Atheism has entered into my readings recently after I ventured upon the Patheos discussion board (www.patheos.com) to follow Christian discussions. I began reading a number of atheist blogs seeking for how they defend atheism. Now when I surface a defense for a given position, I refer to the classical meaning derived from the Greek ἀπολογία (apologia) or giving a defense for a particular ideology, belief, or position.
I stepped into one discussion and began reading the articles with interest (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie). The author sounded somewhat reasonable and level-headed. He was quite educated and boasted in his family. As I read his posts, they ended up being mostly attacks on theistic positions rather than a defense of atheism. Others who also joined the discussion also engaged in personal attacks. I thought to myself, “There has to be more to defending atheism than attacking an opposing position.
So I began reading more of this author’s articles. One was why he rejected Christian faith after having earned a seminary degree and sat on an elder board of a church. As I read the article, I still did not receive any defense for his position as an atheist. I read about “tricks’ God plays, a biography of why he lost his faith, derision and ridicule of Christian positions, comparative experiences to theists, a defense reply to alleged theist’s allegations about atheism, and how Christian approaches to argumentation are insufficient and anti-intellectual (presuppositional, alleged use of fallacies, rejection of the scientific method). While all of these replies are interesting, they really do not offer a defense FOR a position. I searched on in my attempts to discover any real defense in the classical meaning of the term and simply found more of the same. After reading many of his early blogs as well as his most recent ones, I found no real defense for atheism.
I then decided to go to other discussions. I found more experience-oriented articles, more attacks on Christian faith, and more means of rejection of God. One article discussed religion as a drug trip. Another sounded like one weaned from a habit through a twelve step program.
I then decided to perform an Internet search for “defense of atheism” to determine if I could find any approaches from atheists that resembled a genuine apologetic for atheism. I discovered one anonymous article called “Defense of Atheism” (http://www.members.shaw.ca/freethink/Articles/AtheismDefense.html). I thought, “At last!” However, this article turned out to be simply rebuffing claims from Christians and not a real defense. Oh, there were some statements that seem to fit a defense, but in the end, they were simply rejecting opposition claims and not a genuine defense. Rather, they amounted to no more than unsupported claims such as the following:
a) In reply to this atheist’s anonymous Christian who claims that atheism and Christian faith are chosen, the atheist reply is, “There seems to be a confusion here: Babies who are born atheists versus people who later choose atheism over religion, once they’ve developed mature cognitive skills. The criticism seems to stem from misinterpreting the phrase “All babies are born atheists”, as: “Adults are atheists primarily because they were born that way.”” Unfortunately, this reply has two large flaws. It assumes atheism at birth, an unsupported claim and a redefinition of the use of the term atheism. It also projects on new-born babies the capacity to reason abstractly for being able to take an ideological position.
Atheism is an idea conceived through human reasoning. The mind is a separate entity from the idea itself. The mind conceives ideas, for they are not there until conceived. Therefore the atheist writing the article confuses the mind and the idea and makes them one. In so doing, the reply denies that atheism is an abstract ideological conclusion but a state of mind. The reply assumes atheism to be a state of mind of all born babies, another unsupported claim. Atheism is the belief, or at the least an acceptance, in the idea of the non-existence of God. Even if a new-born baby could reason abstractly, it could not conceive non-existence. Therefore humans entering the world through birth cannot be atheist when born.
b) In reply to whether an atheist has sufficient knowledge to conclude no God, this article concludes that an atheist does not even have to tackle this question. The article concludes, “It is like playing chess with an imaginary opponent — wherein you cause your “opponent” to make stupid moves and lose the game. You’ve deliberately made your imaginary opponent weaker than you, so you could win.” It goes on to attack such an assumption on the part of Christians as “smug.” Again, this is not a defense for atheism but simply a non-answer and personal attack.
The chess analogy aims at the one making the assertion and not at the assertion itself. That is, it attacks the messenger rather than addressing the message. It fails to answer but rather attempts to impeach the one making the assertion without any warrant rather than addressing the assertion. Simply admitting that the assertion does not deserve a reply is inadequate. Rather, it is an escape from having to address the claim and irrational.
This topic will continue in another article as Part 2.