Saturday, July 09, 2005

A Theist's 13 Biggest Flawed Understanding of Atheism -- Part 1

I have encountered a copy-pasted article on the Pinoy Atheism Forum asserting that purportedly, Atheism possesses 13 big flaws. After skimming the article, I have found nothing but mere assertions, strawman arguments, and a serious misunderstanding of what atheism is. Most of the "flaws" presented are not flaws of Atheism itself. The author, Baby Aaron, had simply attached mutually exclusive ideas to atheism and accuse it of being flawed due to what she attached. Here's the first six "flaws" of Atheism and my response to them. Quotes from the author are enclosed on blockquotes. My response are in the normal format. I will address the remaining alleged flaws in the next post.

1. “Atheism isn’t a belief, but the lack of a belief.”

This is what I call the “single definition” of atheism. It is the cornerstone of most atheistic defenses. Atheists like to use this definition because they feel that it protects them from certain criticisms from Christians and other theists.
Atheists use this definition not because "they feel that it protects them from certain criticisms from Christians and other theists" but rather atheism is simply just the absence or lack of theistic beliefs. That is simply what atheism is, plain and simple.
For example, if atheism is a lack of a belief, then atheists can’t be criticized for believing anything. This simple idea is a powerful weapon for atheists on message boards. It is, however, wrong. Since there is (currently) no scientifically verifiable evidence to support either side of the God question,
Exactly. Since there is no verifiable evidence for a God's existence, it is only rational not to assume that there is one. An atheist is simply someone who does not assume that there exist a deity hence he consequently possesses no theistic beliefs.

This does not necessarily mean that an atheist automatically believes that God does not exist. He is not making any claims. He simply doesn't know and/or he simply doesn't assume that there is one.

both theism and atheism have to be called beliefs. Just as theism is a belief that there is a God, atheism is the belief that there isn’t. Atheism, therefore, is not immune to the criticisms that other belief systems might draw.
Wrong. Atheism is not a belief but rather as stated above, the absence of belief. The author is confusing strong atheism (a subset of atheism which asserts that God does not and cannot exist) with the core meaning of atheism itself. Disbelief that a deity exist does not tantamount to believing a deity does not exist. (See previous reply)

Another thing, It is up to the theist to make the case and present evidence for the existence of God. The atheist simply need to weigh the evidence presented and is free to dismiss the claim if the evidence does not warrant rational belief. An atheist does not need to defend his lack of belief in something, unless the theist can show that the evidence is so compelling that it simply demands belief.

Also, atheism is a fallback position. A fallback position is the belief that one would hold before one has any evidence. In this case, if a theist cannot back up their claim with good reason and evidence that God exists, the natural state is to simply not believe in the existence of the deity the theist is attempting to prove.

Not believing in the existence of the God is not the same with believing that God/s does not or/and cannot exist. The former is simply lack of belief in God's existence while the latter is an assertion - a claim, which along with the belief in God, shares the burden of proof. The difference is subtle but they are different nonetheless.

2. "Atheism is not a—or has no—philosophy."

This is not true.
Oh yes, it is true.

Atheists believe that there is no God.
Not necessarily. The author again is conflating strong atheism with the core meaning of atheism.

Therefore, they believe that all decisions made by the individual, the family and the government should be made without regard to religious dogma. That is a philosophy.
Non sequitur. Atheism is not a worldview, nor a philosophy although you can build one around it. Theraveda Buddhism for instance is atheistic but still relies on Buddgist religious tenets. Atheists only share one thing in common - they all do not have any theistic beliefs, no more, no less. Any other belief they may have are philosophies that they have built around it and these philosophies have nothing to do with atheism. Diversity exists among the atheists.

This is true regardless of anecdotal incidents when atheists, for ulterior motives, say that it's okay for certain people to believe in God, e.g., "I'm in favor of the citizens of such-and-such country believing in God if it will keep them from slaughtering each other."
Not all atheists share this belief. And this belief has nothing to do with atheism.

These are actually exceptions that prove the rule, since they are always under unusual circumstances. The basic atheistic philosophy remains intact.
Atheism has no philosophy.

Even when an atheist says, "I don't care if other people believe in God or not," he's merely expressing an isolationist viewpoint toward a philosophy that he still applies to himself.
Atheism is not a philosophy, period.

Otherwise, he wouldn't be an atheist, for no atheist will follow any religious dogma.
Two words. Theraveda Buddhism.

3. "Atheism is supported by science."

Again, this is not true. Because no scientifically verifiable evidence exists on either side of the God question, science can't even address the issue, let alone reach any conclusion.
I agree. Science has nothing to do with either atheism nor theism. But scientific discoveries have, numerous times, went against religious dogma (Creationism, Flat-Earth, Young Earth, etc.)

4. "Atheism is supported by logic."
Not only is this wrong, just the opposite is true.
Unfortunately for this author, atheism is indeed supported by logic.

In logic, it's impossible to prove a negative, that is, prove that a God Who Can Do Anything doesn't exist.
Yes, you can prove a negative. There are no married bachelors. Proof: contradiction cannot exist in reality. If you ever find a contradiction in reality, share me the Nobel prize.

Second, one need not to prove a negative. Atheism is a fallback position. The default stance if the evidence for God's existence does not demand belief.

When someone claims he is an atheist, he is in effect claiming to have proven a negative (at least to himself)—which is a logical impossibility.
Again, marrying strong atheism with the core meaning of atheism. And no, it is not a logical impossibility to prove a negative.

