proof and evidence for Atheism…

I don’t know, how many of you as my readers are familiar with YouTube but there is one guy, who has issued the following challenge to Atheists a few years ago: “Please provide proof and evidence that Atheism is accurate and correct!”

The guy I’m talking about goes by the name “Shockofgod” he is a former Atheist turned fundamentalist Christian and Young Earth Creationist. I know, that after all these years I might be a little late to the Party but I still want to give my response to this request here, since he and others are still posing this question to Atheists these days.

Now first of all in this request is a confusion of terms: Atheism doesn’t address whether God exists or not, it addresses the state of mind of a person. The same is true for theism: A theist believes in the existence of deities an Atheist doesn’t believe in the existence of deities. What Shockofgod and others who pose this question really should be asking is this: “What is your Proof and evidence that a god or gods do not exist?”

To address such a request I would first need a coherent definition of the proposed deity. After all I can’t possibly know in what deity my interlocutor believes in. Even among Christian circles you hear all kinds of definitions and I have no idea in what deity which particular person believes in. Assuming right from the start, that we both know what the terms mean probably won’t lead to a fruitful discussion.

The second point, that needs to be made is, that we can’t possibly disprove all God concepts that are proposed now or will be proposed in the future. If it turns out, that the universe is eternal then Pantheism/Pandeism would still be an option. I can’t possibly hope to refute concepts, that have yet to be proposed by a future theist, based on data, that has yet to be collected. So can I disprove all possible gods, that have been proposed are believed right now and will be proposed in the future? No I can’t.

The third point I, that needs to be clarified is what the person means by “proof and evidence”. Are you talking about deductive proof (100% certainty) or is it sufficient to present a convincing case, that in all likelyhood this God doesn’t exist? I think I can do the latter in many cases (like the fundamentalist version he believes in) but I can’t offer deductive proof. Asking for deductive proof however is unreasonable, because we can’t offer deductive proof for most things in our lives. I can’t offer deductive proof, that I’m not a brain in a vat, I can’t offer deductive proof, that the reality we experience is not an illusion (the problem of hard sollipsism) but that doesn’t mean, that all of us should fall back in a state of global skepticism. Why? Because it’s unpractical. Nobody lives in a world where you only believe things based on deductive proof.

The last point is this: Nobody who poses this question is posing it in good faith. They’re not open to being convinced. You might present them, with the (in my mind convincing) arguments for Atheism, like to problem of nonbelief etc. but they don’t want to change their minds. They merely want to throw out the question and when you offer them, what you have to offer, they dismiss you on the basis, that you can’t do what is humanly impossible to do!

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

Jesus gift isn’t free

One particular thing Christians often like to bring up is “Pascal’s wager”. They often tell me, “Just open your heart to Jesus, what do you have to lose?” Then they often say that “Jesus died for my sins and he offers me a free gift of salvation”. I mean who doesn’t enjoy free gifts? Here Jesus is, offering me a free gift and all I need to do is take it. So why don’t I?

Because as far as I’m concerned, this gift is anything but free.

For one thing, those same people who speak of the “free gift” of salvation also urge me to acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and Savior and to submit to him, to repent and to follow him. Now, in principle regretting your wrong-doings and making ammends with the person you have done wrong to is a good thing and should be encouraged. What I am not going to do however, is apologize for my deeds to God or Jesus.

Neither am I pleased by the thought of acknowledging Jesus as my Lord. Like he is the King and I am the servant or at the very least, not on equal footing with him. I’m sorry but in a working relationship, both parties need to be equal. With Jesus however this evidently doesn’t seem possible. I’d have no problem with a mutual friendship with Jesus. I do have a problem with submitting to him, I do have a problem with being his sheep. The Bible describes us humans as sheep and flock often enough and I’m sure most Christians aren’t as devout and as submissive as fundamentalists ask me to be, or as submissive as Abraham himself was, but such an attitude to me is unacceptable. And believe it or not but I have encountered Christians who told me, that they would kill their children if God asked them to and we have in fact seen cases where they did.

Another problem, that I see with the gift of salvation is, that  Christians asks me to put all my personal responsibility on Jesus, who served as the sacrificial lamb. If I “sin” then I sin and if I do wrong actions, if I hurt people then it is my responsibility to make it right. I have no need and more importantly I do not want anybody to take that responsibility away. I do not want Jesus to pay the debt for my actions. I am a grown man and I take responsibility for myself.

