The angry atheist:

Atheists get a bad wrap. They are labeled as angry, hateful, argumentative, fearful, vile, unhappy people. However, the truth is that atheists are like anyone else. They are very diverse. I founded one of the first atheists groups in Panama City Florida in 2009. In attempting to gather people for the group, I found that everyone had different opinions and ideas about what exactly an atheist was. So I came up with the name “The Cat Herders”. This was because getting atheists to come together on more than one topic was like hearding cats. Meaning that each one has their own mind, and will do their own thing. Understanding that you don’t have to fit into a mold to be an atheist is important. Perhaps it is the most important thing to take away from this writing of mine.

My advice to atheists; leave emotion out of it. You hold a neutral position as to whether or not there is a god. It is not the end all be all of your existence. Although the religious person in the debate may believe it is. Because atheism is not a belief, it should not carry with it the emotional baggage of one. This is most likely the biggest pit fall an atheist falls in to. I don’t know many who have not fallen into it. I also know many who haven’t found their way out of it. This may also be one of the strongest reasons for me wanting to write this. You don’t need to be emotional about a negative position. That is not to say that you can not be passionate about keeping religion from forcing its systems upon you and your family. However, that is another topic. For now, it is simple enough to explain that you would not become emotional defending your position that you have no belief in fairies, unicorns, leprechauns, etc. don’t let this be any different.

 

17 comments on “The angry atheist:Add yours →

  1. My Question —What do you mean by the term atheist?
    Background –
    The term atheist means different things to different people. One of the early assumptions against Christians in Rome was that they were atheists. They refused to recite the required creed “Caesar is Lord.” In the mind of the Romans they were not required to reject Christ. The were willing to allow adding Christ to the Roman pantheon. However the Romans were not willing to accept Christ as the only “Lord”, meaning that Caesar is not a “Lord.” Christians were not willing to say “Caesar is Lord” meaning that there was another Lord beside Christ. For that many were killed.

    I used to be an atheist many years ago. To me that meant that god did not exist. To me I believed that, that logically required other things. If there was no god than by extension logically had to follow the premise that god did not exist four things. Those four things were 1. Naturalism (macro-evolutionism) 2. Materialism (nothing non-physical or Metaphysical exists) 3. Relativism (morality is individual choice) 4. Secular Humanism (Kant’s -man is the measure of all things). I used to like to talk to Christians because they were ignorant, lacked information. Then I met some Christians who could answer my questions. I found their logic and arguments logically incontestable.

    I have since 1968 been a Christian and have, partly because of my background, become an apologist. I have often encountered atheists who define atheism different than I did.

    So my question is — What do you mean by the term atheist?

    1. Thank you for your question. I apologize again for the technical issue. I want to update the look of the site make it more inviting and help it flow better.

      To your question. I spoke about this under the blog title; “Is atheism a belief?”. However, I’ll touch on the specifics to your query. Atheism is a neutral position. It means literally “no god belief”. Therefore, anyone who is unsure, is an atheist until they make a positive claim. Anyone who claims knowledge that there is no god, is more that an atheist. And as such has an indefensible position, in my opinion. I feel that there is enough evidence to suggest that at least the Christian god is nonexistent. I base this on the absence of evidence and the inherent contradictions in the Bible. Yet, my goal is not to prove a god doesn’t exist. It is to explain why doubt, and a neutral position, make sense. Therefore, in my view, an agnostic and an atheist, are the same thing.

      1. Thank you for your thought-out response –
        As I said the reason why I asked is not everyone means the same thing by the term atheist. My background is philosophy and theology. In that field atheist carries a broader meaning than you have given it, as I previously elaborated. Limiting the term to your meaning can confuse the logical and necessary consequences of concept of atheism. That is if atheism is true then there are logical consequences that must be true. Such is the nature of all presuppositional statements. The concept of reducing down the argument to a single issue or term can be helpful. However it can also be incomplete as all positions have logical conclusions that must follow a given proposition. Today reducing or limiting arguments to individual components, called reductionism or atomism, is a common practice. It can be initially helpful. But if it limits the discussion of the good and necessary consequences of a given concept it prevents the understanding of the logical conclusions that must follow a given proposition. I am assuming that you accept the necessity of propositional truth. Please correct me if that assumption is incorrect. Not everyone in our post-postmodern world accepts that.

        My next question was going to be on what do you base your conclusion of atheism? You have answered that here with the statement regarding lack of evidence. I find that curious as I find an abundance of evidence for the existence of God. Not the least of which is the logical necessity but that is another discussion. Obviously one is not in a position to make a logical and rational decision until they can argue the strongest argument on both sides of an issue.

