Monday, September 07, 2009

Atheism: A Life without faith?

A redated post:

The title of Sam Harris's book, "The End of Faith," suggests that somehow the life of unbelief is a life without faith. Is he kidding? In the Q and A session of his debate with Douglas Jesseph William Lane Craig said that you need more faith to be an atheist than to be a Christian. You must, for example, believe that the universe arose from nothing and by nothing at the big bang, for example.

Now it seems clear even if you don't agree with Craig, you have to admit that the atheist exercises some faith. The atheist has faith that whatever we are having trouble explaining naturalistically now we will be able to explan at some time in the future.

Atheists sometimes pretend that somehow their acceptance of atheism is a purely rational choice free of emotional considerations. Really? These comments by Thomas Nagel should set this myth to rest:

TN: In speaking of the fear of religion, I don't mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper - namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God, and naturally, hope that I'm right about my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.

I am linking back to an old post of mine on the subject.

72 comments:

Blue Devil Knight said...

I am not sure Nagel is representative. Atheists are a very diverse bunch.

My acceptance of atheism was not pleasant or something I set out to do as a Christian (this was 16 years ago). I had a fear of not having religion, and have found this to be very common amongst people becoming atheist. Once they are set in that belief, though, things often change over the years. I no longer fear not having religion, as I have had a fulfilling life and my moral fibre hasn't been shredded or anything.

Almost everyone that stops believing in theism does so with a great deal of anguish and doubt. While I do look at it as rational (i.e., I considered the evidence as well as what my gut told me), I certainly don't look at it as free of emotional considerations. The emotional considerations made it harder to become atheist though.

Victor Reppert said...

I think what very often happens is that people on both sides become "at home in their universes," they get used to the upsides and downsides of being an atheist or a theist. I'm satisfied once it is recognized that motivation support each side and the ad hominems cancel one another out, as C. S. Lewis said in "On Obstinacy of Belief."

stunney said...

Faith-based atheism....

http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2006/6/6/125444/0132/11#11

vjack said...

Atheism requires no faith whatsoever. Atheism means nothing other than the absence or lack of theistic belief. To lack belief in unicorns does not mean that I must believe that they do not exist; it only means that I do not believe they exist. Subtle but important difference.

Atheism entails no beliefs about the nature of the universe, science, etc. All the atheist is saying is that theistic claims are insufficient to prompt belief.

The Nagel quote you provide appears to misconstrue atheism as a "fear of religion." No fear is involved. The atheist need not have any shred of hostility to be an atheist. Rather than atheist need only to be unmoved by theistic claims. I have no need to hope that there is no god or even to hope that theists are wrong. I assert only that their claims lack evidence and are thus not compelling.

Victor Reppert said...

Nagel is speaking for himself, but I think he has a lot of company. He suspects that the fear of religion helps to explain, for example, the over-reliance on Darwinian explanations.

If one is actually going to live one's life without taking God into account, one must examine the evidence as best one can and then conclude that one has enough information to decide the question. Unless you have examined all possible evidence, you have to stop and say "OK I've looked at this enough, and I know what I think," and then act on the confidence that one has made the right decision. But that is what theists do as well, or at the very least this is what I have done, and I am a theist.

Bertsura said...

Fear of religion has nothing to do with atheism. It has only something to with anti-theism.

Mark Frank said...

...you have to stop and say "OK I've looked at this enough, and I know what I think," and then act on the confidence that one has made the right decision. But that is what theists do as well, or at the very least this is what I have done, and I am a theist.

I guess the answer to the question at the top of the post depends on how you define "faith". If you define "faith" as

examine the evidence as best one can and then conclude that one has enough information to decide the question

then it fair enough to say the atheism requires faith. But I don't think that is the definition Sam Harris had in mind and I am surprised that it is an adequate description of your religious faith. I think of faith as implying a committment to a belief over and above the available evidence. If not, how do you distinguish faith from any other firmly held belief?

Joel said...

Richard Dawkins has said before that while determinism might be a logical conclusion of his materialistic worldview, he believes in free will because "it feels like we have free will" and "otherwise life would be intolerable."

Anonymous said...

Victor,

This post is nothing but despicable sophistry; wholly unbecoming of otherwise intelligent people like you.

It is tired tripe--re-hashed apologetic canards--like this that make “Christian Philosophy” an oxymoron. Though you have a PhD, I’m afraid that I’d give you a failing grade in the philosophy classes that I teach.

That pathetic bubble-gum phrase: “It takes more faith to be an atheist than a [insert name of my religion here]” is indeed on the top-ten list of those specious claims repeated ad nauseum by all those who indulge in pop-evangelical literature.

Everyone in the business of “Lying for Jesus” is fond of this claim; from the bottom of the apologetic swill hole (Ray Comfort et al.) to one of the top champions of demagoguery (i.e. Norm Geisler), this little slogan is as cliché as “If Derwinizm is true, haw’come dere’s still monkeys, huh?” It needs to be retired and I’m incredibly disappointed that you’ve only perpetuated it among your readers; a Google search of the phrase “atheism requires faith” yields some 2,770 hits, many of which take great pains to advance and (more importantly) debunk this insulting claim. Please, I implore you to browse thoroughly the search results of that very Google search query; at least the first page of results.

(Wow, check out this guy, Frank Turek: crossexamined.org/)

The novelty of it that excites eager and evermore-uneasy congregants is this: “Atheists claim to be rational and non-religious people; wherein the rub is that they are irrational—there is lots of evidence that God exists—and they are very dedicated to being non religious. Oh the burning irony!” (Queue citation of Romans 1:22, Psalms 14:1/51:1 or some other ad hominem from the Bible, just to rub it in).

When I was a Christian, the irony was wonderful; most atheists are strong epistemic evidentalists and many, if not most that I’ve met, strive to follow an ethic in regard to belief that mirrors closely Clifford’s in "The Ethics of Belief" (1877), viz. that “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." Therefore, thinks the religionist, there is no evidence for the non-absence of a deity (whatever that entails), and therefore the atheist is a complete hypocrite. The imagined hypocrisy of the atheist was too good to not bring up when engaging in spiritual warfare with them, surely Paul was right when he said that they are "without excuse" (Rom. 1:20)!

(1) First, those unlearned folks who spew this hackneyed vulgarism do so on a simple misconception of what atheism is; one that is remedied by a simple course in Atheism 101. As a “Christian Philosopher” I’m baffled that you, with all the literature that you’ve read, can fall into this simplistic folly. Familiarization with the first few paragraphs of most introductions to atheism will invalidate the (supposed) legitimacy of this claim. This has been repeated so many times by so many mountains of books and thousands upon thousands of webpages, that I tire greatly from having to repeat it.

