Atheism’s Defense: Attack, Logical Fallacies, and Against Theism (Christianity) Part 2

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:

  1. Launching a personal attack against theism or more specifically the Christian faith
  2. A defensive reply to alleged theist allegations about atheism
  3. Anecdotal replies concerning one’s own experience with theism and reasons for leaving it
  4. Arguments that Christian approaches to argumentation are insufficient
  5. A call for Christians to prove their position
  6. 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.

Copyright (c) 2014 Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  May not be used in any media without expressed written permission.

Atheism’s Defense: Attack, Logical Fallacies, and Against Theism (Christian Faith), Part 1

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.

Atheism and Its Irrational Call for Proof of God

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”1

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Peter 3:15).1

Atheism frequently demands that those who believe in God give proof of His existence.  It claims the requirement of such proof before the willingness to believe God does exist.  The evidence for them is “proof.”  Apart from this demand for faith being a contradiction, atheism’s approach is a contradiction.  To demand perceived (or seen) proof for believing (faith is in the unseen) is an untenable demand.  Proof relies on the senses (the seen) but faith relies on the unseen.  While faith calls for evidence from unseen reality (Hebrews 11:1; i.e., promises), seen reality is limited and thereby not an adequate means for proof of God although seen reality offers substantial evidence for God.

A person has a right to their own opinion, but they do not have a right to define evidence or proof according to their own terms. Those who also demand proof fail to realize that irrefutable proof is not scientific. Therefore, atheism stands on an unscientific ground while claiming to hold to scientific methods. That which is held in theory is not necessarily held at proof.

Many theories and hypotheses do not stand on proof. Yet those who form them as well as those who work with them accept them without the same level of proof as atheism.  For if it did, theory and hypotheses could not be refutable. Theories over time have been refuted or struck down. For a theory to be struck down does not alarm those who hold to the theology of atheism. When someone in the scientific field establishes a theory, atheism does not demand an ill-defined level of proof they demand for God’s existence.

Proof and evidence are not the same although one may call for the other. They are different, otherwise they would not be different words with different meanings.  Their use depends on the particular discipline in which they are used.  For example, the field of mathematics seeks proof in equations for solving a mathematical problem while in the field of law, jurists, judges, and attorneys seek evidence.  Evidence does not necessarily “prove” a case, but it can erase doubt.

Evidence can be used for proof.  However, it does not necessarily guarantee it or make anything certain.  What if certain evidence omits a fact?  That fact can have a substantial bearing for the proof of something.  We live in a world full of limitations.  Such limitations easily lend to the omission of facts for establishing evidence or at most the certainty of something.  Even if we have an overwhelming amount of evidence toward substantiating a thing or theory, our limitations are giant variables that stand in the way of any proof.  Consequently, the demand of proof for God is an absurd demand.  For one, it requires material world proof for God who is not of the material world.  That material world proof at the least is in the imagination as in the case of an atheist who while demanding proof for God imagines for what the atheist demands proof.

The person demanding such proof has not adequately worked through the necessary argumentative processes and limitations that stand in the way of yielding any evidence lending to a proof.  Furthermore, the person making the demand ignores the disciplines in which proof and evidence are called for and applied.  It is a demand without meaning because, it is one in which the one making the demand does not consider that not even atheism can produce the proof against God’s existence.  Atheism cannot even imagine non-existence the non-existence of God (See Anselm’s Proslogium, Chapter Three).  Yet atheism demands proof for what it imagines to be God.  An atheist may say, “Since I do not believe God exist, I do not imagine God.”  However, the the atheist speaks of God, he or she has already imagined and shaped one’s conception of God.  To that, the atheist may reply, “I can imagine that which is false or fictitious.”  Indeed, anyone can imagine fiction, and the creators of fiction do this.  However, they do not call everything they imagine God.  If God did not exist, they could not even speak of God, for He would not arise in their imagination.  This is a very different point than imagining fiction.  One can imagine fictitious beings because they extrapolate such fictitious things from what already exist.

