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.