The following is a point-by-point response to Matt Slick's brief essay "I lack belief in a god." This response follows the form of a dialogue in which Slick's statements are followed by mine in the order in which they appear in his essay.
In his paper, Christian apologist Matt Slick attempts to show that the atheist is not justified to claim simply that he lacks a belief in gods, but that in fact they are committed to an assertive position which cannot be described merely as absence of belief. Does he make his case? Throughout my review of Slick's statements, I will show that, not only does he put forth a valid argument to this end, but also that the points which he does attempt to put forward neither move us any closer to his intended conclusion, nor compel it in any way.
Slick: The statement "I lack belief in a god" is becoming a common position of atheists.
Bethrick: Could this have anything to do with the fact that atheism is properly defined as the absence of god-belief? (Gee, ya think?)
Slick: In discussions with them, they tell me they lack belief in God the way they lack belief in invisible, pink unicorns.
Bethrick: And this is wrong because of what? Indeed, I have no god-belief, I have no Zeus-belief, I have no Geusha-belief, I have no Santa-belief, I have no Blarko-belief. And indeed, I have no pink-unicorn-belief, either. Notice the similarities: I lack belief in all these things.
Slick: In other words, they have no position, take no intellectual action, have no "belief or unbelief" on the matter concerning God.
Bethrick: This is a non sequitur. Simply because one lacks a belief in certain things, it does not follow from this that "they have no position, take no intellectual action, have no 'belief or unbelief' on the matter concerning God." Indeed, if they are atheists, they lack a belief in any gods. So clearly Slick is not integrating here. Rather, true to his mystic roots, he prefers a route of conceptual disintegration. But lacking a belief in one thing does not mean they lack a position or take no intellectual action on other matters. While I have no god-belief, I do have a position in regard to, for instance, the proper role of reason in man's pursuit of knowledge and values. Lacking belief in one matter does not mean I cannot be committed to an intellectual position in regard to other matters.
Slick: To them it is a non-issue.
Bethrick: How does Slick make this determination? Perhaps it is a very important issue to some atheists, but nothing he says here serves to rule this out. Rather, he simply asserts it with no basis. Indeed, it may very well be that the welfare of their mind and their liberties play a central role in their recognition of the evils of god-belief and the rational propriety of atheism. More non sequiturs. But supposing that the Christian's god-belief is a non-issue to a particular atheist. That is his choice. Does Slick want to change this for some reason? If so, why?
Slick: Though this may sound sensible to some, the problem is that once you are introduced to an idea you cannot stay neutral about it.
Bethrick: Who has claimed neutrality? Indeed, if one's commitment is to reason and the facts of reality, then one could hardly be dubbed 'neutral'. And if one, being familiar with god-belief claims and their irrational nature, recognizes that to claim belief in such things would be dishonest on his part and has recognized that he does not believe in them, then his decision (namely to go with reality as opposed to whim) has been made. This is surely not a commitment to neutrality on the matter. Again, another non sequitur.
Slick: You invariably make a judgment about an idea once it has been introduced to you.
Bethrick: Yes, that's true. And if one's commitment is to reason and the facts of reality, then obviously one will be an atheist as a proper and logical consequence. Who is saying that they do not make such judgments about ideas once they've been encountered? Does making a judgment about a claim necessarily mean one accepts the claim as knowledge? Has Slick given this matter some real thought?
Slick: You can brush it off as ridiculous, ponder its possibility, accept it, reject it, or do something in between.
Bethrick: Indeed, all of these may very well be options available to a thinker, and they must be meted out according to a standard. The mystic's standard is his whims - his desires, wishes, hopes, i.e., "faith." The rational man's standards, however, are reason and the facts of reality. Big difference here. For the man of reason, those ideas which are absurd, baseless, arbitrary and/or contrary to the facts of reality or the basis of reason, can rightly be dismissed as what they are: nonsense. Does Slick think one should accept as truth those ideas which one finds to be ridiculous?
Slick: But, you cannot return to a "lack of belief" position if "lack of belief" is defined as a non-intellectual commitment or non-action concerning it.