        So my question is – What do you find are the strongest arguments for the existence of God and what do you find are the strongest arguments for atheism?

        1. Atheism is a natural starting point. It is a default position. By definition, we are born atheists. As we have no beliefs about anything. We must be taught belief. It is why we must touch the hot stove. We need to test things out, as it were. Belief comes later. When we remember that someone told us that the stove was hot, and we didn’t “believe” them. We develop the ability to believe something that we have not tested personally. Therefore, atheism is a starting place. It is the neutral point. Until testable, verifiable, predictable, repeatable proof is supplied, I will hold to the neutral position of non belief. Because you asked about the strongest/weakest argument, I will expand a bit more. The Strongest argument is, ironically, the weakest argument. Which is, “We are therefore god.” On the one hand you can make the argument that we, in this case including everything, must have a creator because we are here. On the surface that may seem logical. However, a deeper look finds it a non sequitur. It brings in more questions than it answers. It also invokes an argument from personal incredulity. “I cannot understand how all of this could come about naturally. So it must be supernatural.” The opposite could be said. “I can not understand how a god can exist. Therefore naturalism.” Thus, given an argument that can go both ways, one must hold a neutral position.

    2. I apologize, I missed part of your question. I will do something that seems a bit rude, but I hope you will forgive me. I am going to answer a question with a few questions.
      The first is necessary for me to continue. I must understand the god that you are making an argument for.
      I assume from your statements that you believe in a biblical god. I also assume from your statements that it is a Judeo-Christian God. However, like atheism, the definition of this god varies from individual to individual. Would you mind explaining your personal view of the god you believe in? I am not meaning a testimony. What are its attributes?

  2. First a very brief answer without explanation to your direct question –
    I am a Christian. I am logically and rationally convinced that the Bible is the word of God and that the God of the Bible is the only God. However we are not at the point in this conservation to deal with these issues.

    I looked your answer as to the strongest arguments for God and the strongest arguments for atheism. Apparently I was premature in asking that question because your answer left me with more preliminary questions. I mistakenly thought those preliminary questions would be answered by that question. My error for not being more specific.
    1. How do you determine what is true and what is not true?
    2. Does truth exists?
    3. That is is there an independent reality that is true regardless of whether you or I think/feel it is true?
    4. If so how can we know it?

    1. 1. How do you determine what is true and what is not true?
      2. Does truth exists?
      3. That is is there an independent reality that is true regardless of whether you or I think/feel it is true?
      4. If so how can we know it?

      On the surface these seem like straightforward questions. Yet they are not so straightforward, as they have very complex answers. Let’s put them in order. Does truth exist? This should be first, because how can we answer how we determine truth, if we haven’t first answered whether or not truth exists? What is truth? What is existence? Ah! Here we have another opportunity. Can we say that truth exists without first answering whether or not an independent reality exists? To answer that we must again go back to answering the question of what is existence. This is a tougher question than it appears. I see a table upon which I see this iPad. I am interactive with this iPad. Or so it appears. If we really wanted to get technical, we never actually touch anything. There is space between every particle. The forces of gravity is what we feel. And what we see is an illusion. It’s refraction. Which means what we see, and what is, are different things. We see a brown table. But what it actually is is everything but brown. Our perception makes it brown. Without our perception, it’s a rejection of brown. So this brings truth into question. If I tell you that the table is brown, am I telling the truth or just my perception of the truth? Is Schrödinger’s cat alive or dead? Is there even a cat at all until we observe it? Yet here we come to a conundrum. How can I tell you any of this? How do I know that particles have space between them, that light refracts, or even have the capacity to reason? These are philosophical questions. We can question everything. Or, we can simply react to what we call reality, in the most realistic way possible. Which brings us back to your questions. And for the sake of simplification, I’ll answer them in your order, and from the perspective of our assumed reality.

      1. How does one determine what is true? Test it.
      2. Does truth exist? Yes, within the confines of what we can define as existence. i.e. Can we test it?
      3. Is there an independent reality that is true regardless of what we feel? The answer to this depends on what is meant by independent reality and what we mean by feel. Therefore, I can only answer that I assume that there is an independent reality outside of what I feel. Provided that I myself did not create everything the moment I came into this existence.
      4. How can we know? As I have explained, we may not be able to answer this question.