Atheism is simply the absence of belief in a god or gods. This is largely anthropological; babies (and horses) fall into this category of atheism. The more philosophically interesting brand of atheism is the stronger, more explicit version; the positive claim that there is no god or gods. The bearer of this claim not only has no belief, but also expresses it as a true proposition “there is no god.”

Use of the “Reification Fallacy” is instrumental in confusing one with the other. Apologists who love to use the in-vogue claim that Stalin et al. and their followers were atheists and thus killed millions” are fond of this one too. It doesn’t take faith to not believe in mugwump monsters. Do you have ‘faith’ that there are no mugwump monsters? That reminds me, this also is a fallacy...

(2) In my years of hearing this eye-roll-inducer, it is clear the “Fallacy of Equivocation” is being used here as well.

Among most people, apologists included, the word ‘faith’ has roughly three uses, all of which are not used very carefully and are usually twisted to whatever use by apologists that most glorifies God (i.e. their egos) in some given context.

(a) ‘Faith’ as a synonym for ‘religion’:

Listen to any moronic speech by President Bush on religion, and he’ll use the word ‘faith’ to mean ‘religion:’ The “Islamic faith;” the “Christian faith”; “Faith-based initiatives,” etc. Apologists who are fond of claiming that “atheism is a religion” do this; that a non-faith is a faith; a non-religion is a religion. If this was true, than for every religion that exists, there is a counter-religion that is its denial. Do you have 30,000+ religions, Victor? I think not. My friend Geoff Mather says it well:
“To say that atheism requires faith is as dim-witted as saying that disbelief in pixies or leprechauns takes faith. Even if Einstein himself told me there was an elf on my shoulder, I would still ask for proof and I wouldn’t be wrong to ask.”

(b) ‘Faith’ as a synonym for ‘trust’ or ‘confidence’:

The latter word has the Latin ‘fides’ in it, meaning belief or trust. This one is the linchpin of your post and of the claim itself that “atheism requires faith.” Even Bill Craig and D’nesh D’Souza know that it is rhetorically ineffective to simply say to pious crowds yearning for the affirmation of their beliefs, that “atheism requires confidence/trust”

On a side note, if I were still a Christianist, I would find it incredibly disingenuous to label my intellectual and spiritual opponents as “having as much faith as we do.” It demeans the religious belief as being as evidentially bankrupt as the absence of the religious belief; that, “the atheist has no reasons or arguments or good evidence that he is right in his (non)belief! Therefore, he is just as religious and emotionally-invested concerning his stance as we are! Hallelujah! Take that, you supposedly ‘rational’ atheist.” The same goes for the contradictory claim that atheism is a religion. Is religion so easily identified with apparent zealotry, supposed dogmatism, and strength of conviction? I’d have a higher
opinion of my practices, thank you.

(c)’Faith as ‘firm belief in something for which there is no proof’ (Websters):

This is more appropriate for what ‘faith’ means colloquially and among many apologists: belief or certainty in the absence of, in spite of, or without regard to the conditions of logic, evidence, or, more importantly, reason.

The uses between a-c are clear in a number of passages about faith:

“Every sect, as far as reason will help them, make use of it gladly; and where it fails them, they cry out: ‘it is a matter of faith and above reason.’" - John Locke, " An Essay Concerning Human Understanding" (IV:17)

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." - Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but - more frequently than not - struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God." - Martin Luther, “Table Talk”

“The way that I know Christianity is true is first and foremost on the basis the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart. This gives me a self-authenticating means of knowing Christianity is true wholly apart from the evidence. And therefore, if in some historically contingent circumstances the evidence that I have available to me should turn against Christianity. I don’t think that that controverts the witness of the Holy Spirit. In such a situation, and I should regard that simply as a result of the contingent circumstances that I am in, and that if I were to pursue this with due diligence and with time I would discover that in fact that the evidence—if I could get the correct picture—would support exactly what the witness of the Holy Spirit tells me.” – William Lane Craig

“The magisterial use of reason occurs when reason stands over and above the gospel like a magistrate and judges it on the basis of argument and evidence. The ministerial use of reason occurs when reason submits to and serves the gospel. Only the ministerial use of reason can be allowed." – William Lane Craig, “Reasonable Faith” (page 36)

With this in mind, let me turn to your post. You say:

“The title of Sam Harris's book, "The End of Faith," suggests that somehow the life of unbelief is a life without faith. Is he kidding? In the Q and A session of his debate with Douglas Jesseph William Lane Craig said that you need more faith to be an atheist than to be a Christian. You must, for example, believe that the universe arose from nothing and by nothing at the big bang, for example.”

Victor, did you even read Harris’s book, or just judge the contents by the cover? This is as pathetic as that video of a presuppositionalist on GodTube.com attempting to refute the contents of Harris’s book by analyzing the words on the cover (really). In the event that you did read the book (since your commenting on it, I’ll presume you would have), then I’m completely baffled that you would think that Harris means to end “belief without proof.” Though he aims for this, the double-meaning of the title is a purposeful equivocation: “The End of Religion.” Are you as baffled and rendered intellectually impotent about this as you are about the uses of ‘faith’ title of Dan Barker’s book, “Losing Faith in Faith” too?

Secondly, Craig says a lot of things and just because of his say-so doesn’t give any claim any more validity. Gosh, you’re not the first. I call this “The Plantinga-Effect” among apologists:

“The Plantinga Effect:”
“When some well-known and intelligent apologist says some completely crazy thing, it suddenly becomes intellectually respectable and immediately worthy of the dedication of for years and years worth of entire journals and festschriften and books and conferences and seminars etc. in the discussion and elaboration of the supposed nuances of said crazy thing apologist x said.”

Further, who says anybody “must” believe “that the universe arose from nothing and by nothing at the big bang”?

Says who? You? I certainly don’t believe that at all.

What prevents me from not believing in your God and thinking that the world came into being five minutes ago? Or, by some demiurge qua Plato’s “Timaeus”? Or, what if I’m a solipsist and an atheist? As a Christian, do you have to believe the absurd claim that you were fashioned from ribs and dirt? This is just a strawman; an insulting one at that.

You continue:

”Now it seems clear even if you don't agree with Craig, you have to admit that the atheist exercises some faith. The atheist has faith that whatever we are having trouble explaining naturalistically now we will be able to explan [sic] at some time in the future.”

