[This is a deleted excerpt from a response to an atheist. I started to rant and got off topic so I figured it would serve better in a separate post]
Compared to theism, Atheists have not succeeded in promoting a more comprehensive, fact-accounting, reasonable, fair-minded worldview that constitutes an overall “better” explanation than does theism. There is great fluff and bluster about how theism does not stand up to scrutiny, but often the only Gods it ruins are the gods that Jesus was attacking too–childish, simplistic, or legalistic icons that were never the stuff of Yahweh. The hounds of skepticism ward off would-be zealots from the porch. But were the atheist to let those same hounds into their house they’d absolutely ravage the place. Put more bluntly, When the same manner of skepticism is applied to atheism the result is a nuclear wasteland, a Nietzschean void where morality is arbitrary or illusory, meaning is accidental if real at all, man is but a mechanical animal, the world is pointless, life is hollow, and empty pleasures or will to power are all that’s left to live for–and even then, if one would prefer to just die then, Sarte reminds us, we have no good reason to refrain. The only thing, that I can tell, keeping all atheists from reaching the same conclusions as Nietzsche is that they have not applied their anti-theistic skepticism very far beyond the pale of God-belief. Namely, they keep their doubt targeted on convenient objects like God, pedophile priests, or prooftexts–but don’t apply their doubt consistently to other things like humanism, political liberalism, language, scientism, naturalism, meaning to life, and ethics.
And now that atheists since about 1876 onward have been shifting toward a “negative” form of atheism–making no claim–the atheistic pool has gotten shallower, internet atheism as I call it, the kind of atheism that is more schooled in Richard Dawkins than J.L. Mackie; Sam Harris than Graham Oppy; the kind of atheism that is gullible on Myther movements and ancient aliens; the kind of atheism that doesn’t know what “ontological” means. I’m not saying they are dumb or even that they are wrong, I’m saying that the educational sophistication of many contemporary atheists I hear from is not in philosophy, theology, or Biblical studies yet they are oh so eager to dismiss these fields of non-science for failing to be natural science. With their confidence in natural science at an all-time high they are strangely ignorant about how it is philosophy and even theology and faith which give the wind for science to fly. They moralize against Christian ethics, unaware that their morals are arbitrary accidental outcomes of blind evolution, their intentional attack on the faith was itself forced on them by genetic obligation and is therefore meaningless and “nothing personal,” their subjective experience of self is itself an illusion of the brain deceiving itself into “thinking” it can “think” “feel” and “want” with any autonomy, cognition, or conscious meaning; even the ability to discern “truth” is itself presumed when nothing in nature has reassured anything transcendent enough to count as a “truth claim,” the whole godless machine does not even have ghosts, it has organic graffitti: flat, scattered, gibberish, and no author in sight. Its squiggles don’t even have a Rosetta stone, some external reference point to make meaning from the squiggles. No, that human-named happenstance scrawled on the wall is meaningless lines of tissue, illuminated with meaningless neural jolts, on a meaningless planet, in a meaningless solar system, in a meaningless galaxy, in a meaningless universe, in a meaningless cosmos, in a meaningless void.
“Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless”–Solomon
Atheists rarely dare to stare into the well where Nietzsche lept. Its only void down there, but its your best shot for avoiding God.
10 thoughts on “Enter the Void”
Frozen clenched fist, knuckles red from exhaustion the rope slips away anyways. The number of atheist is growing at an incredible rate. Is the religious growing dumber? What is causing this leap FROM faith? Humans evolving to use reason above faith? Three questions in a row? It doesn’t really matter. If god existed then why does he need you to prove that he does. Why defend him in his absence? So many questions. Screw finding a good reasonable answer, let’s just put god in there.
God does not need me to prove himself to you. Nor need he be interested in proving himself to anyone. Classical theism does not tell of a God who “needs” anything.
“Humans evolved to use reason above faith”–Run that claim across Alvin Plantinga’s “Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism” and I’m confident that if you are honest with yourself you cannot make that claim with confidence. Oh, and if your reason does not include some manner of faith then you are suspended in universal doubt (which I assume is not where you are at); and if one’s faith has no reason, then it’s not any kind of faith that I’d promote.
“Leap from faith”??–If you are talking about the uptick in secularist stats in Western Europe and the U.S. then you have a selective evidence fallacy. Include a wider spectrum–spanning more of the globe–and the numbers level off. Also, if you consider eras in the past where secularism grew–say the mid 1700’s to mid-1800’s in the U.S. or in 1st 4th-5th cent. Rome–secularism was booming while religion declined. You seem to be interpreting short term data as long term trending. Historically, there is an ebb and flow to religiosity, but atheism is nothing new. It’s not like its the prize of the enlightenment. It has been a tendency for anyone absolutizing some narrow field of non-theological study as if it were the whole of knowledge–i.e.: skepticism (ancient greece), stoicism (Rome), hedonism (Epicurus), reason (Socrates), empiricism (Democritus), psychologism (Hume), analytic philosophy (Russell), logical positivism (Ayer). . . . Since any field of study can be foolishly absolutized, atheism is liable to be treated as the “new” truth for any given paradigm.
“Is [sic] the religious growing dumber?” Not any more than people in general are growing dumber (I tend to think we are taking knowledge more forgranted, devaluing it since its so easy to access). Our attention spans are shrinking. A.D.D. rising and distractions obstructing our focused learning. so yeah, religious and irreligious alike are getting dumber in many ways.