This returns us to the previous statement that a person cannot imagine or even speak of that which does not exist.  For if something does not exist, it cannot be imagined.  Therefore, it takes far more faith to believe in that which one cannot even imagine or of what one cannot speak (that is, the non-existence of God) than it does to place one’s faith in that which one can imagine.  Atheists claim no God and thereby no faith.  In one way this is correct while in another it is incorrect.  It is correct in that faith in the non-existence of God is a giant leap of faith, which is no more than irrational presumption.  For it is a naked presumption and not genuine faith to imagine non-existence of God, which is an impossibility.  In this sense, it takes faith divorced from reason and the entire realm of reality.  For that which does not exist is not part of reality.

Then why does atheism demand proof of God’s existence? Because atheists have already reached conclusion for themselves that He does not exist. They have done that because they reject God as authority over their lives and in doing so place themselves in the precarious position of an autonomous person independent of God.  They do so while being dependent on many other invisible, unknown, or currently unknowable things in the created material universe.

The most common method of rejection is denial.  Denial is not a reply on the merits for any position, especially for the non-existence of God.  It is simply positing a naked declaration stripped of reason.  This stance is a contradiction and irrational position for atheism because it never demands proof for all of the invisible components of the material world’s existence as well as those things that threaten existence. Yet atheism demands proof for something they imagine, that is, their conception of God.  Atheism or those who hold to atheism have already entertained that for which they demand proof while denying the very thing for which they demand proof.  This is a contradiction.

That is, atheism’s demand for proof depends on what an atheist imagines about God and not on reality or what another position may hold.  Consequently, atheism often calls for proof for a straw man god, one it imagines or alleges Christians hold.  For when atheism demands proof, those who are atheists already entertain a god for which they demand proof. The very fact that they imagine the divine gives evidence that God exist, because as noted in a previous article, one could not even imagine God if He did not exist. That goes for any sense of divinity.

By establishing an imagined god and demanding proof for it, atheism alleges victory by asserting that no one has presented proof for the god of the atheist’s imagination. Atheism does not outwardly define the god of whom it demands proof while holding to that which it demands proof.  Many atheists also do not refer to the sacred writings of those who follow the God of those writings such as the Christian Bible.  Many atheists also refuse to read the very book Christians claim presents the real God unless they read it for citations to use against Christians to present a god who is unjust or a tyrant or another straw man. Rather they reject the Bible. In doing so, they fail to entertain knowledge that offers them evidence of God and then claim without having read it as it should be read, according to common reading skills, that its contents are fantasy.  They claim this without offering any refutable scholastic evidence.

This is irrational, for it rejects the knowledge they do not have and refuse to entertain. It is also irrational to demand proof for an imagined god.  This places atheism in a very precarious position in its refusal to entertain knowledge while demanding “proof” of God’s existence when the evidence of such proof could lie in the knowledge they do not possess and not so much in the imagination of the atheist.  It is one thing to demand a defense from another concerning that person’s theology, but it is quite another matter to offer one’s own defense for a held theology.  Quite frequently, atheism’s defense of its theology is demanding proof from theists for the existence of their God.  This demand is not an adequate defense of a position.

Atheism technically is a theology in the proper sense of the term.  A denial that it is not leads to a redefinition of terms like “theology.”  Atheism is a theology of the non-existence of God (or any gods, but particularly the Christian God).  Atheism rests on faith in both the non-existence of God and concerning the invisible things of the material world. By claiming that God does not exist, their faith rest on that proposition, that is, on the non-existence of God, for atheism cannot provide evidence of God’s non-existence. Therefore, they simply must believe.  Atheism also rests on faith concerning the things they do not see as well as on things of which they have no knowledge, the invisible things of the created material world of which there are many.  Any denial atheists make that the must have faith is a redefinition of faith to escape from beleiving they must have faith.

