosmos would have to have brought the cosmos into being.  ["Intuition" meaning: "Our ability to know some things directly, without having to engage in some sort of proof by gathering and analyzing evidence."]

How do we determine between true intuitive knowledge and false intuitive knowledge?

Quote:
We know that these things are there, but what can adequately account for why such things are there?  Until you can give a persuasive account of why naturalism gives a better explanation of all known phenomena, not just some, naturalism is suspect.

I thought you were providing a basic argument for god. This was nothing of the sort. Even if naturalism could not provide explanations of all phenomena this does not equal evidence for a god. Please point to where in the above text you actually provided such an argument.

I

 

“Philosophers have argued for centuries about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but materialists have always known it depends on whether they are jitterbugging or dancing cheek to cheek" -- Tom Robbins

A christian's thoughts

This is one of the more insightful articles on the God vs no god argument.  However, the fallacy is that no matter which side you pick, you can't prove anything.

Theists: Everything came from nothing because of God / Gods that we can’t prove exist.

Athiests: Everything came from exploding nothing (The most accepted cause)

And since we can't prove that any part of creation is accurate, we default down to what we think is the most logical cause.  The belief in a creation is not just a belief, but a conscious choice.  I can’t convince anyone my method of driving is better than theirs.  How am I going to tell someone that their perception of creation, life, and death is different from what they believe?  The inherent issue is that this is not simply a debate where we can just shake hands and move on with our lives afterwards.  I’m not saying it doesn’t need to be debated, but more so humanity is not capable of this debate.

Any person who has a voice in this debate must realize that their target audience is made primarily of people with the same beliefs as themselves.  We are all looking for more people to validate our version of “Life, the universe, and everything.” In this we may feel more comfortable with our deaths, which is what all this boils down to in the end.  I think we all understand we need to be decent to each other.  We should all be pleasant, help those in need, don’t kill people, etc.  However after we die, do we come back?  Do we play shuffleboard with our parents?  Do we simply cease to exist?  These are the questions that drive beliefs as they are the most important ones that we have no answer for.  We seek answers in creation.  And if we can find those answers, maybe they will show us what death is like.

Finally getting to my point:   As rational thinkers, I hope that you keep an open mind as well and not accept anything at face value even though it is widely accepted.  Odds are we are all completely wrong about any of this.  I ask the same from Theists, although it can be a bit harder to ask of them.

Cheers and Happy St. Patty’s day.  I’m done being insightful for the day, time to get tanked.

Umm, i think a lot of you guys are wrong...

there is plenty evidence for God out there. you just need to be willing to accept it as it is.  To me it seems it takes more faith to believe that everything came from nothing than to believe that a supernatural being created it all. one example is the big bang. i personally believe an event like this happened. an atheist will say a cosmic egg of matter exploded and all the particles conglomerated to form glaxies and junk. i ask, how, why, where? how did the conglomeration occur? it breaks too many laws of science. why did the egg explode? if it had been sitting there for eternity like that it wouldn't explode then. where did the frikken egg come from? did the universe decide to create itself when it didn't even exist? there are too many holes in all the "theories" scientists put forward to disprove Christianity. many of you will read this and go, "Oh, some stupid religious whack-job who couldn't see the real facts if they were right in front of his nose!" but i could say the same thing about you. i'm not using that as an argument. we all come to the table with some preconceptions. i encourage you all to gather all the facts and try to look at them without thinking "how will this prove what i belive?" most of you will not be able to do that, but some of you might.

ragnarok's picture

Wrong? Maybe, but you'll need a miracle to counter the proof.

