April 27, 2009

10 Replies to the Atheists

A while back I wrote the article, 10 Questions for the Atheist. It has elicited a number of responses since that time, particularly on some recent blogs. I thought it might be time to do a follow-up series to deal with replies to each "question" in my article. I'll proceed by taking each question in turn — one per post — and addressing some of the responses I've encountered.

I began the article with this statement:

Atheism, by definition, holds that there is no God and nothing beyond this world of matter, space, time, and energy. Consistent with this viewpoint come a large number of necessary truths and the problems relating to them. Atheism is not made rational merely by the rejection of the evidences for God; it has its own wares to sell and difficulties to overcome. Here is a sampling of the kinds of issues which atheism is obliged to address.

By this, I mean to point out that atheism is more than just a rejection of the God proposition. It is its own proposition. It makes its own worldview claim and is saddled with certain questions and mysteries that still emerge and must be answered in a way consistent with atheism. Theists are often charged with having a too-easy answer for life's mysteries: Goddunnit. Questions of origins, design, morality, and consciousness may be "conveniently" dispatched by appeal to the Deity, but they are left on the table for the atheist to address. And if the atheist has no solid answer to life's most compelling and fundamental questions, then exactly what is it that justifies atheism as a rational contender? Why believe atheism to be true apart from compelling answers to such questions? Why not be agnostic at most?

One atheist responds to my opening statement as follows:

We already have another word for that, it’s called "materialist." Atheists are not beholden to hold to any positive claim about whether there is something "beyond this world" (whatever that means exactly). There are atheists who believe in supernatural things like souls, ghosts, weird energies, and so on. So we have to assume that [the] whole set of questions here is not actually about atheists at all, but rather about materialists. (Francois Tremblay)

I will have to agree that "materialist" is probably a better word for what I describe here, and that this represents a subset of the "atheist" population. However, it is the largest subset, the most vocal, and in my mind it is what most reasonably follows from the concept of atheism. I am not, here, concerned with atheists who make room for spiritual elements, and apparently Tremblay does indeed know what I mean by "beyond this world," since he continues on to list several fine examples of otherworldly things, like souls and ghosts. It seems to me that if one is comfortable with the idea of immaterial beings, then there isn't any principled difficulty with the idea that one Being might be greater than us and precede even the material world that we inhabit.

Next I'll move on to my "questions." Each one is presented with a bit of contextual setup, followed by one or more actual questions to the atheist that relate to the topic. The setup is unfortunately brief, of necessity, but is itself food for discussion.

The responses I'll be addressing come from the following persons:

This is the introduction to a 10 part series. Part one can be found here.



At 4/27/2009 10:07 PM, Blogger Paul said...

My apologies to those who have authored responses that I have not identified here. It seems several others have done so since I first began compiling links, or I have missed responses in my search. Perhaps I'll expand my survey for other questions. I will, however, decline to answer those whose responses consist primarily of calling Christians (and me) derogatory names or lean upon external links for more than just support for articulated arguments.

I would also ask for patience, since I do not have the time to pump out these articles quickly, nor will I be able to maintain a thoughtful discussion with a large number of responders. I have a job, a long commute to work, a family, hobbies, and the inability to do stream-of-consciousness writing. I do not live on this blog. Please refrain from comments unless you feel that you have something productive to add to the conversation. For the most part, I have thus far been fortunate enough to have friendly and positive dialog with skeptics on this blog.

At 4/28/2009 3:05 AM, Blogger Francois Tremblay said...

I will say that I am following your entries and will post my own replies to them in the future as well.

At 4/29/2009 1:19 AM, Anonymous bobxxxx said...

Why not be agnostic at most?I'm not agnostic about magic god fairies for the same reason I'm not agnostic about the Easter Bunny.

Both ideas, the magical rabbit who hides eggs, and the magic god fairy who hides in the clouds, are equally childish and idiotic.

Even more idiotic are the insane beliefs of Christianity.

Every god ever invented, including the barbaric god of the Bible, was a lazy excuse to not think. All gods were invented to solve scientific problems. Here in the 21st century where I live, we solve scientific problems with science. Back in the Dark Ages where Christians still live, they solve scientific problems with supernatural magic, also known as god.

At 4/29/2009 1:42 AM, Anonymous bobxxxx said...

l looked at your profile. I noticed you have read the usual Jeebus books. I also noticed you read "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution" by Michael J. Behe.

I was wondering how do you expect to learn anything about science from reading a book written by a dishonest idiot who is the laughing stock of the scientific community. Behe invokes supernatural magic (he calls his magic "intelligent design") for every scientific problem he's too stupid to understand.

Behe knows every single one of his childish ideas was refuted at the Dover trial, but he continues to preach the same nonsense to his gullible non-scientist customers. Behe is a professional liar and he knows he's a liar. He laughs at people like you all the way to the bank.

The problem with theism is it makes people lazy. Instead of doing the hard work to understand scientific concepts, theists like yourself are only interested in justifying their childish belief in supernatural magic.

Science hard. Brain hurt.
God easy. No think.

At 4/29/2009 1:45 AM, Blogger Francois Tremblay said...

I've got to agree here that Paul is committing the same "atheism is a worldview" fallacy that he commits in some of his questions. He treats atheism and Christianity as if they were on an equal conceptual footing, even though Chrisitianity is a full-blown worldview and atheism is only a single negative statement.

It's like blaming a sentence for not being as detailed as a novel. Category error.

At 4/29/2009 1:55 AM, Anonymous bobxxxx said...

Just one more thing. Instead of wasting time writing replies to atheists, why don't you just try to understand why they laugh at you?

Did you know 93% of the top scientists of the world (the members of the National Academy of Sciences) are atheists? These people are geniuses. They have won Nobel Prizes. They have made major contributions to their branches of science. Could they be right about the stupidity of magic god fairies? Yeah, they probably are right.

Look at the average Christian. He's fat, stupid, and he thinks the entire universe was magically created 6,000 years ago. So do you want to be associated with retards, or do you want to learn from the brightest people on the planet?

At 4/29/2009 1:58 AM, Blogger Francois Tremblay said...

Uh okay bobxxxx, let's not go off-topic. I'm interested in his responses, so I don't think they are a "waste of time." You and I both agree that Christianity is a waste of time, but that's an entirely different bowl of Chex Mix.

At 4/29/2009 2:10 AM, Anonymous bobxxxx said...

I'm sure his responses will be interesting. I was suggesting he could make better use of his time trying to understand why there's a billion atheists in the world, instead of automatically disagreeing with atheists like a non-thinking robot.

Believing in god is a mental illness, and it's immoral to let people continue to be sick with this disease just to be entertained by their "responses".

At 4/29/2009 2:13 AM, Blogger Francois Tremblay said...

I don't think anyone going into this exercise bears any ill-will specifically. I think you're reading a lot into it.

At 4/29/2009 1:31 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Fat, stupid, lazy, mentally ill, lying retards? We're off to a good start, Bob. I think you've made Franc cringe.

A lot of low-hanging fruit in there that I'm tempted to respond to, but I'd like to keep some focus here and you're not really adding to the conversation. I will only say the following in reply to that shotgun volley:

Please do not assume that I have been a Christian all my life and that I do not know what the arguments are against Christianity. I have made many of them myself. After becoming a Christian I have dialoged with atheists (and others) for many years. I could probably argue against Christianity better than many atheists, and I am seldom surprised by anything new, other than the extent to which some manage to be rude to me.

As far a science, I believe my family would "LOL" at your assumptions, since I often bore them with my interest in scientific topics. Perhaps you'll even notice that I listed "The Way of the Cell" in my book list, which is a detailed look at the bio-chemical workings of the cell from one 'o dem smart guyz hoo beliefs in evibolution (yes, that's sarcasm, not typos). It is not the only such exposure I have had to science since college, and my interest in science has only increased with the acceptance of the fact that there is One in back of the laws and marvels that science reveals.

My "favorite books" list is not a list of those things that I think should take the top academic honor. It is a list of things (off the top of my head at the time) that I found enjoyable to read and edifying to me in some way. Which reminds me: I think I liked Behe's book, "The Edge of Evolution," better than his first one. I think I'll go change that in my profile now.

At 9/23/2009 10:11 AM, Blogger jerry said...

I am always amazed at how angry and caustic Atheist seem to be, they must have really bad heart burn.


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