In September 2002, I wroteSlick's Fuss: A Review of CARM's "Is Atheism Viable?," which is my review of Matt Slick's short essay "Is Atheism Viable?" After my essay was originally published on CJ's Ammo Page in 2002, I notified Slick about the existence and location of my essay, and invited him to provide a link from the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry to my paper in order to give his readership something to discuss and debate. I also invited Slick to prepare a rebuttal, which at first he refused to do due to what he considered to be a "condescending and disrespectful" tone in my paper. Apparently this tone must not have been very condescending or disrespectful, for soon he did draft up and post his rebuttal to CARM's website on the page dedicated to "Atheism." The title of his rebuttal is Another response to criticism of "Is atheism viable?" (Apparently I'm not the only visitor to CARM.org's website to have noted this essay's deficiencies.) In the prefatory remarks to his rebuttal, Slick states that he has "left his typo's and grammar errors intact," and though I'm not sure what he was referring to, he clearly did the same in the case of his own remarks.
Much of the debate argued here in centers around the issue of whether or not atheism in general is properly defined as a position (e.g., "there are no gods"), or as a negation (e.g., "the absence of god-belief"). Slick clearly wants atheism to define itself as a position in the sense that it endorses the positive claim to knowledge about the existence of gods, namely that they do not exist. On the other hand, while recognizing that those who do make the claim that there are no gods indeed qualify as atheists (since they obviously do not believe in god), I have argued that such persons are only one of several species of atheist, and that the broad definition of the term is properly the lack of a belief. I have already responded to a paper by Slick devoted to arguing for his position in my essaySlick's Folly: A Review of CARM's "I lack belief in a god," and I await Slick's response should he choose to prepare one.
Moreover, Slick apparently thinks that a the choice not to accept a claim as legitimate knowledge can only be valid if it produces a proof that the arbitrary is arbitrary. In other words, Slick endorses the ruse that, if one cannot prove that there are no gods, then the atheist is not rationally justified in not believing that there are no gods because, as a result of failing to prove that there are no gods, atheism is not "viable" as he puts it. One only need replace the term 'god' - a notion to which Christians have an emotional (as opposed to intellectual) commitment - with any other nonsense term, to see how vacuous and superficial this defense is.
For instance, if atheism is not "viable" because atheists cannot prove that there is no god or gods, then a-Zeusism is also not "viable" because a-Zeusists cannot prove that there is no Zeus. Consequently, according to his own logic, Slick himself is unjustified for not believing in Zeus. This point has been made to Slick before, and he has not dealt with it. And unfortunately, this defense scheme is encountered over and over again in his rebuttal, which only proves that he is not willing to deal with the real issue at hand, which is that god-belief is irrational, a position the truth of which I make crystal clear in the following. Slick's determination to persist in this defense only reveals how arbitrary his faith in Christianity is, that this faith is emotion-based, not reason-based.
As I examine Slick's rebuttal, numerous other points also come to the fore which only serve to support this conclusion. For instance, Slick exhibits commitment to a false understanding of both reality and knowledge, yet he does not seem to recognize this. As a Christian, he clearly affirms the primacy of consciousness metaphysics, but most likely does not grasp what this means. In my analysis, I correct this error. Also, in regard to knowledge, Slick has clearly rejected the rational view of knowledge, having failed to take consistently into account the fact that knowledge is both contextual and hierarchical, and its standard can only be reason. Instead, Slick chooses as his ideal the notion of omniscience, a notion which denies both the contextual and hierarchical nature of knowledge. These points are made clear in the analysis which follows.
A word about the format
The indented text is text which is copied from Slick's rebuttalAnother response to criticism of "Is atheism viable?" The indented text in black are my original comments from Slick's Fuss: A Review of CARM's "Is Atheism Viable?." The portions of indented blue text are Slick's rebuttal comments. Authorship is clearly noted throughout the indented portions.
The portions of text which are not indented are my rebuttal comments which are newly published with this page.
In my essay Slick's Fuss: A Review of CARM's "Is Atheism Viable?" I wrote:
The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, or "CARM.org," has an entire section of their website devoted to responding to atheism. One of the site's articles is a short essay called Is Atheism Viable? by author Matt Slick. This essay gives the author's reasons for why he thinks atheism is wrong and indefensible. As is the case with many attempts to make mysticism seem rational, Slick's faulty conceptions leave a lot to be desired.
Mr. Bethrick implies that mysticism cannot not rational. Mysticism is a belief in realities or existences outside our perceptual and/or one's intellectual apprehension. This would include the idea that God exists. But, is it irrational to believe that there are things in existence beyond our apprehension? Of course not. Furthermore, he has not demonstrated why belief in God is not rational. He just states it is not rational. In so doing he commits the fallacy of begging the question; that is, he assumes the thing true he is trying to prove. He assumes atheism is true and labels theism as irrational mysticism. This is neither a competent nor logical assertion on his part.
Slick seems to have missed several points here.
For one, Slick's first statement here "Mr. Bethrick implies that mysticism cannot not rational," is incomplete and basically incoherent. This statement comes from the same person who exerted the effort to point out that he is leaving all of my "typo's and grammar errors intact."
If "mysticism" is "belief in realities or existences outside our perceptual and/or one's intellectual apprehension" [sic], by what means does one claim it as knowledge? Slick does not say, but seems to want to take it for granted that to do so is rationally justified, for he says asks "is it irrational to believe that there are things in existence beyond our apprehension?" He says "Of course not," but fails to recognize a crucial distinction between the recognition that there may be "things in existence beyond our apprehension," and the claim to have knowledge of those things, especially after admitting that they are "outside our perceptual? or? intellectual apprehension." Clearly it is not a means of reason by which he can know these things (since he's already cut reason out of the picture), so clearly the claim to such knowledge cannot, on Slick's own premises, be rational.
Next Slick complains that I have "not demonstrated why belief in God is not rational," when in fact the second footnote of my essay provides a link to an essay by CJ Holmes which does this for me. Slick seems unaware of what he's even saying. While Slick has copied the title of the link with the rest of my essay to his posting of it, he neglected to leave the hyperlink in tact, thus disabling his readers from accessing the essay in question to boot. When Slick says, "He just states that [mysticism] is not rational," he misses my original point. Indeed, in the paragraph to which he is reacting, I nowhere make the statement "mysticism is irrational." Rather, my comment is in regard to Slick's own attempts "to make mysticism seem rational." Slick seems to think I have begged the question. Yet this is an error of inference (perhaps Slick does not know this?), and I nowhere attempt to draw the conclusion that mysticism is irrational in the statement to which he has reacted. Indeed, I nowhere make the announcement that the purpose of my paper is to prove that atheism is true, which means that his statement "he assumes the thing true he is trying to prove" [sic] misses the point. Slick clearly disconnects himself from the content with which he pretends to interact multiple times in the first paragraph of his response. Let's see what else he had to say.
The title of Slick's essay asks the question "Is Atheism Viable?" What does it mean to be viable? Webster's Dictionary defines 'viable' as "capable of working, functioning, or developing adequately"; "capable of existence and development as an independent unit"; "having a reasonable chance of succeeding." Is atheism any one of these things?
Please notice that Mr. Bethrick does not even afford me the respect of calling me Mr. Slick. Instead, it is just "Slick." This is a personal preference, but when I address someone I criticize I try and show him the respect of calling him "Mr." as in Mr. Bethrick. But Mr. Bethrick mentions "Slick" 84 times by itself in his response, not once with Mr. in front of it. Nevertheless, the issue is not whether or not someone can believe in atheism. The issue is whether or not it is a defensible and logical position to hold.
Slick seems to take umbrage at the fact that I do not address him with the title "Mr." One can only wonder if Slick has ever read any scholarly literature. For titles are not the commonplace in such scholarship. One can take a cursory look at virtually any scholarly journal to see this. For instance, I went to the first article I saw onPhilo Online, which turned out to be Wes Morriston's Creation Ex Nihilo and the Big Bang. In one paragraph, Morriston writes:
In an article with the title, "Philosophical and Scientific Pointers to Creation ex Nihilo," Craig argues that the Big Bang theory entails creation ex nihilo. The "staggering implication" of what is known about the expansion of the universe, he says, is that "at some point in the past, the entire known universe was contracted down to a single point. . . ."5 As we go back in time, we reach "a point at which . . . the universe was ?shrunk down to nothing at all.?" And this, Craig insists, shows that the universe was created out of nothing.
In this paragraph, Morriston is interacting with statements made by Christian philosopher William Lane Craig, but refers to him simply as "Craig." Is Morriston then withholding respect to Craig by referring to him in this manner? Most likely, Slick will probably think so, since again the context is someone critiquing a mystic's position.
Slick complains that I have mentioned his name "84 times by itself in his response, not once with Mr. in front of it." Obviously it bothered him enough to do a count! On the contrary, Slick should be flattered that I took the time to respond to his apologetic morsel.
After harping on his hurt feelings, Slick then admits that "the issue is not whether or not someone can believe in atheism. The issue is whether or not it is a defensible and logical position to hold." Again, Slick misses the point, which I make very clear in the very next paragraph (!), that atheism is not a position, but a negation. Slick nowhere validates his assumption that atheism is a "position to hold," never mind whether it's logical or not! (But he does try? and fail? See mySlick's Folly: A Review of CARM's "I lack belief in a god".) Of course, he does this so that he can shirk his onus of proving his god-belief claims and validating his position that god-belief is rational. Slick misses the point that, if theists fail to validate their god-belief on rational grounds, then the absence of god-belief (i.e., atheism) is the only logical alternative to god-belief (for it is not logical to embrace that which is not rationally validated).
Since atheism is essentially a negation or negative condition, it is up to considerable debate whether atheism can be said to be "viable." One does not typically think of a negation as being "capable of working" or of developing "as an independent unit." But the essence of the Slick's question is clear: Is atheism the proper alternative to god-belief? As an atheist myself, I would answer with an emphatic yes to this question. This is, of course, because I think god-belief is irrational.
At least Mr. Bethrick is stating an opinion when he says that he "thinks" belief in God is irrational. If had stated it was irrational without logical support, he would be offering nothing but opinion in the place of fact. This is, to be sure, what many atheists accuse Christians of doing in believing in God.
Slick is clearly desperate for any reason, no matter how feebleminded, to dismiss criticism against his confessional investments. By characterizing my position as "an opinion," Slick attempts to take a sigh of relief. Since I only think that god-belief is irrational, he apparently wants to dichotomize this from the position that I know that god-belief is irrational (a dichotomy he obviously intends here, but nowhere validates), even though I provided a link (in footnote 2) to an essay which accomplishes a full validation of this position already! The URL of that essay (by CJ Holmes) is:
I don't suppose we'll have Slick's response to the arguments which are presented in Holmes' paper.
Slick states that, "In discussions with atheists, I don't hear any evidence for the validity of atheism." But what would Slick consider to be "evidence for the validity of atheism"? As he acknowledges in the opening of his essay, he is essentially asking for evidence for the validity of a negation. But a negation is necessarily valid, epistemologically, in the absence of evidence or convincing argument for the positive. To illustrate, consider the example of the Greek god Zeus. Let us call "Zeusism" the belief that Zeus exists and that he is the supreme being. Let the term "aZeusism" mean the absence of such a belief. Clearly, the term "aZeusism" is a negation, just as the term 'atheism' is: it is the absence of a particular kind of belief. Does Slick hold to Zeusism, or to aZeusism? I would wager that he is an aZeusist, i.e., one who has no Zeus-belief. But what would one consider to be evidence for the validity of aZeusism? If Slick is an aZeusist, he would have to present such evidence if he wants to be consistent with his expectation that atheists should present "evidence for the validity of atheism." I don't suppose we should hold our breath.
