The intent of this article is to further demonstrate that a defense for atheism must be more than what they have offered in their publications. After having read numerous articles and other published works from atheists, we have identified the following means of defend their position:
- Launching a personal attack against theism or more specifically the Christian faith
- A defensive reply to alleged theist allegations about atheism
- Anecdotal replies concerning one’s own experience with theism and reasons for leaving it
- Arguments that Christian approaches to argumentation are insufficient
- A call for Christians to prove their position
- Creating a false position of the Christian faith and then attacking the position
A large amount of argumentation atheists present takes up the above types of argumentations. A defense for a position or ideology must show that it has merits in and of itself apart from the above types of arguments.
For the most part, atheists engage in one or more of the above activities in their attempts to defend their position. This is not to say that theists, especially Christian theists do not do this. When Christians apply these principles, they are also guilty of not offering a sufficient defense for what they believe.
These responses leave much to be desired as defenses for atheism. In fact, they are not defenses at all. A personal attack is not a defense but rather the logical fallacy known as ad hominem. That is, it is a launch against the person rather than an argument on the merits. It is therefore illogical.
A defensive reply to alleged theist allegations about atheism is not a defense for atheism, either. Rather, it is a counter argument to a charge someone makes against atheism. It is appropriate to defend one’s position or ideology, but such a defense simply acts to reply to one making a charge against a position. It is not a defense in the proper sense of the term of actually giving reasons for the merits for that position or ideology.
An anecdotal reply such as “Atheists have a better and longer life” or Atheists are richer” are not defenses. Anyone can offer the same reply about any other position or ideology. They must show from evidence that one’s position or ideology makes a direct contribution to its merits. It must give that evidence in the form of syllogism, showing how the premises in the syllogism are irrefutable and lend to the conclusion. Simply making an isolated statement without restricting other variables lending to the claims are insufficient to support them. That is the reason anecdotal claims are very weak and frequently insufficient for defending a position. They call for evidence unrelated to the ideology or position taken or at best extremely weak because isolated experiences are unreliable for demonstrating relationships to claims lacking a high correlation of coefficient. Even then, other variables may be highly contributing factors. For example, one’s skill level or ability to manage people may have a higher correlation to success than having a given ideology or position as atheism. It also fails to consider the contributing factor of other ideologies toward a longer life or wealth. Can a Christian make the same claim given similar evidence? It also raises the specter of a hasty generalization. That is, drawing a quick conclusion without considering all the variables. This is also a logical fallacy and does not present a claim on the merits.
To argue that the opposing side does not present a convincing argument is also not a defense for atheism. It is simply making a counter argument. To say that Christians present a weak case for the existence of God does not defend atheism, It is simply making the case that the Christian’s position with a specific weak argument is insufficient and needs a stronger argument. An opponent’s weak argument is not a defense for one’s position or ideology.
A call for irrefutable scientific proof of an opposing position is also not a defense for a position or ideology such as atheism. Proof is not always required for defending a claim. A reasoned argument does not necessarily require some scientific proof. It simply requires that the premises be irrefutable. Douglas Groothius states,
Reformed epistemologists argue that secular thought has placed an undue burden on Christian apologetics. It demands that Christians offer proof for their beliefs on pain of being irrational. Plantinga has extensively argued that this demand is based on a self-refuting epistemology known as classical or narrow foundationalism” (Douglas Groothuis. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Kindle Locations 619-621). Kindle Edition.)”
He discusses foundationalism and its weaknesses in making such a demand for proof.
An applicable defense for a position could be that another is lying about or misrepresenting one’s position or ideology. However, that does not present a case on the merits in itself. It simply points out that the opposing position presents an inaccurate picture. Replying to such an inaccurate picture is not a defense for an ideology or position. It is simply brushing aside what one’s position is not. It does not answer the question about underlying merits of the claim(s). That is, in and of itself, does the ideology or position have sufficient merit for consideration of whether it is true or a reflection of reality apart from another’s claim of the same? Does an argument itself give rationale or reason or make a convincing and significant contribution for the claim? Contesting a lie or inaccuracy does not make such a contribution.
Creating a false position of an opposing argument is simply turning the tables of the preceding defense against a lie or an inaccuracy. It launches a lie or some inaccuracy against an opposing position in attempts place it as false for claiming one’s position is true. An attempt to expose a lie or inaccuracy does not position one’s position as true, reality, or meritorious although it is valid for setting the record straight in terms of one’s own position.
Atheism must defend the merits of its position without reference to any opposing view for it to stand. Douglas Groothius refers to this kind of defense as constructive or positive apologetics. In reference to the Christian position, he states that it:
builds a case for Christian theism by arguing that Christianity best fits the appropriate criteria for worldview assessment” (“Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, IVP Academic, 2011, Kindle location 482).
That is, the particular position or ideology must be able to describe reality and truth in a manner that best fits it. In the case of atheism, atheists must be able to present their claims in ways that best fits the real world. However, the approaches as presented above do not present a case for atheism as a viable ideology for a best case fit to reality and truth. To present claims against a position, as in the six approaches described do not give a positive case for atheism but rather against another position, that is, theism or Christianity, specifically. To present arguments against an ideology or position is not a defense for one’s own stance. It is weak at best and defenseless and unconvincing at the very least.
The next article (Part 3) gives examples from the writings of atheists that illustrate the six approaches noted in this article. Part 4 discusses how Christians can establish a defense for the biblical worldview and its corresponding gospel.
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