One person does not have knowledge of everything – physics and all other sciences. Yet, atheism demands proof of God while not demanding the same level of proof for the things of which they have no knowledge.  It also fails to consider the context and discipline of which proof is required (such as mathematics versus the legal profession). They believe in those who do have that knowledge (scientists, their teachers, parents, and so on) while pointing to Christians as foolish for believing in those who wrote the Bible and disclose God in it. This is still another contradiction. The glaring part of this contradiction is that many atheists engage in ridicule of Christians for believing God and the Bible while being accepting of many unseen realities for which there is no proof or may not be proof.

Again, ridicule is not a defense for one’s position.  Rather, it is an irrational response.  In doing so, atheism not only dismisses any argument theists put forward, but it offers no evidence for atheism.  In essence, atheism exercises similar belief by believing in those who have more knowledge than they concerning the material world, which holds many unseen and unknown realities.  This is also a contradiction of atheism.

What then should be the Christian reply to those who refuse to believe God?  It should be the same as it would be for anyone else.  Present Christ.  Of course, such presentation requires more discussion than a two word sentence.  It is important to first determine the seriousness of the one to whom we present Christ and the gospel.  The backlash of ridicule or scoffing shows no seriousness for engaging prolonged discussion on a peer to peer basis.  To attempt to give an answer to someone who holds the position of ridicule for the God of the Bible with the gospel would be futile.  This does not mean that we withhold the gospel message.  We give warning of the rejection of God in a similar manner Jesus gave to Nicodemus (John 3:19-20).

As Christians, we have three tools God has given us for encountering those who do not know or yet believe in God and His salvation through Christ: the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and God’s gift of reason.  The Bible is God’s disclosure of Himself.  He really wants people to know Him.  However, two major barriers stand in the way: one’s alienation from Him and separate realms.  We are of the material (temporal) realm, and God is of the divine realm, and He alone exists there.  To know God, He must reveal Himself.  God does so through revelation.  God revealed Himself to us through His word found in the Bible.  Not only this, but He comes up beside His word through the Holy Spirit to not only enable us to understand God but also to relate to Him.  God actually crossed the vast barrier between the divine realm and the material realm in the form of a man, Jesus Christ.

God has also gifted us with the capacity to reason toward comprehension of His word and its disclosure of how to relate to Him through the revelation of Jesus Christ.  We can use these tools for communicating to those who have never heard of the gospel and who do not know God.  The Holy Spirit, then, works within the individual to give understanding just as He did in us.  Only God can penetrate the mind and conscience of individuals to receive His message and place faith in Jesus Christ.  Only the Holy Spirit can change resistance and ridicule to faith and worship.

Both the Apostle Paul and Apostle Peter explain how Christians engage reason in sharing their faith.  Paul states that we use persuasion (2 Corinthians 5:11).  That is, we engage reason to call people to faith in God.  He also writes that we meet reason with reason (2 Corinthians 10:5).  The advantage of the reason we use is that it points to God, receives aid from the Holy Spirit, and involves the knowledge of God as opposed to the knowledge of worldly philosophy.  It breaches the barrier of the material world and calls upon people to reject reasoning that excludes God but rather focuses on that which is eternal.

Peter writes that we give a defense for our hope.  We have the only hope available in light of the hopelessness of the present postmodern self-reliant age.  Such defense engages our minds for presenting the claims of the gospel.  Since we serve and relate to the God of hope, we call all people to it, but not by ourselves but by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is in this power, which resides in the gospel, where our confidence and hope dwells.  Atheism has no hope, which is a fatalistic theology, because it is self-reliant and seeks autonomy.  This is a position of fantasy and not reality.  All need the gospel message of Jesus Christ for life.  Without it, one faces destruction whereas eternal life waits for all who believe the gospel.

Copyright (c) 2014 Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Cannot be used in any form without expressed written permission from Action Faith Books Press

1 Nelson, Thomas (2009-02-18). Holy Bible, New King James Version (NKJV) (p. 1165). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. Use by permission.