Mr. Bethrick's defense here is basically worthless. He states that the "absence of evidence or convincing argument for the positive" is what makes atheism viable. But this is nothing more than a statement centered around subjectivity; namely, his subjective atheistic presupposition. Mr. Bethrick's atheistic presupposition does not allow him to view theistic arguments with any serious acumen because he has already stated he believes that theism is irrational. Therefore, by default, any argument proposed for the existence of God must be, according to his presupposition, irrational and invalid from the beginning. Mr. Bethrick has effectively cut off any true and convincing dialogue on the existence of God and forced all logic and evidence to fit into his subjective mental box or else it is irrational. This is not the method of serious intellectual inquiry. For more information on this, please readI don't see any convincing evidence for the existence of God.
Slick seems to think that an "absence of evidence or convincing argument for the positive" is "a statement centered around subjectivity." Yet it is not clear what he means by this, since he nowhere identifies what he means by 'subjectivity', nor does he show how my point qualifies as such. Rather, he simply drops the charge and runs, crediting it to what he calls my "subjective atheistic presupposition," which he nowhere identifies. Rather than justify this charge, he merely asserts that this "subjective atheistic presupposition" is somewhere present and that it "does not allow [me] to view theistic arguments with any serious acumen because he has already stated that he believes that theism is irrational." That's odd. If it has been shown that god-belief is irrational (and it has - see CJ Holmes' essay linked above), why would I think otherwise? Slick's error here is obvious: He wants to characterize as a "presupposition" what he should recognize as a verdict substantiated by sound argument, an argument which he nowhere shows the willingness to engage (or even let his readers examine).
Slick then characterizes my position as stating, "by default, any argument proposed for the existence of God must be, according to his presupposition, irrational and invalid from the beginning." But if the belief that there are gods in existence is predicated upon the primacy of consciousness view of reality (and it is, as Holmes and other thinkers have clearly shown), then obviously any attempt to validate it will itself be invalid. Slick's error here, however, is that he wants to characterize this position as a matter of a priori default, as if it were my starting point. However, he nowhere shows this to be the case; rather, he simply makes the charge that this is the case, and then flees into rhetoric intended to dismiss my points, stating at the outset that "Mr. Bethrick's defense here is basically worthless," and leaves it at that. Perhaps he chooses this route because he cannot address the points which I made in the paragraph to which he reacts, since I find it doubtful that he believes in Zeus. Indeed, if Slick does not believe in Zeus, why does he not provide evidence for Zeus' non-existence? After all, that is what he demands from atheists.
As for Slick's paperI don't see any convincing evidence for the existence of God, I have already responded to it. See Slick's Foolery: A Review of CARM's "I don?t' see any convincing evidence for the existence of God" [sic].
The expectation that non-believers present "evidence for the validity of atheism" is symptomatic of the intention to evade the onus of proving one's existentially positive claims. If Slick claims that a god exists and he expects others to accept this claim as truth, then he would have to support this claim. Clearly the default is not belief, but non-belief. Pining as Slick does that he doesn't "hear any evidence for the validity of atheism" simply misses the point.
Mr. Bethrick misses the point. Elsewhere on CARM I present evidences for God's existence. Some of it is on the atheism section which, if he had read more thoroughly, would negate his statement here about proving God's existence. But, I never maintain that I can prove God exists. Instead, I have offered various evidences for God's existence. But since Mr. Bethrick's presupposition is that God does not exist, any evidence I offer will be, by default, insufficient and my argumentation must also be suspect and irrational.
Now Slick wants the very consideration which so far he has denied to me: he states, "Elsewhere on CARM I present evidences for God's existence." Apparently he seems to think that my point that the "expectation that non-believers present 'evidence for the validity of atheism' is symptomatic of the intention to evade the onus of proving one's existentially positive claims," as such "misses he point." Perhaps a case could be made for this, but he does not present one. And to boot, where his essay "Is Atheism Viable?" does not even provide a link to any articles which indicate what these alleged "evidences for God's existence," while my essay does provide a link to an essay which proves that god-belief is invalid (a link which he neglected to import when he copied my essay to his website for the purpose of his rebuttal), it seems then that his own criticism here ("misses the point") goes doubly against him.
Clearly Slick does not recognize this, and proceeds to special plead his case that "if [I] had read more thoroughly, [his material] would negate his statement here about proving God's existence." Slick clearly assumes here that I have not examined his articles which he thinks provide "evidences? proving God's existence," yet nowhere even attempts to validate this assumption. So far as he knows, it may be the case that I reviewed some or all of the articles he has in mind, and found them to be unconvincing. Nothing Slick says here either a) shows that he's even aware of this possibility, let alone b) rules this possibility out.
In spite of his fussing about me supposedly missing the point, Slick then goes on to admit that "I never maintain that I can prove God exists." What, then, we must ask, is Slick's fuss to begin with? If he cannot prove X (e.g., "God exists!"), why would he consider non-acceptance of the claim that X is true, to be a problem? He seems cognizant of the fact that such a claim is unprovable and arbitrary, yet he is tortured by the fact that some people do not accept it as truth.
Slick then says that my "presupposition is that God does not exist," even though he can nowhere find where I make this claim. Here again he misses the grand point, which is that I hold that god-belief is irrational. Slick wants to equate this position with the claim "God does not exist" and then intimate (by labeling it a "presupposition") that this is the result of unjustified bias. Indeed, had he taken the time to read the essay by Holmes, to which I provided a link in footnote 2 of my review of his essay against atheism, Slick might recognize the uniqueness of my position: since god-belief assumes an invalid view of reality (known as the primacy of consciousness) - a fact which he seems unaware of - any argument proposed to validate god-belief amounts to an attempt to validate an invalid view of reality, which of course is irrational. That which is invalid by nature simply cannot be validated, no matter how much theists want it to be validated. Wishing doesn't make it so, that is why god-belief is invalid. It seems Slick should take his own advice and do a little more reading himself! It might help him avoid more embarrassment.
Mr. Bethrick again assumes too much. He says, "Clearly the default is not belief, but non-belief." This is again nothing more than guesswork. What "default" is he speaking about? If he means that babies are born without belief in God, that is nothing more than a guess. How does he know what is or is not in the mind of a baby? If we define belief as a cognitive assent, then babies don't believe in God since they do not (we assume) cognitively assent that God exists. But if we define belief as the presupposition that God exists due to some innate quality in a person, then the baby does believe in God. It depends on definition and since Mr. Bethrick has not been specific here, we cannot be sure what he means. Also, we cannot know the mind of infants, so we cannot authoritatively state which is the case.
Slick seems to think that my statement ("Clearly the default is not belief, but non-belief") "assumes too much." Precisely what excess does this statement assume? Slick does not say. He then says that this position is "nothing more than guesswork," and does not seem to recognize the point I am trying to make (which he attempts to dismiss by claiming it "assumes too much"). Here Slick exposes his reluctance to rely on rational principle. Is he intimating that he believes everything that is told to him indiscriminately? If I told Slick that I saw a cow jump over the moon, would he believe it? Does Slick think that belief (rather than non-belief) is the default? Well, after all, he's the one who believes that resurrected zombies rose out of their graves in 1st century Jerusalem and "showed themselves unto many" (Matt. 27:52-53), even though it is curious what he would consider a rational justification of such a belief.
Slick states, "If he means that babies are born without belief in God, that is nothing more than a guess." How does he know this? Indeed, he nowhere substantiates his claim that this position could be "nothing more than a guess." Slick then asks "How does he know what is or is not in the mind of a baby?" yet I have not made any statement to the affect that I do know "what is or is not in the mind of a baby" (or even that what the baby possesses can be said to be a mind). These are all Slick's assumptions grabbed up out of desperation to rationalize his dismissal of my points of criticism, criticism which he nowhere takes on directly, and with which he seems quite unprepared to interact (which is why he seeks to dismiss them in the first place).
Slick then attempts to reason his way out of his own dilemma as follows:
If we define belief as a cognitive assent, then babies don't believe in God since they do not (we assume) cognitively assent that God exists. But if we define belief as the presupposition that God exists due to some innate quality in a person, then the baby does believe in God. It depends on definition and since Mr. Bethrick has not been specific here, we cannot be sure what he means.
Of course, it is the case that I have not been minutely specific on the matter of what I mean by the term 'belief' (and consequently by the term 'non-belief'). Indeed, it is for reasons such as this that interaction is so vital to the development of a position, and I am grateful to Slick for seizing on this part of the debate. While I have no idea what could be meant by "the presupposition that God exists due to some innate quality in a person" (a most vague idea if I've ever heard of one), I don't see any problem with loosely equating belief with "cognitive assent," which, to me, implies a conceptual process ("cognitive") in which one volitionally accepts a claim as true given the hierarchical context on which it stands ("assent"). And I see no evidence of this going on among infants, as Slick seems to agree. Thus, I could not accept either the view that babies are somehow in possession of "the presupposition that God exists due to some innate quality in a person," or that in any case babies are born with the belief that there is a god. But even if one could show that babies are born with such a belief, either "due to some innate quality in a person" or because of some other, unknown phenomenon, this alone would not be sufficient to prove that the claim that there is a god is true. Something is not true by virtue of the fact that people believe it!
Slick then says that "we cannot know the mind of infants," so we cannot authoritatively state which is the case." But how does he establish that "we cannot know the mind of infants"? Perhaps there is an article on the CARM.org site which makes this case? If so, I have not found it. It seems to be another universal negative premise recruited in defense of a position of ignorance which he wants to promote in defense of his god-belief. If ignorance is what his god-belief stands on (and I'm certainly willing to concede this point to Slick), then he is free to claim ignorance for his side all he desires.
Slick then contests,
Finally, I am not "pining." His use of the word means that I am nostalgic, or have a lingering desire. But, desire for what? God? I do not "pine" for God's existence. There is no nostalgia involved in this.
Again, look at my statement which provoked Slick's reaction here. I had written, "Pining as Slick does that he doesn't 'hear any evidence for the validity of atheism' simply misses the point.
Now let's look at the term 'pine'. My dictionary defines this term as "to yearn intensely and persistently esp. for something unattainable."
Given the statement I had made, it should be clear that the thing for which Slick yearns intensely and persistently" is "evidence for atheism," which he repeatedly calls for in his essay. Given my points of correction thus far, it should be clear that evidence is the wrong thing to ask for in the case of atheism. Indeed, since atheism is not a belief, but the absence of a particular kind of belief, atheism is the proper alternative to religious belief, since religious beliefs lack evidences. As Slick himself conceded at the outset of his rebuttal to my criticism of his attack against atheism, "Mysticism is a belief in realities or existences outside our perceptual and/or one's intellectual apprehension. This would include the idea that God exists." Something which is "outside our perceptual and/or intellectual apprehension," is clearly something for which it is conceded no evidence exists. Religionists claim that all manner of gods exist, yet none can produce evidence for the existence of their own gods at the exclusion of other gods.
Slick then states,
I simply believe that God exists and that the Christian revelation of God is the only correct one. I would prefer that Mr. Bethrick stick to the issues instead of trying to play the mind-reader and disclose to the world what he thinks are my motives and emotions concerning God. To further commit such errors of argumentation is a demonstration of a clouded judgment on his behalf.
Indeed, a simplistic view of the world for the simpleminded, that is about the extent of the putative suitability of god-belief. Slick seems to think I fancy myself to be a "mind-reader," when it is not I who claims omniscience for myself (indeed, that is what religionists claim for their side of such debates). As to Slick's motives, it is obvious what they are: to vilify non-belief as such in an effort to evade the criticism of those who do not share Slick's god-belief. As for "errors of argumentation," I'm still waiting for him to find one among the many points I have made so far in my review of his short essay against atheism.
However, Slick does give some indication of what he would consider to be "evidence for the validity of atheism" when he states, "There are no 'proofs' that God does not exist." Of course, this is the expectation that one prove a negative, an onus which non-believers do not bear. To illustrate, how does Slick prove his claim that "There are no 'proofs' that God does not exist"? This is a negative claim, but where's the proof? Does Slick special plead his case, assuming that he has no onus to prove that "There are no 'proofs' that God does not exist" while those who do not believe the claim that there is a god must "prove" that god does not exist? How does Slick know that "There are no 'proofs' that God does not exist," and how does he show this claim to be true?
