Addressing the Labels

When people hear the word “Atheist” they already think of Atheism as an entire worldview, as an entire package of beliefs and ideas you sibscribe to. Atheism though, is something completely different, as it is merely the lack of belief and/or disbelief in God or gods. Its nothing more or less.

But since everybody has certain beliefs nad not just lack of beliefs in certain propositions I want to lay out the positions and beliefs I subscribe to and why:

Probably the first one, that comes to the mind of believers when you identify as an Atheist is naturalism. I specifically adhere to methodological Naturalism. I don’t believe in the Supernatural, though I recognize that it might exist but we’re currently blocked from identifying Supernatural causes with the tools that we have at our disposal. The reason for this position is pretty easily explained: I have yet to be presented with anything Supernatural and even if I was I couldn’t possibly know if it was Supernatural.

I’m also what you might call a skeptic. Skepticism as far as I’m concerned is the best tool we have to hold true beliefs instead of arriving at error.

I am also an Apistevist/evidentialist which means I reject faith wholesale and only hold beliefs based on evidence. Evidence of course can come in different forms: In some mundane cases, like what my friend had for dinner yesterday personal testimony is sufficient for belief. In other cases, scientific evidence and concrete data needs to be provided for me to see belief as warranted. In the case of God of course, tha bar is set rather high for me since a timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal universe Creator who intervenes in nature and makes miracles happen is an outragious claim to say the least. But I’m to believe that as well if evidence is provided.

When it comes to morality I base my morality on human well being. Whatever promotes human well being (and to a certain extend, that of other animals) I define as moral, whatever diminishes it, I define as immoral. I am in that sense leaning to secular humanism and consequentialism.

The last label I want to address is Antitheism. I’m not just an Atheist as I lack belief in all deities proposed to me so far, I’m also an Antitheist because I think that religion is positively harmful for society as a whole. Now as I said many many times before, I have no problems with progressive Christians. If you accept modern science, keep your belief in your church, support gay rights and don’t indoctrinate children with known lies, if you essentially say “Yeah that’s my faith and it’s my personal private thing” then I have no problem with you. You’re a nice human and though I don’t hold your beliefs you can have them if you want to. If your name is Ken Ham however and you do none of those things then being wrong turns into being harmful. And at that point you better believe that I’m going to speak out.

In the end “Atheist” is just one label of many but it’s the most commonly understood which is why I continue to use it until it’s no longer necessary.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

I’m gnostic towards some gods

Yesterday I made this and posted it on Twitter:018

In this post I want to elaborate, why it is possible for me to reject some concepts of “God” outright and why I can say that some definitions of God most definitely do not and can not exist.

Typical examples of how “God” is defined is of course omnipotenent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, perfect, timeless, spaceless, immaterial and so on. Some of these concept are internally inconsistent, irreconcilable with reality or incoherent.

The easiest example of course is omnipotent. Omnipotence is self refuting. We can use the often asked question “Can God create a rock, that is so heavy, that even God can’t lift it?” If he is omnipotent he should be able to create such a rock but if he can’t lift that rock, well then he clearly isn’t omnipotent anymore, is he?

In principle I think God being omniscient is not impossible but it puts theists in a difficult spot. If God is omniscient, then he knows the future with infallible certainty, which means the future is already set and can’t be changed in any way shape or form, because this would necessitate that God was wrong about the future, which contradicts omniscience.¬† This would not only mean that we as humans have no free will, as we necessarily have to go the route, that the already set future dictates it would also mean that God has no free will. Unless theists want to choose, that path (they don’t) an omniscient God is impossible.

The concept of omnibenevolence is clearly contradicted by observable reality. If God was omnibenevolent we wouldn’t observe natural catastrophes etc. and the concept of hell also clearly contradicts omnibenevolence. An omnibenevolent God who let’s his existence be blatantly unclear and let’s a majority of the world go to hell (no matter if you adhere to Christianity, Judaism, Islam or what have you) is impossible as these 2 concepts are irreconcilable.

