The Five Worst “Arguments” (or Claims) Made by Internet Atheists

The Five Worst “Arguments” (or Claims) Made by Internet Atheists June 12, 2019

Atheists or at least non-theists have been invaluable mentors and friends. Philosophy and many other fields have been enriched by contributions of atheist scholars. Just as Christianity contains “apologists” with no training or who get way ahead of the arguments (“No rational person can doubt God’s existence!”), so atheism attracts their own crazy aficionados.

Dialog enough with either camp and you run into arguments or claims that the community of pop apologists or pop atheists accept, but that are indefensible in scholarship: theist, atheist, or anything in between. Propose a dissertation advancing your ideas at a good university and it would die.

The five worst arguments or claims I meet in the wild from the pop anti-theist atheist# community that are widely accepted in the sub-culture, but essentially no place else are:

The Middle Ages were the Dark Ages, because “religion.” 

Historians do not call the period of Western European history the “dark ages.” They were not dark. Second, the discussion ignores the Eastern Roman Empire that maintained a secular “university” tradition for almost all her history  as a Christian area. Third, the notion that things were bad, because of “religion” is so facile that a good atheist historian has a whole section of his website dedicated to refuting the insanity.

“I do not know modal logic, but Plantinga’s version of the ontological argument is bad.” 

Sadly, I don’t know Russian so I have to read Tolstoy in translation. As a result, I cannot comment on the literary merit of War and Peace in Russian. Most scholars who do read Russian think Tolstoy has done a magnificent job. A few might dissent and they give reasons. Since I do not read Russian, I must go with the consensus or cite and follow responsible dissident scholars.

I cannot judge Russian competence if I do not know Russian.

In the same way, I cannot evaluate a modal argument, if I cannot read a modal argument. I have asked Internet critics of Plantinga why his argument fails (as they assert) and they are unable to even form a modal response to his modal argument. They cannot read Plantinga’s actual argument, but have very strong opinions about it.

Now nobody can be an expert on everything, but if you are going to dismiss the argument then cite someone who has the competence to read it. You are not going to be able to add to the discussion, but you can point friends to a critic you trust.

Opining or constructing counter-arguments with no training or ability is like attacking Tolstoy’s Russian with no Russian. I am not a fan of the ontological argument, but would not try to refute it without the ability to read it with comprehension!

“Philosophy is useless. We just need science.” 

This is, of course, a statement of philosophy and not science.

The statement refutes itself. However, if we are very, very, very charitable and assume that what is meant is that “the only philosophy we need is enough to show that only science is a pathway to knowledge,” then there is still a problem.

Once we concede we need philosophy, even in this limited way, then the atheist will need to make a philosophical argument for his philosophical claim about the limit. He or she had better be able to do it. If he cannot, then he should stop doing philosophy without competence.

“Stalin was trained in a seminary and his tyranny was really a religion not True Atheism.” 

In pre-Revolutionary Russia many schools were called seminaries, but they did not exist just to train priests. Stalin was an atheist before he was a communist. He found a worldview to fit his atheism. He allowed a “state church” since atheism is so counter-intuitive that even with great persecution, theism kept cropping back up.

Atheism need not lead to persecution, but atheism# with power always has. In fact, atheism# is a kind-of-religion. That’s not a general claim against religion or atheism, but does say atheism, like religion, has no inherent check against tyrannical impulses.

Atheism has never started or been dominant in a society that was not horrific. (Iceland is not majority atheist. Western Europe is not majority atheist. Christians have committed horrific crimes as well with power. Individual atheists have served nobly in office in nations with a religious heritage.)

Faith is believing things despite the evidence. 

There are out of the two billion Christians (not even counting the other theists) surely someone who asserts this. Existentialists (atheist or Christian) might even defend such an epistemology. This is not, however, what Saint Basil, Thomas Aquinas, or John Calvin meant by faith.

I have met atheists# that wish to tell me what I really mean by faith. That’s a bit mad.

Faith is a complex term with epistemological and ontological meanings. Christian faith is not contrary (and must not  be contrary) to reason. Faith is comfortable with science. Faith demands proper evidence. Faith seeks understanding.

Any serious atheist will concede that “Faith” as used by Christians need not be irrational. See, for example, a dialog between Michael Shermer and me on this topic.

Bonus: Jesus did not (or probably did not) exist. 

This is so foolish, I have never met more than one relevantly trained atheist who believed it. Here is an atheist response to this foolishness.


# I will define atheist# as a person who opines without either little training or goes far beyond what serious scholars (from any perspective) assert.

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