Sure, a lot of atheists make the mistake of declaring their belief in the current scientific explanation to be absolute, but at the very least the differences between religious faith and scientific method should be clear.  To paraphrase Richard Dawkins, "religion makes you stop asking questions."  Science, while at times guilty of allowing itself to be viewed as a separate and competing dogma, still does invite debate and re-investigation of all theories, much to the dismay of the egos that elevated the scientific principle in the first place.  All in all, since science is grounded in fact, any new findings that controvert previously held assertions will be taken into account by someone at some point.  Science, despite certain individual predilections, will return to each question eventually and build upon the facts already presented with even more facts.  This fluidity of science is in direct contrast to the rigidity of religion: Despite the 2000 intervening years since the alleged life of Jesus took place we are still left looking at the immutable documentation written within the 2-to-3 century period that followed his supposed death.   A lot of thinking and writing and talking has taken place regarding these documents, but at no point did anyone attempt to correct them, change them to make them sound more rational or reasonable, or merely edit them to make them more coherent, despite the fact that they contradict each other repeatedly, and therefore cast doubt on their ability to to be viewed as truthful representations of a small part the life and times of a person whose existence cannot be proven in any satisfactory way (this does not take into account the additions made to New Testament documents in order to to further political agendas, like those of Eusebius or the much-later translations of the King James version).   And when considering the other religions of the world, when were the last additions made to the Quran, the Hindu Vedas or any of the other religious writings?  In some cases only a few hundred years,  but in many cases it has been thousands of years.  But within the last 200, science has produced Darwinian evolution, often ridiculed by religion but unable to be thoroughly supplanted because of evidence, except that a scientist named Gould added his own turn of phrase called 'punctuated equilibrium' that challenges the uniformitarian, slow-moving evolutionary process usually envisioned by Darwinists.  This is hardly the sort of thing that happens in religions of any kind.  How many religions are there?  How many will there be in a thousand years?  Who knows, but science will still be there, chugging along, just as it always has. 

You can say that "there is plenty of evidence for God out there" but evidence means facts, and facts speak for themselves leaving no question as to the answer; facts do not require faith to be accepted, and no amount of 'willingness to accept it' will change that.  I venture that through science I can safely and happily live without having a god for an entire lifetime, but I also venture that you can't live safely and happily without science for even a week.

I have little poignant or anecdotal to share in this space, but I'm glad I wrote something that made someone like you waste their time reading it. HAVE SOME.

New guy...

Hi everyone,

 

I was at intellectualconservative.com and found a link to this site.

 

Very interesting piece miss O'Connors!

 

I am a solid atheist, have always been for as long as I can remember.

 

 but...

 

I am not a liberal "politically" speaking...( well at this point I should also mention that I am a Canadian )

 

I do not agree with everything on the  conservative side 

( obviously since I am an atheist! ) but on many big questions ( terrorism, war, economy, global warming et cetera...), I agree more with the right than with the left

 

...and I know  the main stream media has a liberal bias and is unfair to the right and is even dishonest a good deal of the time ( which is why so many people assume that my being conservative means I am a religious person, a racist,  a homophobe or somekind of knuckle dragger monster ... the MSM - sadly - has put that image into their head...). 

 

Which brings me to my question,

 

 

Am I the only "conservative" atheist here?

Jeffrick's picture

white 359

 

         Hell no whity  I to am a conservative Canadian (mississauga---Eglington Hwy # 10)  John Tory and Steve Harper are A-number one in my book-- though other Canadians on this site might disagree  they are deluded but you and I are rational welcome on board.

"Very funny Scotty; now beam down our clothes."

VEGETARIAN: Ancient Hindu word for "lousy hunter"

If man was formed from dirt, why is there still dirt?

butterbattle's picture

Quote:Am I the only

Quote:
Am I the only "conservative" atheist here?

Definitely not. In fact, I'm libertarian.

Quote:
but on many big questions ( terrorism, war, economy, global warming et cetera...), I agree more with the right than with the left

Global warming?

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare

Great idea!

I love this idea.  I am an atheist, largely living among christians (family, colleagues, even my boyfriend to some extent).  I have been SO frustrated that christians are allowed to prothseletize (sp?) but atheists are "disrespectful" if we do the same.  We are inundated with christian tv shows (especially on sunday morning), but there are no "atheist" broadcasts (except maybe Real Time with Bill Maher).  Today, I emailed my beloved cousin a cartoon on youtube that questioned the divinity of Jesus.  It was funny and clever.  She wrote back that she was as hurt by this (me sending this link to her) as if I had hurt her child.  Wha?????? All I could do was apologize for hurting her (I still believe people are more important than beliefs), but it made me think.  Why can she tell me what she believes, but I am hurting her when I do the same?  The thing is, christians are not kidding about this.  They really are hurt when atheists question them, even gently. 

 

We need to come out much stronger.  People like my cousin need exposure to the myths around her belief system - she is thoroughlly brainwashed but cannot listen to me.  It has to be more objective than that.  I would love to see a flyer on her windshield while she is in church one day...something eye-catching andd simple, something she will actually read.  Then continue to inundate.  Love it!!!!!

 

Thanks for letting me vent - being an atheist in north america is truly a lonely experience.

whatever

 Religionists, Christianists, specifically, on the upswing? You're all just g-damm Americans. Go somewhere else, get a perspective. No one else gives a tinker's toss. At least, in the western world.