Mere Atheism

There's an old joke about an American who is visiting Ireland. The gentleman stops off for a pint in a local pub, and as he's taking his first sip one of the other patrons strikes up a conversation. During that conversation he asks the American if he is a Catholic or a Protestant.

The American answered, “Neither. I'm an Atheist.”

“I see,” replied the Irishman. “Well then, are ya a Catholic Atheist or a Protestant Atheist?"

This is part two of my two-part investigation of former Atheists. In part one I claim that Christians who use the label of "former Atheist" in reality never gave much thought to Atheism, and instead have used their past Atheism as part of their Christian Credentials in order to claim greater authority.

In part two, I'll examine several famous ex-Atheists. Unlike Christians, I don't claim these people were never "True" Atheists - I just don't think they gave Atheism or any form of Secular moral philosophy much serious thought.


In Lee Strobel's book “The Case for Christ” Strobel writes about his Atheism:
For much of my life I was a skeptic. In fact, I considered myself an atheist. To me, there was far too much evidence that God was merely a product of wishful thinking, of ancient mythology, of primitive superstition. How could there be a loving God if he consigned people to hell just for not believing in him? How could miracles contravene the basic laws of nature? Didn't evolution satisfactorily explain how life originated? Doesn't scientific reasoning dispel belief in the supernatural?

But that's all I had ever really given the evidence: a cursory look. I had read just enough philosophy and history to find support for my skepticism – a fact here, a scientific theory there, a pithy quote a clever argument. Sure I could see some gaps and inconsistencies, but I had a strong motivation to ignore them: a self-serving and immoral lifestyle that I would be compelled to abandon if I were ever to change my views and become a follower of Jesus.
Strobel makes many errors in “The Case for Christ” but the most glaring errors are his failure to investigate Secular moral philosophy, the equating his love of an immoral lifestyle with Atheism, and believing that his one sided interviews of several Christian experts proved his point in a manner supposedly equivalent to the way that lawyers prove a case in a court of law.

Strobel interviewed strong witnesses to Christian Apologetics – but opposing witnesses and rebuttal witnesses are ignored completely. Is this his idea of a fair trial? Strobel also ignored the fact that other religions have their own Apologetics, and so the reader is never treated to Strobel's “Case for Mohamed”, or perhaps “The Case for Judaism”. I believe that if he had used the same flawed methods Strobel might have found the case for Islam to be just as compelling as his case for Christianity. These points alone demonstrate that Strobel never actually gave much thought to the Atheism he supposedly espoused.

In my last post on this topic I showed a chart that defined the differences between implicit and explicit Atheism – I'll reproduce it here. Strobel's version of Atheism is firmly implicit, even though he might claim it to be explicit. It wasn't that he didn't think about Atheism, he did give it some thought. But he seems to have come to the conclusion that people always claim Atheism out of immorality. If he had bothered to seriously interview anyone who understands Secular philosophy based upon empathy and sympathy for others he might have changed his mind.

Strobel used Atheism as an excuse for an immoral lifestyle and he framed the question of religion as an either-or proposition - “Either Christianity is true, or nothing is true” in a classic Pascal's Wager fallacy. So was Strobel an Atheist? Sure – for a sufficiently wide definition of Atheist. He never saw the need to put much thought into his pre-Christian position.


Strobel borrowed a Christian apologetic argument from the popular writer C. S. Lewis. In the chapter called, “The Psychological Evidence” Strobel asked if Jesus is sane and rational – a restatement of Lewis' “Lord, Liar, Lunatic” argument from Lewis' book “Mere Christianity”.

In “Mere Christianity” Lewis also clams status as a past Atheist. He doesn't speak of his own salvation story in this book, but he makes several references to his godlessness. (Lewis gives his personal testimony in his autobiography, “Surprised by Joy”.)

In Book II of “Mere Christianity” Lewis starts out with this statement:
I have been asked to tell you what Christians believe, and I am going to begin by telling you one thing that Christians do not need to believe. If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth.
Lewis makes a mistake that anyone who has ever studied comparative religions easily recognizes. Yes, various religions seem to “hint of the truth” but that is not because they've all seen the “Truth” of Christianity through a distorting lens, it is because they all are invented by humans, and humans tell stories that are related to human experience and to the human condition. After a study of religions that predate Christ it becomes easy to count the similarities, to identify stories in the Bible have earlier equivalents. Humans love stories, and they love heroic legends whether the hero wears a red cape and a big red “S” or if they're dressed in a tunic and sandals while performing their miracles.

Lewis is the first to state the Trilemma, “Lord, Liar, Lunatic” - but he leaves out the possibility that Jesus was merely a “Legend” - someone of which stories were told and embellished.

In my opinion Lewis' biggest mistake in “Mere Christianity” is that he attempts to dismiss the serious doctrinal differences between the various “flavors” of Christianity. Catholic versus Protestant, Reformed versus Traditional, sect against sect. Lewis conveniently forgets that wars have been fought over doctrinal differences. Many Christian religions actively proselytize to members of other Christian congregations in an effort to sway them from a perceived false faith and in an effort to bring them to the “real” truth. From the viewpoint of a studious Atheist, attempting to gather Christian groups who oppose each other, sometimes violently, under one roof is a serious flaw in Christian Apologetics.

Was C. S. Lewis an Atheist? Implicitly yes – but in reading “Mere Christianity” it becomes clear that he was never explicitly Atheist – he never gave any thought to Secular philosophy or serious consideration that other opposing religions or Christian sects might have equal validity.


What about other famous former Atheists, such as Josh McDowell and Ray Comfort? I've been confronted by acquaintances who who claim their conversions are a blow to Atheism. But when I did some digging, I found out that neither of these people were ever Atheist.


Popular Christian author Josh McDowell was an agnostic who once claimed that Christ wasn't divine, but had no problem believing in a deistic God. In his book “More than a Carpenter” McDowell uses the “Lord, Liar, Lunatic” fallacy from C.S. Lewis, and he completely misses the point in his brief study of comparative religions in the chapter “Will the Real Messiah please stand up?” He either ignores or hand-waves away Biblical contradictions, which is understandable – his degree from Talbot Seminary is based upon a requirement of Biblical literalism.

McDowell's own words show that he was not even atheistic, and his arguments based upon a predetermined conclusion show a dishonesty that Atheists are wise to note.


In Ray Comfort's Christian testimony he said that although he thought the religion of Christianity was “boring”, he had no problem believing in God. Transcribed from his audio testimony:
“I thought a Christian was someone who believed in God, that's all. And I thought if someone had said “Are you a Christian?” and I would have said, “Sure”. Because I said prayers at night, I believed in God – I wasn't a fool. If there's a creation, there must be a Creator, if things are made there must be a Maker.”
Comfort's arguments against Atheism certainly don't come from personal knowledge. His version of Christianity also dishonestly predetermines a conclusion – that of Creationism.


What about other famous former Atheists? Ray Comfort's partner, Kirk Cameron, claims past Atheism. According to his interview in Today's Christian:
Although he had only been to church once or twice in his life, the young man had seen hypocrisy and self-righteousness among those who believed in God—so much so that Cameron began to consider himself a "devout atheist."

"As far as I was concerned, thinking people didn't believe in fairy tales," he remembers telling himself. When asked in interviews about God, the teenager would respond: "There's no God. You can't prove that there's a God. Absolutely not. You guys are performing your own lobotomy in order to believe this kind of stuff."
Cameron makes two very revealing statements in this interview. First:
Cameron, 32, says he viewed the world as though he were the center of it and began expecting things to be done for him—because they were. "Anything I wanted was given to me. That was what I expected because that was my reality."
And second:
Cameron likens that time in his life to biting into a chocolate bunny on Easter and realizing that it's hollow. "There was this aching, empty feeling that left me very disillusioned with the business I was working in," he says. "What else was there? What else did I have to shoot for? I'd basically reached the top of the ladder, and I was 18."
Kirk Cameron's life before Christianity was that of a spoiled brat. He had no moral foundations on which to build – so of course this must be the fault of Atheism, and not a lack of character or good upbringing. How different his life might have been if he had found a strong moral Atheist role model, or if he had learned a Secular philosophy based upon empathy and sympathy for others. If he had instead been invited to a Secular Humanism function instead of a Christian service, Cameron might still have turned his meaningless life around, but in a Secular direction.

Kirk was firmly, implicitly atheistic – and never explicitly Atheist. This really doesn't surprise me because from the debate he participated in against the Rational Response Squad, it is easy to see that he doesn't put much thought into anything.


Implicit Atheism seems to be the general trend for those Christians who claim past Atheism as part of their credentials. But in every case I've examined so far, the form of Atheism they claim seems to be the a version that doesn't include ethics or a positive Secular moral philosophy.

I'm not saying that these people were milquetoast Atheists – some like born again Christian William J. Murray, son of famous Atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair grew up vehemently denying God in an explicit version of “strong Atheism”. But in every case, even William Murray's, they lacked any foundation in Secular moral philosophy. The lacked an upbringing or training in methods of answering ethical questions from a compassionate, empathic, sympathetic Secular point of view. These people used Atheism as an excuse to be bad, not as a position of reason or logic.

Were these people Atheists? Sure, for a sufficiently wide definition of Atheism. But these people weren't Atheists due to logic, reason or understanding. They were merely atheistic for wholly selfish reasons.

Mere Atheists.

21 comments:

Thomas said...

Hello, I stumbled across your blog and felt compelled to respond. I rarely find time to compose sufficient responses but something you mentioned caught my eye. Regarding C.S. Lewis you commented, “Yes, various religions seem to “hint of the truth” but that is not because they've all seen the “Truth” of Christianity through a distorting lens, it is because they all are invented by humans, and humans tell stories that are related to human experience and to the human condition.” The trajectory of this comment points towards a primordial subjective element implicit in humanity. Atheism put into this context is thus a simple fabrication of “human nature” as well, whose main premise is contingent on our supposed human limitations. One could potentially say that our human capacity for universal implementation of the scientific method is common to human biology and humans come to inevitable conclusions because of it, this argument is subjective and relies heavily on the experiential. When this argument is followed to its logical ends, I believe you end up refuting your thesis.

Furthermore, the Christian concept of Truth is grounded in that which has been conceived separate of our human cognition, the Word (logos) that has existed eternally. However, humans are capable of obtaining to the Truth from our own capacity to reason and draw ourselves near to the divine. Lewis isn’t simply pointing to the creation of similar myths that were dispersed throughout the globe but the abstractions of “Truthfulness” obtained through our common stories. This Truth exists independent of our own minds. These common stories are simply signposts that point to fact, to Truth (a priori).

Calladus said...

Thomas, your comment has a couple of problems that I'd like to address.

First, you attempt to put Atheism into the context of religion. This is a common Christian argument of “Atheism is just another religion.” Although Atheism should have the same sorts of protection that the State gives to those who practice religion, those who argue that Atheism is a religion are doing so fallaciously.

Second, your analogy of how the scientific method is implemented is also flawed. Yes, “one could say” that it is doomed to subjectivity based upon the human condition. One could say that the sky is plaid too. Neither is a proven argument. I think you'll have to offer some data before you claim refutation.

Lastly, you say “...the Christian concept of truth...” and then repeat Lewis's arguments that multiple religions all point dimly toward the same truths. But you offer no evidence of that. While I've seen first hand that other religious groups have concepts of “truth” that Christianity would call sin. Which is right? For that matter, what about the different Christian sects that actively try to “save” each other because they are not “true” Christians. Which is true?

The fatal flaw in this argument is that Lewis thinks that all of these shades of similar myths try to live up to the so called truths of the Christian religion, while there is no evidence that perhaps even Christianity might have a shade of the truth, and perhaps all religions are merely shades of Islamic truth, or Hindu truth, or... or....

The truth is, you can't prove otherwise.

Thomas said...

Let us first start out by clarifying your first two points. I didn’t mention that Atheism is simply another religion among other religions. However, when you place religion into the realm of subjectivity in the context that you did, a logical extension is also applied to the origins of Atheistic thought. In reference to my argument that you seem to place Atheism and Christianity in the realm of subjectivity you state, “One could say that the sky is plaid too”. Yes, this is exactly the point on two different levels.

First, when someone claims that the sky is “plaid”, they are relying on the experiential. The experiential being Aristotle’s five senses (sight, sound, etc.). We claim the sky is actually blue (well, perhaps not in L.A!) because our common senses tell us so and it has been that way for quite some time. Why the assumption? Relying on the experiential requires faith and there are no two ways around that. Bridging the gap between the experiential and the a priori is a rational step of faith.

Second, Christians claim, Atheists too, that there must be some objective fact that is not contingent upon or necessitated by our five senses, a priori Truth that exists not because we have made it so but because it is True regardless. I’m not intending to lump Atheism together with religion but arguments do exist that tend to be damning for us both. The “common human experience” argument tends to knock out the feet from under us.

Lastly, your argument about multiple religions pointing to truth, although not totally lacking, comes from a very religious-centric viewpoint. Christianity claims to be the universal religion. Christ himself is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. Put simply, Christ is God (abstract Spirit dwelling quintessential Truth) made manifest in a human body. If God never revealed His divinity to the world, this Truth would still exist and 2+2 would still equal four. Hindu concepts of Truth point to God for God’s sake not just for Christianity’s sake. In other words, I think it is fair to say that Christianity points to some aspects of Hindu Truth, granted that it’s actually Truth, because the communion of Truth is reciprocal.

Now our business tends towards discerning between the various religions. Well, I would start by finding the exact “sins” masquerading as Truths and sniff out the contradictions or perceived logical tensions within that specific religions own systematic set of morals and ethics. Then I suggest looking comparatively, as it seems you have some experience at, and looking to see what system of ethics would best account morally for what concept you are exploring. There are indeed differences (…and that’s okay) that bring to mind certain questions: Are all of them wrong? Are all of them right? Are all of them partially right? Etc. The sheer number of religions tends to create a myopia that is difficult to make sense of. Nevertheless, the myopia doesn’t necessitate the illegitimacy of them all. You know, the baby out with the bath water approach to religion. There are certainly activities or ideas within religions that are unethical, bride burning and caste systems come to mind, and act as points of differentiation. Once the layers are pealed back, there exists a list of morals and Truths that cannot be perfectly proven a priori. However, the process of differentiation leaves somebody with enough well grounded Truth to make that rational faithful step into Christianity (reference paragraph 2).

In repose, putting the onus of proven infallible fact upon religion is something you demand of religion and is something religion never purposes to solve. Not being able to prove that myths point to Truth, especially the Truth in regards to one particular faith, doesn’t make it false but merely brings it into the realm of suspicion, the murky subjective self refuting grounds of skepticism (reference “the philosophical problems of skepticism”). So, in the good ole’ adversarial tradition of apologetics I say, “All religions produce common stories and are simply signposts that point to fact, to Truth (a priori). These elements of Truth that are dispersed throughout the globe come into the full fruition by the Lord Jesus Christ.”

And,

“The [T]ruth is, you can't prove otherwise”.

Calladus said...

Let me see if I can restate what you’ve said in more accessible language…

You’re saying that relying on data based on evidence or experiment requires faith, and that any sort of deduction that comes from this data also requires faith.

Next you say that both Christians and Atheists say that there is some Truth that exists whether or not we can sense it or deduce it.

Lastly you claim that God, or Christ is that Truth. You graciously allow that other religions might point to a fraction of this truth, and you also graciously allow that even Christianity might not have the whole Truth.

You then dodge the issue of whether religion has a burden to prove that it is right or not, because – as you say – Truth exists regardless of burden of proof. You then reassert that Jesus Christ is the Truth.


Perhaps I’m just stupid, and I need to translate your language into something I can better understand. Or perhaps you are using layers of language to hinder communication? Argumentum verbosium is a type of fallacy. But I’ll give you the benefit of doubt and assume I’m merely slow on the uptake.

At the risk of knocking down strawmen, I’ll answer your points as I’ve understood them.

First, I see an all too common mistake by confusing the word “Faith” with the word “Trust”. Faith implies that proof or evidence or experience is unnecessary. Trust requires these. You don’t have faith in an elevator, you instead trust an elevator because you trust your past experience with elevators, you trust the evidence of seeing other elevators work, and the evidence of the people who just came out the doors. You have proof that elevators work, from your parents when you were a small child, and from Society – who you know will punish those who would dare to create a fake elevator that would drop you to your death.

You can deduce that an elevator will work, using past experience and evidence, and you trust your deduction.

Faith requires no evidence, no proof, no deduction. A faith in the infallibility of all elevators would have you stepping into open elevator shafts.

Scientists use this sort of trust, based upon evidence, as the basis for scientific theories. And I use the word “theory” in its more precise scientific definition.

Next you say that there is some sort of ultimate Truth. Actually, I don’t disagree with this – I came to the same conclusion while taking Freshman philosophy. But I don’t think we know what this Truth is yet. I also think that we Humans will eventually come up with it. And I think that any ultimate Truth that we come up with will be different from the ultimate Truth that other species might eventually evolve. I can think of thousands of scenarios wherein the most basic, fundamental “Truths” or morals of our society might be overturned in a non-human society.

As for your duel claims that God & Jesus is the Truth and that you don’t have to prove it – well! If you don’t have to prove it, then I’m not required to believe you. There are thousands of religions that all claim to be Truth, and if you can’t differentiate your religion from the others, then I must give it exactly the same weight as the others.

And that at the heart is what it means to be Atheist, A-theist, not a theist. I don’t disbelieve in your religion, I just see no reason to believe in it.

normajean said...

Thread,

My two cents. There doesn’t seem to be anything natural and by that I mean physical about “truth.”

Suppose the universe was necessary (it doesn't seem to be so) the idea that truth is a consequence of the physical universe doesn’t seem to be coherent because “truth is that peculiar relationship which obtains between a representation and what it is about when what it is about is as the representation indicates.”

Truth entails thoughts that are representations ‘of’ and ‘about’ reality and that while these thoughts are intentional representations, physical objects have physical properties that stand in no logical relationship with anything. Hence, so truth (and logic and aboutness) stand in no spatio-temporal location but physical objects do, it seems odd to think truth is a consequence of the physical universe. There's no identity (A is A) to travel that road.

And as Victor Reppert, in the shadow of arch naturalist Quinn, reminds us: “Physical facts do not logically entail mental facts, just as physical facts do not logically entail moral facts. Getting an “about” from an “is” is just as impossible as getting an “ought” from an “is”, and for much the same reason.”

Perhaps someone can explain how physical objects ground truth.

As an aside, I don’t think Thomas would analogize “proof” with certitude.

Calladus said...

Normajean, perhaps you would be kind enough to define "Truth" for me.

normajean said...

Cal, truth wouldn’t be anything less than the quotation I’ve provided in the third paragraph.

Calladus said...

In other words, "no".

normajean said...

Ummm? Are you an elimativist? Perhaps you believe propositional content is neither true nor false?

Calladus said...

The word is "eliminativist".

And I'd answer both yes and no. Yes I believe that everything a person thinks, his or her "mind" is merely the "software" that is running on the "hardware" of the brain.

However, eliminativists deny love - which I don't.

As for the word "Truth" beyond the prosaic definitions, there is no agreement to how it should be defined. It becomes a matter of argumentative opinion.

However, the goal of any good definition should be to clarify, not obscure - and the language of philosophy can be misapplied to obscure meaning.

normajean said...

Cal, thanks for correcting a spelling error!