The next one ties in with omnibenevolence: Perfection. God evidently cannot be perfect as a perfect being by virtue of definition can only create perfect things. Everything a perfect being is or does is perfect, if he does anything imperfect or has imperfect characteristics he’s by definition no longer perfect. The universe we inhabit is clearly imperfect, therefore a perfect God did not create it. Of course Christians will try to save God ad hoc by claiming, that God’s creation was perfect in the beginning but we corrupted it to be imperfect. My response is simply this: A perfect world has no flaws and therefore couldn’t have been corrupted by anything. God’s perfect creation had an obvious flaw, namely the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The world God created in Genesis 1/2 was imperfect, so either an imperfect God created it or the story is fiction.

Now the last 3 characteristics I often hear theists proclaim are that God is timeless, spaceless and immaterial being. Now, I cannot say, that this God is impossible. What I can however say is, that none of us have ever observed something existing without a temporary boundary, without space or without matter. We have never ever observed a mind existing, that isn’t physical bound. I personally cannot make sense of this concept. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist. I am saying, that in our experience minds are always made of matter and positing one that isn’t seems incoherent. I can’t make sense of this concept and unless somebody can show, that this description is coherent, I don’t know what you mean when you combine the words timeless, spaceless, immaterial and mind. Until i can make sense of this concept, until it’s shown to be coherent I have no choice but to reject it.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

I used to be a …

In discussions with theists I have heard it many times: ” I used to be just like you.” or ” I was an atheist just like you.”

Prominent examples of people who are former atheists who came to faith of course include Kirk Camoron, Lee Strobel (the case for Christ) and J. Warner Wallace (Cold Case Christianity).

Oftentimes I’m encouraged to read their books or watch a certain movie. Many find themselves convinced by Wlliam Lane Craig’s Kalam argument or the fine tuning argument. I do of course understand the appeal of these arguments as they attack us at our weakest point: Our need for cognitive closure.

My instant reaction when I hear that my interlocutor is a former atheist is always the same: I ask them what convinced them to adopt the belief they’re holding currently. I am very willing to accept sound arguments and I’m always curious about these cases where I talk to people who used to disbelieve. The reaction of Christians who hear of a deconverted atheist is very often a different one:

Very often they’ll deny the possibility, that someone held a genuine belief in Jesus which they dropped. The instant reaction is always a “No true Scotsman” fallacy when they try to argue that “you didn’t really feel Jesus” or “You weren’t really saved” . The reason for this is obvious: If they were to admit that somebody had the same experience as them and doesn’t believe in it now, then it logically follows, that that experience that relationship isn’t as meaningful as they think it is.

This to me is one of the key differences between theists and atheists:

I as an atheist can fully accept that the other side has compelling (though fallacious) arguments that can genuinely convert somebody. I know why they don’t hold up but they do have strength as they offer an easy to a difficult question and we as humans are terribly uncomfortable with uncertainty. The theist on the other side won’t even acknowledge that my side has former members of theirs, won’t consider any of my arguments and can’t and won’t admit when he/she is wrong.

These 2 contrary reactions illustrate perfectly to me, who holds the honest position,who is open to hear other arguments that may change his mind and the other one who already has his answers and needs not look further as a change of his position is outright impossible.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen@Renevelation

Why Christians use Pascal’s wager

In my few months of experience in debating God’s existence, I have heard a lot of arguments in favor of theism. In most cases, I debate Christians and there are 2 arguments they use more often than others: The first one is, no surprise there, the Kalam Cosmoligcal argument. The second is one of the most, if not the most, ridiculous arguments I’ve ever heard: This argument is of course Pascal’s wager.

The strange thing about Pascal’s wager is, that it really isn’t an argument for God’s existence at all. The basic argument, as it is presented by most theists, is along the lines of the following:

“What if you’re wrong? I mean if I’m wrong I’ve got nothing to lose, I’ll just be dead in the ground. If I’m right on the other hand I’ll go to heaven. But if you’re wrong you’ll spend an eternity in hell.Therefore you should believe in God.”

Now, everybody who is familiar with the argument knows, why it doesn’t hold water. I won’t give a rebuttal to it in this article but I do wanna explore, why I think this argument is so wildly popular among Christians (if you’re interested in a sound rebuttal, you can watch¬†Matt Dillahunty address it).