“Why defend God?” I care about people and I’m passionate about truth. If God exists that is liable to be the most important fact in existence. If God does not, then I am to be pitied above all people. I put myself on the line and invite you to fire at will. Where I’m wrong please show it to me. Where you are right, please do likewise. I don’t think I have all the answers. But neither can I stomach willful ignorance–my own or anyone else’s. We have finite hands, but we can hold onto somethings, some truths.
“Let’s just put God in there”–I’d much rather search in “there” and be willing to find if God is already in there. It’s funny what you find when you don’t assume, by methodological naturalism, that God isn’t real.
“Atheists have not succeeded in promoting a more comprehensive, fact-accounting, reasonable, fair-minded worldview ”
This is a straw man as you later acknowledge. Atheism is not a world-view at all, it is a single position on a single issue: the existence of a deity.
You are attacking all worldviews that do not accept the existence of at least one god. My worldview could be best described as secular humanism by way of empirical skepticism.
My worldview has no reference to a deity, but it addresses joy, beauty, mystery and morality as well as despair, sadness and misfortune. It addresses these things in very complex ways, but I can defend it if you like. However, the existence or non-existence of a deity is simply not relevant.
I’m interested in hearing how your worldview addresses those issues you raise. Those are important issues that, I think, are worth raising.
It looks for uses logic to explain information collected empirically. What else do you want to know?
42Olon, I partially agree with you on this one. Atheism is not a worldview in one sense, but in another sense it is. In denying/refusing belief in God, all theistic grounding is denied for questions of meaning, morality, origin and destiny. This sets one apart from the whole world of religious worldviews. In theory a person can be atheistic and have no particular views on the meaning of life, beauty, morality, etc. Or one can have answers to these that are simply irrelevant to the God-question (as you propose). However, when you say you are atheist–even when you have not said you are naturalist, materialist, reductivist, utilitarian, humanist, politically liberal, etc.–I nevertheless have a great profile on you (broadly speaking) just because the refusal to believe in a God PRACTICALLY affiliates you with a kind of “party” that is rarely deviated from in any radical sense. Atheists can be very individualist, being anywhere from militant to pacifist, materialists to mystics, etc. But 95% of the atheists I have met affiliate unofficially with that “party” profile even when they would never “sign onto that party charter.”
Similarly, when a person admits to being an evangelical Christian. You know, more often than not, that they are pro-life, politically conservative, supernaturalist, skeptical of much of evolution, believe in special creation, heaven and hell, etc. Yet, technically, there are theologically liberal Christians who believe that Jesus died for them, but are pro-choice, left-leaning, theologically heterodox, evolutionists, etc. The exception does not prove the rule.
Some ideas carry such vast implications and effects it is more helpful to think of them as worldview anchors than not. In contrast, stamp-collecting is a trivial comparison that’s often made but which fails to appreciate that no stamp collectors believe that because of their belief/non-belief/practice with stamp collecting they will not go to heaven or hell, their life has a particular meaning, that humankind is naturally caused, that morality is not justified withing other religious frameworks, etc. etc.
I think we agree entirely on this. Just because you don’t believe in a god does not mean you have an impoverished world view. Skeptical empiricism is just as capable of addressing the issues you have presented as is theism and I would argue provides better answers.
Perhaps abstractly, in unrealistic or shallow ways. See Alex Rosenberg’s contribution in the William Lane Craig debate from last friday. I contend that the “answers” offered from skeptical empiricism are either self-defeating, arbitrary, or ultimately illusory. First off, empiricism is self-defeating. Since empiricism is not itself an empirical object then you cannot have arrived at empiricism by empirical means. Skepticism can be good but is a persistent negation, there is nothing in skepticism itself that ever establishes what grounds there are to believe anything. Hence skepticism lacks a positive position in realism. So, your skeptical empiricism seems to be 1) self-defeating, or 2) a non-position methodology that only arbitrarily stops the train of doubt whenever you choose to get off.
So, yes, please clarify. Your answer tells me little to nothing about your worldview except what I could already guess by approximation from “party atheism.”
Empiricism basically means to me that I make decisions based on data that I collect by way of my senses. By skeptical, I mean I apply critical thinking and logic to this data. I do not pretend that this is an answer to the problem of global skepticism, as your criticisms suggest, but no worldview does. If you think yours resolves this issue please share.
Since that data of that sentence defining empiricism–i.e.: the meaning of it–is non-sensory and not something your senses gave you then you are not an empiricist. Empiricism is still self-defeating.
I apply critical thinking and logic to data too. I just call that critical thinking. I don’t see any solution for the various problems of universal skepticism except to say that the one who dares to doubt what seems to be true, prima facia, has his on burden of proof to bear. This is the principle of credulity (ala, Swinburne). For example, I believe other minds exists. Prove to me that it is wise and responsible to doubt that notion. I believe that the extra-mental world exists, and defy the skeptic to show that it is reasonable to doubt that notion. I believe that where billions of people agree on something like the reality of the universe, their own existence, the reality of other minds, the plausibility of supernature, those agreements carry an initial credibility until sufficient counterevidence is shown to justify doubting their belief. I’m a skeptic too, but I don’t use that as a bragging right like many others do since skepticism is just as liable to be foolish as wise. I grade widely held beliefs with an initial credibility of 51% or higher, deeming them plausible unless I discover some other reasons to justify believing in widescale mass delusion/error. Skepticism It is a powerful weapon, but it’s not intrinsically wise or universally helpful. Skepticism is a useful tool, but its a forest fire. It burns down everything unless it is kept in controlled boundaries.