      So what does this mean? It means that when we try to combine philosophy with physics (the knowledge of nature), we get into Grey areas. It’s why theoretical physics, while interesting, is not the best way to “know” the world. I tend to rely on what we call the physical sciences. Using these guidelines, I can reliably predict what happens next. Will I fall through the earth with my next step, or will everything continue to function “normally”? Because I haven’t been given an example of the “physical world” failing to work according to our knowledge of nature, I assume that I won’t fall through.
      I apologize for the answer not conforming to the expected answer. I combined Pyrrhonian skepticism, Humean skepticism, and Cartesian skepticism to show the examples of radical skepticism. This requires much more discussion. However, this response was important to show that the path one typically takes, with the questions you have asked, won’t be so easily traveled.

      1. Good answers assuming I correctly understood it. It appears that basically you see truth as empirical and evidence based. I do too. Empirical observation is one of the most reliable methods of discovering truth. Of course not everything that is true can be tested by the empirical method.

        Concepts are not in themselves testable. We can make observations and draw conclusions from the observations but the concepts themselves can not be tested. I would like to know what you think of my article-[ http://thinklikeachristian.com/styled-27/styled-28/styled-29/index.html ] unless I misunderstood your response I think you will basically agree with it. Do you? Or did I misunderstand?

        Those things that can be empirically tested should be. But many things can not be empirically tested and yet can still reliability be true. I can not empirically “prove” that the sun will rise tomorrow, today (in the popular sense). Tomorrow of course we will know. It is certainly a save bet. As if it doesn’t there will be no on around to pay off the bet.

        You can not prove someone guilty or innocent in a court of law by empirical evidence. Because you can not observe, test, repeat a historical event. Even if you present empirical evidence, say DNA evidence at the scene of the crime. What does that “prove”? Only that someone says, that their was DNA evidence at the scene. It could have been planted. It could have accidentally been carried to the scene. Even it the accused was at the scene it does not prove when. Even if he at the scene at the time of crime it does not prove he committed the crime.

        The same is true in medicine. Medicine is divided into clinical medicine and empirical medicine. A doctor friend of mine practiced in South Sudan they simply did not have the equipment to practice empirical medicine most of the time. Someone comes in with a spear or knife sticking out of them. OK you can see that. That is empirical. But someone comes in with an internal pain which you can not see the cause. Response to touch gives some limited information. But you have to guess. Even with full modern facilities the insurance company will not normally pay for a CAT Scan or MRI simply for stomach pain. It is best guess. So the doctor says, “Take this and see me next week.” He says that because it is leads to poor doctor patient relations to say, “I am just guessing but I really hope and think this will solve your problem. I can not know. The insurance company will not pay for the tests unless I guessed wrong and can verify it is something different.”

        We can not empirically “prove” anything historical. There could be other explanations. We can not “prove” logic exists, or love. We may be able to demonstrate the concept but we can not empirically “prove” the concept itself. Yet, we must assume logic is true to even discuss whether or not logic is true. Do you agree with this line of reasoning? Are we on the same page here? Or am I missing where you are coming from? I think you are saying that you accept propositional truth?

        Yet, from your perspective why would you?

        There are certain laws of the sciences. Yet, if everything is random chance over time, random chance does not produce complex systems. Abiogenesis, statistical impossibilities, gravity and gas laws in relation so the formation of astronomical features, and many very well established laws of science deny random chance over time.

        By denying that atheism is a belief you are simply denying the reality that presuppositional constructs are beliefs. The statement that atheism is not a belief is in itself a belief. It is a misuse of language to deny what sometime is by definition. Using the concept of atomism or reductionism to avoid the logical and necessary ideas that must logically follow from the premise that there is no God is just denial. If their is no God naturalism, materialism, relativism, and secular humanism, followed by atheism and nihilism must follow. We can not escape the logical and necessary consequences of our presuppositions simply by denying them unless we reject logic. In which case there is no possibility of rational discussion.

        The problem with radical skepticism is that you paint yourself in a corner. Logically you eventually must deny logic, reality and even self existence. “I think therefore I am” is really just recognizing that our initial premise must be accepted on faith. However, the modern definition of faith as belief without evidence is a false definition of historical faith. Historically faith is evidentialism. It is based in real substance and evidence.

        In basic epistemology the starting point is rationally in the three C’s Coherence, Cohesion, and correspondence. Or A.I.P. Our starting point should not be A. Arbitrary that is it should be rooted in observable evidence, logic, and reason I. Internal Critique that is it should hold up to the rigorous tests of logic and reason. P. Preconditions of Intelligibility that is it must be able to explain how we can know anything at all. Biblical Christianity is the only world view that meets all of those criteria. There is no such thing as a neutral premise. Logic and reason demands that we all justify our basic assumptions or starting points.

        I hope this does not come across as emotionally argumentative. I am merely laying out the elements of the issue as I do when I teach this stuff to undergraduate and graduate students in India and Africa.