As I said earlier, my evidence for God is elsewhere on CARM and a section is devoted to it on the atheism section -- which Mr. Bethrick, apparently, has not chosen to examine or mention.
How does this prove the claim that "there are no 'proofs' that God does not exist"? This is the claim which Slick makes in his original paper, yet does not validate. In fact, Slick was kind of enough to include that original paragraph in his rebuttal to my critique. Let's review it again:
"In discussions with atheists, I don't hear any evidence for the validity of atheism. There are no "proofs" that God does not exist. Of course, that isn?t to say that atheists haven?t attempted to offer some. But their attempted proofs are invariably insufficient. After all, how do you prove there is no God in the universe? Besides, if there were a proof of God?s non-existence, then atheists would be continually using it. But we don?t hear of any such commonly held proof supporting atheism or denying God?s existence. The atheist position is very difficult, if not impossible, to prove since it is an attempt to prove a negative. Therefore, since there are no proofs for atheism?s truth and there are no proofs that there is no God, the atheist must hold his position by faith."
Slick then makes the following correction of his original statement:
I make one clarifying comment here. To say "there are no proofs of God's existence" is not completely logical since I cannot know all proofs that might exist. I could really only state that so far I have not seen any sufficient proof for God's non-existence.
This is a delight to see: Slick here shows some willingness to learn from others, even though he disagrees fundamentally with their outlook on reality and life (even though he mistyped what he intended to say - it appears that he intended to say "there are no proofs of God's non-existence" - but either way his point concedes to my favor). I see this as a positive step forward for Slick. And he's right - the best he can really say is that "so far I have not seen any sufficient proof for God's non-existence," which corrects his earlier universal negative claim "there are not proofs that there is no God."
Yet still there is call for concern here. Slick still seems to assume a) that it is possible to prove a negative claim, and b) that such a proof would be necessary in the context of the claim that there is a god in order to justify non-belief in the existence of a god. So far, Slick does not seem to be aware that these assumptions are lurking in his position, and he nowhere shows these assumptions to be rationally plausible.
Since the concept 'proof' presupposes the concept 'evidence' (which may be either perceptual or conceptual in nature), and since the concept 'evidence' applies only to that which exists (we do not look for evidence for that which does not exist, for that would be a stolen concept), it is proper to call for proof only in regard to positive claims with respect to existential claims. In other words, if someone says that X exists, then he is rightly called to prove this claim by means of either perceptual or conceptual evidence which ultimately reduces to perceptual evidence. But if someone says, "You haven't proven that X exists, and I have no knowledge of any evidence, perceptual or conceptual, which could possibly serve to validate the claim that X exists, I cannot accept it as legitimately validated knowledge," he does not bear any onus to prove that X does not exist, for he was not the initiator of the existential claim in the first place. He is in full epistemological rights to say to those who claim that X exists, but fail to validate it, "Whatever!" and leave it at that; he is also right to point out why he does not accept the claim that X exists in the case of existential claims of an extraordinary or controversial nature, and one of those reasons would be to emphasize that he is under no obligation to present a proof that X does not exist. Again, these are epistemological principles which find their source in Rational philosophy, not in mysticism, where claims are taken on faith, not on reason.
Slick then makes the following qualification:
But, in the paragraph above, the context is dealing with the conversations I've had with atheists where I "don't hear any evidence for the validity of atheism." It is that context that I have said there are no proofs for God's non-existence.
Even if it is the case that "the context [of the universal negative claim "there are no proofs that there is no God"] is dealing with the conversations I've had with atheists where I 'don't hear any evidence for the validity of atheism," then clearly (again!) the claim that "there are no proofs that there is no God" is unjustified. For the context on which Slick wants to base this claim clearly does not support it.
Slick then gives evidence that he still misses the point when he asks:
Furthermore, how do you prove that in all places and in all times and in all dimensions, God doesn't exist? In order to do that, you'd have to be God to know all things to know there isn't a God, which is not logical. Nevertheless, I have since modified the paragraph in the original paper to make the point more clear.
One does not have to prove that the non-existent does not exist. By definition, the non-existent does not exist, and one does not require a proof to show this. To ask for a proof that the non-existent does not exist is an arbitrary request.
Also, one can replace Slick's "God" with any other arbitrary term (such as Geusha, the supreme being of the Lahu tribesmen of northern Thailand) to show how arbitrary Slick's position is by way of substitutionary parallelism:
Furthermore, how do you prove that in all places and in all times and in all dimensions, Guesha doesn't exist? In order to do that, you'd have to be Geusha to know all things to know there isn't a Geusha, which is not logical.
Does Slick believe that Geusha exists? It may be the case that Slick has never even heard of Geusha before, so it is likely the case that he has no Geusha-belief. And yet he has no Geusha-belief, but where's his proof that Geusha does not exist? Can it be the case that Slick is rationally justified in not believing the claim that Geusha exists, even though he has not provided a proof demonstrating that Geusha does not exist? This is a question which Slick needs to consider honestly, otherwise he will have to admit that his own criticism applies just as appropriately to himself as he thinks it applies to those who do not share his belief in the Christian god.
And besides, what does not seem to register with Slick, is the fact that I do not claim to have a proof that there are no gods. Again, as I have stated throughout, I have no god-belief. Slick is the one who claims that there is a god, not I. I simply point out that I have no god-belief, not that there are no gods. Slick clearly disregards this fundamental distinction in his desperate attempt to vilify atheism.
The irony of Slick's predicament, however, does not stop here. For even Slick, after announcing that "attempted proofs [that God does not exist] are invariably insufficient," asks, "how do you prove there is no God in the universe?" (I thought Christians believed that God exists "beyond" the universe?) Does Slick think that "a proof of God's non-existence" is necessary for atheism to be the proper response to theism? If so, why does he think this? Apparently, Slick thinks that god-belief - indeed, his god-belief - is true until proven false. It seems that he thinks a proof for God's existence is not necessary. One does not need a reason to believe; rather, one needs a reason not to believe. How consistently would Slick apply such a reversal of rational principle?
Mr. Bethrick misses the point and offers a distraction instead of addressing the issue. I asked "how do you prove there is no God in the universe?" Instead of addressing that question, he offers a non-sequitor by stating (I thought Christians believed that God exists "beyond" the universe?).
Slick accuses me of missing the point, but seems wholly unaware of where he is guilty of his own charge here. He seems to think that I am evading an issue by pointing out that I do not need to prove the non-existence of a god in order to be justified in not believing one exists. As we saw above, I also do not believe that Geusha, the supreme being of the Lahu tribesmen of northern Thailand, exists, yet readers should not expect me to provide proofs to the effect that this supreme being does not exist. And, as I surmised above, I would not be surprised if Slick himself does not believe that Geusha exists, yet I have not found any proofs anywhere on his website which argue to the conclusion that Geusha does not exist.
The point is, Slick clearly wants to special plead his god-belief. In other words, he holds to a double standard: while he thinks atheists are unjustified in not believing that the Christian god exists because they do not offer proofs for its non-existence, Slick himself lacks certain beliefs, just as atheists lack god-belief, but nowhere does he prove the universal negative claims that such things as Geusha or Allah et al. do not exist. This is known in logic as special pleading, an informal fallacy invalidating his epistemological ambitions here.
My parenthetical note that "I thought Christians believed that God exists 'beyond' the universe?" was intended to be ironic as well as attendant to a valid point. Christians have often told me that their god exists outside the universe. This would mean that god does not exist within the universe. And here Slick wants to challenge atheists to "prove [that] there is no God in the universe." But if Christians do not believe that god exists within the universe to begin with, why would they require that someone "prove [that] there is no God in the universe"? Slick seems to think that this parenthetical aside is a "non-sequitor" [sic], even though it was not offered as an inference to prior reasoning. Thus, his accusation of fallacy here fails.
Slick then makes the following recommendation:
It seems Mr. Bethrick needs to adjust his thinking since we Christians believe that God is also in the universe as well as outside of it. He is, after all, omnipresent. Mr. Bethrick then goes on to raise issues which are constructed upon his erring premise.
If it is the case that "we Christians believe that God is also in the universe as well as outside of it," then I would suggest that it is not I who "needs to adjust his thinking," since it is not my claim that a god exists in the first place, whether within, outside or within and outside the universe. Instead, I would suggest that Christians need to hold council in order to hash this one out, since it is from other Christians (Slick is not the only one, and it is notoriously true that there are exceedingly numerous points on which various Christians sharply disagree), that I have fielded this claim "that God exists 'beyond' the universe." As I made clear in my parenthetical note, this is what I thought, and this thought is based on Christian testimony. If Slick thinks it is wrong, he shouldn't blame me, for I am not the author of the idea in the first place (again, I'm not the one who is claiming that a god exists in the first place - Slick seems to drop context rather carelessly).
But let's look at the idea which Slick does endorse: "that God is also in the universe as well as outside of it." What could it possibly mean to be "outside the universe"? Slick does not indicate. Rather, he allows this idea to stand without substantiation as if it were self-evidently true. Indeed, Slick nowhere states what he means by 'universe', which is essential to the meaning of the position he wants to endorse here. The universe is the totality of that which exists. This definition is supported by both the corpus of Objectivist philosophical literature (i.e., the Philosophy of Reason) as well as the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which defines 'universe' as "the whole body of things and phenomena observed or postulated." Christians postulate the existence of a god. According to this definition, if such a thing exists, it would clearly have to exist within the universe, since, as a member of the class "things which exist" it necessarily is part of the totality of that which exists. To assert the idea of "outside the universe" disregards this fact, and thus commits the fallacy of context-dropping (consequently invalidating it). To assert that something exists implies the totality of everything which exists, entities both known and unknown, and by virtue of this fact it must exist within the universe (since by definition, there is no such thing as "outside the universe"). To say then, as Slick says Christians do, that "God is also in the universe as well as outside of it" (a claim which Christians do not prove, mind you - rather, they simply assert it), is essentially to say that god both exists and does not exist. Such duplicity of mind, if taken seriously and followed to its logical conclusion, will necessarily result in a form of schizophrenia known as religious fanaticism.
Slick then states:
He asks several questions about what I might be thinking and then tries to address the straw man answers he's constructed.. Again, Mr. Bethrick should leave the mind-reading and guess-work out of this discussion, adopt a more logical approach, and stick to the issue at hand.
He is reacting to the following statement which I made in my original critique:
Apparently, Slick thinks that god-belief - indeed, his god-belief - is true until proven false. It seems that he thinks a proof for God's existence is not necessary. One does not need a reason to believe; rather, one needs a reason not to believe. How consistently would Slick apply such a reversal of rational principle?
And I stand by this intimation, namely that "Apparently, Slick thinks that god-belief - indeed, his god-belief - is true until proven false," for he still insists that atheists prove that his god does not exist. If we go by the law of the excluded middle, there is no legitimate position between god-belief and atheism: either you believe it, or you don't. Discussion of agnosticism, as some would clearly be wont to do here, would not validate a third position. Agnosticism is the position that no certainty is possible on the claim that a god exists. But this says nothing about whether the agnostic believes that god exists or not. While it is the case that the agnostic holds that rationally justifiable certainty on the question of the existence of gods is not possible, he may believe that there is a god, or he may not believe it. I have met agnostics of both persuasions, but I have never met an agnostic who has found some middle ground between believe and absence thereof. Indeed, the proof is in their actions, not in their words, for it is their actions which tell us what people really believe.
Since I am persuaded to hold that there are only two positions possible - belief or absence thereof - and since Slick seems to think that one must prove that there are no gods in order to be rationally justified in not holding a god-belief, it must be the case, then, that Slick things that his god-belief is true until proven false and that a proof for god's existence is simply not necessary.
