Or, Vigorous Critique of Irrational, Incoherent, Excessive, Arbitrary, & Relentless Atheist Demands for “Empirical” Proofs of God’s Existence
* * * * *
This comes from another one of my gigantic discussion threads, that atheists have participated in with great vigor (331 comments in two days, as I write): underneath my post, Blind Faith? Dialogue w an Atheist.
I would have preferred to have made a good dialogue or two from my exchanges there, but as usual, atheist replies went all over the ballpark and strongly tended to gravitate towards critiques of Christianity, whereas my interest was in their defenses of their own dubious premises, per the subtitle of my post: “Dialogue with an Atheist, Challenged to Produce Any “Positive” Rational Evidence for Atheism.”
That would make for rambling, far-too-lengthy dialogues and sleeping readers. Therefore, readers can check out the complete exchanges at the link if they wish to, but here, for brevity’s and concentration’s sake, I will post only my own comments. Because they are mine only, they will sometimes appear “choppy”. Asterisks indicate a completely separate comment.
* * * * *
I have no interest in being merely not-something-else. I know what atheism is. I’m saying that it is inadequate as a worldview to merely be not-something-else.
If you lack belief in x [God], yet spend tons of time debating people who DO believe in x and seeking to shoot holes in their x-system of belief, does this mean you are seeking x in a roundabout way (desiring to be persuaded)? Or does it mean that you are justifying your non-belief in x and making yourself feel better and more warranted / justified to disbelieve in x by shooting down the believers in x?
If atheism is merely not-something-else or “not belief in an imaginary being,” then why do atheists talk so much to Christians? What’s the purpose of it? To proselytize others to your view of not- something-else?
Really? I didn’t know that mathematics was fiction and hallucinations. But I can see that your statement, which is the height of ignorance of epistemology, is that. Mathematics is a non-empirical, axiomatic, non-scientific field of knowledge.
[the atheist seemed to dispute this, so I wrote:]
Very well, then; find me some mathematicians who claim that mathematics is 1) empirical by nature, or 2) doesn’t start with unproven, non-empirical axioms, or 3) is a species of science rather than logic / philosophy.
Mathematics is not an empirical thing, and starts with axioms, yet almost all thinking persons accept it. I would contend that mathematical principles are eternal principles (like logic and absolute morality) that are grounded ultimately in the Mind of God. This is why they are already “out there” independently of ourselves.
So why the demand that Christianity must produce empirical evidence, as if that is the be-all and end-all of all epistemological inquiry? It’s plain silly and stupid.
We have to know what a particular atheist considers good or compelling evidence and how he defines his terms, what his epistemology is, and if he applies a double standard of epistemology (which is very often the case with atheists): one for atheists and another for Christians.
[one atheist called this basic inquiry a “game”]
The game is altogether on your end, not mine. You folks are the ones who inveterately refuse to accept any and all evidence and reasoning that we bring to bear on the topic. Thus, it is perfectly reasonable, in light of this relentless skepticism, to simply ask: “what evidence would you find compelling?”
I would contend that this is, of all questions to ask an atheist, the most sensible and straightforward of all. And you call it a “game”: which is yet more proof that the problem in epistemology and acceptance of evidences is on your end in the first place.
There is a huge body of work from many serious thinkers arguing the theistic God; there is no such body of work painstakingly arguing in favor of Santa Claus (i.e., the mythical figure), the tooth fairy, leprechauns, unicorns, mermaids. That’s why the theistic claim is a lot more credible.
This observation is not the fallacy from consensus or from authority because I’m not claiming that God is true simply because these arguments exist, or that lots of people have made them. I am pointing out that there is a difference in kind between the tooth fairy and the classical theist God. The latter has innumerable philosophical treatises devoted to His existence, whereas the former has none.
And this would be one way that the rational person could distinguish between the two: one has far more rational defenses that can be made in His behalf.
It has nothing to do with a critique of atheism. I have made that on quite other grounds. It’s a reply to the nonsense that belief in the classic theistic God is no more rational or warranted than belief in good ol’ leprechauns, tooth fairies, unicorns, the Easter bunny, the man in the moon, and all the rest . . .