Equivocation. You really mean “atheists have confidence that p.” I hear this often from apologists about scientists and ‘faith’ in the attempt to marshal the extraordinary explanatory success of science and the meaning of ‘faith’: i.e. “scientists have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow” therefore even scientists have faith. Everyone does this; I even heard Mary Gordon on Bill Moyers say this about “being faithful” that the bus will come on time (therefore, she said, we are ‘faithful’ people). Of course, scientists are incredibly confident that the sun will rise tomorrow. I’d love to have an instance of a scientific explanation for some phenomena that was replaced by a super naturalistic, theistic one; I can give you innumerable instances of the opposite occurring. What would justify NASA scientists abandoning their calculations for the predictions of dowsing rods? A natural explanation using the same calculations for how to get a spacecraft to Saturn works just as beautifully and precisely as using the same calculations for the path of a ball down an inclined plane. Supernaturalists have given scientists absolutely no reason for abandoning naturalistic practices for predicting, controlling, and explaining natural phenomena. Little more than “Arguments from Ignorance” prevail. In “Truth” (2001), Simon Blackburn says it best:

“There may be rhetoric about the socially constructed nature of Western science, but whenever it matters, there is no alternative. There are no specifically Hindu or Taoist designs for mobile phones, faxes or television. There are no satellites based on feminist alternatives to quantum theory. Even the great public sceptic about the value of science, Prince Charles, never flies a helicopter burning homeopathically diluted petrol, that is, water with only a memory of benzine molecules, maintained by a schedule derived from reading tea leaves, and navigated by a crystal ball.”

You continue:

”Atheists sometimes pretend that somehow their acceptance of atheism is a purely rational choice free of emotional considerations. Really? These comments by Thomas Nagel should set this myth to rest:

TN: In speaking of the fear of religion, I don't mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper - namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God, and naturally, hope that I'm right about my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.”

I knew that soon after the publication of “The Last Word” that, in the hawkish manner of creationists, apologists would commit “contextomy” of this passage on page 130 to their own ends. Shame on you, Victor.

The phrase “I don't want the universe to be like that” (almost all referring to Nagel) comes up over one thousand times on Google and has been repeated over and over on apologetics websites for those yearning for confirmation of their belief and the ammo to invalidate the whole corpus of literature defending atheism with one quote.

Nagel speaks for himself, and only himself. He can go right ahead and say “I don’t want there to be a God because I want to eat Jell-o without guilt” and it wouldn’t bear on me whatsoever. I can agree, or disagree. But, really, when western religions offer you one of two alternatives, (1) eternal slavery to God in Heaven or (2) eternal torture in Hell, who can blame anyone for not wanting either? A humorous anagram among many atheists is that ‘evangelist’ is an anagram for “Evil Agents”; and, when confronted with door-knocking people who want to send you to endless (1) slavery or (2) torture, who can blame them? Is it a selfish, egotistical, and unwarranted emotional reaction to not want to be a slave or tortured for eternity? With all fairness, it is the emotional reaction to (2) that motivates nearly all of the pious believers that I’ve met; no matter how much I reason with them, many have willingly admitted that they accept true contradictions in order not to have to face the alternative that (2) offers. I think atheism is entirely reasonable and eminently defensible, but I’ve never claimed that all atheists are so for rational reasons. Do indigenous people of Guinea not believe in God for emotional reasons, or is it because they’ve (thankfully) never encountered a missionary? If so, would they reject the propositions on their unusualness or absurdity (as many of them would be warranted in doing), or because they are just emotionally insecure or, as so many apologists claim, incredible egoists who just want to be “their own boss”? As rational as I believe my arguments that justify atheism to be, they might turn out to be wholly false; does that meant that, at root, I’m just a stubborn rejecter of God, like Bill Craig says I actually do “in my heart”? Or, should I, like so many other theists, just first believe in the propositions given about the belief, and be happy if reason or evidence just so happens to accord with my beliefs, and if not, like Locke says above, defer to the “virtues” of ignorance—belief without reason or proof (i.e. faith)? If my arguments against theism fail, then it doesn’t follow whatsoever that theism is true, nor atheism false. Like belief in anything, I should still accept good, sound arguments for it, even if I don’t want them to be true.

Best stick with inter-denominational squabbles with non-Arminians about whose interpretation of the Bible is right.

thnuhthnuh said...

"The atheist has faith that whatever we are having trouble explaining naturalistically now we will be able to explan at some time in the future."

Well, I wouldn't call that "faith" since you could argue it's justified by past precedent.

You have no past precedents of people having religious experiences, and then afterwards having their experiences being borne out as confirmed religious truths (as, say the resurrection would have been had it happened). Therefore you faith in your experience is more of an unwarranted leap than my faith in science.

All you have are a) one set of ancient texts out of many others along with b) the fact that people are superstitious and unreliable.

Maybe at one point it was rational for the Christian to believe there was no explanation for phenomena we see in the world, but the gaps are mostly gone. We can completely describe many phenomena via mechanisms acting without any transcendent intervention. All you can credit God with now is the bare fact of existence, and some physical constants ... not really very impressive.

Darek Barefoot said...

Victor

It appears you hit a nerve.

Victor Reppert said...

Mark Frank: I guess the answer to the question at the top of the post depends on how you define "faith". If you define "faith" as

examine the evidence as best one can and then conclude that one has enough information to decide the question then it fair enough to say the atheism requires faith. But I don't think that is the definition Sam Harris had in mind and I am surprised that it is an adequate description of your religious faith. I think of faith as implying a committment to a belief over and above the available evidence. If not, how do you distinguish faith from any other firmly held belief?

VR: I think that there is all sorts of evidence for theism, and believing this I think that I have warrant for believing that God exists. I have provided a portion of that evidence in my book. One must exercise one's confidence and act on one's beliefs, which is true of the atheist as well as the Christian. If an atheist thinks it's 88% likely that God does not exist and acts on that assumption, then of course it is possible that he is wrong and, at least if some versions of Christian eschatology are true, may have to pay mightily for his error.

“I am not asking anyone to believe in Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of the evidence is against it. That is not the point at which faith comes in.”--C. S. Lewis.

But surely Lewis can't really mean it? Does he really think the evidence favors Christianity? Hasn't he read his Dawkins, well, his Russell?

He does mean it, and so do I.

Anonymous said...

I like how you ignored the post that seriously challenged your views.

