Monday, December 26, 2016

A Critique Of "Why I Am Not an Atheist Anymore"

I came across a recent blog post called Why I Am Not an Atheist Anymore and I decided to write a critique of it here since the site it's on doesn't allow comments. It's interesting to see where and how an atheist becomes convinced that god exists. Since I've written before on Why I'm An Atheist and I know the arguments for and against god very well, I can see where this post goes wrong. What I'm going to do is just take certain quotes from the piece and offer my thoughts and criticisms, exactly as if I was leaving a comment. So here we go. It starts out with criticism of atheists themselves:

One of the first things that bothered me about Atheists is how they would often act like they had proven something, when all they can and have ever done is try to do dismantle arguments and discredit evidence for Theism. A classic question is, ‘What proof or evidence can one give for Atheism?’. Seriously, try to think of one and you’ll be stuck.

I can think of one. It's not true that you can't prove a negative, although most people don't realize this. There is at least one way to prove a negative: demonstrate that the idea or thing is self-contradictory. I attempted to do just that in my piece Why I'm An Atheist with god. I don't think god is a fully coherent concept. Not many atheists are aware of such an argument. But an atheist is just someone who at the bare minimum lacks belief in any gods. It's what I call "bare minimum atheism." Once you meet that classification, you're an atheist. So an atheist doesn't have to prove god doesn't exist. An atheist merely has to say at a bare minimum, "The existence of god is unlikely, so I'm willing to say I don't believe in god," whereas the agnostic says, "I have no idea if god exists. It is unknowable." In other words, atheism is a claim to belief, agnosticism is a claim to knowledge.

As Neil Degrasse Tyson said, “There is no Anti-Golf… why is there Anti-God?” He’s an agnostic, which is really what most Atheists really mean when they say they don’t believe in God.

No, Tyson is technically an atheist, not an agnostic. Tyson has repeatedly said he remains "unconvinced" there is any god, and lacking belief in a god is the very definition of an atheist. He calls himself an agnostic but that's because he doesn't like the label "atheist" due to its perceived negative connotations. You see, agnostics are actually atheists. Since agnostics do not positively believe in a god, they lack belief, and lacking belief in a god is atheism. Agnosticism is really a form of weak atheism. See Agnosticism vs Atheism for more information and this scale of belief:

There seems to be a categorical flip flopping going on in the Atheist community. They want to assert ‘God doesn’t exist’ but can’t provide evidence for the anti of something (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence) so they claim they don’t have to provide evidence to support the claim which makes it not an assertion, which is technically Agnosticism....They change between the two depending on how defensive or aggressive they need to be in the situation.

This is true to some extent. One can be an 'agnostic atheist' and be reasonably sure god doesn't exist, but not completely certain. Many atheists do assert god doesn't exist, while also calling themselves an agnostic atheist. But is it legitimate to assert something is the case while lacking certainty in your view? I think it can be and we do it all the time. In truth, there are very few things we can be certain about. We can't technically be certain external physical reality even exists. But I think once you have at least 85% confidence in something you can assert it as true, even though you lack absolute proof.

So Science and God cannot coexist. Right? Wrong. Fun Fact: Modern science and western academia is birthed from Theology and specifically the Christian Church.

Just because science came from cultures that were religious it doesn't mean science and religion or science and the belief of god are compatible. One thing we all must be aware of is that a millennia ago you had to be religious in almost every society. Atheism wasn't an option, and throughout most of Christian Europe there were laws on the books outlawing atheism. The slightest doubt in the religious orthodoxy of the day could visit upon you grave misfortunes. And that's an understatement. This also meant that Christianity had a monopoly on academic institutions. It was impossible for secular institutions to exist. Once this changed starting around the 1800s we saw the rise of agnostics and atheists and secular institutions throughout Europe and the West, and now they dominate academia.

In the Islamic world, although the religion's Golden Era allowed for greater academic pursuit of theistic alternatives, it would be wise to say that outright atheism wasn't exactly halal. Islam does include the death penalty for apostasy after all, but I'm not sure to what degree that was enforced throughout its history. And although it's true modern science got it's start in Christian Europe, science has its roots in pre-Christian ancient Greece. I'm perfectly open to the possibility that Christianity allowed science to take root. But that still doesn't mean science is compatible with Christianity, religion simpliciter, or god existing. We must distinguish between the methodology of science from the findings of the scientific methods. The method may have been developed by people who believed in god (because back then you had to) but that doesn't mean the findings are compatible with god or religion. Religions make claims that are incompatible with scientific findings. And the only "religion" that even comes close to being compatible with modern science is deism.

We know how the rest of the story goes, the evidence keeps piling up and up in favor of the Big Bang Theory and the idea that the Universe is infinite and static slowly dies. Einstein later called this his ‘biggest blunder’ because his Theory of Relativity necessitates the Big Bang and he never realized it.