Slick seems to think that this inference leads to straw-manning his position, yet I have read nothing either in his original essay, or in his reactions to my criticism of it, which could at all hopefully secure this accusation. Therefore, it should be clear given my substantiation of my position, that it prevails against his unsupported protestations.
Slick continues: "Besides, if there were a proof of God's non-existence, then atheists would be continually using it." This would only be true if the atheists in question a) knew about the supposed proof, and, perhaps, b) considered the proof to be consistent with their own worldview outlook. However, as indicated above, a proof of the non-existence of something is certainly not warranted simply because someone makes the claim that the something in question exists. One does not inherit an obligation simply because another presents a claim.
It is the atheists who claim atheism is valid.
Which atheists are those who make this claim? Slick does not indicate, but seems to intend that this statement applies generally to all atheists.
Why is the atheist not able to prove his position or offer evidence for its validity? He can't. That is why Mr. Bethrick is trying to shift the onus of proof onto me by trying to get me to prove God exists. I may not be able to prove God exists, but I do have evidence (as given on CARM). It is up to Mr. Bethrick if he wants to examine it or not. But given his atheistic presupposition, I am sure that all such evidences would be insufficient.
Again, Slick misses the point, which is: Evidence is the wrong thing to ask for in the case of atheism. Atheism is not a positive belief; it is simply the absence of a certain kind of belief (namely, the absence of god-belief). Because this is the case, the challenge to substantiate one's atheism with evidence, is invalid (since it misses the point!).
Slick then accuses me of trying to wriggle out of what he considers to be my onus of proof, even though I have made no claim which needs to be defended. My claim is that I have no god-belief. I'm sure he is quite willing to take my word for the fact that I am atheist. If not, that is another matter. For if he disputes this, he would simply have to observe my choices and actions in life to note that they are not congruent with the belief in invisible magic beings. Yet, I doubt he is about to make such an investment, and I wouldn't blame him.
But clearly Slick resents being held to the onus of proving his claim that a god exists, which only goes to support one my prior points (namely that "It seems that he thinks a proof for God's existence is not necessary").
He then repeats his admission that he "may not be able to prove [that] God exists," which wholly concedes the debate to my side! But then he does say that he has "evidence (as given on CARM)," and that it is up to me "to examine it or not." And suppose I do examine this "evidence (as given on CARM)," yet still I am not persuaded? Humorously, Slick builds a psychological defense mechanism against this possibility into his position by announcing "given his atheistic presupposition, I am sure that all such evidences would be insufficient." This way, if I am not persuaded by the "evidences (as given on CARM)," he can take faith-protecting shelter in the pretended solace offered by the belief that my atheism is a consequence of hardhearted bias, even though he explicitly concedes that he "may not be able to prove [that] God exists"!
Slick then states:
The problem for Mr. Bethrick is, as I have stated before, that atheism can only survive in a theistic vacuum. It only exists in the minds of atheists who claim a position that is, as far as I can tell, logically unprovable.
Slick's statement here has hope in its structure, but only hopelessness in its content. To rectify it, I would suggest the following corrections (which appear in bold):
The problem for Slick is, as I have stated before, that god-belief can only survive in a rational vacuum. God only exists in the minds of theists who claim a position that is, as far as I can tell - and as Slick himself admits, logically unprovable.
Slick then goes on to state:
I do not see how anyone could prove there is no God in all the universe since we cannot know all things about all places in all times about the universe in order to determine that there is no God. If there is some other way of proof, i.e., logic, then let's see it. But until then, I am "atheistic" about atheistic proofs for God's non-existence and will stick to the evidence supporting the reality of God.
Slick demonstrates here that he either has not read anything I stated in my criticism, or simply does not care to incorporate it into his reasoning. For here again, we have him expecting the non-believer to present a proof that there are no gods, when in fact this has been shown repeatedly to be an invalid challenge, and indeed Slick himself nowhere attempts to validate such a challenge (for it would only backfire on himself if he were to try this). Slick seems to be ignorant of the fact that proof applies to that which exists, not to that which does not exist. Beyond this, and even more importantly, he demonstrates no awareness for the issue of metaphysical primacy and the need to address this issue at the outset of one's cognition. For clearly Slick has settled for the primacy of consciousness view of reality, on which his god-belief depends, and which he affirms by holding to the view that a god exists. A comprehensive exposé of this has been prepared and published by Anton Thorn on the "Objectivist Atheology" website. The URL to his unassailable Argument from Existence is given below:
Clearly, the only reasonable conclusion to draw, given the fact that Slick himself concedes that he cannot prove that a god exists, is a) that Slick claims that a god exists because he wants one to exist (which is the nature of faith), and b) that his emotional life is so deeply invested into this desire, that he will latch onto the most desperate evasions and reversals in order to defend against criticism. Nothing he states in either his original essay, or in his response to my criticism so far, has called this conclusion into question.
Slick then stated:
Again, Mr. Bethrick is not addressing the real issue. He is attempting to shift the topic to theistic proofs. This is only a demonstration of the validity of my premise that atheism exists in a theistic vacuum which it must construct by presupposing God does not exist and then negating all proposed theistic proofs.
Actually, to point out that Slick is incapable of presenting a proof of the existence of a god - an incapacity which he has conceded at least two times so far in his rebuttal - is not a shift from a legitimate topic of this discussion, to one which is outside it. The point which Slick seems to ignore is that, if he wants me to accept his god-belief, then he will have to honor his onus of presenting a proof for this claim, since it is his desire that I accept his claim. Failing to provide such a proof, he is not justified in saying I am not justified in my lack of such belief.
Does this at all demonstrate "the validity of [Slick's] premise that atheism exists in a theistic vacuum which it must construct by presupposing [that] God does not exist and then negating all proposed theistic proofs"? Clearly, if he wants to demonstrate what he takes to be the validity of this position, he will have to do more than merely assert it, which is all that he's done so far. Indeed, what precisely does he mean by "theistic vacuum"? Before he can claim validity for this premise, he should explain what this means. If by "theistic vacuum," one means "vacuum of theistic belief," how is this different from an absence of god-belief? Slick does not say. And how does Slick validate the intimation, clearly implicit in his statement here, that all atheists somehow need to "construct" this "theistic vacuum" (whatever he means by this) "by presupposing [that] God does not exist and then negating all proposed theistic proofs"? Is Slick saying here that one is still not justified in not believing that a god exists if, after a review of all known arguments for the existence of a god, he finds that those arguments are flawed? If so, then I would point to this attitude on Slick's part - if indeed it is his attitude - that he holds to god-belief because he wants a god to exist, not because he genuinely thinks it is a rational idea.
But, since there are no known atheistic proofs, atheism is not a viable option. It is only a belief system; that is, a belief system which states there is no God -- orlacks belief in God.
How does Slick know that "there are no known atheistic proofs"? Again, as I asked in my initial critique of Slick's essay "Is Atheism Viable?" - what would Slick consider to be a valid "atheistic proof"? He seems unconscious of his own words on the subject, forearlier we saw him recant his own statement (from "Is Atheism Viable?") to the effect that "there are no proofs that a God does not exist," yet here we find him reissuing the same claim again!
Furthermore, since sound arguments have been provided to the conclusion that god-belief is irrational, atheism is consequently shown to be the only proper alternative to god-belief. Again, those arguments can be found at the following web addresses:
The Argument from Existence, by Anton Thorn:
Why God-Belief is Irrational, by CJ Holmes:
Slick needs to do his homework here, for clearly his position fails to take many issues into account (such as, for instance, the nature of atheism as the absence of a belief rather than a "belief system"). Even his own statement that atheism entails the lack of belief in a god, is inconsistent with his assumption that atheism is a "belief system."
Slick himself acknowledges the problematic nature of his expectations when he states, "The atheist position is very difficult, if not impossible, to prove since it is an attempt to prove a negative." If it is the case that it "is very difficult, if not impossible, to prove? a negative," then what exactly is Slick's fuss? And, furthermore, if perchance an atheist were to present a proof that god-belief is irrational, would Slick accept it and abandon his god-belief? Again, I am not supposing that we should hold our breath. Reason as such does not seem to be his epistemological absolute. Instead, a commitment to a primitive worldview, complete with invisible magic beings, is what he considers to be non-negotiable. Reason is dispensable when it gets in the way: he has no onus of proving his positive claims, but those who do not accept his claims bear an onus of disproving those claims. Where is this man's confidence?
Slick responded with the following:
First of all, Mr. Bethrick has admitted his difficult position of substantiating atheism by saying, "Slick himself acknowledges the problematic nature of his expectations when he states, 'The atheist position is very difficult, if not impossible, to prove since it is an attempt to prove a negative.'" Exactly correct.
For one thing, how does this constitute an admission that substantiating atheism is difficult? Slick blanks out on the fact that my comment about positional difficulty pertains to his expectations, not to the atheist. Slick apparently does not see how his own expectations are undermined by his own admissions.
Clearly Slick does not want to admit that it is far from difficult to prove that god-belief is irrational. For instance, one can point to all the points of incoherence which suffocate the conception of the Christian god, as Dr. Theodore Drange does in hisIncompatible Properties Arguments: A Survey
The URL for this essay is given below:
Additionally, one could point out that Christian theism as such is literally absurd, as Prof. Michael Martin does in his essayIs Christianity Absurd?
The URL for this essay is given below:
Or, one could point out that the claim that god, supposing it exists, could not value, contrary to what Christians uncritically repeat about their god, given the attributes which they ascribe to their god. See particularly Anton Thorn'sWhy an Immortal God Cannot Value.
The URL for this essay is given below:
Moreover, one can point out the numerous damning contradictions in the Bible to show that belief in it is irrational. See for instance Dr. Niclas Berggren'sA Bible Contradiction.
The URL for this essay is given below:
One can simply point out the irrationality of believing the claim, found in Matthew 27:52-53, that an unspecified number of "saints" who were dead and buried suddenly "arose" out of their graves as if they had been sleeping, then "went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."
Or, one can point out that, since god-belief rests on faith, that this alone constitutes a breach of reason for, as Rand pointed out that, "Intellectually, to rest one's case on faith means to concede that reason is on the side of one's enemies - that one has no rational arguments to offer." Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 197.
For those who believe in the existence of invisible magic beings to challenge those who have no such beliefs to provide a rational defense of their lack of such beliefs is, in itself, absurd!
Clearly, there is no difficulty in proving the rational propriety of atheism, contrary to what Slick wants to say here. It is because he wants to ignore the fact that it is easy to prove that god-belief is irrational that he prefers atheists to spend their time trying to prove that gods do not exist. Thus it is his own position (particularly his expectations, as the context of my statement had already made clear) which collapses under unbearable difficulties.
Slick goes on to say:
Mr. Bethrick agrees with me that it is problematic for atheists to prove their position which only supports my premise in the original paper. Thank you, Mr. Bethrick.
See what I mean? Slick's whole scheme is to execute a reversal, not only of the onus of proof, but also in characterizing one's overall philosophical predicament. Where my comments about difficulty of position applied to the expectations to which he stubbornly clings to, he clearly wanted to deflect this from himself and redirect it back at the atheist. However, it is obvious that this evasion fails, for I have shown above that it is not at all difficult to prove the rational propriety of atheism by showing why god-belief is irrational.
Here's the argument validating the rational propriety of atheism, in case Slick could not figure it out from what I've stated so far:
Premise 1: If god-belief is irrational, then atheism (defined as the absence of god-belief) is the rationally proper alternative to god-belief.
Premise 2: God-belief is irrational.
Conclusion: Therefore, atheism (defined as the absence of god-belief) is the rationally proper alternative to god-belief.
Certainly Slick can recognize the validity of this argument's form, for it clearly follows the modus ponens format.
What Slick will want to do, however, is challenge Premise 2 ("God-belief is irrational"), for it is this premise which he most likely finds controversial. To substantiate it, I present the arguments contained in theessays linked above.
There, that wasn't so hard.