Bethrick: Who says? If someone claims that Leo the Space Lion exists, and I do not believe it, what is the problem here? Indeed, I don't see why I cannot simply discard this claim and continue not believing it as I had before it was introduced to me. In doing so, I make no "intellectual commitment" to the idea that Leo the Space Lion exists. Indeed, if I have already committed myself to reason, then what new commitment does Slick think I must make if I encounter arbitrary claims which I do not accept as knowledge? Slick does not say, and probably for good reason.
Slick: Though I admit that an atheist can claim he lacks belief even after being exposed to an idea and contemplating its rationality, I still assert that a position of some sort is required.
Bethrick: If Slick admits that "an atheist can claim he lacks belief even after being exposed to an idea," what is the problem? Even if Slick wants to continue parroting the claim in question, what new position does he expect to be taken by the atheist? Slick will have to do more than merely assert his conclusion over and over. He will have to present an argument for it, and so far he has no ammo for this. Indeed, if one tells me that an invisible magic being exists, I do not need to shift my position (which is commitment to reason) in order not to accept such a claim as knowledge. Slick seems unclear on principle here, for merely asserting his desired conclusion will not change this.
Slick: Let?s pick a baby that has no awareness of the concept of invisible, pink unicorns.
Bethrick: Okay. (Incidentally, does Slick explain why he accepts the notion of invisible, pink unicorns as a legitimate concept? No, of course not. He seems to take this for granted. Is he at all aware of how concepts are properly formed in the first place?)
Slick: Later in life, when the baby is mature and is introduced to the concept, he either accepts the existence of invisible pink unicorns, rejects them as a ridiculous notion, chuckles about it and dismisses it, becomes unsure about them, holds off judgment until later, etc. Either way, he develops a position on the concept of invisible pink unicorns.
Bethrick: Well, I suppose the truth of Slick's conclusion depends on the definitions which he assumes in his premises. What does he mean by 'position'? What kind of 'position' does he expect someone to have once he's mature enough to evaluate the claim that there are invisible pink unicorns in existence? Does Slick think that one adopts the explicit, systematized position that "invisible pink unicorns do not exist!"? If that is what he thinks, how does he know this? Slick does not say.
One other point: notice how Slick characterizes the scenario with the baby. He writes, "when the baby is mature and is introduced to the concept, he either accepts the existence of invisible pink unicorns [or] rejects them as a ridiculous notion?" Instead of this, since the individual in person is not rejecting objects which are called "invisible pink unicorns," it seems that it is the notion - not invisible pink unicorns themselves - which is being rejected. This is an important distinction, and in Slick's hands it gets buried in his careless use of terms.
By the way, I have to ask: does Slick himself believe that invisible pink unicorns exist? If not, why does he believe that other invisible magic beings exist?
Slick: He has to do something with the concept once he?s been exposed to it.
Bethrick: Whether or not Slick can argue on behalf of his assumption that the idea of invisible pink unicorns can constitute a legitimate concept (and he nowhere argues for this assumption), it may be the case that the individual in question simply puts the idea completely out of his mind - i.e., he may discard it, for he may determine that it is of no use for him. The next time the individual in question encounters someone who has accepted the claim that invisible pink unicorns exist, he would be right simply to shake his head and say to himself, "Not another loony!"
What Slick ignores is the fact that a belief takes up space in the mind. The absence of a belief does not take up space in the mind. Obviously he has not identified this fact and integrated it into the rest of his reasoning process.
Slick: He doesn?t continue in a lack-of-belief or a lack-of-awareness state of mind because the fact is, some sort of intellectual action occurs in regard to it.
Bethrick: How does Slick know this? Certainly he has not established it as the result of argument, for every point which he has so far attempted to establish has been obliterated, and even if they could be divinely resurrected, he still asserts his conclusion as a non sequitur (i.e., it does not follow). Again, he simply begs the question by repeating the very conclusion which he has set out to prove.