Apologetics 101: When faced with a difficult question, either run away or resort to sophistry.

Hallq said...

Vic,

I think this has already been pointed out on this blog, but the Nagel quote is ripped out of context. Nagel says this as a confession of the kind of thinking he believes we need to overcome. This is a stark contrast to Christian writers who tell us to believe things because it would be nice if they were true, in some cases (i.e. William Lane Craig) even going to the point of saying we should believe in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

Really, I understand, kinda, when I see non-philosophers doing this, but are you really incapable of checking the context of quotes from fellow philosophers before you use them?

You also use "faith" in two different ways here: (1) Believing because you want to and (2) Believing under limited certainty. (1) is represented in the out of context Nagel quote, (2) ridiculously devalues the concept.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous @ 1:33 PM and Darek Barefoot,

I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed this. No response, Victor?

Hallq's comment, like always, is valuable too.

Sincerely,

- Anonymous @ 1:33 PM

Mark Frank said...

Victor

I don't doubt your belief is based on evidence. My question was:

"how do you distinguish faith from any other firmly held belief?"

If it is just a matter of coming to a conclusion based on the evidence then why call it faith?

Timothy David said...

To Anonymous:

Shouldn't we give Victor at least a day or so to reply to your rather long diatribe before accusing him of shirking the responsibility of answering it in full, much less of "running away"?

Timothy David said...

To Mark Frank:

If faith is an unfit term, what might Victor call his "faith" instead?

Mark Frank said...

Timothy David

How about "best estimate"?

Timothy David said...

Ah, OK. I was just wondering what a replacement would sound like. "Best estimate" seems suitable for those who may not like the word faith in the context VR was using it. Still, if faith means (etymologically) "trust" or "belief", it seems we still trust or "have faith" in our best estimate, so I'm not sure what we gain by replacing faith with best estimate, except avoiding a word (faith) which has taken on somewhat of negative connotation in some circles.

Mark Frank said...

My point is that VR's faith probably includes more than "best estimate", or even "conclusion". You might well come to the conclusion and be very certain that there is life on other planets - based on observation and logic. But that would be different from having faith that there is life on other planets.

What is that difference? I think it is to do with committment and it is an essential part of most religious belief. Some atheists may also hold their opinion based on a similar committment but it is not essential or even a common component of atheism.

Timothy David said...

Do you mean that in some sense VR's faith (or religious faith in general) is differentiated from atheistic "faith" in that the faith of the religious person is "active" while the atheist's faith is inactive? For instance, that a religious person will (probably) be acting on that faith daily (by prayer or what have you) while the atheist (unless perhaps he is a hard-line positive atheist set on "debunking" religion) will probably not be moved by their atheism to commit to anything in particular?

Please forgive me if I am completely misunderstanding you.

Merle said...

Hey Anonymous,

Just for future notice try to keep your comments based on one point and make that point rather short.

I was wondering if you read "Devils Delusion"?

Last question, Are you willing to claim there is no God? I don't think horses make such claims.

Finally, you come across very angry, try to be more sympathetic.

Victor Reppert said...

I don't feel any obligation to respond to someone if they are not polite.

The difference between faith and conclusion is that one "bets one's life" as it were, on the relevant belief.

Most people on both sides of the issue are attempting to follow the evidence. Now admittedly some people are doing it better than others. All I was using those quotations to do is to show that desires and feelings exist on all sides of the issue. It is not designed to show that atheists are disingenuous. I think there are important pieces of evidence that they are overlooking.

Atheism is possibly false, yet the atheist must act as if it is true. Christians place their bets as well. Faith in the sense Lewis talks about in Mere Christianity must be exercised by anyone who has a developed world-view. Faith in the sense of belief in the teeth of evidence is something I don't expect from anyone.

Ilíon said...

VR: "... Faith in the sense of belief in the teeth of evidence is something I don't expect from anyone."

But, of course. And, also of course, that's not what 'faith' means, no matter how often certain "New Atheists" preach that it does mena that.

Anonymous said...

as much as i can understand you not wanting to address anonymous' claims on account of his rudeness, the points he made seem extremely relevant in the context of this discussion. i was hoping that you might be able to let the anger go for a while and address the claims. i've been struggling with this for a while, and if you don't address the issues, i'm afraid it only suggests that you have no real rebuttle. as a person who honestly wants to believe, i implore you to try.

thank you

Anonymous said...

The anonymous post didn't 'seriously challenge [Victor's] views'. It was mostly a lot of irate squawking and lambasting of views Victor didn't even express, including a reference to arguments even anonymous isn't making. "Look Victor, there's over 2000 hits for a query about atheism requiring faith! Go read them! Because clearly you haven't considered this question if you don't agree with me!"

Along with the usual gems - 'atheism isn't a positive belief, it's merely a lack of belief!' (This is the most oft-repeated atheist line nowadays, and it's easily the single most deceptive line in the typical rationale.) 'Everyone is born an atheist! Technically even cats are atheists! Also cars and bottles of ketchup!' 'Atheists are a varied people, it's not fair to take what any prominent atheist says seriously unless I think it helps the case!' 'If I can refute Young-Earth Creationism, no God could possibly exist!'

Here's an unpleasant truth modern atheists have to wake up to: Refuting YEC or other hand-picked, particular theistic beliefs, then arguing against them, are not sufficient to ensconce atheism is a reasonable position. If Christ's body were put on display tomorrow, my Catholic faith would be gone - but my belief in God would stay. If I lacked faith in all established religions, I would still on that fact alone have no reason to become an atheist - the arguments, and yes, even the evidence could well be (and I argue is) sufficient enough to make deism vastly more preferable, intellectually, to atheism.

Whatever the case, sorry my fellow anons - anonymous offered Victor little to interact with, and I respect his decision to ignore those who can't raise issues civilly (Though I wish he'd reconsider his policy of allowing anyone who wants to to post comments - it attracts the worst kind of internet obsessives.) What should stand out all the more is, as another poster said, the fact that Victor obviously hit a nerve with his post - and that a chunk of the response he's gained can be classified as little more than irate sputtering.

Thanks for the post, Victor. The reaction has highlighted more than the OP did.

Anonymous said...

Atheists expect us to use there precise definition of atheism, even if we question it, but they won't return the favor when it comes to defining the word faith, that can only be a synonym for irrationality whether we disagree or not, and that is the way they insist on using it.
By the way that Martin Luther quote the atheist gave above is bogus, many atheists including Dawkins (pg.221 G.D. paperback) use it but all he did was get it from pop-Atheist web pages that never produce which table talk contains this supposed qoute.
Heres a real quote from Luther
"Reason is the most important and the highest rank among all things."
Disputation concerning man Thess 4-6 pg.45
Funny to hear atheists crying about context when they simply fabricate qoutes!

