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.

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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.