Sunday

ATHEISM: NO POSITIVE ARGUMENT / 4 NEGATIVE ARGUMENTS AGAINST THEISM


It is well-known that there is no positive argument for atheism. Atheism only has negative arguments against theism.

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From William J. O'Malley "God The Oldest Question (A Fresh Look at Belief and Unbelief and Why the Choice Matters)" (Loyola Press:2000)

There are really only four persuasive arguments for a world without a Mind Behind It All.

The first argument - the most convincing - is the problem of pain: How can a good, knowing all-competent God allow the anguish of innocents?

The second argument - the most appealing to those with a naive idea of science - is Occam's razor: Beings are not to be postulated unless they are inescapable; to be truthful, we don't need a God.

The third argument - the most abstruse - is the meaningless of the term God, which denotes an objectively unvalidated entity, like unicorn or Santa.

The fourth argument is the most comforting for those with (often justifiable) complaints about organized religion: the negative consequences of  belief. If we can cure ourselves of the illusion of God, we can take back our human dignity and autonomy from the hands of a tyrannical Bogeyman and an arrogant clergy.  pp. 21-22

Just like theism, atheism is an act of faith - a calculated risk. No-one knows there is no God, nor can anyone prove that even the concept of God is contradictory. p. 31

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Even if the four negative arguments were valid (they are not) the default position would not automatically be atheism. It would be agnosticism which is neutral. Atheism is not a neutral position but the direct opposite of theism as the etymology of the word suggests. Atheism would be correct only if there were definite proof that there was no God. Absolute proof that there definitely is no God is impossible to collect as one would have to have infinite knowledge of the infinite universe in order to know that God was not anywhere in the universe in any form whatsoever. (Of course, the atheist demand for empirical evidence of a non-empirical God is a category and doomed to failure from the start. The atheist would also have to provide absolute proof that there is no non-empirical God.)

Why does this matter? Why would one bother with a position with no positive argument for its validity if there was an alternative such as nontheism which does has a positive argument for its validity? Positive arguments for a position are far better than negative arguments against an opposing position. Positive arguments elucidate positive factors for the validity of a position and demonstrate benefits for holding and following that specific position. Negative arguments are only examples of why an opposing view is incorrect and shouldn't be held or followed.  A negative argument does not positively prove a specific alternative position.  It only demonstrates that the opposing view is incorrect. It is logically possible for both theism and atheism to be incorrect.

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From J. Angelo Corlett "The Errors Of Atheism" (Continuum:2010) p. 225

... the errors of atheism.

First, they commit the straw person fallacy of thinking that theism is best understood in terms of the hyperbolic orthodox Christian conception of God’s nature (e.g., omnipotent, omniscient, transcendent, etc.) and function.

Second, atheists tend also to commit the bifurcation fallacy in thinking that either orthodox Christian theism is sound, or atheism must be the result, when in fact there are more plausible conceptions of theism than the orthodox Christian one.

Third, they often tend to commit a fallacy of equivocation between atheism and agnosticism in attempting to stipulatively define “atheism” in probabilistic terms, and arbitrarily, when in fact agnosticism just is the view that construes the existence of God (among other things) probabilistically.

Finally, they tend also to commit the fallacy of hasty conclusion insofar as atheists reason that the orthodox Christian theistic view of the nature of God is representative, with its numerous attendant problems, of what a viable theism must be vis-à-vis the nature of God.