I see nothing wrong with accepting the view that one can "continue in a lack-of-belief? state of mind" after having encountered arbitrary claims which are not accepted as knowledge. The "position" which the person has at that point is the same position which he had prior to this, only now it has been modified with regard to the context of the claim in question: it is not worthy of accepted and should be discarded. It can feasibly take the form, "I remember encountering that silly idea a year ago at Jill's soirée, and I saw no reason to accept it as knowledge then, and I still don't. Indeed, it's stupefying that someone would accept it!" This is the "sort of intellectual action [which] occurs in regard to it."
Notice also that Slick seems to want to equate "lack of belief" with "lack of awareness." I think this equation needs to be validated. Slick nowhere attempts this. One can discard an idea because it has been determined to be invalid or of no use to a person. But this does not mean that the person in question now lacks awareness. Another non sequitur.
Slick: He cannot become unaffected by the concept.
Bethrick: What does Slick mean by his statement "He cannot become unaffected by the concept"? Perhaps Slick is correct here (depending on what he means, which is certainly unclear). Indeed, the suggestion of the existence of invisible magic beings may affect a person by causing her to laugh. But being affected by the introduction of an idea (again, depending on what this is taken to mean) does not necessarily mean that some new position has been adopted as a result of encountering the new claim in question.
Slick: He has been made aware of it and he, by default, does something with it.
Bethrick: Indeed - she may have discarded it. To discard an idea means it is no longer carried as baggage encumbering the mind. Hence, absence of belief. People do this all the time.
Slick: Nevertheless, some might say that to hold off judgment until later is to be "atheistic" concerning pink unicorns and therefore support the atheist position of "lack of belief."
Bethrick: Then again, I would say that to discard a claim which one determines to be arbitrary or irrelevant does not necessarily result in a positive belief. Certainly Slick has not shown that it does. Indeed, the content of the claim has been discarded, so the content of the claim is not retained as a belief. The person's original position - a commitment to reason, for instance - remains intact.
Slick: But, as I said earlier, after being exposed to a concept a decision is made about that concept even if it is to withhold judgment.
Bethrick: Indeed, a decision may very well have been made, and that decision may rightly be to discard the claim in question due to its arbitrary nature, its contradiction to previously validated knowledge, its lack of support, et al. One does not believe a claim which he discards because of such reasons. The decision is made, and the decision becomes part of the past. The thinker moves on, the mystic remains behind in the mud hole of his primitive ideas.
Slick: In other words, an assessment has been made and a position taken.
Bethrick: Sure. The assessment was: this idea is arbitrary and acceptance of this idea as knowledge would be irrational, because I have already taken the position that reason is the only source of knowledge (i.e., rationality). Consequently the idea is discarded. This is the proper thing to do in the case of arbitrary ideas. No new position is required.
Slick: This is not the same as going back to a state of unawareness.
Bethrick: Again, who is saying that those who discard certain claims due to the irrationality of those ideas are "going back to a state of unawareness"? Who is claiming this, and how is Slick's comment here relevant?
Slick: To suspend belief on a subject is to hold off judgment until more information is acquired.
Bethrick: I don't think that's the case. Belief and judgment are not the same thing, so to "suspend belief on a subject" is not necessarily "to hold off judgment," for some judgment is needed to make the decision to suspend belief. If I say that I have insufficient evidence to accept claim X, for instance, and thereby do not accept it as legitimate knowledge, I have made a judgment call, namely that the evidence is insufficient.
Slick: This is agnosticism, not atheism.
Bethrick: No, it's not agnosticism, it may simply be prudence. Agnosticism is the position that certainty is not possible, now, later, or ever, regardless of what new data may be introduced at some future point. Agnosticism is not the judgment that evidence at the present time is insufficient to warrant acceptance of a claim as legitimate knowledge, for such a judgment implies the assumption that certain is possible and the expectation that new evidence will become available at a later date enabling such certainty, thus providing the sufficiency necessary to accept or discard the claim in question. The choice to do this in cases where a verdict one way or another is deemed premature, is not agnosticism, but a matter of prudence.
