Friday, August 15, 2014

Feser's Three Varieties of Atheism

1. Religious belief has no serious intellectual content at all.  It is and always has been little more than superstition, the arguments offered in its defense have always been feeble rationalizations, and its claims are easily refuted.

2. Religious belief does have serious intellectual content, has been developed in interesting and sophisticated ways by philosophers and theologians, and was defensible given the scientific and philosophical knowledge available to previous generations.  But advances in science and philosophy have now more or less decisively refuted it.  Though we can respect the intelligence of an Aquinas or a Maimonides, we can no longer take their views seriously as live options.

3. Religious belief is still intellectually defensible today, but not as defensible as atheism.  An intelligent and well-informed person could be persuaded by the arguments presented by the most sophisticated contemporary proponents of a religion, but the arguments of atheists are at the end of the day more plausible.

It seems to me that there is another division of atheists. There are those atheists, even if they think theism is irrational, they don't think we have a good reason to make a concerted effort to "win souls for atheism." I remember in the debates against Craig, both Douglas Jesseph and Keith Parsons said that they were, of course, not trying to convert anyone to atheism.

Now we have sites like this, which looks a heck of a lot like a Chick tract. And then there's this Loftus post. 

1 comment:

unkleE said...

As a christian who has always (ever since I first believed) been interested in apologetics and truth, I am often critical of what passes for apologetics with many christians. The arguments are often simplistic, there is little recognition of the real issues that non-believers raise, and there is an unreal confidence in the effectiveness of the arguments. I am involved in a large church youth group, and I fear that many of these kids go out into the world with overconfidence in their arguments against atheism, and soon many will face real issues.

I thought the first of the two links (the "Chick tract" one) suffered from much of the same problems - simplistic arguments, no awareness of the problems of the view they were espousing and over-confidence. It will be interesting to see, as pop atheism becomes more of an everyday movement, and even takes on some of the trappings of a religion, how things pan out.

I think I would find it a lot harder to "maintain the rage" (to use a famous Aussie phrase) and the enthusiasm for evangelism if I was an atheist than I do as a christian. Why would I bother?