The cosmological and teleological arguments do offer this empirical “evidence” that every atheist carps on about till the cows come home. They claim that empirical data is what it is due to being the effect of God; just as we can observe and test results from things that themselves are not directly observable or — oftentimes — not fully understood or dimly understood (e.g., effects of the Big Bang).
They show that it is much more plausible that the universe came about by the causal agency of God than by self-causation or random chance. We should accept the claims by virtue of the demands of rationality and plausibility, by which we also determine whether anything else is true.
I (and millions of others) claim that God indeed has made His existence very clear. It’s so clear that many millions of people are very sure that He exists, and contend that this knowledge is innate within us.
We believe that His existence is evident from observing the universe: His handiwork. This gets into the teleological (design) argument. It’s also quite plausible and believable based on the universe being here at all (cosmological argument).
Now why is it that atheists casually, derisively dismiss the evidence of many millions of people believing that God exists? Why is that not regarded as “evidence” by them? What if every human being who ever lived (except for a lone atheist) claimed that they believed in God? Would that convince the lone remaining atheist that he must be lacking something to not also possess this belief; therefore, he would yield to everyone else’s experience and claim and realize that his was somehow deficient?
One atheist said that we should “feel his presence as surely as we feel pain or hunger or thirst” when in fact that is precisely what many millions would say. So why is it that atheists ignore all that evidence when it occurs in others, and only trust their own negative experience of not experiencing these things that they seek?
1. “direct effect on the function of the universe” is precisely what is claimed to be the case in the cosmological and teleological arguments, which deal with aspects of the universe that are “scientifically testable”.
2. “A temporary suspension of natural law, what amounts to a miracle, would convince me of a higher power.”
There are many thousands of reports (including scientifically verified) of exactly that. Why are they not good enough for you? How many do you require? A million? A billion? A trillion? Once we get to 1,000,000,000,001 then it is sufficient?
3. Why is it that you are able to accept something like mathematics or logic: neither of which has the slightest empirical evidence in favor of themselves?
4. How and why is it that you bring to bear science as the final determinant of all knowledge and existence when it itself starts from axioms that are not absolutely proved? In order to do science at all (to even get it off the ground) one must accept a number of axiomatic propositions; e.g.,:
a) the external universe exists and is not illusory.
b) the universe observes scientific laws [is not chaotic].
c) these laws apply to all times and places (uniformitarianism).
d) these actual or potential realities are able to be observed and tested.
e) we can trust our senses to provide us reliable data with which to conduct these experiments, whose utility and epistemological relevance we assume without empirical evidence.
All of these starting premises were provided by Christianity, which is why modern science began in an overwhelmingly Christian milieu (medieval Europe), and why the overwhelming number of important scientists throughout history have been either Christians or some sort of theist (and saw not the slightest conflict between their belief in God and their scientific endeavors. They would have said (like Kepler) that they were “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”
5. “But the whole point of faith is to not need evidence.”
To the contrary, we have provided plenty of that; you reject it all out of hand, with mockery, and misrepresentation of what we have done. Therefore, the truth of the matter in your case appears to be the very opposite of what you claim: you are oblivious to any and all evidence, even though you claim that its presence will convince you. You simply deny that any of it exists. You’re like the guy on a clear summer day at high noon, who firmly denies that the sun exists.
Thus, you are the one (if anyone is) who exercises a profound blind faith and disdain for any and all evidence that exists in abundance for you to examine.
The atheist typically makes the demand that empirical evidence be produced in order to believe in God. God has to do something absolutely compelling, like turning the Empire State Building upside down, twirling it around (360 degrees) 17 times, bouncing it up in the air 12 times, at exactly 13.2 feet, then transform it into a statue of horse manure in the shape of Kim Kardashian, with a necklace around her (it’s?) neck, saying, “I am God. I exist; I came to earth as Jesus Christ, and Kim Kardashian is a bimbo.”
Then the atheist, satisfied in his irrational and arbitrary demands, will gladly become a theist, and even yield his or her life over to Jesus Christ, happily ever after.
I want to examine this state of affairs all down the line.
I’ve already discussed empiricism and the nature of science in earlier comments. Science starts with non-empirical axioms, that cannot be proven. They must be accepted without proof, in order to do science at all.
