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The Six Ways of Atheism: Way the Third

Next from Geoffrey Berg’s Six Ways of Atheism we have the God Has No Explanatory Value Argument:

  1. God if he exists must be the ultimate being and provide the answers to all of our ultimate questions — otherwise he is not God.
  2. Yet even supposing as a hypothesis that God exists the questions that God was supposed to finally answer still remain (though in some cases God is substituted in the question for the Universe).
  3. Therefore hypothesizing is only unnecessarily adding an extra stage to such problems and has no real explanatory value.
  4. Therefore according to Logic (Occam’s Razor Law — ‘that entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity’) we should not postulate God’s existence and there is no adequate reason to suppose that God exists.
  5. Therefore we should suppose that God does not exist.

Starting with (1), I agree that God should provide the answers to all of the ultimate questions.  When explaining the argument, however, Berg lists attributes of God (eternal, absolute good, purpose-giver) rather than explaining what big questions he means.  He only ends up asking one: How did the universe arise?

… [T]he answer for theists is, of course, God created it.  How did God arise?  Well, God has always existed.  But, why then, has the Universe not always existed?  Thus God can be cut out as an unnecessary extra.  Poor God, always being cut out as an unnecessary extra that contributes nothing to understanding except complication.  God is no more than a valueless extra intermediary stage in explanation.  (p. 64)

This didn’t work for Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, and it isn’t going to work for Berg now.  “Who made God?” is not a valid retort. Read the rest of this entry

The Six Ways of Atheism: Way the Second

Geoffrey Berg’s second argument states that since God is so far outside the realm of human experience and comprehension, that he is simply unknowable.  Therefore, you shouldn’t believe in him.

This Man and God Comprehension Gulf Argument is formulated as follows:

  1. Man is finite (in time, space and power etc).
  2. God if he exists in infinite (in time, space  and power etc).
  3. Therefore mankind cannot possibly recognize God or even know that God exists.

I have no issues with either premises.  Man is finite per (1), and God is infinite per (2).  Neither is a problem for me.

As a conclusion, (3) overreaches; Berg should have stuck with the first clause: “Therefore mankind cannot possibly recognize God … .”  That would have been a far more reasonable conclusion given the data.  Still a demonstrably false conclusion, but a much more reasonable one.

As for “… even know that God exists,” that is simply not true.  God is the inference to the best explanation: we see design, order, natural laws — the universe makes sense.  It works together like a machine, and machines are designed and built by an intelligent mind for a purpose.

Therefore, God is a reasonable conclusion from natural philosophy (even if a controversial one).  So I disagree that mankind cannot “… even know that God exists.” Read the rest of this entry

Six Ways of Atheism: On Personal Qualifications

Geoffrey Berg has written a book with six new or improved arguments against God.  I disagree — not one argument is new and nothing is improved.  In fact, even atheists make fun of this guy (see Daniel Florien’s post here).

I am only writing on this for one reason, and one reason alone: my new resolution to finish things that I start!  I already wrote on the First Way of atheism.  Then I said I’d move on with the other disproofs Berg offered.  I never did.  I gave up, just like I give up on lots of things.

No more.

I am going to finish that which I start from now on.  This comes in two parts: previous posts and projects.  Regular readers will undoubtedly have noticed the first part of this resolution — I am far more active in the comments section than I ever have been.  I’m actually responding to challenges, instead of letting them slide!

The second part is projects — posts that I said I’d write but never actually did.  I was saddened when I read back through my blog, deleting posts that I no longer agreed with.  Whenever I got to something tagged “Site News,” there would be a list of posts I planned on writing.  And none of them ever materialized.  I was a tad horrified.  To rectify that, I’m going to write some of those posts, and finish some of the projects that I said I’d do.

One of the projects I started long ago was making a website with responses to all of the most popular atheist books.  So what I’ll do is continue with this project, and the first victim book I’ll visit is The Six Ways of Atheism.

Before I get started dismantling this piece of crap, I want to address one of Berg’s comments in the introduction.  He said:

Nor do I really wish to deal with my own personal status.  Essentially the arguments I put are valid or invalid irrespective of whether they are original to me or not.  It is the arguments I want to be considered, not the person putting the arguments. (p. 12)

He then goes on to complain about intellectual elitism in philosophy, and how you can succeed in business with no degree, but for philosophy, you need a Ph.D. or they won’t take you seriously.