Slick then writes:
Also, it is not me who is making a fuss. It is Mr. Bethrick. My paper was on the viability of atheism. But it seems that Mr. Bethrick is addressing something I haven't' written. Note how he quotes me saying atheism is "very difficult, if not impossible to prove" and yet ignores the implications of that statement by saying I am making a fuss. In other words, he offers no rebuttal. He says I am making a "fuss," something children are known to do, instead of addressing the issue.
If Slick construes that a validation of atheism must consist of proving that no gods exist, then even on his own admissions and concessions, this expectation is quite problematic, for reasons given above. Again, Slick wants to twist my statements to making a comment about the difficulties of my own position, and above I have corrected this erroneous reversal. There is no reason to offer a rebuttal to Slick's own concession to insurmountable difficulty. And indeed, like a child, his essay "Is Atheism Viable?" demonstrates the nature of the theist's distemper when it comes to understanding and engaging atheism.
If it can be said that it is I who has been making a fuss, then perhaps Slick thinks that offering a point-by-point correction to his attack against atheism is "something children are known to do," for clearly I have been "addressing the issue."
Slick then writes:
Furthermore, I suggest that Mr. Bethrick stop holding his breath. If I see a proof that there is no God, I'll become an atheist. After all, proof is proof. It would not be rational for me to believe in God in light of "proof."
Notice that again Slick fails (indeed, perhaps deliberately!) to take into account any point which I have made. While he has admitted that proving a universal is not possible, he still persists in his expectation that atheists must prove a universal negative in order to justify their atheism. This is obtuse at best. He then says here that "If I see a proof that there is no God" - something which he has already conceded is the wrong thing to ask for - "I'll become an atheist. After all, proof is proof." So take note here: first he acknowledges that a proof of the non-existence of something is conceptually problematic, thus validating the conclusion that to ask for such a proof is an unwarranted expectation. Then he positions himself such that it would require such a proof for him to recognize the invalidity of his god-belief. In other words, like a hermit crab which secondhandedly takes over the discarded shell of a deceased gastropod, Slick intentionally socks himself away from rationality by cutting off all exits from his irrationality.
And note what really speaks louder than words, is Slick's own silence. For he passes his opportunity to address the question which I did ask, which was:
if perchance an atheist were to present a proof that god-belief is irrational, would Slick accept it and abandon his god-belief? Again, I am not supposing that we should hold our breath.
The only response which Slick gave to this question, was clear enough: for he states "I suggest that Mr. Bethrick stop holding his breath." This should tell us that no matter how securely a thinker will show his god-belief to be irrational, he will not relent from claiming it as truth.
Clearly it is not a desire for truth and rationality which drives a man like Matt Slick, but a desire to evade reality and choke his own mind on the conceptual permafrost of primitive philosophy, which is religion.
But Slick continues:
Furthermore, I would abandon Christianity if it can be reasonably demonstrated that Jesus did not rise from the dead.
But how does Slick prove that Jesus did rise from the dead? Rememberabove I had asked:
Does Slick think that "a proof of God's non-existence" is necessary for atheism to be the proper response to theism? If so, why does he think this? Apparently, Slick thinks that god-belief - indeed, his god-belief - is true until proven false. It seems that he thinks a proof for God's existence is not necessary. One does not need a reason to believe; rather, one needs a reason not to believe. How consistently would Slick apply such a reversal of rational principle?
In hisresponse to this, as I had shown, Slick could not bring this point into dispute. And here he validates my point here once again by saying "I would abandon Christianity if it can be reasonably demonstrated that Jesus did not rise from the dead," a clearly arbitrary standard for him to cling to his god-belief. The belief that Jesus "rose from the dead" is a faith claim: one believes it because he wants it to be true. Let's see how Slick can validate the assumption that reality follows his desires.
Then Slick comments:
I say these things because I have long ago come to grips with the acceptance of facts and evidence. I am not a brainwashed, non-thinking believer who holds on to God so desperately that nothing, not even the facts, can shake it. On the contrary. I have no fear of the facts and welcome them. I welcome any atheist proofs and counter evidence. I welcome any proofs that there is no God. I would love to see them -- or it.
If it is true that Slick is "not a brainwashed, non-thinking believer who holds on to [god-belief] so desperately that nothing, not even facts, can shake it," why does he cling to arbitrary standards (e.g., that "Jesus rose from the dead") and unrealistic expectations (e.g., "atheists cannot prove that no gods exist") in order to make his commitment to mysticism seem reasonable? He says he has "no fear of the facts and welcome[s] them." Well, as Ihave demonstrated above, it is an incontestable fact that god-belief is irrational. Yet, as Slick himself advised, I will not hold my breath waiting for him to acknowledge this fact.
Is atheism viable" is not about proofs for God's existence. It is about whether or not atheism is logically viable. I suggest that he reread the paper and then address what it actually says instead of what it does not say.
Mr. Bethrick is the one, in my opinion, who is dispensing with reason. The paper "
Slick's opinion is noted, but we must consider the source of that opinion to understand the fullness of its context. As a person who believes mystical claims about risen savior-gods, invisible magic beings, stories of miracles and other symptoms of primitive philosophy which must be accepted on faith, it is clear who is dispensing with reason. Christianity is open in its embrace of faith and its hatred for what Paul calls "men's wisdom," (I Cor. chap. 1 and 2). Mark 11:22 has Jesus say "Have faith in God"; it does not say "Use your reason, and pursue it to its logical conclusions." Rational inference was certainly not what the speeches attributed to Jesus either teach or model. In Mark 5:36, the following words are attributed to Jesus: "Be not afraid, only believe." In other words, believers are not to worry themselves about the facts; rather, they are expected simply to believe as gullible children. As Matthew 18:3 puts it, "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Obviously, that "wisdom" which won Paul's approval was not reason, nor was it rational. Instead, it was a fantasy in which believers are expected to immerse and invest themselves at all costs. In Christianity, the believer serves his worldview, as if the worldview could benefit from his sacrifices. In rational philosophy, the worldview serves Man.
As for Slick's suggestion that I "reread the paper and then address what it actually says," I have already done this, and I have already published a comprehensive response. So far, no point in my response to his paper "Is Atheism Viable?" has been rebutted, and this was precisely what I predicted would be the case. So far, I have not been disappointed.
Slick concludes his point with the following statement: "Therefore, since there are no proofs for atheism?s truth and there are no proofs that there is no God, the atheist must hold his position by faith." I am compelled to ask: how does he show that "there are no proofs for atheism's truth"? Even Slick himself makes the point later in his essay that atheists "cannot say there are no evidences for God because the atheist cannot know all evidences that possibly exist in the world." Where does Slick present an argument which soundly concludes, "therefore, there are no proofs for atheism's truth"? Indeed, he nowhere presents such an argument so far as I can determine. Perhaps he knows of one, but insists on holding back?
Just as Mr. Bethrick asserts that I must provide proof for the validity of the position I hold, I ask where is the proof of the validity of the atheistic position that he holds?
Again, Slick still clings to his arbitrary idea of what it means to be an atheist. Atheism is the absence of god-belief. It is valid because god-belief is invalid. Does he think that it would be valid to hold to an invalid worldview? If one can prove that god-belief is irrational and therefore cannot provide a valid worldview, then atheism is by default the only rationally proper alternative to god-belief, since atheism is the discarding of god-belief. A rational person discards that which is not rational. Slick has not dealt with this perspective anywhere in his rebuttal, and indeed shows no signs that he is willing to be aware of it.
Is this a double standard?
No, it is not a double standard, for theism and atheism are not conceptually equivalent. To claim that there is a double standard in operation here can only be the result of a package-deal fallacy, which is the failure to distinguish between essentials. Theism asserts positive existential claims about reality. Thus, if those who endorse these claims desire that others accept them as viable beliefs about reality, then they must argue on behalf of them. This is the onus of proof principle, and it's clear that Slick would prefer to wriggle out of it. Atheism, on the other hand, is generally only a lack of a particular kind of belief. There is nothing to prove, since atheism is not making any positive existential claims.
If, however, I claim that atheism is the only rationally proper alternative to god-belief, then I am asserting a positive claim, and thus I bear the onus of proving it. And my proof is as follows:
Premise 1: If god-belief is irrational, then atheism (i.e., the discarding of god-belief) is the only rationally proper alternative to god-belief.
Premise 2: God-belief is irrational.
Conclusion: Therefore, atheism (i.e., the discarding of god-belief) is the only ratinally proper alternative to god-belief.
This argument is clearly valid, for it follows the modus ponens format (If P, then Q/P/Therefore Q). Thus, if the premises are true, then the conclusion MUST be true.
How do we know that Premise 2 is true? This is easy to show. For god-belief assumes a false view of reality, which is known as the primacy of consciousness. Because god-belief assumes a false view of reality, it does not have a foundation built on fact, but on falsehood as such. Therefore, it cannot be rational, for that which is rational is built on a foundation of truth, not on falsehood.
The true view of reality which god-belief rejects is called the primacy of existence. This is the view that existence exists independent of consciousness. This principle is the foundation of truth, reason and logic. It is the principle which recognizes that wishing does not make something so. Yet clearly belief in the existence of gods is not compatible with this view, since this belief states that a form of consciousness was required for the existence of the universe - this is the Christian doctrine of "creation ex nihilo": the view that the universe was created by an act of will. This is indisputably compatible only with the primacy of consciousness view, which is false. The notion of miracles is also built on the primacy of consciousness: this is the belief that objects in reality conform to the dictates of consciousness. For instance, Jesus and Peter walk on water in Matt. 14 because they believe they can; Jesus turns water into wine in John 2:1-11 because he wants the water to become wine. The belief in the doctrine of creation and in the doctrine of miracles are clearly expressions of the desire to see reality conform to wishes, which is the primacy of consciousness view. Furthermore, in epistemology, men are expected to "believe" because they are told to believe. As Jesus says in Mark 5:36, "Be not afraid, only believe." Thus, the believer does not believe things because he can establish them on the basis of reason, but because he wants them to be true - i.e., for the believer wishing makes it so.
Given the evidences (the Christian doctrines of 'creation', 'miracles', and 'faith'), we see explicitly how the Christian god-belief is built squarely on the basis of the primacy of consciousness view. Thus, we can see how Christian theism as a whole is built on a false view of reality. Therefore, Christianity is an invalid worldview (since it assumes false premises), and consequently, the choice to ascribe to the Christian worldview is irrational.
Thus, Premise 2 is true.
And since Premise 2 ("god-belief is irrational") is true, it must logically follow that atheism (i.e., the discarding of god-belief) is the only rationally proper alternative to god-belief.
Hence, atheism is valid.
Slick then writes:
Atheism, as I have said before, lives in a theistic vacuum.
Now this mistaken view has been corrected. See to it that it is not endorsed again, for to commit oneself to a falsehood after it has been shown to be a falsehood, is folly.
It exists only by attempting to disprove theistic evidences and/or offering attempted reasons why no God can exist.
While it is true that the concept 'atheist' would not be necessary if no one held to a god-belief (since there would be no need for a term to distinguish those who hold to a god-belief from those who discard such primitive ideas), it does not follow from this that "Atheism? lives in a theistic vacuum." For if there were no people who held to a form of god-belief, then any people who are living would naturally be people who do not have a god-belief, thus they would be atheists. Only, the term would not be needed.
Consider for example the following. Let's make up a new deity's name (why not? they're a dime a dozen thanks to imaginative mystics). Let's call this new deity Shoshontz. Now, let's take for granted for the sake of argument that no human beings, past, present and future believe that Shoshontz exists. This means that all human beings do not hold to Shoshontz-belief. Thus it would be the case that all humans are a-Shoshontzist. Only, this term is not needed since there is no need to distinguish those who do believe in Shoshontz from those who do not so believe. But this does not overturn the fact that I have no Shoshontz-belief. Thus, my a-Shoshontzism (i.e., the absence of belief that Shoshontz exists) "lives in a [Shoshontzist] vacuum." Indeed, I am both a-Shoshontzist as well as atheist, and I live in reality, not in some vacuum of Matt Slick's imagination. Enough with the tiresome non sequiturs.