More importantly though, this gift implies, that Jesus was brutally tortured and killed for me. I do have to take a part in this. I do have to say, that I approve of this human sacrifice. I’d have to say, that I approve of the method, by which God wants to forgive our sins (bloodshed). If I believed, that Christianity is an accurate description of reality (and I absolutely do not), then I simply couldn’t say that and I couldn’t do that. I don’t approve of this method and I want no part in it. Accepting this gift would imply, that I think it’s moral that Jesus has been victimized and tortured for me and it implies that I myself took part in this sacrifice.

I’m sorry but this gift isn’t free. It has a very high price to pay and I’m not willing to pay it, provided that Christianity turns out to be true.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

The different types of arguments

I have been an active member of the Atheist community on the internet for about a year now (at first mainly on the YouTube comment section, now I have to Twitter).  In my time I have seen various types of argumens coming from both sides which I want to sort out into different categories if you will.

The most popular arguments by far for both sides are obviously the persuasive arguments. These arguments want to show you, that there are certain problems in the world, and they challenge the other side how they can resolve these problems and then of course offer a simple solution (Atheism or theism). These arguments want to win you over, they are by their very nature designed to make you adopt the contrary position whether they are valid and sound or not. The go to arguments for the theists are of course the teleological argument (which in its original form has been utterly discredited thanks to Charles Darwin) or the arguments from fine tuning and the Cosmological argument popularized by Thomas Aquinas and of course the more modern form the Kalam Cosmological argument by William Lane Craig.

Of course we as Atheists also have our fair share of arguments that have drawn theists to our side. The famous one of course would be the old problem of evil made famous by Epicurus:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

While Apologists nowadays have learned to do some damage control (which I don’t think holds up) this argument has made Atheists out of theists for centuries. the second one would be my personal favorite which is of course the problem of nonbelief/divine Hiddenness which posits, that it is contrary to theism that a good and loving God stays hidden, with the result, that a majority of the world will end up in hell or at the very least won’t enjoy heaven.

The second type, would be the type of argument that is designed to destroy your opponent in debate. These arguments are only convincing to those, who already share your position. You will never be able to win your opponent or listeners over but it’s a way to leave the other person speechless. Typical arguments from theists here include the transcendental argument for the existence of God (TAG) and Presuppositional apologetics in general as well as the ontological argument. I have been confronted with both of these and while you immediately recognize, that there is something off here, you’ll have a hard time recognizing the fallacies. For my side these arguments would be the contradiction between the omni characteristics in and of themselves as well as the omni characteristics which are in conflict with doctrine (free will) and reality.

The third and final type would be an appeal to your opponent. They can come in various forms such as an appeal to Physical torture (Pascal’s wager) as well as to consequences (“if there is no God then life has no meaning”) personal experiences (“a good God would’ve never let my mother die of cancer”). These do appeal to our fear and empathy and they often are good reasons to us but almost never to the people we talk to.

I have used all 3 types of arguments myself. While I most often try to use persuasive arguments and reason and logic sometimes we’re tempted to use the other 2 types. My advice, whether you’re an Atheist or a Theist: The honest, honorable and intellectual way to go, is to go with reason logic and evidence or at least to try in most cases.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

 

The God Hypothesis and its problems

One thing I’m sure all of us noticed in discussions with theists, is when we ask them for the best piece of evidence of evidence they have for their particular deity, they begin with “everything which begins must have a cause” or “the universe is fine tuned for life” or “If God didn’t exist, then objective moral values and duties would not exist”. In short they start off right away with a Philosophical argument from which they conclude God, rather than that they attempt to demonstrate God with falsifiable and verifiable evidence.

You see, to me God is a Hypothesis for which theists at large outright refuse to present verifiable, falsifiable evidence for. Oftentimes the typical Apologist reply is something to the effect of “God is outside of the natural world and therefore can’t be detected by science”. Now in principle this would be true if we were talking about a deistic god but as soon as we talk about a theistic God who intervenes in nature, we should at least be able to detect the traces of his interventions. We should be able to see measurable effects.

Those effects could be that God answers prayers of the particular religious faith, who has the right God, while all nonbelievers would have none of their prayers answered. Another way to go could be, that God revealed specific foreknowledge to his faithful people for example of a catastrophe etc. and they turn out to be correct. Miracles are another big issue. If you believe the religious texts, then there miracles happening all the time. There are numerous ways with which you can test God.

Oftentimes people tell me, that God speaks to them. One way I like to test, that claim is by asking them whether God could reveal my father’s name (or something else they alone couldn’t possibly know) to them, so they could tell me. At that point of course, we arrive at the second problem, because the first response is “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Luke 4: 12).