Well, not surprisingly, I disagree.  It all depends on the arguments.  If you make good arguments and do your homework, people will take you seriously — even academics with tons of letters after their proper names.

Take me.  I have an associate’s degree in business.  That’s it.  I have no training in theology or philosophy, not even a 101 class.  However, I’ve had opponents ask what academic journals I’ve published in.  Once, I made a silly (but logically valid) argument to get out of doing something at work, and my boss said snidely, “I can tell you have a degree in philosophy.”

Despite my lack of formal training, I have been recognized as a thinker in philosophy of religion.  I have detractors as well — most famously Austin Cline of atheism.about.com said I do not possess the intellectual honesty to even claim the title of “armchair philosopher.”  A hit-and-run commenter on this blog said that were I to publish a book on philosophy of religion or Christian apologetics, it would be an insult to people who actually bothered to go to school to get degrees.

There are people who think Plato and Aristotle are hacks, too.  As I frequently say, any idiot can start a blog.  Any dummy can self-publish a book.  My overall point still stands: it doesn’t matter where the argument comes from as long as it is a solid argument.  If it’s good, people of all stripes will take notice.  Your book will sell.  Your blog will gain a following.

In that spirit, I am not going to consider Berg or his qualifications, only his arguments.  I will not make any snide comments about how Berg is obviously not a philosopher, because his arguments are as naive as Steve Carrel’s character in 40-year-old Virgin.  Nor am I going to make a comment about how arrogant he is; how the hubris drips off of every page leaving you with the same sticky feeling you have after a workout in high humidity.  You won’t read about how he would benefit from hiring a better copy editor than his 10 year old nephew who only worked for Mountain Dew.

No sarcasm.  No cheap shots.  From now on!

I will only consider the arguments.  If the arguments stand, then the source won’t matter.

Twittering Away at Philosophical Naivety

I’ve addressed philosophically naive statements before.  They always seem to come from Twitter, which is why I had to absolutely laugh at the recent issue of Writer’s Digest when it suggests writing dialogue in Twitterspeak (140 characters or less) as an exercise in creativity.

Sure.  That might work for a good writer, but not for Average Joe Twitterhead.

Enter BibleAlsoSays, a frequent contributor to mass ignorance. He has struck again with two statements.  First:

https://twitter.com/#!/BibleAlsoSays/status/159474512163897344

Then:

https://twitter.com/#!/BibleAlsoSays/status/159474546288762881

Well, let’s break this down a little bit.

First, BAS is operating from a faulty definition of the word “faith.”  Faith is not “belief without evidence,” but loyalty based on prior performance.  That loyalty is manifested in the actions of the believer; which means both belief and practice are required for a truly biblical faith.

We see now that BAS’s statement misses the mark entirely.  I take ownership of my faith by my actions, regardless of who passed the knowledge to me.  My wife brought me to faith through seeds planted years earlier by my grandpa, and the church, the Bible, and influences too numerous to name have taught me what it means to own the faith I was given.

My actions — primarily through my writing, but also through a local youth ministry co-op and by assisting in the presentation of church services — have made my faith my own.

Second, even if we allow for BAS’s faulty definition of “faith,” he’s still off-base.  Taking ownership of abstract ideals is the same as taking ownership of concrete objects.

The computer I’m typing this on is a perfect example, as it came from my church.  I didn’t build this computer, I didn’t load the original software on it, and I didn’t use it for the first few years of its existence.  The Dell factory built it, loaded the software, and shipped it to my church, where it sat on the secretary’s desk for a few years.  They sold it to my father-in-law, who then gave it to my wife and I after he realized that he didn’t need it.

I didn’t build it.  I didn’t use it at first.  But it is my computer now.  It served many before me, now it serves me.

Same with a belief.  It becomes my belief when someone shares it with me, and I accept it as true.  So it is now mine in a sense, yet it still resides with the original person — the advantage abstract ideals have over physical objects.

A belief is never really “owned” by anyone.  Rather, it is shared by a group of like-minded people.

A belief will pass from one to another, from generation to generation.  Each generation is free to question and discard it.  Religion is not immune to this — in fact, the growing number of nonreligious is testament to the fact that many do question religious belief and eventually discard it.

But to say that no one can take ownership of a religious belief because it was passed from parent to child is philosophically naive.  No belief is really one’s own, since all or most of our most fervently held beliefs were taught to us by someone at some point.

Yet, despite this, people take ownership of beliefs all the time.  And we let them, never questioning the source of the belief.  If I say, for example, that I believe Mercury is the first planet from the sun, no one scolds me by saying, “You discover that yourself, there, Copernicus?”

Whoever discovered it, it was taught to me by a science teacher and is my belief now.

Religious belief is not in a special category by itself.  What applies to it applies to every belief under the sun — though I much doubt BAS wants that to be true.  His hatred of religion blinds him to a lot of philosophical truth.  In sum, if faith is solely equal to belief, we can still claim it as our own in the same semantic sense we claim any belief our own despite it being part of a collective body knowledge that we did not personally discover.

Are We Ever REALLY Neutral?

“Human beings are never neutral with regard to God. Either we worship God as Creator and Lord, or we turn away from God. Because the heart is directed either toward God or against him, theoretical thinking is never so pure or autonomous as many would like to think.”

— Ronald Nash

Replying to Comments: “Twitter and Shallow Reasoning”

I really have to stop letting these accumulate.  Answering them is never as bad as I seem to think it will be.  And, often, I learn something.

First up, on my post on how Twitter breeds shallow reasoners, Boz thinks that the Twitter users I mention are misunderstanding proof, which he says is:

1) Provide strong evidence for; Demonstrate.  I can prove that Morphine is addictive.

2) Show to be true with 100% accuracy.  I cannot disprove solipsism.

I agree on both counts, and I also believe Boz is correct that the Twitter users I’m picking on don’t get what proof really is.  Nor do they understand that one cannot disprove solipsism (which is why they resort to ridiculing me).

The point is that argument can suffice in place of empirical proof.  Provided one can show a belief is rational by logic and argumentation, then empirical proof isn’t necessary.  There’s no empirical proof that an external world or other minds exist, and we can’t say for certain (therefore) that we aren’t living in a computer simulation (a la The Matrix).

But we are rational for accepting the existence of the external world and the existence of other minds without evidence.  So I also argue that, because we can argue rationally and cogently for the existence of God, that we are justified in accepting it as true in the absence of empirical evidence.

Really, it all boils down to treating God as we would any other belief.  So, then, I’ve asked the atheist to provide good reasons to not accept the existence of God.  No one has stepped up, and Boz reversed it on me: provide rational reasons for not believing in Amun, the Egyptian god of creation and the sun.

Challenge accepted.  First:

  1. The conception of God is as the maximal being.  God exists eternally, and thus was never created nor will he ever pass away.  God also exists necessarily.
  2. The preservation of the Scriptures pertaining to God is excellent.  No significant variations in the (forgive my use of this term) plot of the creation story exist.  The rigid attention to the story is indicative of its perceived truth.
  3. God sent his Son, Jesus, to speak for him.  Jesus fulfilled OT prophecy and equipped teachers to give God’s full and final revelation.  He backed up his divinity with a Resurrection from the dead.  All of this in fulfillment of Scriptures written hundreds of years before.

As for Amun:

  1. Amun is not the maximal being.  He neither exists eternally nor necessarily.  He created himself (however that might have worked, but it indicates at least one prior moment where he did not exist), and formed a hypostasis with Ra (the sun god) at the outset of creation.
  2. The variations of the creation myth of Egypt demonstrate they had no commitment to its finer points, and therefore believed it only in the sense that it imparts a lesson.  Similar to how Aesop’s Fables or Shakespeare’s plays do–notice the range of variations in both over the extant MSS; the Bible’s variations are at least as numerous but not as significant.
  3. There is no fulfillment in the material realm for Amun-Ra such as we see with Jesus.

I think that these three points nicely demonstrate the superiority of God to that of Amun-Ra.