It's definitely true that General Relativity put an end to the static and unchanging universe that was thought of prior to Einstein's theory, but it's also true that Special and General Relativity gave us a different kind of static and eternal universe; they really just replaced one static version for another. And that's because both theories give us eternalism. (Read here and here for more information). The problem is that the general public just doesn't know about what is entailed by these theories, and many amateur apologists don't know either. Because of this, the implications for eternalism go over the heads of many people, theist and atheist alike, and it fails to be a factor in their understanding of cosmology, leading many of them to misleadingly think the Big Bang entails something coming from nothing. See Why So Many People Get The Big Bang Wrong (Including Atheists).

If the Universe had a beginning then the Universe had a ‘First Cause’ or in Bible lingo, “The I Am.” .... Problem is that, yes it does technically prove ‘Deism’ at the very least, which is the belief that God created the universe but does not interact with it in any way whatsoever.

No it does't! Anyone who thinks so doesn't understand cosmology. On eternalism, which we get from both Special and General Relativity, there is no first cause required. Causality is a concept that only makes sense in spacetime, not outside of it. As such, all "first cause" arguments fail. See Causality Is A Useful Word But It Doesn't Really Exist.

The numbers on this are literally impossible to comprehend. The chances of the Universe coming into being through total randomness even remotely close to the way it is, is about as likely as winning the lottery several hundred times in a row.

Of course it was only a matter of time before we got to the fine tuning argument, which tends to be very popular nowadays, and for good reason. It is in my opinion the best argument for god. I just wrote a piece on the fine tuning argument arguing that it makes a better case for atheism and not theism. But there is still a genuine scientific mystery of why the constants take the values that they hold. A multiverse can resolve that, but the multiverse isn't a proven fact, at least not yet. Whether or not the multiverse itself needs to be fine tuned is something I'm not sure about. And although I think this is the best argument for god, I think the hostility of the universe towards life, the inane cruelty and haphazardness of the evolutionary process, and the problems with the design hypothesis lead me to thinking it wasn't designed, and that the fine tuning might have a more mundane naturalistic explanation, whether that's the multiverse or whatever. But nonetheless, I can definitely see how fine tuning can make a person question atheism and think a designer is necessary. It's the best piece of evidence theism or deism has going for it.

If God doesn’t exist, Gunner’s life doesn’t matter and neither does yours, or your loved one’s or anything else you love. All the children of the holocaust who died long, slow, horrible deaths. They suffered and they died, and it was for no reason whatsoever. Merely another description of the Universe. Shedding of the blood of the innocent is exactly the same as going for a walk, or a rock, sitting, doing nothing, for no reason.

This is completely false. Gunner's life doesn't matter to the universe, but that doesn't mean his (or her) life doesn't matter to the people in the universe. The universe is just the place we live in, and of course it's as indifferent to us as our cities or continents are. It's always people — or more broadly, living things that matter and care for us. The children of the holocaust didn't die for no reason, they died because people wanted them to die. That is the reason. And on atheism at least when they died they didn't have to go to a hell for eternity (as some versions of theism believe). And there is a difference between people shedding blood and a rock sitting and doing nothing: people can feel pain and suffer, rocks can't. Why so many theists are completely blind to this I have no idea.

Believe it or not, it gets worse, because despite the fact that Atheists fully acknowledge that logically life is completely meaningless without God, they then argue that God must be immoral which is incoherent at best.

On atheism, life has no objective meaning, that's not the same as having no meaning at all. Meaning is something we give to our lives, not any external cosmic force. It's amazing how so many theists will hate the idea of big government dictating a purpose to their lives, but feel incomplete without a cosmic dictator doing the same thing. And the atheist doesn't need to assume objective morality in order to call god immoral, he just needs to assume the theist's own understanding of good and evil for the sake of argument.

It all comes down to one question, does my Nephew’s life matter? Yes or No. I personally think it does. It is a true opinion, I can’t prove it does or doesn’t, I’m fully owning that. But if you think it does, you then fall into a logically inescapable conclusion, that God Exists.

Um, bullshit. This view conflates atheism with nihilism. Your nephew's life matters to you, and that's true regardless of whether or not god exists. Recognizing value is not something that forces you into thinking god exists. There's nothing about atheism that prevents you from thinking that your loved ones have value. All value is extrinsic, and god existing won't change that: if you think god gives us intrinsic value that we wouldn't have if god didn't exist, then you're actually defending extrinsic value.

The Final Verdict

These are not good reasons to not be an atheist anymore. Many of them misunderstand atheism, what atheists believe, and what is entailed by atheism or science. Most criticisms of atheism are due to misunderstanding it or misunderstanding science. I of course want to put many of these false yet all too common views to rest. So please help me in my pursuit by spreading the knowledge below. 

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