I wasn’t inquiring about your belief of the mental, but since you brought it up, any view in which physical structure sits on the ground floor of reality and given J. Kim’s closure of the physical invariably leads to supervenience theory which runs the road of epiphenomenalism. I wouldn’t travel that road if I were you—Searle will tell you why. See Victor Reppert’s site of you wanna hash that one out.

I was wondering what you did with necessary truths or if you would agree with me that they are inexplicable at the physical. And I don’t think I’ve obscured anything. If you are interested in dealing with very specific content I’ve offered, let me know. If not, that’s fine also, because I’m going out of town for a few days-and my stop here was a driveby. peace

normajean said...

Cal, I’m not quite sure what I sent you. I wish your comments were open so I could clarify any errors I may have made. I suppose editing on word first is a good idea. Oh well, I’m out to another town.

Btw, if you enjoy respectful and stimulating conversations regarding these sorts of topics, you should head over to

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/

or

http://dangerousidea2.blogspot.com/

1 is easier than 2. 2 is devoted to the argument from reason.

adios

normajean said...

You wrote: As for the word "Truth" beyond the prosaic definitions, there is no agreement to how it should be defined. It becomes a matter of argumentative opinion.

One needn’t supply a robust definition of truth to make the broader point that if some correspondence doesn’t exist then your proposal above entails self refutation. That's all.

Scientiae said...

Wow again, Cal. I see what you mean- one would need a series of philosophy courses, or some rather dedicated autodidactics in the same area, to make one's way through this welter of highly technical argument. The truth (insert appropriate wince here) is that I don't have the tools to analyze the statements from either "thomas" or "normajean" correctly within the context they were made- presumably the context of persons who have studied philosophy and devote a fair amount of time to the consideration of the intangible.

That being said, I could talk about certain fields of literature, politics, psychology, law or medicine in the same way- in the highly refined and precise languages (yes, plural- all of the fields have different lexicons) developed for their practice by succeeding generations of adepts, and employed only by those who devote significant portions of their time to study and/or practice. This would, however, be counterproductive were I attempting to teach a literature class, argue a case, treat a patient, explain a political system to a newcomer, or perform a psych evaluation (all of which I have done).

I talk technicalities and technique to fellow practitioners; I talk the language of the person to whom I'm speaking to everyone else. While the arguments presented here are fascinating, they are not accessible, even to those who wish to understand the ideology of the person speaking- and in a general forum not dedicated to formal philosophy(ies), such as your blog, I find argument in such technical terms boring (because only partially comprehensible), presumptuous and counterproductive. (I can, for example, argue international law in terms of Bush, Cheney, Blackwater, and Petraeus- or in terms of Augustine, Aquinas, Grotius, the UNDHR and the Geneva Conventions. Guess which I'd pick for most people?)

If one wished to have a dialogue with the person(s) to whom one was ostensibly addressing one's comments, one would do it in a way which is accessible to that person(s). Otherwise, label it a lecture, post it in a forum which attracts those who would be interested in such a lecture, and move on.

Anonymous said...

And I don’t think I’ve obscured anything.

geeze normajean, all you've DONE is obscure! I've never seen so much pseudo-intellectual crap in my life.

Brownian said...

I'm with anonymous. Both thomas and normajean practice obfuscation at a level usually reserved for second- and third-year philosophy students.

Yikes!

OctoberMermaid said...

That was a really interesting article and caused me to reevaluate my position a bit.

I'd say I was more of an implicit athiest for a while until I started exposing myself to more secular humanists and explicit athiests like the ones at Pharyngula. Reading the God Delusion also helped me to rethink my position.

I wouldn't say I'm well versed in secular humanist philosophy or anything. I just know that I don't hurt others because I don't like to be hurt and I don't like to feel like a bad person for doing such things. I figure that's probably due to evolution and common sense (teamwork makes the dream work, etc.), but I certainly didn't lose all morals when I realized I no longer believed in a God.

BUT, I still have to be careful and tone back some of the venom and vehemence I feel as someone who grew up with conservative, fundamentalist christian parents. There is a sense of rebellion to that, to be sure, so I have to make sure it doesn't override my logic or make me feel morally/intellectually superior.

Calladus said...

OctoberMermaid (I love that name!) You don't have to spend a lot of time studying or taking a course on Secular Humanist Philosophy - at it's core it is very simple.

Ethical questions are best answered when you examine them out of empathy and sympathy for others, when you try to reduce the suffering of others.

It really is that simple - you do it out of love for others because you know what it is like to be loved, or to want to be loved. You take care of others because you know what it is like to be taken care of.

That's the core. Everything else is just details.

Not everyone can do this. Some people are just incapable of empathy. We need to guard against those people and keep them from doing harm.

I also think that in many cases religion will warp our natural empathy and sympathy for others into something that is hurtful. For example those who misguidedly try to "cure" homosexuality through religion. We need to be on guard, and protect ourselves against that sort of person too.

P.Artist said...

Hi. Interesting post and a conclusion I agree with in broad principle. I think that, reiterating one of your points, for a religious person in the spotlight to say that they were 'Atheist' and then claim to have 'seen the light' and converted to religion just makes them: a) A liar, so that the point is made that even evil atheists can be converted to religion or
b) not an atheist in the first place.
For me, there would have to be some verifiable, incontrovertible fact of God's existence as in a miracle or other completely provable work or appearance and I would convert to religion. As this is never going to be forthcoming, I am an Atheist. It's not something I can convert from very easily!

And the word 'Truth' is bandied about quite liberally on comments and your article...I don't think the universe or mankind needs any 'Truth' to exist. The universe would exist if we were not here, and no 'truth' would need to be evident from our viewpoint, as there would be no viewpoint. Philosophical and scientific arguments aside, the only 'truth' we can perceive is our own presence in this reality...every thing else is up for grabs. (I am not confusing 'truth' with physical laws here.)

Thomas also is confusing Atheism with religion. I don't have a 'belief' or a 'faith' that there is no god; as an Atheist, I do not think there is a god,or that there is a divine presence shepherding us in our every thought or action, or that a god is possible...these things are not the same. If I had a BELIEF in Atheism, I would not be asking questions and keeping open minded about religious claims, I would not try and seek the facts. Belief and faith is the standpoint of no inquiry to understand or challenge.

The thing about christianity in particular that made me an atheist (and later on inquiry about other religions too)? The Bible. If you can read the Bible repeatedly without catching the blatant misogeny (spell?) towards women and convincing yourself that this is not a MAN made story of it's time then you have a greater capacity for closing your mind and understanding nothing than I could ever rustle up. And that's not to mention the questionable morals, the xenophobia, the paranoia, the pointless violence and the elitist viewpoints.... and to try and counter this argument with "well, we don't take the bible literally" or "they are mainly parables, no-one is saying that you should go and rape women and slaughter the next village" is obviously missing the point of their own religion!

Just my tuppence worth, as they used to say round these parts!

CASz said...

Especially interesting post. My husband has been an implicit atheist and is now reading the God Delusion. This is where he'll get introduced to the humanist part of atheism. Already he's finding himself challenged. There was recently an incident at the Vancouver Zoo where a monkey was brutally killed. He realized that at some level he DOES believe in a god in that the killer will be held accountable even if s/he's not caught. Your post has helped me understand where he's coming from and be helpful rather than incredulous discussions. After all, his implicit atheism led me to my explicit atheism.

Calladus said...

I think that, reiterating one of your points, for a religious person in the spotlight to say that they were 'Atheist' and then claim to have 'seen the light' and converted to religion just makes them: a) A liar, so that the point is made that even evil atheists can be converted to religion or
b) not an atheist in the first place.


P.artist - I'm always wary of broad generalizations, because there is usually some evidence to refute them.

I don't want secular people to be guilty of the same sort of false logic that Ray Comfort uses when he brands people like Dan Barker as "False Converts" to Christianity.

I would say that in general, the form of Atheism that many religious people hold up as evidence of their "miraculous transformation" has little resemblance to the Atheism held by people like Sam Harris or Daniel Dennett.