But, I have already stated above that the atheist has no proof that God does not exist because it is impossible to prove that in all the universe in all places and in all times God does not exist; at least, I don't see how it is possible.
While it's true that Slick has stated several times the claim that "the atheist has no proof that God does not exist," he has not proven this claim. He justifies this claim by saying, "because it is impossible to prove that in all the universe in all places and in all times God does not exist; at least, I don't see how it is possible."
But the same principle can be used against Slick's own claim: how can he know that "in all the universe in all places and all times" that no atheist has ever devised a "proof that God does not exist"?
If Mr. Bethrick would like to show me how that is possible, I'm open to that discourse.
Actually, that's not the case. My atheism is not a consequence of being able to prove that no gods exist, and I have nowhere claimed that it is. Rather, my atheism is a consequence of being able to prove that god-belief is irrational. I have presented that proof in full above. Slick will have to try to rebut it if he wants to claim or insinuate that my atheism is unjustified. But clearly, if a belief is shown to be irrational, then belief in it is also irrational, especially after the fact of that belief's irrationality has been made known.
Besides, why would one have to erect a proof to show that the non-existent does not exist? The non-existent by definition does not exist, so such a proof would be irrelevant.
Nevertheless, since it seems that the atheistic position is not provable, how is atheism intellectually viable based upon logic, proofs, or evidence? I have ask this question and Mr. Bethrick has not answered it.
If by "atheism is provable" one means that he can show that atheism is the only rationally proper alternative to god-belief, then I have proven atheism. If by "atheism is intellectually viable" one means that he can show that atheism is the only rationally proper alternative to god-belief, then I have proven that atheism is intellectually viable.
If Slick does not agree with my terms, he is welcome to propose his preferred alternatives and argue for why they should be accepted in place of mine.
Slick says he has asked me this question, and says that I have not answered it. However, this is my first response to his rebuttal. So how can he say that I have not answered it?
He now has my answer, and he can no longer say that I have not answered it.
However, Atheism is viable in one sense: it is simply a possibility. But, being a possibility does not mean it is a reality.
If Slick acknowledges that "atheism is viable in one sense," namely that "it is simply a possibility," and I have shown that atheism is viable in an altogether more sophisticated sense, namely that atheism is the only rationally proper alternative to god-belief, then the answer to the question which heads his essay "Is Atheism Viable?" is a resounding: YES! Not only is atheism viable, but it is also the only rationally proper alternative to believing the claim that gods are real.
Only, Slick will not want to accept this (because he WANTS a god to exist), so he will attempt to find ways to knock it down. Only, he won't find one.
But Slick's immediate agenda comes quickly to light when he insinuates that "the atheist must hold his position by faith." Apparently, holding a position "by faith" is philosophically suspicious in Slick's view. I would agree. But even before we attempt to examine Slick's dependence on faith, we must ask: does Slick present a sound case to establish the supposition that "the atheist must hold his position by faith"? I thought atheism was a negation, yet here Slick is treating atheism as if it were a positive belief. If atheism is the absence of god-belief, then atheism is properly classed as a negation, not as a positive belief. Atheism "means not believing in God - which leaves wide open what you do believe in."
I did not say that holding a position by faith was philosophically suspicious.
Clearly, like so many other theists, Slick wants to characterize atheism as a matter of faith on the atheist's part. In his original essay, Slick wrote, "the atheist must hold his position by faith." The motivation behind saying this is obvious: to denigrate non-belief as such. But in so doing, he denigrates the very "faculty" by which Christians claim to know their religious "truths," which is 'faith'. Thus, he negates his own views by attempting to negate the views of those who do not believe in the existence of invisible magic beings.
Besides, Slick does not have to acknowledge this for it to be true. The truth of the fact that holding a position on the grounds of faith is philosophically suspicious, is not dependent upon his assent. Rather, it is a truth whether he assents to it or not. Faith is the determination that something is true because one wants it to be true. This is the elevation of one's hopes, desires, wishes and emotions over reason and in place of knowledge. It is not rational. Indeed, "philosophically suspicious" may be too tame an expression for the kind of evil the notion of 'faith' represents.
This statement by Mr. Bethrick demonstrates that he is trying to add into what I am saying in order to bolster his position.
Wrong. I am not attempting to add to them. I am merely showing their logical conclusion if the ideas behind Slick's statements are followed consistently. The only other alternative open to Slick, if he does not like following ideas to their logical conclusion, is to special please his case (again!). This alternative would, in the context of the above matter, amount to the view that faith is proper for the theist's beliefs, but improper for the atheist's beliefs (assuming one could show that "the atheist must hold his position by faith" - which Slick nowhere proves).
Since the atheist cannot prove that God does not exist and since at best all he can do is offer negation so theistic proofs,
Wrong again. The atheist can prove that god-belief is irrational, as I have done.
and since he has not negated all theistic proofs,
Stop right there. If wescroll back above, we find that Slick stated: "I never maintain that I can prove God exists. Instead, I have offered various evidences for God's existence." If he does not maintain that there are "theistic proofs," then why would he expect that atheists need to negate them?
Indeed, "theistic proofs" negate themselves before they even get off the ground, for the assume a false view of reality. That which assumes a false view of reality cannot itself be true, and thus does not require someone else to come along and negate it.
he holds his position that there is no God, at least to some extent, by faith. That is, he believes that the future will not provide proof contrary to what he already believes. This is an act of faith, not fact.
When have I ever stated that I "hold [the] position that there is no God"? As I have corrected numerous times, my position is that god-belief is irrational. With regard to the non-existent, my position is that that which does not exist is that which does not exist.
Where has Slick established that my position is one which I hold "by faith"? Indeed, I already responded to this in my original review, and Slick has not interacted with the content of my response to this accusation.
Slick characterizes my position as one entailing the belief "that the future will not provide proof contrary to what [I] already believe." But what is it that I believe? Indeed, I hold that existence exists, that to exist is to be something (i.e., the law of identity), that existence exists independent of consciousness, and that the task of consciousness is to perceive existence, not create it. What could constitute "proof contrary" to these positions? If these are absolute truths (and they are), then the recognition that no new evidence could possibly call these truths into question is not a matter of faith, but of reason based on fact. To be honest, I don't think Slick has a very strong grasp of Rational Philosophy if he thinks that one must appeal to 'faith' in order to recognize such truths. Indeed, he would have to accept these truths in order to argue against them.
And yes, I do treat atheism as a positive believe system.
This is where Slick errs. Atheism is not "a positive belie[f] system," and repeating the claim that it is such a system will not make this so.
I have stated this already on my web site and in public in debates with atheists. If you read my paper dealing with the atheistic position oflacking belief in God, you can see this.
I have presented a comprehensive response to Slick's essayLacking belief. In my review, I show how Slick's efforts to prove that atheism is a positive belief system fails on every turn.
To read my response, seeSlick's Folly: A Review of CARM's "I lack belief in a god."
Also, different atheists have different definitions of what atheism is.
This fact only serves as evidence against Slick's untenable assumption that atheism as such is "a positive belie[f] system." If "different atheists have different definitions of what atheism is," then obviously they are forming their concepts and definitions according to different philosophical principles. Hence, they ascribe to differing belief systems, not to the same one. Again, that someone is an atheist only tells us what he does not believe, not what he does believe. Atheism tells us what kind of worldview a person does not accept as true; it tells us nothing about what kind of philosophy a person does accept. While one atheist might hold that reality is a figment of his own imagination (as opposed to the Christian view, which holds that reality is an effect of God's imagination) and consequently that knowledge is whatever he wants it to be (cf. the Christian 'faculty' of 'faith'), another atheist may hold that reality is not a product of consciousness, but is a chaotic, materialistic realm of unconnected atoms constantly in flux and that consciousness is a myth (how's that for a stolen concept?) and consequently that knowledge of reality is impossible. And yet another atheist may hold, as do I, that existence exists, that consciousness is real, but that existence holds metaphysical primacy over consciousness, that to exist is to have identity, and that reason is the only source of knowledge. Clearly, these three atheists ascribe to three fundamentally different conceptions of reality, and in no way ascribe to the same worldview, which is what we would expect if Slick's assumption that "atheism is a positive belie[f] system." Again, Slick stumbles on his own slipperiness.
So far, Mr. Bethrick has not stated which particular position he holds.
This is simply untrue. I stated my position clearly and explicitly at the end of the fourth paragraph in my essaySlick's Fuss. There I wrote: "I think god-belief is irrational." Why doesn't Slick integrate what he reads before he reacts to it?
Atheists consistently and in all practicality assert that God does not exist.
This may reflect Slick's experience, or his own desired impression of his experience. But indeed this statement conflicts with the opening statement he makes in his ownI lack belief in a god. In that essay he states, "The statement 'I lack belief in a god' is becoming a common position of atheists." So which is it? Do all atheists "consistently and in all practicality assert that God does not exist," or is it the case that "statement 'I lack belief in a god' is becoming a common position of atheists"? Clearly both statements cannot be true.
Besides, I have not proposed the claim "God does not exist" as Slick seems to think. Indeed, he nowhere quotes where I attempt to defend this claim. Rather, my position has "consistently and in all practically" been god-belief is irrational.
If they say that they merely have no intellectual position or commitment concerning belief in God,
I do not claim that I "have no intellectual position or commitment concerning belief in God." As I've stated, I hold that god-belief is irrational. That is my position. Will Slick recognize and deal with this?
then I ask why they go through such a long and arduous effort to denounce and disprove theistic proofs as well as refute papers attacking atheism -- as he has done here.
Well, it couldn't because their positions are continually being misrepresented by theists, could it? To be honest, I can't speak for the purposes and motivations of other atheists, I don't care what they could be, and I don't know why it would bother Slick that some atheists do this. Indeed, for every atheist whom he has encountered putting out "such a long and arduous effort to denounce and disprove theistic proofs as well as refute papers attacking atheism," imagine how many atheists he hasn't heard from! That is, unless Slick thinks that all atheists do this.
In other words, he is behaving as though he believes there is no God by trying to refute my paper dealing with the viability of atheism.
No, in writing to correct Slick's many, many errors of atheological pertinence, I am behaving in a manner consistent with the fact that I have no god-belief and that I think god-belief is irrational and dangerous to man.
He is therefore confirming my assertion which he complains about; namely, that atheism is a positive belief.
The hint of truth here the nature of which Slick does not grasp is the fact that atheists (i.e., individuals who have no god-belief) have positive beliefs about reality. This does not in any way confirm his assertion that "atheism is a positive belief," for he fails to distinguish between a positive belief and a lack of a belief. Thus he tries to package-deal them together as if there were no distinction between positive beliefs and the lack of a belief.
Rather than confirming his view that "atheism is a positive belief," Slick's recognition that atheists hold positive beliefs on various matters is evidence which confirms the fact that man requires a philosophy in order to live. This is a fact which Rational Philosophy identifies and accounts for. It is not something which Christianity enables its believers to understand. Indeed, they have to seek for principles outside their religion in order to comprehend the proper nature of philosophy and the reasons why man requires it.
He is behaving consistent with his belief and his behavior is to substantiate atheism. Therefore, it is a positive belief system.
Of course my behavior is consistent with my beliefs. And in the context of my interaction with Slick's flawed arguments and mischaracterization of atheism my behavior is consistent with my commitment to reason as the only valid means of knowledge. However, it does not follow from these points, as Slick would have it, that atheism "is a positive belief system." This is simply another non sequitur.
Mr. Bethrick has not read my information on this subject which explains why he has not incorporated my comments about this subject into this paper.
How does Slick know what I have and have not read? I know that as a Christian he claims omniscience for his side of the debate. But is he now claiming to be omniscient himself?
I suspect that Mr. Bethrick may have only read one paper and then decided to tackle it without reading the rest of what I have a written on atheism. Again, this is not the best way to do things.