Mark Frank said...

Atheists expect us to use there precise definition of atheism, even if we question it, but they won't return the favor when it comes to defining the word faith, that can only be a synonym for irrationality whether we disagree or not, and that is the way they insist on using it.

I don't insist on any definition of faith. I just want to know what definition is being used if someone is claiming that atheists also require faith. As I said above if "faith" is just a synonym for "belief based on good evidence" then of course atheists require faith.

According to the Bible Jesus said:

"Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." (John 20:29)

Which sounds like an exhortation to believe out of loyalty even when the evidence is not available. Is he not asking Thomas to have faith?

Anonymous said...

"Which sounds like an exhortation to believe out of loyalty even when the evidence is not available. Is he not asking Thomas to have faith?"

Thomas was an apostle - how can the passage be about having no evidence when he not only had his experiences with Christ to call on, but was also hearing testimony of Christ's resurrection from others? The context is important.

And notice the kind of doubt that Thomas had in context. It wasn't a worry or entertaining of the possibility that the resurrection was false. It was an out and out denial, and a goading statement of what it would take to convince him. This wasn't a situation depicted where he merely harbored some doubts.

I don't see this passage as having much to do with "believing out of loyalty when you have no evidence". If anything, it's about realizing the practical limits of evidence, and how it gets you to a certain point but no further. There's always going to be a leap involved, and those who can understand that.. hey, maybe they are blessed.

Jason Pratt said...

Without getting into the actual discussion here (though I agree with Lewis and Victor that 'faith' is an action ideally correspondent to inferences drawn, not in the sense of faith being the conclusion of the inferences but of choosing to act on the conclusion inferred; and that atheists thus have faith as much as anyone else)...

...would future anonymous posters please either register or at least sign a name at the bottom so readers can keep track of who is who?

JRP

Robert said...

Hello Victor,

Regarding the issue of the nature of faith. I would argue that faith in the biblical sense, the sense that God desires of His people is better referred to by the word TRUST (rather than belief). The apostle James said the demons “believe” (meaning they agree with, assent to certain facts), but that is not what God is after. He does not want mere assent to His Word, he wants folks who will choose to trust Him and what He says.

If we ask: does the atheist put his trust or confidence in anything? Then we get to the real “faith” of the person. In what or whom do you place your confidence/trust? For some it is science. For others it is reason or the capacities of their own minds. For others it is progress, whether scientific or political or cultural. Looked at this way, everybody has faith, the issue is where or whom do you place your faith in? And whether that object of faith is warranted? Should you place your trust in a particular object of faith? I think all the discussions of mere beliefs are superficial and really do not get to where people are really at. You want to know where a person really is at? Find out their objects of faith, where they place their confidence or trust. Where they put their ultimate or strongest trust, is their God. And everyone has an ultimate object of trust. Unfortunately, for most, that ultimate object of trust is themselves. And that is a poor God go worship! :-)

Robert

Jason Pratt said...

Robert,

Agreed very much with that, too. {s}

JRP

akakiwibear said...

While I normally ignore anonymous comments (excessively long ones in particular) I was curious to see what views the commenter was shy to link even to a pseudonym. Mostly it seems a reliance on referential knowledge than their own reasoning.

Still there was one point “(c)’Faith as ‘firm belief in something for which there is no proof’” the commenter’s preferred definition.

Much has been said above about what “faith” is but anon is right to prefer this definition.

If we accept this then to suggest that atheism and theism differ in their need for faith is simply irrational.

But the word is the key word in the definition.
Do we interpret the word ‘proof’ as implying evidence so overwhelming as to place the view beyond all question. Or do we accept as ‘proof’ the C.S. Lewis “best reasoning tells him that the weight of the evidence” that Victor refers to.

The faith which theists require is to bridge the gap between “weight of evidence” and “beyond all question”.

The faith that atheists require is to discount the “weight of evidence” and accept that there is absolutely no evidence that places ”beyond question” the possibility that God exists.

Anyone who can't make either leap of faith should be honest and admit to being an agnostic.

I don’t have the gullibility to accept rhetoric of Harris, Hitchens et al and make the atheist faith leap – the weight of evidence just is not there.

Sala kahle - peace

akakiwibear said...

I fear that Blue Devil Knight was ignored and in his comment about the problems of losing their belief in God. … but is this what was actually said. It reads as if to Blue DK lost religion and threw out the baby with the bathwater.

My own experience includes a distressing time when all I believed seemed to be untrue. My problem was that my religion was frozen at junior school level – a simple Bible story Christianity. My faith has grown stronger by reading and exploring the real message of Christ – yes I am now a committed Catholic.

But a big part in my regaining my faith (perhaps not regaining – building a new) was reading Harris et al & visiting atheist blogs and realising that the atheist do not have the rational high ground – like theists they are faith based. There is evidence to weigh.

Sala kahle - peace

Edward T. Babinski said...

Nagel's paragraph seems unconvincing to me. Such "faiths" are far from "equal."

With my own personal beliefs lying somewhere in the zone of indeterminacy, I don't think atheists have "faith" exactly as Christians and other doctrinal systems of belief do.

Doctrinal religious systems assume a lot of magical connections, between "sin" and "blood sacrifice," or they assume they "know" that "God" is a "Trinity" and his "only son" was "Jesus," and Jesus was "fully God and fully man." That's a lot to simply "take on faith."

Or Christian religious beliefs go beyond merely speaking in terms of uncertainites and probabilities and assert with some sort of "religious faith" convictions about how history "really" happened, namely that Jesus "rose bodily from the dead" and "rose bodily into heaven." How can anyone be so sure? Certaily it's best to simply speak in terms of probabilities, such as if you're a Christian, that you believe the probabilities are greater that Jesus rose from the dead. But once you start speaking in mere probabilities at all, haven't you left the region of "faith" and admitted greyer areas exist?

And those GREYER AREAS are where a lot of people live, including what one might call "soft atheists," who don't assert "God does not exist," but who simply admit they have more question than answers and haven't seen the case to be very convincing.

Lastly, if the question comes down to emotions and instinctual reactions, isn't the BIG ONE, fear of death? I mean we see people and animals and plants dying all around us all the time. We don't see resurrections happening all the time. The day to day barrage of death is something neither atheist nor Christian can ignore. It is a prima facia fact like no other. Every living thing dies. Even planets and stars run their imperfect lifespans and explode or burn out or get hit by something and go careening off into space or get sucked into black holes.

Certainly the evidence of our everyday lives presents us with the fact of our own perishability and the perishability of the ever changing objects in the cosmos in which we live. How exactly does it take FAITH to acknowledge that?

I'd say it takes more FAITH to believe in a religious doctrine that promises eternal life and eternal bliss and happiness, especially for the few who have all the right doctrinal beliefs "about Jesus" and "about the Bible" or whatever. That's a whole lotta faith. But I can see how such a faith can help calm people to the fear of death, a fact that surrounds all of us daily.

Edward T. Babinski said...

"Faith" also has a spectrum of definition rather than merely religious ones or sectarian ones. It can be a kind of openness in a most general sense to whatever the cosmos throws at you, or learning to go with the flow and simply have a trust, a calmness about you, like the Buddha, like nature-lovers, like Taoists.

Alan Watts for instance had a particularly broad definition of "having faith" that he compared with "having beliefs."

He wrote that having beliefs was like holding onto a rock in the middle of a huge ocean.

But having faith involved letting go of that rock and learning to swim in the ocean just as all the stars and planets swim in a cosmic ocean.

Anonymous said...

My own experience includes a distressing time when all I believed seemed to be untrue. My problem was that my religion was frozen at junior school level – a simple Bible story Christianity. My faith has grown stronger by reading and exploring the real message of Christ – yes I am now a committed Catholic.

What is the real message of Christ?

Randy

akakiwibear said...

Hi Randy, sorry I worded it rather loosely - leading with my chin. I don't really want to get into a debate that can lead to a lot of semantic argument and parsing of texts.

So I will keep it simple and take the easy way out:
37. And He said to him, " `YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'
38. "This is the great and foremost commandment.
39. "The second is like it, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'
40. "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."


hamba kahle - peace

Anonymous said...

akakiwibear,

Thanks for the response. Wasn't really interested in debating you here.
Just curious as to what you meant.
Again, thanks for the explanation.

Randy

Joe said...

I do wish people especially Christians would stop saying faith is belief above and beyond the evidence or without evidence. It confuses things too much. A Christian should understand faith based on what the authors of the bible meant. I mean if we find that we have redefined faith to mean something different than the concept they had in mind we may not be saved. Pisitis is the Greek word most used in NT scriptures for faith. Any discussion by Christians of what faith means should begin with a good lexicon definition. You will not find any requirements that in order for a belief to be faith it must lack evidence.

The passage quoted out of Hebrews also does not say we must lack evidence for a belief to be faith. Indeed if you read all of Hebrews you will see that the author is providing evidence for our faith. That is the faith of the ancients was rewarded in such a way that they are witnesses to our faith. Moreover you will see that faith in Hebrews means at least 2 things: 1) belief God exists and 2) belief that he will reward those who seek him.

Steven Clauer said...

I've never been a fan of Craig's critiques. People often say he's a great debater, I don't see it.
I remember in one debate he asserted that belief in god as superior to logic and science because when reduced, science and logic are trivially valid because they are tautologies (paraphrased)...isn't that a logical justification?

I would ask Craig, what, exactly, is nothing? Something out of nothing is a meaningless argument. It is not what atheists hold, assuming you could get them to agree on a beginning of the universe theory, and it means nothing to anyone who has really thought on the subject.
Is he implying that the absence of my car keys begat the universe? When worded as such it seems ridiculous, but that is because it is false. He doesn't take the time to explain what "nothing" means. He is taking advantage of a colloquialism, not something I would expect from a professional philosopher. The absence of space and time is another metaphysical claim that the atheist does not make. I think he gets the reaction he wants with such a silly proposition, staw-man in fact. It does not require faith to look are the current religions and say that they are not supported with the proper evidence. This argument "something out of nothing" always makes me think of Saul Kripke's Unicorn (more on that later, lol).
I think what Craig is trying to say is that "I don't know how one could want to believe the universe was not created by a personal god." That, I'd be okay with. But "something out of nothing" is misleading and incoherent.

Victor Reppert said...

Steven Clauer: I've never been a fan of Craig's critiques. People often say he's a great debater, I don't see it.
I remember in one debate he asserted that belief in god as superior to logic and science because when reduced, science and logic are trivially valid because they are tautologies (paraphrased)...isn't that a logical justification?

VR: I don't recall Craig as ever having said that, and I've read a number of Craig debates. What he says is that science and mathematics give us a good reason to suppose that the universe had a beginning in time. That being the case, we must choose between believing that the universe sprang into existence out of nothing without a cause, or believing that there is a cause of the univese that is not part of the universe itself. He thinks that the universe coming into existence without a cause, out of nothing, is absurd. It is as absurd, he thinks, as the idea of a bunny rabbit popping into existence out of nothing and munching on my salad.

Of course, this argument, which goes all the way back to Arabic philosophers but has been revived by Craig, has generated a massive literature both pro and con. But it is hardly a stupid argument, by any means. The name for the argument is the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Steven Clauer said...

I couldn't find the quote I was looking for, but I found this one.

From his 1998 debate with Atkins,
"Logical and mathematical truths cannot be proven by science. Science presupposes logic and math. So, trying to prove them by science would be arguing in a circle."
His critique against logic and math being proven by science is supported by logic. So, am I to assume that only Craig can use logic to make points? Or is he saying that a truth is out of the sphere of logic, thus science is simply a tautology?
***************************
If we took Occam's razor to his ex nihilo proposition, we would find a random guess at who created the universe as the trimmings. I just keep asking myself, what is this nothingness they are so certain of? I would appreciate it if anyone would be able to clear up what "something out of nothing" means, specifically, a rigid non-transcendental definition of nothing.

I think it is absurd as well. I don't really understand the logic of accusing people of saying they believe absurd things just by disagreeing with him. All four legged animals that are not cats must be dogs. I do not get where he is coming from, other than derision.

While his argument that science cannot prove that something came form nothing stands. I think it irrelevant. It is irrelevant to the christian god. It is irrelevant to atheism. I think it is a category mistake. All humans have a mother, therefore, there is a mother to all humans.

I guess what I really want to ask you is: What is the difference between the god of Tomas Paine and the god of William Craig. The ex nihilo argument only supports a deist belief, but doesn't support the Christian belief. Am I wrong in this distinction?

Victor Reppert said...

SC: From his 1998 debate with Atkins,

"Logical and mathematical truths cannot be proven by science. Science presupposes logic and math. So, trying to prove them by science would be arguing in a circle."
His critique against logic and math being proven by science is supported by logic. So, am I to assume that only Craig can use logic to make points? Or is he saying that a truth is out of the sphere of logic, thus science is simply a tautology?

VR: It's not a critique of logic or mathematics. It's just the view that mathematical truths are discoverable a priori, regardless of the results of scientific investigation, which is based on experience. Experience can go both ways, but logic can only possibly go one way, hence logic and mathematics cannot be proved by science, since empirical facts cannot be necessarily true. This is a pretty mundane philosophical position held by lots and lots of people, so you would have to look at what Atkins was saying to figure out why Craig mentioned this view. I won't say that this position is never denied, but everyone from Descartes to Hume to Kant accepted it.

What he claims is that science accepts the big bang theory, which, at least in its unadulterated form, accepts a beginning of the universe. He also argues that if the universe were beginningless, there would be a completed infinite set of past moments in time, and that would be an absurdity. So, he thinks we have two good reasons to think that there was a beginning. This in turn leaves us two choices: either accept the idea that the universe came into existence "from nothing and by nothing," or to say that the universe was caused to begin to exist by a being independent of space and time.

Of course, if it works, we are a long way from John 3:16, and Craig knows that. That is why, in his debates, he gives a series of arguments, one of which is always a defense of the claim that out best historical evidence gives us good reason to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. That is something, of course, that Paine would deny.

This is all by way of explicating Craig. I don't see that your objections cause a problem for him; on his own view, there was never nothing.

Steven Clauer said...

VR:Experience can go both ways, but logic can only possibly go one way, hence logic and mathematics cannot be proved by science, since empirical facts cannot be necessarily true.

Steve: I think I know what you're saying. He was, in a sense, saying that matter of fact reasoning cannot be subject to contradiction or logic cannot predict a cosmological event that would contradict "the sun will rise tomorrow."

I felt what Atkins was saying was that why subscribe to "god did it" when there is so much evidence to the contrary. Then I felt as though Craig was saying evidence is not evidence at all. Almost like he was saying that if one is to admit to knowing the universe is mostly unknowable, it's irrational because you claim to know the universe in that it is "unknowable." I felt like he was equivocating unknowable with knowledge of god.

I'll have to peruse that debate again, which is a bit painful due to the seemingly uneventful nature I remember it having, ha.

Steven Clauer said...

Oh, and I remember his saying that it would be silly to think that in terms of infinite past(hitchens debate I believe).
I Understand that for Craig time is linear, but how then does it make sense to say the future is infinite?
Based on the absurdity of the idea of infinity.

A.M. Mallett said...

Blue Devil Knight:
My acceptance of atheism was not pleasant or something I set out to do as a Christian (this was 16 years ago). I had a fear of not having religion, and have found this to be very common amongst people becoming atheist. Once they are set in that belief, though, things often change over the years. I no longer fear not having religion, as I have had a fulfilling life and my moral fibre hasn't been shredded or anything.

I ponder:
How could one ever dismiss the notion that atheism is not a religion of it's own, perhaps with the new believer selecting the god of self? Seriously, you accepted atheism? What are the tenets of atheism that give cause for one to accept it as a matter of faith?

Peter Pike said...

Steven Clauer said:
---
I Understand that for Craig time is linear, but how then does it make sense to say the future is infinite?
---

I don't know how Craig would respond, but personally I never use "infinite" in relation to time (or space for that matter). The preferred word is "eternal"--which is NOT synonymous.

The short version: time didn't exist before the universe was created. Time, which is really inseparable from space so we should really say spacetime, began to exist the moment the universe did. Thus, there is no temporal "before" the universe (although there is certainly a logical "before" that precedes spacetime). Physicists generally concede that it is impossible to know what happened earlier than the fraction of the second known as Planck time after the Big Bang, well, banged.

Eternity, as used in Scripture (and which I think works just fine for secular physicists), would refer to those "moments" before time existed. In other words, Scripture speaks of God predestining "from eternity past" which is to say "before time began" and in physics you could say that "eternity past" was what state the universe was in before spacetime came into being.

In any case, it is possible for the future to be eternal (that is, spacetime cease to exist and the eternal state that preceded creation comes anew) or it could continue without ceasing, which would be infinite in the sense that you could start counting from 1 to infinity and never stop, although at whatever point you are in your count you've still not actually hit the infinite limit.

Gregory said...

The October 2009 issue of "Discover" magazine has an article which addresses this question: "why does matter have mass?"

The article cites "dark matter"-- as yet undiscovered, according to the article--and it's relation to "gravity", as being a possible explanation for why matter has mass.

Another explanation the article lists is the possibility of an extra-dimensional plane that, somehow, affects gravitational "weigh down".

In other words, the article clearly reveals an optimistic "faith" that questions pertaining to particle mass have answers....although, what those "answers" might be are not quite forthcoming.

On a more philosophical level, I think it's a fairly agreed on point, in epistemology, that epistemic "first-principles" are "brute" and have no further "principle", by which, they are justified. Hence the pervasive acquiescence, in both ancient and modern philosophy, to "foundationalism".

The unfortunate consequence of that for post-Enlightenment philosophy, though, is the subtle abandonment of epistemology, as a rationally unresolvable field of inquiry, in favor of pure "linguistic analysis". But even those philosophers who are the most closely associated with the linguistic school, nevertheless, continue to put their "faith" in reason.

Anonymous said...

Every worldview requires faith. It doesn't matter whether you are a Christian, an atheist, a buddhist, an agnostic, a new age spiritualist, a philosophical naturalist or someone who believes our brains are in a vat and that our experiences do not represent reality, you do have faith. Whether you like it or not. When I see someone deny this it says that either of the following possibilities are true:

1. They haven't thought through the issues correctly

or

2. They think faith it a dirty word and do not want to be associated with it.

or, and this is an extension of number one really, possibly:

3. They are completely uninformed.

In these circles though, for readers of this blog, obviously it'd have to be option one or two. The optimistic and friendly side of me hopes it is option one, but my realistic and slightly more cynical side suggests to me that the majority fall into category two.

Doctor Logic said...

Atheists don't need faith that *everything* will be explained naturalistically. Some things will never be explained.

Besides, there's no such thing as a supernatural explanation. Religion isn't providing any explanations at all.

Religious explanations can't predict the future, but rather try to make the religious adherent feel better by strengthening the adherent's existing biases with trite sayings. I mean, how can you claim to have an explanation when you can't place any probabilistic constraints on what will happen next?

The reason that religious folk think that they have religious explanations is that they confuse explanations with the utility of explanations. The utility of an explanation is in setting policy and planning action.

For example, once we explain how lightning works, we can build lightning conductors, and we know how to behave if caught outside in a lightning storm.

Well, religion doesn't explain anything, but it sure tells you what to do. It "feels" explanatory in the sense that it soothes the adherents worry about "what's going on and what can I do about it." If they pray and wear funny clothes, they thing everything will work out in the end. But this is different from an explanation.

So the atheist has legitimate explanations, and may find more. Some things will never be explained (e.g., the ultimate laws of the universe can never be explained), but that's not a problem, is it? What the atheist knows is that religion provides no explanations.

Steven Clauer said...

Peter: The preferred word is "eternal"--which is NOT synonymous.

Steven: I understand what you're saying; however, I don't feel that they are mutually exclusive. I'm glad to see that if you feel the future is eternal so must the past.

Steven Clauer said...

Doctor Logic: Atheists don't need faith that *everything* will be explained naturalistically. Some things will never be explained.

Steven:
Not only that but atheism doesn't include the incoherence inherent in religion and agnosticism.

Blue Devil Knight said...

AM Mallett asks:
"How could one ever dismiss the notion that atheism is not a religion of it's own, perhaps with the new believer selecting the god of self? Seriously, you accepted atheism? What are the tenets of atheism that give cause for one to accept it as a matter of faith?"

Don't put too much into my use of the phrase "acceptance". I didn't realize that is often used by Christians talking about Christ and I had no such conversion experience. I thought about it over a period of about two years, I concluded I didn't believe in the religion I was raised with, and eventually I concluded I didn't think that any gods existed.

My point was that it wasn't a happy transition, that I was quite the opposite of the Nagel quote. I would have preferred that there were evidence for gods, in particular an Omnibenevolent God.

As for this question of whether atheists have as much faith as the theist, I don't really care. If believing there are no supernatural beings means I have as much faith as someone who does, then so be it. It ain't gonna change my belief either way.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Also, Dr Logic is right. There is no need for the naturalist to think everything will be explained naturalistically. When it comes to some things, we could be like monkeys trying to understand Maxwell's Equations--never gonna happen, but that doesn't mean electricity and magnetism require supernatural forces.

Victor Reppert said...

But naturalism does hold that everything has a naturalistic explanation. But it is not part of naturalism or physicalism that humans will ever possess that "ideally completed physics."

Blue Devil Knight said...

Victor said:
"But naturalism does hold that everything has a naturalistic explanation."

I wouldn't put it in terms of explanation, but in terms of what there is. Everything that exists is natural even if we can't explain or understand its existence (e.g., for the monkey electricity and magnetism, for me it might be the question of how quantum and gravitational effects work together).

Anonymous said...

It's pretty hilarious that Dr. Logic thinks religion offers no explanations.

Blue Devil Knight said...

"It's pretty hilarious that Dr. Logic thinks religion offers no explanations."

Religion is needed to explain why Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake.

Doctor Logic said...

Victor,

"But naturalism does hold that everything has a naturalistic explanation."

I don't think this is true. Suppose that our universe was fully described by the classical physics of the late 19th century. There would be physical laws that said, for example, "there are 80 elements in the periodic table." Would the presence of 80 elements in the periodic table be explained by physics or merely described by physics? There's a difference.

A physical theory is a theory founded on axioms about the physical world, axioms which cannot be explained in terms of other physical axioms. Physicalism is the claim that the world is best *described* by a particular physical theory. Yet the only things "explained" by a physical theory are the theorems, not the axioms themselves. No physical theory explains itself.

So I don't agree that naturalism and physicalism pathologically claim that everything has a physical explanation. The axioms of a physical theory remain unexplained.

Victor Reppert said...

Dr. Logic's argument is what I have called the Inadequacy Objection, or we might also call it the Wild Card Argument. The idea is that theistic explanations don't really explain because they don't give you a reason to supposed that event X was expected as opposed to event Y. God had the power equally well to bring about X or Y, therefore, to say that he caused X doesn't really tell us why X was caused and not Y. Playing the God card is what you can do anytime, anywhere, and so it really doesn't do any real work.

We might believe that X is more in character for God than Y, and therefore X was more to be expected than Y given the existence of God. But here, I think, a kind of empiricism about the sources of our probability judgments is employed. We actually haven't seen God perform this act or that, and therefore we have no basis for believing that God is more likely to do this as opposed to that.

I'm not a pure empiricist about the basis for our probability judgments, and in fact I think that frequentism in probability theory leads to contradictions. But the Wild Card Argument is far from silly.

Doctor Logic said...

BDK,

"Religion is needed to explain why Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake."

I stand corrected, Sir! ;)

Anonymous said...

BDK and DL,

Cute joke, coming from two guys who don't think Bruno's death was wrong in any objective sense. ;)

akakiwibear said...

The existence of this debate is itself proof that atheism requires faith.

Atheists hold that a particular position (i.e. there is no God) to be true. They do so with without proof absolute or conclusive evidence - if there was conclusive evidence for or against the existence of God then there would be no a/theist debate.

Since there is debate, there is no conclusive proof. SO to believe either position requires faith.

Sala kahle - peace

Anonymous said...

Belief in the scientific method requires faith.

See Paul Davies discussing this on NY Times article "Taking Science on Faith".

Tyler said...

You're all nuts. This is childish "I'm right and you're wrong" bullshit. There is absolutely NO WAY to "prove" either theory. Any attempt at a debate is a complete waste of time. A debate implies that there could somehow be a winner. Somehow, one side will convince the other in joining their belief. For what purpose? Do Atheists honestly believe that they can "turn" all faith based persons? Not gonna happen. EVER. Do Christians and members of other religions believe that they can point to the Bible as proof and convince Atheists to believe? NO. Grow up. Use your brain to think for yourself and not other people. You are wasting your time and your life. Get over it.

Ken said...

Such hostility. Wow. You cite "mechanisms" evident as an explanation in and of themselves. Sounds like faith to me.

Ken said...

Exactly. Oh, and arrogant too. Throw out big academic words to bolster your supposed intellectual superiority....ugh

Ken said...

Exactly!

Ken said...

Nailed them.

Ken said...

Nailed them.