Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ten Topics #9 & #10

John Loftis, at his blog Debunking Christianity, lists ten objections, concepts, or topics that seem to be raised most often by atheists in debates with theists. Here's the ninth and tenth (my response to the earlier objections can be found by scrolling down the page):

9. Atheism is a conclusion, not a worldview. Atheism is not an answer to life, the universe, and everything - just the conclusion that theism isn't.

This is disingenuous. There's an entire worldview which follows from atheism as can be seen by reading Alex Rosenberg's An Atheist's Guide to Reality. Atheism is not a conclusion from an argument but rather it's the initial premise which, for the vast majority of atheists, leads them to scientism, physicalism, materialism, naturalism, and for the most logical among them, nihilism. So far from being the conclusion, it's the starting point from which an entire web of conclusions about reality follows.

As Rosenberg and many other atheist thinkers have made clear, if one starts with the assumption that there is no God then one is led almost inexorably to the conclusion that there's no genuine meaning to life, no objective moral duty, no ultimate justice, no self, no free will, no afterlife, and no hope. The assumption of atheism also leads many atheists to the belief that human beings have no real intrinsic worth, dignity, or rights, that there are no immaterial substances like souls or minds and that human beings are little more than flesh and bone machines. Those beliefs constitute a worldview that colors and frames almost everything else one believes about life and the world.

Here's Cornell University biologist Will Provine:
Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear, and these are basically Darwin's views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death....There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will ....
For more elaboration on the implications of atheism drawn by atheists themselves see here; and here.

The point is that many atheists don't arrive at atheism as a result of a long chain of rational thought, rather they decide at the outset that they just don't want there to be a God and then they draw out the implications of their decision. Philosopher Thomas Nagel admits; that the hope that there is no God is one he harbors himself:
In speaking of the fear of religion, I don't mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper—namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.
For many thinkers, their atheism is a kind of wish-fulfillment upon which their worldview is based.

Ten Topics #10
10. Attack the arguments for what is said, not what isn't. Though this should apply to everyone - not just theists. Arguing against interpretations not in the text is setting up a caricature, as is arguing against uncharitable interpretations of what is said.

I might add to this that it is also unhelpful, not to mention exceedingly juvenile, to attack one's discussion partner personally with insult and invective. Unfortunately, it happens all too often. It was disappointing to listen to the dialogue between physicist Lawrence Krauss and philosopher William Lane Craig in Australia a couple of years ago, when Krauss repeatedly attacked; Craig's character over a simple misunderstanding. Such tactics do nothing but cause fair-minded listeners to think that the attacker has no good arguments to offer and so must substitute ad hominem for calm, mature, and rational discourse.