Actually, that is not true. I have read many papers on theChristian Apologetics & Research Ministry website. I have noted a consistency in superficial reasoning and lack of genuine philosophical understanding throughout what I have read by Slick's hand. Indeed, I have published reviews of two other papers by Slick, which can be found at the following URL addresses:
Will he allow his readers to access these papers? This is a choice which Slick must decide for himself if he responds to my response to his rebuttal.
In contrast to what Slick apparently desires, he does not establish that atheists must assume their positions as a matter of faith. He seems to be assuming that one must either hold a belief by proof, or by faith. While there are good reasons not to accept this dichotomy
I do not agree with his assertion that atheism is simply on "absence of belief."
That Slick disagrees with this is clear. Whether his reasons for disagreeing are good, however, is a different matter. So far I don't think he's shown that he has good reasons for disagreeing.
As I have stated in other papers on atheism, when atheists behave in such a manner as to demonstrate their belief that there is no God, then I am forced to conclude that the particular belief system they adhere to is the one that says "I believe there is no God."
Again, Slick sees what he wants to see. That a person acts as if there are no gods does not mean that he has claimed "There is no god." Such an inference would require more evidence (such as a recording of the individual making such a claim). Indeed, it is difficult to draw many conclusions about someone's declared beliefs purely from their behavior. For I have known both many Christians and many atheists, and many Christians I know act no differently from many of the atheists whom I've known. Does this tell me that the Christians in question "the particular belief system they adhere to is one that says 'I believe there is no God'"? I doubt those Christians would accept this, even if I claimed that the evidence of their behavior "forced" me to conclude this.
Indeed, does Slick think that the claim "there are no gods" is identical to the claim that "god-belief is irrational"? If Slick does not take the distinctions between the claim which he wants to say atheism must affirm (namely "there are no gods") and the claim which provides the foundation of my atheism (namely "god-belief is irrational"), then clearly he is destined for misrepresenting my view. He would only do himself an injustice here, for he would neglect the opportunity to interact with a new form of criticism, one with which he seems quite unprepared to face.
I would assume that if Mr. Bethrick were asked directly if he believes that a God exists or not, he would conclude that one does not exist. After all, this is how he is behaving in his attempts to verify atheism. Of course, I could be wrong.
Slick of course is wrong. The term 'god' is literally meaningless to me. I do not say that a god does not exist, because, if there are no gods, then I bear no onus to validate such a claim. The non-existent by definition does not exist, and it does not take an argument to prove this.
Rather, my actions reflect my position that god-belief is irrational. Big difference. And indeed, since I am an atheist, it would only be logical that my actions and choices reflect the fact that I have no god-belief.
Mr. Bethrick has apparently missed this point that I have raised before on the web site concerning this issue. It is regrettable that he has not included this information in these comments.
Again, I have responded to other pages of relevance on the CARM website. See thelinks which I provided above.
Slick states that faith "is not something atheists like to claim as the basis of adhering to atheism," thus making the whole matter sound like it's an issue of likes or dislikes, or whimsical preference. Apparently Slick resents the prospect that non-theists are justified in not accepting his god-belief claims, so he attempts to derogate non-belief as such. This is a sign that such a course is all Slick has: make atheism as such appear to be ridiculous. But to do so, he must characterize it in such a way to make it appear ridiculous. If Slick's god-belief had a genuine rational basis, he would not need to do this. All he would need to do is present his proofs for the existence of his god, and leave it at that. Those who do not accept his proofs certainly do not need Slick's approval not to accept them.
For the most part, atheists' preferences are not "whimsical." However, I have yet to meet an atheist who actually likes the idea of the existence of god.
Indeed, there is no content in such an idea to like. It is an empty idea. It is literally the enshrinement of a zero. The term 'god' has no reference to reality. It has no meaning. It is literally nonsense.
My experience with atheists has lead me to conclude that actually dislike theistic proofs.
This may very well be the case for some atheists. But regardless of Slick's experiences with atheists, what individual atheists like or dislike is irrelevant.
This makes sense since theist proofs would challenge their presuppositions and people don't like their presuppositions challenged.
This of course depends on what their presuppositions are. If they are not rational, then of course they are vulnerable to the risk of falling prey for clever arguments whose intentions are to disable reason, not invigorate it. One way to goad atheists into such traps is by challenging them to prove that there are no gods, a challenge which Slick continually repeats has gone unmet. And indeed, I do not claim to prove that either the Christian god or Zeus do not exist, yet I believe in neither. Does Slick believe in Zeus? If not, where is his proof that Zeus does not exist? See, he doesn't like it when the arbitrary is placed on his foot.
This has been consistent with every atheist that I have encountered. Mr. Bethrick seems no different.
I do not claim to be any different, since I do not know the general identity of the atheists he has in mind. Like me, I'm willing to bet all of them breathe air and sleep on a more or less regular basis. Slick's point here is of course irrelevant.
Furthermore, Mr. Bethrick again tries to sidestep the real issue about the lack of intellectual viability in atheism as a verifiable position/system by trying to attack the rational basis for belief in God.
But the rational basis of our beliefs is precisely what is at issue. This is what Slick himself is intimating when he says that "the real issue" is "the lack of intellectual viability in atheism." Essentially, he's attacking the rational basis for not believing that gods exist, and takes exception when attention is focused on questioning the validity of the foundations of god-belief. He says that focusing attention on this matter is an attempt to "sidestep" the real issue. But clearly, the "real issue" is the foundation of our respective positions. Since I have already responded to the claim that atheism is a position (indeed, it is a negation in my case), and have clarified for the record that my position is that god-belief is irrational, Slick must now focus his attention on "the real issue" at hand in regard to my position, which is my argument to the effect that god-belief is irrational. Until he does so, he is the one who is sidestepping, not I.
This is typical of atheists and is a verification of my earlier comment that atheism must exist in a theistic vacuum which atheists must try and maintain.
So far in his response, he has offered nothing at all for they validity of atheism.
Indeed, the validity of atheism has not been attacked. Consequently, there is no need for a defense of atheism. One does not need to defend the decision to reject the irrational.
The only thing he has tried to do, is attempt to demonstrate that my thinking is incorrect. Perhaps it is.
It is incorrect. And I have shown this.
But in so doing, he has taken his eyes off the subject and tried to misdirect to another topic. Again, where it is his validity for atheism? He has offered none.
Again, Slick fails to take into account the fact that footnote #2 of my essay provided a link to CJ Holmes' essay proving that god-belief is irrational. Since Slick has chosen to overlook this, he drops a relevant contextual detail in the matter of my rejection of god-belief. It's as if he were claiming that one should still be a theist even though he has concluded that god-belief is irrational.
What we have here, and with so many apologists (particularly on the internet) is a kind of sobbing complaint: "they don't believe my god-belief claims, those horrible atheists!!" To say that this non-acceptance of god-belief claims is itself an expression of faith, is to miss the point and set up a straw man. In addition to these, such subterfuge on Slick's part simply closes him off to an honest examination of reasons why god-belief is irrational (indeed, look what defending god-belief drives Slick to do!). Thus, he vilifies atheism to spite himself.
Now we see a caricature introduced by Mr. Bethrick in his condescending rebuttal. This caricature of a sobbing and whining apologist is a misrepresentation of the facts.
Not in my experience.
Mr. Bethrick fails to understand the point that since atheism has no proof that God does not exist, and since it can only exist in an evidential and theistic vacuum, and since it has not refuted all evidences, it must therefore be held, at least to some degree, by faith.
Again, these are points which Slick himself has not been able to validate. If he cannot validate these points, then he cannot validly claim that I am missing the point. For missing the point only occurs when a point which has been validated has been missed. Slick would have to validate the following points even to have a prayer of laying this charge against me:
Slick has attempted to pass off all these views as legitimately valid, but throughout his rebuttal they have been encountered, refuted and corrected. For him to assert them afresh without dealing with the points raised against them is simply an expression of stubborn-headedness, not of reason.
This is perfectly logical. Of course, Mr. Bethrick does not afford the same consideration to Christians as he does to himself or up other atheists. If a Christian were to present evidences i.e., the biblical accounts of Christ and his resurrection, etc., these cannot be accepted due to the atheists non-God presupposition and therefore the atheist judges the Christian as irrational -- even though the Christian can offer evidence.
But Slick himself has already answered his own criticism here in another paper, yet he likely does not recognize this fact. In his outline paper "I don't' see any convincing evidence for the existence of a god," Slick asks, "Are you objectively examining evidence that is presented?" Slick asks this question in the context of concern for the presuppositions which one may assume in identifying and evaluating the nature and relevance of evidences, and the conclusions which those evidences supposedly support. Yet what precisely are Slick's own presuppositions?
Slick clearly thinks he has evidence for the supposed truth of the Christian view, but how would he answer his own question about examining said evidence objectively? What precisely is Slick's understanding of the concept 'objective'? Does he have a rational understanding of objectivity?
The concept 'objectivity' pertains to the proper relationship between consciousness and its objects. According to the principle of objectivity, existence holds metaphysical primacy over the faculty of awareness (consciousness). When one investigates a matter objectively, he consistently observes the proper relationship between his consciousness and the objects of his consciousness. He recognizes that the objects do not conform to his consciousness, that the task of his consciousness is not to create or give identity to the objects of his awareness, but to discover and identify what those objects which exist independent of his consciousness are. Clearly, then, the principle of objectivity is rooted in the primacy of existence metaphysics, which theism rejects at its very foundations.
In place of the primacy of existence metaphysics, theism is built on the primacy of consciousness metaphysics. As evidence for this, we have the Christian doctrines of creation, miracles and faith, which are obvious expressions of the primacy of consciousness view of reality. According to the doctrine of creation, existence (i.e., the universe) was created by an act of will. Thus, existence is thought to be a product of consciousness (i.e., of a will), which means consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over existence.
According to the doctrine of miracles, the objects of consciousness are subject to revision according to the dictates of consciousness. For instance, in Exodus chapter 3 we read of a bush which speaks human words while it burns and yet is not consumed by fire. According to a primacy of existence view of reality, a bush clearly does not speak in human voices, and if it burns it will be destroyed. But on a primacy of consciousness view, anything can happen which the ruling consciousness wants to happen. In other words, reality conforms to someone's consciousness. Similarly, in Matthew chapter 14, we read of Jesus and Peter walking on unfrozen water. Now, on a primacy of existence view of reality, human beings do not walk on unfrozen water, since their natures will not allow this. One can test this by going to a nearby lake and stepping off the end of a pier. But on a primacy of consciousness view of reality, anything can happen so long as consciousness desires it to happen - i.e., reality conforms to consciousness. That this is the case according to the story is made clear when, as Peter is beginning to sink in the water (as we would expect on a primacy of existence view), Jesus says "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (Matt. 14:31), meaning that, had Peter believed (i.e., an act of consciousness), then he would not sink in the water (a primacy of existence reality), but would instead have successfully walked on it as Jesus had (i.e., reality conforms to conscious dictates). Further examples of how the doctrine of miracles presupposes the primacy of consciousness view of reality abound throughout the pages of the Bible, but the dependence of this doctrine on this false view of reality should be clear.
According to the doctrine of faith, reality conforms to the conscious desires of those who believe the right things (as we saw in the example of Peter walking on water above), and knowledge of reality depends on one's hopes. Thus, something is true because someone wants it to be true; i.e., wishing makes it so. As Jesus says in Mark 5:36, "Be not afraid, only believe." In other words, have no concern for the constraints of a rational view of knowledge in which claims must be tested for their validity. "Just believe," and everything will be all the better. That faith is dependent on one's hopes is made clear in various New Testament passages (cf. Romans 8:24-25; Heb. 11:1, et al.). Clearly one's hopes, desires, wishes and whims are the final arbiter of truth (i.e., consciousness dictates what is true), not reason (i.e., consciousness discovers what is true).
Thus, if one claims to have "evidences" which confirm a philosophy which is so clearly and unmistakably rooted in the primacy of consciousness view (as Christianity surely is), then that evidence can be anything one wants it to be, without concern for the proper relationship between consciousness and existence (i.e., without concern for the principle of objectivity).