        While the various schools of skepticism can be helpful, if it does not lead to an objective reality it is an exercise in futility, leading to the logical conclusion that there is really no reason why we should not all just blow our brains out. An option more that one nihilist has exercised. While one may chose to be positive in the face of skeptical nihilism he can give no logical reason to do so. Proof is can be a difficult concept to explain but at the very least that on which we build our assumption set ought to rise to the point of logical, rational, philosophical certitude.

        So it is within this framework of logic and reason that I asked you the questions which I now ask again. What are the strongest arguments for the existence of God. What are the strongest arguments for atheism.

        If you can not give the strongest arguments on both sides of a proposition you are not in a position to make an informed, logical, and rational decision as to the truth of the proposition.

        I recognize these are long posts back and forth. But you can not honestly give short simplistic answers to complex questions.

        1. So, that was quite a lot. I must begin with an apology. I answered rather hastily when I first read the response. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you may notice that I made a prediction that regardless how I answered the previous questions, the apologist must always steer back to the narrative. The apologist’s argument fails without adherence to a specific formula. In my initial response, I was, what seemed to me in hindsight, a bit ruder than intended. Holding myself to my own rule of respectful correspondence, I deleted the initial response. While I was just as quick to remove it, I knew there was a chance that you had already seen it. It is for that possibility that I apologize for.
          In addressing your argument, I was constantly asking myself if I am looking at this as objectively as possible. I have spent a great deal of time in debate, and while I see the same arguments over and over, I genuinely attempt to answer each question with new consideration. That said, if my responses seem slightly dismissive, it is not intended as an insult to you, simply the source material. I will start each portion by placing your statements first, and then addressing that statement specifically.

          Here goes it:

          {By denying that atheism is a belief you are simply denying the reality that presuppositional constructs are beliefs. The statement that atheism is not a belief is in itself a belief. It is a misuse of language to deny what sometime is by definition. Using the concept of atomism or reductionism to avoid the logical and necessary ideas that must logically follow from the premise that there is no God is just denial. If their is no God naturalism, materialism, relativism, and secular humanism, followed by atheism and nihilism must follow. We can not escape the logical and necessary consequences of our presuppositions simply by denying them unless we reject logic. In which case there is no possibility of rational discussion.}

          We can look at your statement a couple of ways. First and foremost, it is a straw man. It is necessary to falsely define the position of atheism in order to give it a false equivalency with faith. Again. Atheism is not the claim that there is no god. There are other adjectives needed to make that statement. Atheism is strictly a lack of belief in a god. I understand that this doesn’t fit within the apologist narrative, and it is why this simple explanation is never accepted.
          Let’s focus on the misuse of the word belief. There are two definitions for the word belief. The first is the one referenced in saying that “atheism is not a belief” is itself belief.
          Belief 1.1.
          an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.
          “his belief in the value of hard work”

          There is no doubt that we can apply this definition of belief to that concept. However, the dishonesty of this approach is the attempt to equate this definition of belief with the second definition.

          Belief 1. 2.
          trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.
          “a belief in democratic politics”

          We can accept, the first definition of belief, that atheism is not itself a belief system. Without invoking faith, the second definition of beIief.

          The second part of the statement becomes petitio principii. You are asserting the assumption that by holding a negative position to the question of a god, one is by default assuming other positions. The truth is that the negative position of atheism does not speak to assumptions of anything positive. If one says they do not believe in fairies, for example, they do not by default assume gnomes instead. The position of the belief in gnomes must be addressed separately.

          {In basic epistemology the starting point is rationally in the three C’s Coherence, Cohesion, and correspondence. Or A.I.P. Our starting point should not be A. Arbitrary that is it should be rooted in observable evidence, logic, and reason I. Internal Critique that is it should hold up to the rigorous tests of logic and reason. P. Preconditions of Intelligibility that is it must be able to explain how we can know anything at all. Biblical Christianity is the only world view that meets all of those criteria. There is no such thing as a neutral premise. Logic and reason demands that we all justify our basic assumptions or starting points.}

          We must address the framework about basic epistemology. (not the only approach, nor is it even the preferred method) There is a correspondence theory; a statement is true if it corresponds to fact or reality. Without infinite knowledge, we must confine this to what the five senses can determine as fact or reality. Of course, senses can be deceived. So it makes this approach less reliable. Then we have the coherence theory; a statement is true if it coheres with a set of beliefs. It is an attempt to fix the cristisims of the correspondence theory. The coherence theory is relativistic. This means that a statement could be true if we apply it to a certain sets of beliefs. However the statement could be untrue if applied to a different set of beliefs. Which brings us to collective cohesion; meaning a group hold the same web of beliefs, to put it simplistically. We can hardly see how this adds any value to the formula.
          By explaining the framework, we can show how many “world views” can satisfy this criteria.
          With all this said. We can speak to the biblical god. While atheism itself makes no claim in singling out the biblical god, the individual atheist can, with a high degree of certainty, claim the biblical god is demonstrably fictional. How? Because every testable claim of the Bible, the only source for the biblical god, can be shown verifiably false. *edit* I failed to mention that the biblical god fails to meet the criteria for correspondence therory*

