Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What Is Atheism? Part 1

For this week's Forge entry I'll turn the reins over to Nick Peters, who will present us with a multi-part critique of one of my old whipping boys -- Doug Krueger.

In our modern age, we have the plethora of new atheists writing against religion. While it could have been thought that poor research was something that would belong to the new atheists, it turns out that Krueger back in 1998 had already set the standard. While one would expect to see argumentation against the other side, keep in mind that in this work, Krueger cites ZERO apologists in this one.

However, let’s see what his case is and to be fair, he does start off with the right place by asking the question of what atheism is. The sad reality is that apparently, he doesn’t know.

Krueger gives two definitions. The first is that one does not assent to theistic belief. The second is that the theistic belief is false. The reality is that the second answer is the correct one. Many atheists have been trying to hedge their bets lately by saying that not holding theistic beliefs makes one an atheist.

However, that would mean that this computer is an atheist. My cat is an atheist. A rock is an atheist. If not having theistic beliefs makes one an atheist, then all manner of unintelligent beings are atheists. (Okay. That might not differ too much in some cases, but there are some obvious absurdities.)

A belief should say something about reality rather than the belief itself. Saying “I do not hold theistic beliefs” tells me something about you, but does it say anything about your view of reality. Are you saying “I believe the views of theists are false?” If so, then are you not an atheist since the a before the word theist stands for negation?

It’s just a lot easier to not really assert anything and leave the burden of proof to the theist. Does the theist have a burden of proof? Of course, but so does the atheist. Anyone making a claim has one. Fortunately, Krueger does take the route of affirming that there are no gods.

Krueger goes on from there to list a number of statements about what atheism isn’t. Again, no sources are given. Who are these people raising some of these objections? No idea.

The first is that people become atheists so that they can do whatever they want. Krueger rightfully says that people should adopt beliefs because they are true. Of course they should, but one would hope that Krueger would realize that this isn’t always the case. To say it should is not the same as to say it is.

I, for instance, would not deny that I am sure that many Christians become Christians for emotional reasons. That does not mean that their belief is false. Some are Christians because they were raised that way. That also does not make it false. I also believe there are some atheists that do want to live the way they wish and if God is real, they realize that that cannot be the case.

Krueger also says that atheists do not hate God. Well in the sense that they think He is not real, they don’t. However, there are some who do despise the Christian concept of God and give thanks that He is not real, such as Christopher Hitchens.

The next is that an atheist is one who worships satan. For this, I would really like to know the source. Now as a Christian, I do believe that an atheist is in fact doing his work that in the end serves the cause of satan, but I do not believe he is actively worshipping the devil.

Krueger also says the atheist does not worship anything. While he thinks the idea of having something viewed as ultimate in one’s life is vague, what is vague about it? What does Krueger really want in life? It could be anything. It could be pleasure, sex, money, happiness, power, etc. Whichever one it is, that could be said in a sense to be the one Krueger lives his life in devotion to.

Krueger also says someone is an atheist because they had a fight with a religious authority. Let’s keep in mind that in Loftus’s autobiographical portion of his book, he mentions the way the church treated him as having an impact on him becoming an atheist. Now of course, this is not a rational reason to become an atheist, nor do I think it’s common, but it can happen.

The last is that all atheists believe the same thing, whatever X is. Now in a number of cases, atheists believe different things. They can have different stances on politics, morality, philosophy, science, etc. However, they are all united on one thing. They all deny God’s existence.

Krueger says that it is common for Christians to assume someone is a spokesman for atheism and then criticize that person. He does list Nietzsche, Marx, and Sartre as people who have been attacked. He also says some have gone after Kierkegaard, who was a Christian. The only thing he doesn’t mention is who these Christian writers are. Not one is mentioned. For something common, one would think he would take the time to show an example.

Krueger goes on to state that atheism is not a worldview or a philosophy of life, but just a part. After all, you don’t believe that there are unicorns. Is that your worldview?

Because we all know the existential relevance of unicorns and God are exactly the same.

God is seen only as the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, creator, provider, sustainer, and judge of the universe and the ground of all being. Unicorns are seen as magical horses that have a horn coming out of their heads. Obviously, these two are quite similar.

Of course, many Christians do not take God seriously and many atheists sadly take Him more seriously than Christians do. Unicorns are not the same because there is not as much relevance to one’s view of reality with that question as there is with the God question. If you find out there are unicorns one day and you’re an atheist, well you’ll have to rethink your worldview, but you could still find a way to be an atheist. If you find out there’s a God and you’re an atheist, you do have to change your worldview. Everything else has to be reevaluated.

Next time, we shall have some fun looking at Krueger on morality.

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