Besides, if the person in question has determined that the relevant evidence is sufficient to make a judgment, and that judgment is that the claim in question should be discarded, then that person is an atheist (if the claim in question is the claim that a god exists).
Slick: It is an admission that not all information is acquired thus logically requiring the possibility of the existence of the thing being considered.
Bethrick: Again, this does not describe agnosticism. Agnosticism is the position that certainty on the matter in question can never be achieved.
Slick: This is something atheists do not do by definition, but agnostics do.
Bethrick: Wrong. If the persons which Slick has in mind have made the determination that acceptance of a claim as legitimate knowledge is not sufficiently warranted by the evidence provided at the time, but are open to reviewing additional evidence at a later point in time with the expectation that this additional evidence could elevate sufficiency, then this person is not an agnostic. Indeed, I would consider him a tentative atheist, essentially one who does not presently hold to a god-belief, but who is also open to reviewing future proposed evidence in order to allow him to be persuaded to the other way (if so warranted); clearly then he is willing to grant some validity to the claim that a god exists in that he has not dismissed it as arbitrary (which would indicate that he is not fully rational, since he is willing to grant some credibility to an arbitrary idea). The point is that such a person is open to the achievement of certainty on the matter (and may desire it strongly), even though he acknowledges that at the present time he has not secured it for himself. But he does not close off the possibility of one day achieving certainty on the matter in question, as an agnostic would do.
Slick: Agnosticism is the position, in part, that "suspension of belief" is maintained until further information is acquired.
Bethrick: No, agnosticism is the position that certainty in regard to the claim in question one way or the other is not possible. Agnosticism is essentially the enshrinement of uncertainty. Those who are open to re-examining their lack of belief at a later time due to the introduction of new evidence are actually atheists, since they do not presently have the belief in question.
And indeed, functionally, an agnostic may be an atheist. Consider James: He believes that certainty on the question of the existence of gods is impossible, thus he has adopted a position of epistemological agnosticism. However, since he goes on with his daily life without a functional belief that those gods exist, he is actually an atheist as well. Here the key is whether or not the claim that gods exist plays any kind of determinative role in his choices and actions. In the case of a theist, this claim does play a role. In the case of an atheist, this claim does not play a role (indeed, the very idea of the existence of gods may have been discarded!).
Slick: If I said that there was an ice cream factory on Jupiter, what would you think?
Bethrick: I would think essentially the same thing as when you claim that there is an invisible magic being inhabiting some imaginary magic kingdom some place.
Slick: Would you entertain the idea as a serious possibility?
Bethrick: Would you offer any reason why I should?
Slick: Would you quickly dismiss it as an outlandish absurdity?
Bethrick: Without further data to give contextual support to the claim, yes, I would dismiss it as simply another absurdity.
Slick: Would you request evidence for it?
Bethrick: It would probably not interest me enough to inquire any further. So no, I probably would not ask for evidence. (Though for sport, I might ask why you believe it.)
Slick: Or, did you suddenly have a desire to go to Jupiter for some Jupiterian Swirl?
Bethrick: No, I don?t recall ever having such a desire. I tend not to like ice cream anyway, terrestrial or extraterrestrial (it bothers my teeth!).
Slick: Of course, an ice-cream factory on Jupiter is ridiculous and we automatically know this so we naturally make a judgment on it.
Bethrick: Right, and my judgment would be to discard it and move on. This idea has no rightful place in the context of my knowledge of the world, and I would judge it unworthy to keep in my mind. Thus, it would not take up space in my mind. Consequently, you could rightly call me a-Jupiter-ice-cream-factory-ist, since I would not accept the claim that an ice cream factory exists on Jupiter as legitimate knowledge. Indeed, I lack the belief that such a thing exists.
Slick: Thus, we cannot remain in a state of "lack of belief" concerning the concept once we?ve been introduced to it.
Bethrick: Non sequitur. I have made the judgment (the claim is not worthy of being accepted as legitimate knowledge), thus the claim is discarded. This does not require a change in my position. As I said: I lack the belief that such a thing exists.
Slick: We assign it to the "that is ridiculous" category.
Bethrick: Well, perhaps Slick might do this, but I do not maintain a "that is ridiculous" category in my head. I don't care to waste valuable mental space on storing arbitrary ideas, so I would have no such need for such a category of thought. (I've seen hard drives crash! It's called religion!) Any ideas which would rightly be tossed into such a category would be useless to me, and thus would not be worthy of retaining anywhere in my mind. Hence, they are to be discarded.
Slick: This is why the lack of belief defense of atheists is not logical.
Bethrick: It should be clear by now why the conclusion which Slick wants to establish - which he identifies here - has not been soundly established, partly because of the ample non sequiturs inhabiting his intended chain of inference (i.e., his conclusion does not follow from his premises), and partly because of other errors committed along the way (e.g., equivocation, context-dropping, misunderstanding of how the mind works, etc.). Slick seems to think that other people must retain in their minds ideas which they do not accept as legitimate knowledge of reality. While it may be the case that he does this, it is not the case that all people do. Some individuals, in fact, are quite self-disciplined and value their minds too much to clutter it up with ideas which they find arbitrary. The proper thing to do when one has determined that an idea is arbitrary, is to discard it, not retain it in some useless mental bin marked "that is ridiculous." I would suggest that Slick try to learn from people who do this.
Slick: It ignores the reality that people categorize concepts anywhere in the range of total acceptance to total rejection.
Bethrick: Where does Slick establish the position that "people categorize concepts anywhere in the range of total acceptance to total rejection," and which people does he have in mind? Is he making a general statement which he thinks applies to all persons? If so, where's his homework? How does he prove this, and what relevance does it have to his intended conclusion?
Slick: It is our nature and it is the nature of the human mind.
Bethrick: This is precisely what I have just called Slick to prove. Again, where's his homework?
Clearly the objective which Slick had set before him in his "argument" (I use the term loosely) above, was this: first to establish that atheism is not simply a lack of belief, but a belief as such (i.e., a position, not merely a negation). This is the position which he hoped to validate in his paperI lack belief in a god. If he could successfully do this, he thinks he would be that much closer to characterizing atheism as entailing the assertive claim that "god does not exist" (which of course would be a grand leap assuming he could establish that atheism is more than simply the lack of a belief). If then he could claim justification for characterizing atheism as entailing the claim that "god does not exist," then he would take license to argue that atheism (so-construed) would necessarily be an invalid position, since, he would argue, one cannot prove a universal negative. If atheism entails the claim that there are no gods, but atheists cannot prove this to be the case, then, it is surmised, it would be irrational to be an atheist, which is his ultimate goal.
But he cannot even get his overall argument off the ground, for his attempt to show that a lack of belief is really a belief as such clearly fails. He seems to think that one must either believe the claim that something exists, or he must believe the contrary claim that it does not exist, which is a false dichotomy. Obviously these are not the only options open to people. In fact, many persons (myself included) are in the habit of discarding claims which are not accepted as legitimate knowledge of reality. Slick would have to show that this is impossible to do in order to establish the first rung of his ladder to characterizing atheism as necessarily entailing the claim that there are no gods. However, even if he could get a foothold on this first rung (which he clearly does not achieve), he would have to show that atheism entails the claim that there are no gods, which is a broad leap from this first rung.
Slick chooses this route to criticize atheism, because he clearly cannot deal with atheism as it really is. And while it may be the case that some atheists claim that they can prove without a doubt that no gods exist, Slick wants to vilify all atheists wholesale. Consequently, a straw man of atheism is thus needed to make his attack against it seem more solid and thus seem more justified. Sadly, Slick strikes out at every turn and only exposes his own ignorance on the matters in question. I invite him to enlighten himself by attempting to deal with the relevant issues more honestly, for this is clearly lacking in his approach.
Is my cat an atheist?
Slick: Animals lack belief in God.
Slick: Are they atheistic?
Bethrick: Broadly speaking, yes. If animals do not have a god-belief, then they are by definition atheist. Same with plants and rocks. Atheism is the absence of god-belief. Your cat has no god-belief. What's the problem?
Slick: Should we include atheists and infants and plants and rocks and water and air in the category of atheism since they too lack belief in God?
Bethrick: Any reason why I should not?
Slick: Of course not.
Bethrick: Why not?
Slick: It would be ridiculous to include animals in the category of atheists.
Bethrick: Okay, that's the position which you are now called to defend. Let's see how well you defend it.
Slick: I had a cat named "Punchface." (It?s a long story.) Punchface was a beautify cat with long white hair and powder blue eyes. He was very smart, even brilliant. He could play tag, fetch, play hide and seek, catch mice with Olympian skill, and enjoy an evening of watching Star Trek with me.
Bethrick: Sounds like a cute cat.
Slick: I would defend completely the fact that he had quite a personality.
Slick: As brilliant as my cat was, he lacked belief in God.
Slick: I could have sat him down, looked him in the eye and said, "Punch, there is something I have to talk to you about. It?s God. You see, God is the being that created the universe and everything in it, including you and me."
Bethrick: It's your time and energy. Discharge them as you choose.
Slick: Of course, after I would say this, Punch would probably be chasing a piece of air-born lint.
Bethrick: Perhaps. Again, sounds like a cute cat.
Slick: He had no concept whatsoever of God.
Slick: Does that mean my dear cat Punchface was an atheist?
Bethrick: Since I understand 'atheism' to mean "absence of god-belief," and your cat, as you yourself describe him, did not have a god-belief, then technically, I would say your cat was atheist. Indeed, I think the universe is atheist (since I don't think the totality of existence holds to a god-belief).
Slick: Of course not. He was only a cat, even if he is a brilliant one.
Bethrick: This is what you originally set out to prove. You've not presented any argument to this conclusion. Rather, you simply repeat your conclusion as if it followed from your description of your cat (which, in fact, included your own acknowledgement that your cat did not have a god-belief). Thus, you beg the question. Big strike here.
Slick: Nevertheless, the atheist will assert that the position of "lack of belief" relates only to sentient beings.
Bethrick: Which atheist asserted this, and what were his reasons for doing so? ("You gotta do your homework, Matt.")
Slick: This would be a necessary position given that cats cannot be atheistic; that is, they can't make a choice to accept or deny God's existence.
Bethrick: No. It could be that one holds that all beings, sentient and non-sentient, could be atheistic if they do not hold a god-belief. If that's the case, then the capacity to make a choice about accepting the claim that god-belief has rational merit is irrelevant. There's another strike.
Slick: Therefore, the atheist should amend his statement and say something like "As a person, I lack belief," or "I have decided to lack belief in God," or "Lacking belief in God is a position for sentient beings only."
Bethrick: I have no god-belief. Thus I am atheist. My friends' two cats have no god-beliefs either, thus they are, by definition, atheist. The moon has no god-belief, thus it too is atheist. Does Slick have a problem with this? If so, what exactly is that problem?
Slick: This would negate my cat as being included since to describe an atheistic position as simply "lacking belief" is too broad.
Bethrick: While it's clear that Slick wants his cat to be exempted from being subsumed by the scope of reference of the concept 'atheist', it is not clear why he wants this, nor is it clear how he thinks he has established this exemption to be the proper course of judgment on the matter. He has nowhere provided an argument to this end. Rather, he has merely made a few descriptive comments, and then (again!) simply repeats the conclusion he set out to prove. He did not prove it. Instead, he simply reasserted it with no inferred substantiation whatsoever. That's strike three. Slick, you're outa there!
So what is this position of "lack of belief" really about?
Slick: "Lack of belief" is really an attempt by atheists to avoid facing and defending the problems in their atheistic position.
Bethrick: My position is that god-belief is irrational. What problem afflicts this position, and how am I attempting "to avoid facing and defending" my position?
Slick: You see, if they say they have no position, by saying they lack belief, then their position is not open to attack and examination and they can quietly remain atheists.
Bethrick: Ah, so that's it. You want a target to attack. Well, you have it: my position is that god-belief is irrational. Deal with it (if you can).
Slick: The problem for atheists, however, is that atheism is coming under more serious attack by Christians and others who recognize its problems.
Bethrick: Atheism may be "under more serious attack by Christians" and other mystics who reject reason and rational philosophy, but this is no cause for alarm. Misrepresenting a particular atheist's views, for instance, is nothing new, and unfortunately the "attacks" which Christians and others who believe in invisible magic beings routinely show themselves to be gravely misinformed on issues of fundamental philosophical importance. That theists concern themselves with attacking atheists, to be sure, is quite revealing. Why are they not instead focusing on their own lives, and trying to improve their minds and their ability to achieve values in their lives? Clearly, they do not value their lives, since they've been taught that they should be willing to sacrifice them. This is not a problem for atheists, but for theists. Indeed, they should grow up instead of contemplating the meaning of "born again."
Slick: Without a doubt, there are far more people in the world who believe in God (or a god) than don?t
Bethrick: Irrelevant. The determination of truth is not a numbers racket. The fact is that most philosophies which have gained wide support throughout history are premised on the primacy of consciousness, a false view of reality which many common people find appealing because it plays up to their whims. It takes a rare individual, an individual of unborrowed intellect and courage to think rationally and objectively and to question the claims to authority which others have made. Does Slick think that jungle tribesmen who believe in all kinds of supreme beings have mastered the art of rational thinking? Indeed, the Christian religion is nothing more than a developed version of a jungle religion; their ideas are based on the same false view of reality, which is the idea that existence finds its source in a form of consciousness.
Slick: and more and more Christians are tackling atheism as an untenable position.
Bethrick: Given the state of public (and much private) education these days, this certainly does not surprise me. Adults today are in large part products of their childhood, which was likely inundated with unquestioned mystical influences, influences which still linger unexamined in their minds today as they invest years of their adulthood in seminary programs and philosophy courses all geared toward continuing the cycle of mental disintegration which they stated in their youth. Indeed, Slick's words, far from invoking fear, simply underscore the need for a rational philosophy, which religion not only cannot provide, but can only undermine and destroy. And the destruction of reason, which is the goal of religious philosophy, is no virtue.
Slick: After all, how does an atheist defend atheism? He can?t.
Bethrick: He doesn't need to. What is the threat against non-belief? Blank out.
Slick: He has to attack theism in its different forms.
Bethrick: Not if the atheist in question adopts a rational philosophy. If he does this, a given atheist will recognize that all forms of god-belief share a common root, namely the primacy of consciousness view of reality. We can know that this view of reality is false because a) it contradicts the primacy of existence view, which is true, b) it commits the fallacy of the stolen concept, and c) it necessarily leads to the fallacy of pure self-reference. From this basis, only more cognitive error can result.
Once this fact is recognized (namely, that all forms of god-belief are premised on this same fundamental), then one does not need "to attack theism in its different forms." Rather, all he needs to do is point out that all god-belief, regardless of its particular allegorical details, is irrational because it assumes a false view of reality. Those who do not accept this continue to think that their god-belief is right (an irrational position which they must accept on faith - i.e., they say it's true because they want it to be true, not because they can establish its claim to truth on the basis of reason), while those who do accept this truth (i.e., that god-belief is irrational because it assumes a false view of reality) are free to move on and adopt a rational philosophy and go on to live happy, productive and non-contradictory lives. This latter option is, of course, not open to those who reject it.
Slick: This is why atheists attack Christianity, the Bible, and other religious systems and try and invalidate them. That really is all they have to go on.
Bethrick: Again, Slick wants to assume the position that he knows the motivations and goals of all atheists who critique theistic beliefs. Indeed, since theism invalidates itself (since it assumes a false view of reality), a pro-reason atheist does not need to invalidate religious belief. Rather, all he does is point to the reasons why they invalidate themselves.
Maxim of the day: Those who adopt the view that they should turn the cheek when assaulted (cf. Matt. 5:39), disable the philosophical basis of their right to act in defense of their values, and those of their loved ones.
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