Theistic Prejudice: A Case Study with Stan

Over at Randal Rauser’s blog, Stan wrote the following:

Free thinking does not mean disciplined logical thought; it means being free to think that whatever you might think at the moment is Truth, including that there is no truth. Free Thought is much like removing the timing from your engine’s combustion system to allow it “freedom”.

Logic demands discipline and guidance under the rules of deductive reasoning. Atheists have no concept of this, for the most part, and those who do, cannot humble themselves to the rational outcome which they have not approved before-hand.

Free Thinking is the act of rationalizing the emotional position which causes Atheism in the first place.

I posted the following response.

This is an expression of prejudice. It is just as prejudicial (and no better supported than) the statement, “Theists have no concept of this [discipline and guidance under the rules of deductive reasoning], for the most part, and those who do, cannot humble themselves to the rational outcome which they have not approved before-hand.”

We have three claims.

1. Most atheists have no concept of the discipline and guidance demanded by logic under the rules of deductive reasoning.
2. Those atheists who do have such a concept cannot humble themselves to the rational outcome which they have not approved before-hand.
3. Atheism is the result of an emotional position.

What we don’t have is evidence for these claims.

If you were expecting Stan to admit that he got carried away with his rhetoric, you’d be disappointed. Instead, Stan decided to double down and defend the indefensible.

The first two claims are based solely on my experience in discussions with atheists over the past decade. None have studied logic 101, nor do they accept the outcome of deductions even though they cannot refute them. I accept that I have not spoken to every Atheist, but I have spoken to a great many.

The third claim is based on the demonstrable fact that there is no atheist evidence which proves the non-existence of a creating agent (deity), nor is there any disciplined deductive argument which demonstrates the non-existence of a creating agent (deity). Thus, lacking any actual supporting evidence or logic, the Atheist case cannot be based on those, despite claims to the contrary. In actuality atheism is based in rejectionism which is performed without any reasoning or evidence in its own support. Atheists redefine the content of Atheism in order to avoid having to give reasons or reasoning for rejecting theist claims and deductions. Their is no rational content to the new meaning of Atheism, which is merely “without theist beliefs”, despite having rejected theist positions with no evidence or deductive logic proving atheism to be valid. Hence, atheism is not based on material evidence nor on disciplined deductive logic, and therefore is an emotional position of rejectionism, only.

Feel free to refute that, if you have material evidence for atheism or a disciplined deductive argument leading incorrigibly to atheism at the expense of theism.

Addendum: I stand by my statement regarding “free thought”.

So let’s go through his claims one at a time.

Stan’s Claim #1: Most atheists have no concept of the discipline and guidance demanded by logic under the rules of deductive reasoning.

Well, that’s rich. Stan himself has failed to provide a valid (deductive) argument to support claim #1. Look at his justification again.

The first two claims are based solely on my experience in discussions with atheists over the past decade. None have studied logic 101, nor do they accept the outcome of deductions even though they cannot refute them. I accept that I have not spoken to every Atheist, but I have spoken to a great many.

Let’s try to identify his argument’s logical structure.

(1) Stan has spoken to a great many atheists.
(2) Stan claims that none of the atheists he has spoken with have studied logic 101.
(3) Stan claims that none of the atheists he has spoken with accept the outcome of deductions even though they cannot refute them.
(4) Therefore, most atheists have no concept of the discipline and guidance demanded by logic under the rules of deductive reasoning.

For someone who makes so many references to logic, deductions, rules of deductive reasoning, and the like, Stan seems to have missed the fact that this argument is invalid, i.e., it fails as a deductive argument. The conclusion does not follow from the premises. At best, Stan has spoken with a subset of atheists and made accurate observations about them. Even if that were the case, there is no rule of inference which would enable him to construct a deductively valid argument which moves from a statement about a sample to a universal generalization about an entire population. Furthermore, even if Stan tried to reformulate his argument as an inductive argument, it would still fail. (Stan provides no reason to believe that the atheists he has spoken with are representative of atheists. And we have no reason to believe Stan’s claims in premises (2) or (3).)

Stan’s Claim #2. Those atheists who do have such a concept cannot humble themselves to the rational outcome which they have not approved before-hand.

Stan’s justification for this claim fails for the same reason his justification for his first claim fails.

Stan’s Claim #3. Atheism is the result of an emotional position.

Let’s look again at his justification for this claim.

The third claim is based on the demonstrable fact that there is no atheist evidence which proves the non-existence of a creating agent (deity), nor is there any disciplined deductive argument which demonstrates the non-existence of a creating agent (deity). Thus, lacking any actual supporting evidence or logic, the Atheist case cannot be based on those, despite claims to the contrary. In actuality atheism is based in rejectionism which is performed without any reasoning or evidence in its own support. Atheists redefine the content of Atheism in order to avoid having to give reasons or reasoning for rejecting theist claims and deductions. Their is no rational content to the new meaning of Atheism, which is merely “without theist beliefs”, despite having rejected theist positions with no evidence or deductive logic proving atheism to be valid. Hence, atheism is not based on material evidence nor on disciplined deductive logic, and therefore is an emotional position of rejectionism, only.

Again, let’s analyze the logical structure of his supporting argument.

(4) There is no atheist evidence which proves the non-existence of a creating agent (deity).
(5) There is no disciplined deductive argument which demonstrates the non-existence of a creating agent (deity).
(6) Therefore, the Atheist case cannot be based on evidence or disciplined deductive argument.
(7) Some people who identify as atheists redefine “atheism” to mean “without theist beliefs.”
(8) Therefore, atheism is an emotional position of rejectionism.

As an argument for claim #3, however, it seems to me this argument is multiply flawed. First, it’s invalid. The conclusion, (8), does not follow from (4)-(7). Even if Stan were correct that atheists have no good arguments for believing that God does not exist, it doesn’t follow that atheism is the result of an emotional position. Think of all the people who have gotten the wrong answer on a multiple choice geometry test. Would anyone claim that the people who got wrong answers did so for emotional reasons? Of course not! Along the same lines, even if we assume that (4) and (5) are true, his conclusion still wouldn’t follow. It would still be possible that atheists simply made an error in reasoning, in which case they would be guilty of sloppy argumentation but not of rejecting theism for emotional reasons.

But in fact I think Stan’s premises are mistaken. For example, consider (4). I have written extensively about the nature and meaning of evidence in general, as well as how to formulate an inductively correct explanatory or evidential argument for metaphysical naturalism. (See here.) Based on that approach to evidence, it’s clear that the following is evidence which favors metaphysical naturalism over theism.

Since metaphysical naturalism entails atheism, it follows that evidence for metaphysical naturalism is necessarily evidence for atheism.

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.


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