So why do Christians use it so frequently? I would say because in their mind, it is absolutely sound and rational.

They have the perspective, that they’re completely and unquestionably right. They themselves haven’t even considered the possibility, that perhaps Islam might be right after all or that a deistic God who favors atheists is the real deal. In their mind, the existence of their God specifically is already a settled issue, so why would anyone bet against him?

Furthermore they’re forbidden, by a threat of eternal torment, to reconsider their beliefs. I believe, that Christians very often force themselves into accepting the belief system. They have invested too much to admit, that they might be wrong. Deep down inside they may even realize that it’s nonsense but they can’t reconsider. It’s too embarassing to admit, that you’ve been duped into believing, it’s too risky not to believe in God and to risk eternal torment and some may even think, that believing in it despite the possibility, that it might all be fiction (as Pascal’s wager explicitly concedes) might itself be useful. It gives the Christian hope after all…

In their mindset if there is no God life is meaningless, despite the fact, that their purpose is getting a second life, with which they admit, that life itself is meaningful. They can’t consider, that death might be final, because it would be terrible if it was true.

Pascal’s wager is a direct admission of weakness. It’s a direct admission, that you believe out of fear. It’s a direct admission, that you make yourself believe in it, that you force yourself to believe it. It’s an admission, that you believe unquestionably NOT because it’s true (as anybody who holds an honest belief, is always ready to consider a revision of said belief) but because you want it to be.

In the end, I think anybody who uses this argument is engaging in wishful thinking and therefore I am deeply sorry for anybody who uses it.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

What would convince me

I can’t remember how many times I have asked theists the famous question, that Ken Ham was asked during his debate with Bill Nye: “What, if anything would ever change your mind?”

When it comes to most theists I have encountered, they tend to very blunt about it: “Nothing!” Now this of course doesn’t go for all or even most theists on this world but the ones I have encountered tend to give that answer.

This of course begs the question: What would convince me as an atheist, that I’m wrong and that a deity indeed does exist, so this shall be the topic of this post:

Truth be told, I am not going to be easily convinced of this claim. After all, this is quite an extraordinary claim and quite frankly, the concept of a God as theists normally define them or as holy books describe them seems quite foreign to me.

Nevertheless here are some things, that at the very least would compell me to have a second look at God claims and at best would probably lead me to a belief in a God (the list goes from rather weak evidence to strong evidence):

  • Now one of the first evidences that would make me have a second look is if archeological evidence of say the Exodus was found. For instance if we were to find the 10 commandments on the stone plates if we were to find a wealth of evidence and documentation of the 10 plagues. Similarly of course if Noah’s Ark was found (and no the Ark hasn’t been found yet) that would also get me to think. Of course I’m open to archeological evidence to confirm Islam or Hinduism or even Mor(m)onism but that alone wouldn’t be enough to make a convincing case but I would need to investigate these and reconsider
  • the second evidence would be if prayer studies came out positive and showed impressive results that couldn’t be attributed to pure chance or some Psychological effects. It would be especially impressive if it could be shown that only prayers of one specific group would show positive results so we could conclude that not merely the practice itself is useful but that it shows real world results when you pray to one deity exclusively. This would definitely peak my interest as well
  • Thirdly would be the confirmation of God’s communication with people. If we were to have Christian or Muslim or Hindu Prophets who would consistently predict major events such as a major natural catastrophe in december at whatever region and do this repeatedly and attribute it to a deity that to me would show that there is definitely something there. Of course the communication of God with people could be tested in many ways, but curiously most theists won’t do that and wave it away with Deuteronomy 6: 16 despite the fact that it would be strong evidence and many would be converted. To me that alone wouldn’t cause me to believe but if you couple that with point 1 or even better 2 I do think I’d be converted
  • Last of course would be if the problem of Divine Hiddenness was solved. That is if God or Angels or Jesus or any other Divine figure were to come around reveal themselves to all of us and we could even record it to confirm it later for ourselves. Now I think that would make a believer out of me and everybody else alive

That was the list of things that would probably make me think or with the most compelling evidence outright convert me. It is of course far from complete but in essence these four categories are representative of the evidence I would accept.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation