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Seidensticker Folly #68: Atheist Fairy Tales & Dogmas

Seidensticker Folly #68: Atheist Fairy Tales & Dogmas December 20, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 67 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 12-21-20: “I love people who can make cogent arguments against mine or point out data I hadn’t considered before. What I dislike (and ban) are $#&*%@s who . . . refuse to learn/adapt . . . ignore compelling arguments against their position, and so on.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

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In his post, How Christianity Infantilizes Adults (12-20-13; update of a post from 1-13-12), Bob pontificated:

Reinterpreting events through a Christian lens can be comforting, and it patches holes in the Good Ship Christianity where reason leaks in. But this is simply a rationalization to support a presupposition, not an honest following of the evidence, and when you stop to think of what you’re actually saying, you’ll see that the reality you’ve invented not only makes no sense but is actually repulsive. . . . 

[F]or someone to become an adult, that person must grow up. We leave behind wishing wells, Santa Claus, fairies, and other false beliefs as we become independent. No longer are the necessities of life given to us; as adults, we must fend for ourselves—indeed, we want to fend for ourselves. The parent who sugarcoats reality or keeps the child dependent for too long is doing that child no favors.

Reality is better than delusion, happy though that delusion may be. Hearing the doctor say, “You’ll be just fine” feels a lot better than “You have cancer,” but if I really have cancer, which one allows me to take steps to improve my future?

Religion infantilizes adults and keeps them dependent. That’s a good thing for the 100-billion-dollar-a-year U.S. religion industry, but what is best for the individual—a pat on the head or reality?

I’ve dealt with this sort of patronizing, condescending, arrogant anti-Christian bigotry many times (see my Atheism and Philosophy & Science web pages), and it’s not my present purpose. Rather, I’d like to turn the tables, as I often do in my apologetics, and submit some of the many irrational fairy tales, held in blind faith, that atheists labor under. I will be using an accepted philosophical / logical form of argument known as a reductio ad absurdum. Unless this is understood before the following is read, it’ll never be properly comprehended. But in the second portion below I explain exactly what I was trying to accomplish, and how I reasoned.

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Matter essentially “becomes god” in the atheist / materialist view; it has the inherent ability to do everything by itself: a power that Christians believe God caused, by putting these potentialities and actual characteristics into matter and natural laws, as their ultimate Creator and ongoing Preserver and Sustainer. The atheist places extraordinary faith in matter – arguably far more faith than we place in God, because it is much more difficult to explain everything that god-matter does by science alone.

Indeed, this is a profound faith of the utmost non-rational, childlike kind. It is quite humorous, then, to observe the constant charge that we Christians are the ones who have a blind, “fairy tale,” gullible, faith, as opposed to self-described “rational, intellectual, sophisticated” atheists. Atheist belief is a kind of polytheistic idolatry of the crudest, most primitive sort, putting to shame the colorful worship of the ancient Babylonians, Philistines, Aztecs, and other groups.

They believed that their silver amulets and wooden idols could make the sun shine or defeat an enemy or cause crops to flourish. The polytheistic materialist, on the other hand, is far more religious than that. He thinks that trillions of his atom-gods and their distant relatives, the cell-gods, can make absolutely everything in the universe occur, by their own power, possessed eternally either in full or (who knows how?) in inevitably unfolding potentiality.

One might call this Atomism (“belief that the atom is God”). Trillions of omnipotent, omniscient atoms can do absolutely everything that the Christian God can do, and for little or no reason that anyone can understand (i.e., why and how the atom-god came to possess such powers in the first place). The Atomist openly and unreservedly worships his trillions of gods, with the most perfect, trusting, non-rational faith imaginable. He or she is what sociologists call a “true believer.”

Oh, and we mustn’t forget the time-goddess. She is often invoked in worshipful, reverential, awe-inspiring terms as the be-all, end-all explanation for things inexplicable, as if by magic her very incantation rises to an explanatory level sufficient to shut up any silly Christian, who is foolish enough to believe in one God rather than trillions. The time-goddess is the highest in the ranks of the Atomist’s wonderfully varied hierarchy of gods (sort of the “Zeus” of Atomism). One might call this belief Temporalism.

Atomism is a strong, fortress-like faith. It is often said that it “must be” what it is. The Atomist reverses the error of the Gnostic heretics. They thought spirit was great and that matter was evil. Atomists think matter is great (and god) and spirit is not only “evil” (metaphorically speaking), but beyond that: non-existent. Atomists may and do differ on secondary issues, just as the various ancient polytheistic cultures differed on quibbling details (which god could do what, which material made for a better idol, etc.), but despite all, they inevitably came out on the side of polytheistic idolatry, with crude material gods, and against spiritual monotheism.

Within the Atomist faith-paradigm and bubble, everything, no matter how ludicrous or utterly unlikely, makes perfect sense. But for one outside their circle of religious faith, it may not (just to warn the devout, faithful Atomist that others of different, much more rational, faiths may not think such things as “obvious” as they do). The Atomist – ever-inventive and childlike – manages to believe any number of things, in faith, without the unnecessary addition of mere explanation. 

“Why” questions in the context of Atomism are senseless, because they can’t overcome the Impenetrable Fortress of blind faith that the Atomist possesses. The question, “Why do the atom-gods and cell-gods and the time-goddess exist and possess the extraordinary powers that they do?” is meaningless and ought not be put forth. It’s bad form, and impolite. We know how sensitive overly religious folk are.

Instead, we are asked to bow to the countless mysteries of Atomism in dumbstruck adoration and awed silence, like the Magi at the baby Jesus’ manger, offering our unquestioning “scientific” and “philosophical” allegiance like they offered gold and frankincense and myrrh. The very inquiry is senseless and “intrusive.” Mere rational examination is precluded from the outset.

In a certain remote and limited sense, we Christians (since we ourselves possess and value faith) stand in awe of such Pure Faith, with its sublime fideism and Absolute Trust in Design via trillions of atom-gods. It is, indeed, an ingenious, self-contained, even elegant system, admirable in its bold, brilliant intellectual audacity and innovation, if nothing else.

It may be (at least for certain sorts of childlike minds) an immensely enjoyable game to play, but like much of modern philosophy, at bottom it is hopelessly irrational, self-defeating, and ultimately incoherent. For that reason, the Christian must reject it, since we believe (very unlike the Atomist) that irrational and non-rational beliefs are untrue and unworthy of anyone’s allegiance.

Yet we can’t help — almost despite ourselves — recalling with fondness the wonders and fancies and fairy-tales of childhood. Atomists seek very hard to maintain those marvels, and perhaps that’s not all bad. We must be tolerant and open-minded. Atomists are (we might say) the “adult children” among us: like Peter Pan! Who can resist Peter Pan, after all? This (arguably) gives them their charm and appeal: evident in so many Christian discussion threads, where they suddenly enter and — seemingly oblivious to the existing discussion — start incongruously preaching their rather fantastic fideistic faith.

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Explanatory Note for the Above

The nature of my argument above is a humorous, sarcastic version of the fabled (or notorious) reductio ad absurdum argument (in logic). What the reductio is, can be read in the (very heavy, dry, philosophical) link I just provided, or the much more popular-level page about it on Wikipedia.

The reduction was designed to force atheists to concede, that they, too, exercise a profound faith in unproven axioms, just as Christians do. Reductio ad absurdum arguments often (but not necessarily, or by nature) involve generalization, non-literal statements, exaggeration, and overstatement to make the point.  All the atheist has to concede in accepting my reductio, is that they exercise every bit as much faith as any Christian, when it comes to the origin of the universe and the marvelous processes by which it came to be.

That’s it! That’s not even painful. They don’t have to give up atheism. This isn’t an argument against atheism per se. It’s a turn-the-tables argument against the notion that Christians are somehow uniquely gullible and subject to blind faith with no evidence. Bob the Bible-Basher milks that false assertion for all it’s worth (which ain’t much at all) in his paper on Christianity Infantiliz[ing] Adults.

Technically, this present paper of mine could (or should?) be described as a reductio ad absurdum argument that has elements of turning-the-tables, and heavy use of sarcasm, satire, and rhetorical exaggeration to make a point. Humor (of a tweaking / provocative sort) is fundamental to it. In the past, I have heard many boorish atheist statements (reacting to basically the same reductio arguments of mine) saying that “atheists don’t worship atoms as gods!” etc.: which showed a complete lack of grasp of the fundamentally humorous nature of my arguments.

Reductio ad absurdum (not necessarily or in essence, but often in practice) involves sarcastic exaggeration to make a point (as does the turn-the-tables methodology). This is an examination of what I believe atheism logically reduces to, even though no atheist would ever put it this way. Unless these sorts of basic characteristics of the piece are understood, it’ll never be grasped. It’s difficult for anyone to endure a strong critique of their view as it is. But it must always be realized that making arguments against positions is not “attacking” people. The equation of people with their beliefs is very common today, and is the death of good constructive discussion.

Nothing is more “magical” than believing that something came from nothing, for no reason, and created itself, with every conceivable power to endlessly create all that there is, and all because of the inherent capabilities of matter: for which we don’t have the slightest scientific or even rational explanation; therefore accept with the most blind faith imaginable: far more faith than Christians ever have exercised. The atheist has to explain (if he is curious about origins) how matter came to possess its remarkable powers by itself, with no outside source.

I don’t regard atheists as wicked or liars or “insane” simply because they are atheists. I see it as a flaw in thinking: the sincere acceptance of wrong premises and falsehoods. I have a post up where I say that atheists can quite possibly be saved (as atheists). But if so, it is because they haven’t truly known God. I don’t think atheists are stupid. They are usually quite intelligent and rational. But they are what we call hyper-rational: where reason is placed too high in the scheme of things. Reason ain’t all there is.

Of course this sort of argument will be felt by many atheists to be merely or simply insulting, because it is a hard-hitting reductio (and this is perhaps the hardest-hitting one in any of my voluminous writings), with use of sarcasm, and hits the atheist precisely where they are most vulnerable. So it comes off (to the extent that it is truly understood) as a low blow, and we see reactions in accordance with that falsely-perceived ” insult.” All reductio / turning the tables arguments are very hard for the recipient to receive. It requires a person who is very secure in their belief-system to take it and make a rational, non-emotion-based counter-reply.

Reductios involve rhetorical exaggeration. That’s why I keep saying that this mode of argument is often not understood. If one understands how the argument and the sub-idiom of language within it works, these things would not be issues, and the atheist who is offended would already understand that I’m not literally claiming all atheists are gullible children. Rather, I’m turning the tables on the usual atheist argument against us, saying in effect, “you wanna argue that we are gullible and infantile imbeciles? Well, here are some ways that such a description can just as easily be turned back on you.” In other words, you have a childlike faith that it came into existence somehow (since it is here now, and isn’t eternal, as far as scientists can tell); just not possibly by God.

My bottom line point in all this is that atheism requires as much faith as Christianity does (defined in this context as acceptance of unproven axioms or unknowns), specifically when we’re talking about theories of the origin of the universe. Since that is the case, the atheist should then be “intellectually humble” enough to acknowledge that this area is a level playing field, or a wash, as opposed to the usual hogwash about atheists being smart and scientific, and Christians against science and reason and with infantile beliefs consisting of idiotic fairy tales only.

If atheists didn’t falsely convince themselves that they have no faith (belief in unproven axioms) at all, then they wouldn’t get so angry when the obvious is pointed out (all thinkers accept unproven initial axioms, somewhere . . . ). I am not literally claiming above that atheists would consciously say they believed in “gods.” Of course they will not say that. My argument was that how they view atoms and cells, in effect, is every bit as “godlike” as what we say about our God. How atheists view matter is very much like how we view God’s creative aspects. And so, in the humorous reductio vein, that is expressed as “believing in atom-gods and cell-gods.” Atheists (generally speaking) need to lighten up! It’s satirical humor. Have they never read satire?; never watched Saturday Night Live or read the Harvard Lampoon or watched Monty Python

Both belief-systems entail evidence and faith. It’s untrue that Christianity is all faith, and atheism all rationality. Both systems have both. We have a lot more in common than either side usually realizes. Some Christians (a very small amount of those who are educated and “thinking” Christians) are fideists or anti-intellectual, but implying that all are or that it is a system of blind faith, pure and simple, is sheer foolishness and a straw man as high as Mt. Everest.

Atheists mock us for believing in God as the Creator [I’m not talking about creationism, but God as Creator, regardless of the method He may have used; which may have been evolution], as a silly, infantile fairy tale with supposedly no “evidence” whatsoever. But having ruled out God, how does the atheist explain the universe coming into being? Virtually all atheists I have discussed such things with, said “I don’t know.” Now if they say they don’t know, they still believe that the universe is here and came about somehow, so that is a sort of faith, just as ours is, unless they want to deny that the universe exists, or argue that it is eternal, contrary to presently accepted cosmology. My piece was a sarcastic treatment of what I believe are difficulties in materialism, and ironic similarities to some Christian beliefs, and also to those of ancient polytheists.

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Photo credit: Lalelu2000 (8-14-15) [Pixabay Pixabay License]

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