I have no doubt, that some of them are genuine when they make that move but to me it’s a convenient cop-out to save God from falsification. I think most of them know, that this voice in all likelyhood doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

With the line “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” you can leave God in the realm of unfalsifiability forever, which as I suspect is exactly what theists want. Why else would they move God outside the Universe? First of all because they had to. He’s nowehere to be detected inside the Universe, so of course he must reside outside of it. Secondly of course, because we can’t go outside the Universe and therefore can’t see whether or not he’s actually there. Keeping him unfalsifiable however means that he is unverifiable as well, which means he is destined to be a Hypothesis forever (or at least until we can actually verify him, at which point he probably resides outside the realm that is outside the Universe ).

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

a critical look at Dr Craig’s morality (7)

This is the 7th part and the final part of my series in which I examine this article from reasonablefaith.org .

You can find the previous parts here: part 1 , part 2 , part 3 , part 4 , part 5 , part 6

to the question whether Atheists can be moral Craig replies with this: ” Exactly. If there were no God, I think there would be no objective moral values. Everything would then be simply subjective. Moral values would be the by-product of socio-biological pressures upon humanity. Just as a troop of baboons will exhibit cooperative behavior because it helps them to survive, so human beings have evolved a kind of herd morality that helps them to get along in the struggle for survival. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. That sort of thing. So if there is no God it seems to me that there really is no objective right and wrong, good and evil. Everything is morally indifferent. But if there is a God then even the atheist’s life is characterized by good and evil, right and wrong, whether he believes it or not because these things are not dependent upon human opinion.”

Now it is not my stance, that morality is purely dependent on human opinion. It is true, that morality evolved and that it is important for our survival. My subjective Morality is dependent on exactly that: Human well being and human flourishing. It is true, that acts like murder will diminish human well being. This is not an opinion this is fact. My morality as defined by me, is at least somewhat representative of the morality of the vast majority of my fellow human beings. If we as humans define the terms right and wrong as I proposed (and I contest that most humans do), then certain acts are immoral.

“Everything is morally indifferent. But if there is a God then even the atheist’s life is characterized by good and evil, right and wrong, whether he believes it or not because these things are not dependent upon human opinion.”

These things however would then be dependent upon what God’s nature happened to be which just happens to be a nature that promotes human well being and flourishing (or so they assert) . This the group of Christians then deem “God” to be “good” . We’re sitting in the same boat here as far as defining our terms goes. I and most others including the Christians define good and bad in terms of human well being, in terms of being compassionate etc. . It’s just that Christians put the “God” label on it. Nothing wrong with that in principle. But trying to build not only an objective morality out of it ( I would somewhat agree with Sam Harris’ objective morality) but an absolute morality simply fails. What’s worse, is that as far as I’m concerned, my morality has better applicability than his.

On the question whether Craig would go out commiting atrocities if he lost his faith he said this:

” That is to misunderstand the argument. The argument isn’t that because of the existence of God we are constrained in our moral behavior. The argument is that in the absence of God the moral behavior that we exhibit is not really good. It is just illusory. So, if one came to believe that God does not exist as many apostate Christians have, they don’t immediately become barbarians and so forth.[4] But it would mean that the moral behavior that they continue to pursue isn’t really right or wrong if there is no God, if they were right. Now, I think there is a God so it is still good and right. But if God doesn’t exist and one came to the realization that he doesn’t exist, you might still, as a result of societal pressures, continue to live the way you always have. But there wouldn’t be any right or wrong about it any more than there was when you were under the illusion that God did exist. In other words, it is not about belief in God. It is about whether or not there is a God.”

Well I’m glad to hear, that Craig wouldn’t become a murdering Psychopath if he lost his faith. I think his reasoning for it is poor, but be that as it may. Some (by no means many or most) Christians say otherwise.

I won’t address the “meat” of his argument here, since I have previously addressed his circularity and question begging at length in the previous parts.

In closing though, what I think it comes down to, in a Christian moral framework is a fight over words. They want to claim words like “right” and “wrong” for themselves and they fight to death over them. It’s a security blanket for believers, who fear that without God there is no objective right or wrong. I personally find this silly. I have no interest to fight over vocabulary. But this is exactly why I did what I did: To show why their morality fails at accomplishing what it sets out to do and why their morality fails at certain levels at which mine succeeds.

This is the final part of the series. He continues through 3 paragraphs but they really have nothing to do with the subject at hand anymore.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation