Atheism

by Michael C. Dimopoulos - Main page

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This is a collection of notes regarding my thoughts on atheism. They're not supposed to be very constructive, just ranting. I'm specifically talking about actual atheism and anti-theism, not agnosticism.

The transcendental argument

What atheists often don't understand when taking such a materialistic stance (the denial of metaphysics, and therefore God), is that they are limiting their own framework through which they could defend their position. Logic is a perfect example of this, because it is a completely transcendent metaphysical concept that atheists love to rely on. We often take logic for granted, and that's because we cannot justify using it. Logic cannot be empirically studied, and it cannot be logically argued for, because that would presuppose the existance of logic and would make for a perfect circular argument (The defendant is innocent because the defendat says so. Logic is real because logic says so). Logic cannot be proven true or false, unless we use logic, which would be incoherent. In fact, logic cannot be justified at all in a materialist context. What does this mean? That logic, in the eyes of a materialist atheist, is just as real as God. Atheists who use logic to justify their beliefs are being incoherent, because within their worldview logic simply cannot be justified. Christians, on the other hand, can just say that logic stems from God, and therefore be constistent with their own worldview.

One way in which you might have encountered this argument is with ethics. You often hear Christians say that "Atheists cannot have morals because they don't believe in God", of course that's absurd because we know that atheists can have morals. This is because the argument is phrased incorrectly. The actual argument is that atheists cannot logically justify having morals. Their worldview simply doesn't account for them. Typical conversation on morals with an atheist:

In the atheist worldview, there cannot be good and bad things because that would presuppose the existence of an objective standard of measurment and judgement, which itself would be completely metaphysical, akin to a God, and therefore impossible to even comprehend in the context of materialism. For atheists, everything is what it is, and you can't get an "ought" from an "is". This doesn't mean that atheists can't be moral, it just means that they can't be moral without being logically inconsistent with their own beliefs. They have to pick one of the two.

Here's how a similar conversation would play out with a Christian:

Though it may sound simplistic, this answer is a lot more logically sound.

Atheism and science

There is this tendency of atheists to fetishize science, often thinking that science is on their side of the argument, implying that science has some kind of doctrine, like a Corpus Scientia in which it declares its teachings, and it's not actually just a method for empirical studying. This tendency is not entirely absurd, considering that pop-science is essentially natural philosophy with the tendency to ignore all that is metaphysical and not empirically verifiable, which itself is a logically incoherent position, since empiricism itself cannot be empirically verified.

I'm not going to touch on science a lot on here, especially considering there is a great article on it by Luke Smith. I'm just going to say that it falls in the same trap as atheism, in that it often relies on metaphysical concepts without being able to justify them. This includes logic, empiricism and often morals! ("We must follow the science!"). That said, science and Christianity aren't mutually exclusive. To make the atheists seethe, let's again emphasize how they're not logically able to justify using empiricism, considering empiricism cannot be empirically justified, or through any other means, since they reject all metaphysics, including logic and reason. Now let's take a look at 1 Thessalonians 5:21: "but test them all; hold on to what is good". You read correct: Christians can logically justify using empiricism, whereas atheists cannot.

Our view and scientific understanding of the world is bound to change in the future. Science is not a doctrine, it's a method. It was wrong multiple times in the past, and there's nothing that guarantees it's not wrong now. Our conclusions come from very fragile evidence. Our cultural biases are projected on our conclusions, the same way they used to back when homosexuality was considered a mental illness. Modern scientists admit that science just 50 years ago was flawed and biased, but for some reason we do not even consider the possibility that our modern science may be considered flawed and biased 50 years from now. This is why scientific opinion is not the hill I want to die on.

Transcendental claims in science

All absolute positive claims about God ("he exists", "he doesn't exist") are equally unscientific, since we simply cannot empirically prove anything regarding the transcended and the metaphysical because of its very nature. Atheists like to think they're on science's side but in reality their rejection of a transcendent monad or God is just as unscientific as absolute belief in one.

In fact, the most scientifically "sound" position would be agnosticism, because it does not make any claims that lack necessary evidence. However, taking the logic to the absolute, if one were to follow reason, he would worship God regardless of whether he exists because of Pascal's wager.

Pascal's wager

"Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas if God does exist, he stands to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell).". Basically, you should worship God even if he may not exist, because if he does you'll spend an eternity in hell and since we're uncertain about his existence, it's not a risk you would want to take.

>Attributing Pascal's wager to just Christianity is falling into the trap of assumption that the Abrahamic god is the real one. Nobody's using Pascal's wager to justify believing in Thor.

This discussion is about atheism, and Pascal's wager applies whether Christianity is taken into context or not. Furthermore, there is a very good reason nobody uses Pascal's wager to justify believing in Thor or Zeus. Pagan religions, unlike the Abrahamic ones, are not doctrinal and therefore do not provide moral guidelines for their followers to abide by. There is no concrete understanding of sin or damnation and certainly no scripture or dogma. As a result, for the purposes of Pascal's wager, they might as well be grouped in with atheism.

> If both Christians and Atheists make positive claims regarding God's existence, then why defend Christians and attack atheists? Aren't Christians just as unscientific?

Indeed, Christians and atheists are equally unscientific because they make absolute claims about something they simply cannot prove or disprove. However, atheists are the ones that value empiricism and evidence over faith, they are the ones that claim to be on science's side, and as a result are completely inconsistent with their own beliefs. They disregard claims which lack backing evidence (God exists), but they themselves embrace a claim that has no backing evidence (God doesn't exist). Christians do not claim that everything requires evidence and empirical data and they do not have a problem with mere faith. Therefore, Christians are at least consistent within their own worldview, whereas atheists are not.

The worst atheist argument

> Can God do [insert contradiction]?

The omnipotence paradox has many forms. You've probably encountered it as "can God create a rock so heavy that he can't lift it?" or as "can God create a square circle?". They may sound different but they're essentially the same thing. They play on the idea that God is defined as omnipotent, therefore can do everything. Of course, this is a brain dead level argument. To refute it all you have to do is use the actual definition of omnipotence agreed upon by most western Christian philosophers, notably Aquinas: God is capable of everything logical.

There is an even better approach to this argument, that as an Eastern Orthodox Christian I prefer: Yes he can create a square circle, he can create a rock so heavy that he can't lift and yes, he can also lift it. Why? Because God bound by the laws of logic. Descartes also supported this idea.

This is why this argument is so bad. We literally don't have to do anything to refute it. It's self-refutable with whichever definition of omnipotence you use.

Materially justifying religion

There is a minority of atheists who are convinced that religion is evil and needs to be discarded if we want to advance the human race. This has to be the most immature idea within atheism yet that is quite popular among edgy teenagers and extreme rationalists alike.

> I don't understand it, therefore it's useless

The fact of the matter is that throughout human history, all peoples have believed in some sort of religion. A lot of human effort has gone into religion: time, resources, buildings, sacrifices etc. If religion was indeed useless and served no purpose, through the principles of darwinism, those who wasted all their resources in practicing it would have already been wiped out and religion would disappear in favor of hard skepticism and rationalism. The fact that religion developed & exists in the first place shows that it must serve a purpose, even if it is not very clear to us what that purpose is.

We have no evidence what the consequences of a completely atheistic irreligious society may be, and what unexpected implications may arise. No such thing has happened before in the recorded history of humanity. It would be extremely foolish to replace something that has naturally occured with an artificial substitute. Just because we don't understand something doesn't mean it's bad or useless.

> Christianity caused the Crusades, therefore it's bad

It's incredible to see the mental gymnastics someone has to go through to completely disregard all the political, economic & geopolitical factors that played a significant role in the Crusades and hold only Christianity and religion accountable for what happened. The Crusades were the result of the early imperialism of the Catholic Church. Religion was merely an excuse. Same thing would have happened with a political leader, and it has way many more times, but that's conveniently ignored by the anti-theists because it doesn't fit their narrative.

The only way forward

If you are an atheist who's willing to actually be consistent with your own beliefs, what awaits you is a life of nihilism, of nothingness where nothing has meaning and nothing has telos. This idea may not sound as bad on paper, but living constantly under such thoughts can be mentally devastating. This is why most atheists are not truly atheists. Humans have spiritual and religious needs, and if they don't satisfy those needs with mainstream religion, they'll turn to substitutes. Nietzsche recognized this, and that's where the whole idea of the √úbermensch comes from - a purpose outside God. Communists have proletariat struggle as their religion. Anti-theists have science and anti-theism as their religion. In a consumeristic society akin to the one we live in now, many people choose media and products as their religion. Political ideologies, sports clubs, academic fields, diets etc. Ultimately those needs need to be satsified, and they will be.

To satisfy their spiritual needs, many will turn to para-religion: witchcraft, mushrooms, neopaganism, New Age beliefs, cults etc, often combining different elements in extreme syncretism in desperate hopes of finding something that works. I consider protestantism partially responsible for this, as well. I am not one of those puritans who believe that mysticism and esotericism have no place in a traditional mainstream religion. In fact, I believe that a religion has to be esoteric, symbolic and mystical to be a complete religion. However, we're missing the greater religion and only focus those elements, which I think will have unexpected negative consequences.


By Michael Constantine Dimopoulos Main page