          {There are certain laws of the sciences. Yet, if everything is random chance over time, random chance does not produce complex systems. Abiogenesis, statistical impossibilities, gravity and gas laws in relation so the formation of astronomical features, and many very well established laws of science deny random chance over time}

          This statement it a bit misleading. The misleading piece is the inclusion of the term “random chance”. Science supports simple systems becoming more complex over time. The term “random chance” is not used in scientific language. Abiogenesis is hypothetical. It is not part of the theory of evolution. Evolution begins at DNA. The RNA hypothesis is supported by massive amounts of data. However, it has not graduated to become part of evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory explains in great detail how organisms move from simple to more complex. It’s not chance, but rather traits that survive become part of the organism. Similarly, cosmology explains the processes by which complex forms in the universe originate from simple ones. It is not very hard to understand. Two simple structures come together, by statistical inevitably, given enough time, joining to create something slightly more complex. This keeps happening and continues to become even more complex.

          {So it is within this framework of logic and reason that I asked you the questions which I now ask again. What are the strongest arguments for the existence of God. What are the strongest arguments for atheism.}

          This starts off as an intellectually dishonest question. Not that you may realize it as such. The reason that it’s so important to build the straw man of atheism, is that without it, you are unable to position this question. Belief in a god is, or it isn’t. If belief in god is, you have theism. If belief in god isn’t, you have atheism. It’s really not that difficult. I will continue regardless, if only to further my point.
          I must assume by information you provided, you are asking for the best argument for the existence of a biblical god. Assuming this we have another reason to ignore the question completely. It becomes the equivalent of asking for the best argument for the easter bunny versus the best argument for not believing in the Easter bunny. It’s one thing to ask for the best argument for “a” god, but completely another to ask for the best argument for a biblical god. Not only is there not a best argument for a biblical god, there are no good arguments for one. This is simply because every argument for a biblical god can be shown a poor argument. We can most assuredly not attribute logic and reasoning to a Biblical god, as it has been shown, within its own text, to be illogical and unreasonable. We can know with certainty that we were not given our morality from a biblical god, as we can demonstrate the biblical god to be immoral.
          It is therefore that we can dismiss the notion that if someone cannot state the best argument for a god, that one is not in a position to make a claim about the god. We can dismiss the notion of a biblical god as easily as we dismiss the notion of the Easter Bunny. There are no good reasons not to. However, let’s wait a tick…{if one cannot state the best argument for a god, one is not in a position to make a claim about a god.} Uhmmm…If only there were a definition for a position for someone who is not in a position to make a claim about a god. As though they had no position, positive or negative. I wonder what they might be called?

          Again, I know this seems rather harsh. I also understand that I won’t sway you in your position by my answers. However, the observer of our correspondence may be able to make a judgement that helps them.

          1. JOE – 03AUG
            I am enjoying our respectful discussion. I apologize for taking so long to respond. I am very busy, as are most of us. I find working on my Phd very time consuming. I will get back to soon as I can due justice to a fair response. Thanks for your understanding.

  3. I understand that you are working on a response. Let me see if I can help simplify things. I don’t see a clear pathway to an absolute idea of “truth”. The concept of “truth” seems to be subjective. We have instead things that are more likely or less likely. Science itself doesn’t work with truth at all. It too works from a likely versus less likely approach. i.e. Based on the evidence, explanation A is more likely that explanation B. Philosophy works in much the same manner. Based on the ability to demonstrate a premise, the premise can be determined to be more likely true or less likely true. Example: “If god exists, absolute morality exsists.” This premise is a fallacy and therefore less likely true. A god has yet to be demonstrated as the best possible explanation for morality, and absolute morality has yet to be demonstrated to exist. We can find a common ground to draw conclusions about morality. Once we agree on a bases for morality, which would be a subjective base, we could then draw an objective morality to that base. Again with the understanding that the base itself is subjective. The point being, that before you can use the term “god” in a premise, you must first demonstrate what that god is. To simply inject “god” into a premise is to begin with a logically flawed framework. The term “god” is a mystery, not an explanation.

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