In terms of pure logic, the only viable alternative to theism is actually agnosticism, which is the belief that the existence of God cannot be known. But atheism runs counter to logic.
Too many people misunderstand agnosticism. Agnosticism is not a middle ground between atheism and theism. Agnosticism has nothing to do with belief. It has something to do with the nature of knowledge. Because atheism and theism deal with belief and agnosticism deals with knowledge, they are actually independent concepts. Agnostics hold that God, and by implication, his existence, cannot be known. It is a claim and assertion regarding the nature, capability and limits of our knowledge to know something about God. Hence, an agnostic, does not have any theistic beliefs since he doesn't know anything about God in the first place. Except for agnostic theism, agnosticism then IS atheism. See this for more information regarding the difference between atheism and agnosticism

5. "The burden of proof is on theists."
No, it isn't. While the burden of proof might vary depending on whether you're talking about science or law, in almost all instances, the burden of proof lies with the deviation from the norm. A man who claims he can run a mile in one minute—while the world's best atheletes can't break the three-minute mark—has the burden of proving that he can do it. Right now, about 90% of the world's population believes there is a Supreme Being. Plus, throughout known history—even back to the days of the caveman—humans have believed in some sort of God. These points are enough to clearly establish theism as the normal state. It is therefore up to
atheists to make their case for the deviation.
Preposterous. The burden of proof is always on the one who is making the claim not on someone who is "deviating from the norm". Theists claim there is a God, atheists don't. All the atheist need to do is weigh the argument presented and point out what's wrong in the argument if ever then accept and dismiss it depending on how compelling he finds the argument to be. An exception is when an atheist make a positive claim that a God cannot or does not exist. Then, and only then, will an atheist share the burden of proof.

And even if we are to accept that the burden of proof is on the atheist (which it is not), then the author has just committed a self-contradiction. In number 4, she claims that we can never prove a universal negative. And yet here at number 5 she is demanding that the atheist prove a universal negative!

6. "There is no evidence to support a belief in God."
Yes, there is. Testimonial evidence abounds. Millions claim that God has touched their hearts, cured their illnesses and improved their lives. Atheists refuse to acknowledge this evidence, because they accept only scientifically verifiable evidence.
Since when did subjective experience ever counted as objective evidence?

Simply believing that God has touched your life does not mean that it is actually a God who has. Allah has touched the lives of millions of Muslim. Likewise, Krishna has changed the lives of millions of Hindus. Why not count them as evidence as well? Applying this train of thought, does the theist now concede that there are many Gods? If not, why not?

If something cannot be objectively tested, measured, verified and falsified, then it does not qualify as evidence. A person's subjective claim cannot be counted as evidence if one has nothing to back it up other than the individual's words. Millions of Mormons have testified that their God have given them peace of mind. Should we then just take the Mormons' word for it and count them as evidence that the Mormon God exist?

The author is confused on what we should qualify as evidence.

This is a restriction that they have chosen to place upon themselves, yet they demand that others do the same thing, which is ridiculous.
What is so ridiculous in not trusting and accepting subjective, untestable, unmeasurable, unverifiable, unfalsifiable evidence?

Atheists say that human testimony can't be trusted because human senses can't be trusted. The fact that this twisted logic effectively discounts all life experiences doesn't seem to phase atheists in the least.
Nonsense. Atheism is simply the absence of belief in God. A - without. Theism - Belief in God. An atheist is simply someone who has no theistic beliefs. Atheism does not say that we cannot trust our senses.

Secondly, I have not yet encountered an atheist, who believes in reason, who declares that we cannot trust information we obtain from our senses and experiences. Empiricists, materialists, and scientists rely on them. The reason we cannot trust testimonies is because it is subjective.

It's yet another example of how atheism shuts down the mind.
This is yet another example of how the author is utterly confused on what should count as evidence.

To be continued...

8 Comments:

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Euri said...

I told you once, twice, thrice, and I shall tell you again and again. Arguing with those kind of people are undeniably pointless. You are just wasting time. At the end of it all, the conclusion wouls still remain that you are wrong and they are right. Therefore, God exist. ;)

 
At 8:18 PM, Blogger John the Atheist said...

applause! applause! applause!

 
At 10:53 PM, Blogger The Atheist Seeker said...

I told you once, twice, thrice, and I shall tell you again and again. Arguing with those kind of people are undeniably pointless. You are just wasting time. At the end of it all, the conclusion wouls still remain that you are wrong and they are right. Therefore, God exist. ;)

They are not my target audience. This is for genuine open-minded "seekers" who might be considering atheism.

Thanks Suma. He he he...

 
At 12:40 PM, Blogger Euri said...

Oi! Hapi B-day!!
Blow-out ko? :'(

 
At 1:38 PM, Blogger The Atheist Seeker said...

See you in AMA. ;)

 
At 1:00 AM, Blogger Euri said...

:)

Yey!! Lasagna!! :D

 
At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, nice site, thanks for quoting me.

- todangst, from infidelguy.com

 
At 5:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I Theist, I found this article to be very enlightening--not as a tool to change my belief, but because it shows the things that are so wrong with both Theists and the "Strong" Athiests, as the author calls them. No one can reason properly when reason is blocked by the juvenile attitude that "I'm right, you're wrong" followed by arguments that don't do your viewpoint any real measure of justice. God indeed cannot be tested and verified, or unverified, through science, and so those who use it to try to prove their side of an argument are misusing it. We find evidence for the things we believe (or don't believe) through a subjective experience, not through what we are told. The are sheep on both sides of this argument.

 

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