The Christian fully accepts this, knowing that for this very reason, modern science began and mostly developed in a profoundly Christian society (medieval Europe). And it was dominated overwhelmingly by Christian or otherwise theist Christians for at least 350 years: folks who started almost every sub-field in science. I’ve documented 115 of these.
Even today, theist scientists make up a good half of the whole.
The Christian freely acknowledges that he starts with unproven axioms, and/or faith in various things: a faith that ultimately transcends reason but is not contrary to it. But the atheist refuses to admit that he has an axiomatic philosophy, and starts with the self-defeating, viciously circular assumption that empiricism is all there is.
How is it circular? It’s very simple. To say, “empiricism gives us all true knowledge and, therefore, for me to believe in God, He has to prove Himself by empirical means,” is itself a non-empirical statement, that cannot be proven or shown to be binding upon one and all. Thus, the atheist makes a non-empirical, completely arbitrary statement that all knowledge must come through empirical means.
One immediately inquires, then, “why should anyone believe that such a demand applies to one and all; even to God: and a viciously self-contradictory statement at that?”
If the atheist can make a non-empirical statement that all knowledge, including that of God and His revealing of Himself, must be empirical, why can’t a Christian, by the same token, make a similarly non-empirical statement that God could also reveal Himself non-empirically? At least the Christian is logical and self-consistent, whereas the atheist is not.
From whence comes this notion of “God must reveal Himself empirically?” Well, it comes from nowhere. It’s an arbitrary demand, trumped-up in a desperate attempt to shore up an unacknowledged kindergarten pseudo-philosophy, with the pretense that it is unquestionable, and which is in fact no philosophy at all.
It has to presuppose logic in order to be stated in the first place. Logic cannot be proven, empirically or any other way. The mathematics that underlies virtually all of science is also non-empirical and must be accepted. Most atheists accept both things, though most seem unaware that they are doing so.
Neither logic nor mathematics are concrete things. In effect, they are non-material things (putting the lie to materialism). Logic is merely the relationship of ideas to each other, whereas mathematics is the relationship of material objects to each other. These are abstract (spiritual?) concepts.
Moreover, there are additional absurdities inherent in atheist positions (or at least the majority of them). Most atheists are not only materialists, but also determinists. Therefore, their very thoughts (in their view) are determined by outside forces of randomness and mere chance, and inexorably tied to a physical brain. When this brain dies, so do their thoughts.
They (but who is the “they”?) then use this brain to produce statements like “empiricism gives us all true knowledge and, therefore, for me to believe in God, He has to prove Himself by empirical means.” Now, why should anyone else believe such a thing? The person saying it has no basis in saying it in the first place, yet expects everyone else to bow to the arbitrarily dogmatic claim.
If it has come from random collisions of atoms in his brain, why or how is it that he deigns to think that these random occurrences have any bearing on anyone else, or the external world as a whole, let alone to God? Well, clearly he plays the game of presupposing logic, which, again, is a non-empirical, non-material entity that exists as a concept “out there” independently of him. He tries to pretend that he doesn’t do this, but he does.
So the atheist presupposes logic, mathematics, and this curious notion that everything knowable comes to us through empiricism: all non-empirical and non-proven notions, and all (for the determinist) produced at random, and therefore, with no ultimate meaning.
Now, if the atheist can do all that: which makes no sense whatever, why is it that they claim that the Christian cannot possess an equally non-empirical knowledge that God exists and has made Himself internally known to them? It’s goose and gander. If the atheist can hold axiomatic, dogmatic, incoherent, arbitrary, nonsensical, self-refuting, non-empirical notions and apply them to others, surely the theist can hold axiomatic, self-consistent, non-empirical theistic notions. The second thing is internally coherent and has as much justification or warrant as the atheist premise, while being consistent and coherent, as an extra bonus. Philosophers like Alvin Plantinga call this a “properly basic” belief.
If the atheist says that God is an extraordinary concept, well, so are logic and mathematics and a science which is worshiped as an idol by so many atheists, and virtually put in the place of God.
It just depends which extraordinary axiom one adopts. The atheist thinks that the universe somehow created itself, or that nothing produced something, whereas the theist believes in faith (with much supporting rational and empirical evidence from the cosmological and teleological arguments) that God (an eternal spirit being) did it.
Atheists must believe (since they have nothing else) that atoms inherently possess all the remarkable powers that we say God possesses. They were, after all, able to create the entire universe (so we are told) without the help of God, even at the initial stages.
That’s a pretty absurd or, at best, extremely implausible hypothesis, given what we know, and it can’t be explained by current science, but that doesn’t stop the atheist from believing it in quite a religious fashion, because he has to. He has no empirical evidence for it, but he believes it, having been limited to it and forbidden from considering any other option.
But the Christian believes that God created the universe, and can produce various empirical evidences that highly suggest this, and in a self-consistent, non-arbitrary way.
Thus, we conclude that if one strives to be consistent, coherent, logical, rational, pro-scientific in every way (not just arbitrarily selected ways), and to follow evidence wherever it leads, and not just to where it “must” lead (guided by the benevolent, arbitrarily dogmatic atheist hand), Christianity is the way to go.
That is the reason why I’m a Christian, because I value and cherish reason, science, and consistency as much as I do faith. I could never adhere to a self-contradictory, nonsensical worldview. Thus I have never been impressed by atheism.
For atheists who constantly demand “empirical evidence” for God, this is our answer. Knock yourself out. I also have a third links-page for the ontological argument, which is non-empirical, but a fascinating and classic theistic argument.
I’m in the process of compiling many more links in philosophy of religion, that I’ll be able to handily refer to in the future, when atheists make demands for this and that. They love to demand stuff. They are not nearly as enthusiastic (for some odd and curious reason) when it comes to defending their own beliefs and explaining to the next guy why anyone else should accept them.
Belief in God is not absolutely universal because there are always folks who are slow and slow to get stuff that is obvious to everyone else. That’s true in any observable group, regarding any topic. Why should it surprise anyone?
[an atheist bristled at this as a “cheap shot.” I replied:]
Tongue-in-cheek pointed comment [it would be made with a big smile in person] . . . We’re constantly told how stupid, gullible, anti-scientific, anti-reason, indeed insane we are. But we don’t dare even offer a semi-humorous pointed barb back.
God revealed Himself in history, in the flesh, in Jesus Christ, performed atheists’ vaunted, yearned-after miracles, including the Grand Finale: His resurrection, post-resurrection appearances (bodily) and ascension. I myself stood in the places where all these things happened, a year ago.
Atheists just blow that all off, with insufficient reason, but it is how God revealed Himself.
What to have faith in is guided by the revelation of the Bible (which is verified on other legal-historical-archaeological grounds). But we also believe that faith is an internal state generated by the God Who created us, and is fostered by looking at what He has made (as it states in Romans 1).
The atheist god is empiricism and one’s own intellect. Our God is God. :-) Our advantage is in not being internally self-contradictory. consistent logic is on our side.
Most people who have ever lived have been religious and have believed in a Higher Being or at least a Higher Power. Disagreements come from various interpretation of the holy books, which are natural if people decide to go their own way, rather than follow an established, unified tradition. Catholicism is thus far more coherent and unified than Protestantism.
But I have offered several critiques of atheist presuppositions, and, as usual, because atheists rarely want to talk about those, they so often switch the discussion right back to Christian presuppositions, so they can keep playing their self-satisfying game of shooting us down.
Atheists often assume that faith is inexorably opposed to reason, by definition. That’s not how we view it at all. We think that Christian faith is fully in harmony with reason and is supported by it; that it does go beyond, or transcend reason, while not contradicting it.
St. Thomas Aquinas, one of our greatest theologians, spent his entire career synthesizing faith and reason, utilizing Aristotle to do so.
Some fundamentalist groups are opposed to reason and solid thinking and science. Unfortunately, many atheists come out of that fringe and tend to equate it with all of Christianity, when in fact it is a tiny fringe.
I’m not gonna go off on rabbit trails. I want atheists to defend their incoherent premises, which is virtually never done. Instead, we have the inevitable topic-switching. Because Christian apologists actually answer questions and don’t want to be discourteous, we do that, and then the atheist can ignore their own severe difficulties by keeping the topic on Christianity rather than atheism.
Atheists who truly are interested in learning how Christians really think about things can hang round my blog, and we can talk for months and years about anything and everything. But the “hit-and-run” types won’t care about that and will leave quickly. It all sorts itself out in the end.
* * * * *