Clearly then we should take Slick's advice and consider the validity of our "presuppositions" by identifying what they are and testing them for objectivity. But we should not take Slick's presuppositions as a model for our own, for clearly they are rooted in the primacy of consciousness view (since he affirms the doctrines of creation, miracles and faith, which are obviously expressions of the primacy of consciousness view), for such presuppositions are incompatible with a rational understanding of the principle of objectivity. In other words, we must ask:
But the atheist, at least Mr. Bethrick, who has no evidence or logical proofs for his position of atheism, is considered rational.
Here is a good example of what I mean. Slick claims that I have "no evidence or logical proofs for [my] atheism," yet he has nowhere proven this. But in spite of the fact that he has not proven this (i.e., has not shown this to be the case within the constraints of a rational view of knowledge), he proceeds to exclaim it because he wants it to be true, just as he wants it to be true that gods exist. This is the primacy of consciousness view of reality applied to debate, and it is clearly empty and void of conviction, but rife with desperation. How does Slick know that I have "no evidence or logical proofs" for atheism? Blank out.
Again, I cannot help but notice that he does not provide any evidence for the truth of atheism. All he is doing is trying to unravel a paper written exposing the fact that atheism has no proof.
But I have. The evidence I have provided is found in footnote #2 of my review. Slick has clearly chosen to ignore it.
Slick then makes the charge that "atheists must go on the attack and negate any evidences presented for God's existence in order to give intellectual credence to their position." Exactly who is "on the attack"? Atheists in western society are not a new thing per se, but their freedom of expression is relatively new, thanks to secular rights-affirming philosophy and documents like the US Constitution. Slick ignores the fact that, historically, atheists in western cultures have for the most part found themselves in a predominantly theistic society where god-belief is the norm and atheism has been vilified and discouraged, even at the level of the state, sometimes to the point of intolerable persecution. If anyone has been "on the attack," history shows that it has not been the atheist, but those theists who believe they are charged with the mission of converting the world. To say that "atheists must go on the attack" is symptomatic of Slick's myopia on this larger context of the matter. Apparently he considers it to be an affront to him personally when people do not accept his god-belief claims.
Mr. Bethrick again commits the logical fallacy of the red herring. In other words, instead of addressing the issue at hand he introduces something off-topic.
Clearly Slick wants to find me guilty of some fallacy. But it is not a fallacy to enlarge the discussion of an issue of the newly introduced information is not irrelevant to the topic at hand. I his essay "Is Atheism Viable?" Slick lays down the accusation that "atheists must go on the attack and negate any evidences presented for God's existence?" Since this accusation does not say "some atheists" or "those atheists whom I've encountered?," it is clear that he intended this charge to apply to atheists generally, i.e., universally. But what evidence does Slick present on behalf of this charge? Indeed, he provides none, and apparently assumes that its supposed truth can be taken at face value.
In response to this universal accusation, an accusation which is apparently intended to apply to all atheists, I then asked, appropriately, "Exactly who is 'on the attack'?" I then point out the historical context which is clearly relevant to an examination of the truth value of Slick's wholesale accusation against atheists, noting that atheists are clearly a minority in a society whose culture is heavily influenced by mysticism, as is the case in the west. Indeed, Christian believers think that they are expected to obey the orders of the "Great Mission," which is the instruction to take "the gospel" to the far reaches of the world and convert as many people to their primitive views as will do so, and the rest can go to hell. This is clearly what Christianity teaches. In Mark 16:15-16, we read the following words attributed to Jesus:
Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature [supposedly they are to proselytize insects and rodents along with other human beings]. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
Clearly, as atheists (by definition, those who do not believe) are to be considered "damned" according to Christianity's cultic leader himself. Those who are considered "damned" are clearly the "unchosen," and as such not members of the religious fellowship club. The "damned" then are outsiders who are to be marginalized, to be scorned, to be attacked for their unbelief.
This is why I asked above, "Exactly who is 'on the attack'?" Well, historically, who has needed to defend himself? Clearly the individual freethinker who does not conform to the herd mentality of religion has historically been vilified, persecuted, condemned, excised, and in some cases, imprisoned and even tortured and executed. History thus shows that those who follow reason (as opposed to those who follow faith) have been the subject of religious attack. This is why it is so ironic that Christians refer to their convoluted, mind-negating, herd-mentality argument schemes as a "defense," and the atheist's criticism of those argument schemes an "attack." What an Orwellian nightmare of doublespeak!
Are these points "something off-topic"? Given Slick's universal accusation that atheists are "on the attack," obviously not. They are only irrelevant in Slick's mind because he wants them to be irrelevant, not because he can show them to be irrelevant according to the constraints of reason. And since these points are clearly relevant to a proper response to Slick's accusation, I commit no red herring in bringing them to his attention. Perhaps Slick's resentment of this fact is what motivates his charge of fallacy here.
He quotes where I said that atheists must go on the attack and negate any evidence presented for God's existence in order to give intellectual credence to their position. This is true as is demonstrated by Mr. Bethrick himself.
If the atheist's purpose is "to give intellectual credence to their position," as Slick admits, then clearly the atheists who do so are attempting to defend their position from the attacks of those who want to vilify it. So here we see how Slick's own accusation depends on a reversal: he wants to portray the atheist as "attacking" religious evangelists (whose stated purpose is "Go ye into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature") when they attempt to proselytize him! What Slick here considers to be an "attack" against Christians is most likely the expressions of reason which atheists are likely to have in their favor (since they discard the primitivism of god-belief).
Furthermore, if Slick does not want to be attacked for his religious positions, perhaps he should remove his website from the internet. For by presenting his religious opinions to the public in such a manner, he is essentially announcing that he is open season to any criticism which one might take the time to craft. And this is what he considers an "attack": arguments of rebuttal and the submission of responses to his arguments. If those constitute "attacks" against Christians, what does he consider the torture and execution of heretics and infidels which has soiled the hands of Christian mysticism with the blood of many innocents?
But, instead of addressing the issue of the atheists attack, he then mentions the US Constitution, history, persecution and other emotionally laden concepts instead of dealing with the issue.
Here Slick reveals that a raw nerve has been hit, for his reaction to the points which I have introduced, he admits, is predominantly emotional in nature, not intellectual. He thus assumes that my intention in introducing them was to pitch the tide of debate to an appeal to emotion, which should be clear is not the case, given what I have written above in response to his charge that I have committed a fallacy. Can Slick deal with these matters on an intellectual level? If so, he needs to recognize the nature of the beast of Christianity, a primitive worldview bent on world domination in which believers are commanded to "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
He concludes this paragraph with yet another emotionally heavy, ad hominim sentence when he says "apparently he considers it to be an affront to him personally when people do not accept his god-belief claims."
How this constitutes an ad hominem is not explained by Slick. Instead, he simply asserts it on the basis of his feelings, which, he admits, he thinks are the focus of my point. But now that this error has been corrected and it has been shown that the atheist is actually and historically on the defense (rather than "on the attack" as he wants to think), we should not hear this charge from Slick again.
The truth is that contrary to Mr. Bethrick's faulty guesswork. I do not consider it a personal affront when someone does not believe in God. I have friends who are atheists and we get along fine. I am not offended by their atheism and I do not hound them about their position.
Slick now states that he does "not consider it a personal affront when someone does not believe in God," and even states that he has "friends who are atheists" and is "not offended by their atheism." Then why the universal accusation against atheists in the first place? Does Slick not realize that it may very well be the case that many atheists are simply tired of being hounded by mystic missionaries all over the place? They're told that they need to pray in public schools, that they must swear an oath to an invisible magic being in the Pledge of Allegiance, and are virtually accosted by Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christians, and other cultists upon exiting bus stations, grocery stores, libraries, office buildings and shopping malls on a regular basis? Given such assaults on their intellect, I can hardly blame some atheists for wanting to speak their mind out. Perhaps Slick thinks atheists should be seen and not heard? Well, good luck, for it is not likely that the atheist adopts the idea that he must be as a little child in order to receive divine favors.
The problem with Mr. Bethrick is his lack of concentration on the issues and his introduction of emotional issues not related to the subject.
I'll let the reader judge whether Slick's statement here is true or false.
Slick's opinion is noted. It is my hope that he takes what I have presented above in response to his charge of fallacy, and informs this opinion with additional data which he obviously did not take into account when he formed it.
And, precisely what does Slick take to be "evidences presented for God's existence"? Are those "evidences" the same as those which theists defending a different god present in defense of their god-beliefs?
Unfortunately, Slick does not answer this question.
And are atheists necessarily acting "on faith" if they find the "evidences" proposed to support the claim that a god exists insufficient to the task?
And he doesn't answer this one either. Why not?
If one were to claim that the moon is made of green cheese and presented "evidences" for this claim, would Slick be acting "on faith" if he found those "evidences" insufficient to establish this claim and thus did not accept it as truth? What exactly does Slick consider 'faith' to mean? And does he not recognize that the Bible, which nowhere advocates rationality, claims all its "truths" as a matter of faith?
If Mr. Bethrick had simply bothered read a little more of my web site in the atheism section under proofs for God's existence, he would have his question answered.
Indeed, I have done this. And I doubt Slick will be surprised that his "proofs for God's existence" are quite inadequate. My responses to two of his arguments are now a matter of published record.
In my paperExamining CARM's "Entropy Argument", I show how Slick's use of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which he employs in Entropy and Causality used as a proof for God's existence [sic], is faulty. The "entropy argument" is a version of the so-called "cosmological argument" which makes an illicit application of a law of physics in order to establish that the universe must have had a "beginning," and that the causal agent responsible for that "beginning" is, it is thought, the God of the New Testament. One of my primary criticisms of Slick's argument is that it fails to define the term 'universe' which is crucial to his argument, and that on an objective definition of this concept, it is shown that such an argument cannot succeed. I also criticize Slick's application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and point out various non sequiturs which Slick commits in the attempt to infer a "supernatural" being as the explanation to the puzzle his argument artificially fabricates.
In my paperObliterating Slick's Straw Man, I respond to Slick's article Atheism, the Universe, and Purpose, which attempts to argue the bizarre claim that the "atheist perspective" does not allow man to have a life purpose. Again, one of my chief criticisms is that, just as in his version of the "entropy argument" mentioned above, Slick fails to define his key term, namely 'purpose'. In my critique, I show that, given the nature of man's life as a living organism, he faces a fundamental alternative, which is life versus death. It is because of this fundamental alternative which all human beings face by virtue of their nature as living organisms, which makes it both possible and necessary that man define, pursue and attempt to achieve a purpose in life. Regardless of what one believes about origins, incidentally, whether theistic or atheistic, a man has no choice about his need to have a purpose, but, since he has a volitional form of consciousness, the choice of which purpose he will accept and pursue is up to him. Numerous conceptual and inferential errors which debilitate Slick's argument are pointed out.
There are two other articles by Slick in the "Proofs for the Existence of God" section of his website, both dealing with the so-called "transcendental argument for the existence of god," or "TAG," and they areThe Christian Worldview, the Atheist Worldview, and Logic and An answer to a refutation of the Transcendental Argument, the latter being Slick's attempt to defend TAG against Dr. Michael Martin's The Transcendental Argument for the Nonexstence of God. I have read both of these papers, and, being very familiar with this argument, I find nothing new or compelling Slick's presentation of the argument in question or his defense of TAG against Martin's counter-argument.
In the presentation of his version of "TAG," Slick opens with the following statement:
Can the atheistic worldview present a logical reason why its worldview can account for the abstract laws of logic? I think not. But, the Christian world view can. The Christian worldview states that God is the author of truth, logic, physical laws, etc. Atheism maintains that physical laws are properties of matter, and that truth and logic are relative conventions (agreed upon principles).
The errors here abound (and I should know, I am an atheist!). First of all, what exactly is "the atheistic worldview"? This implies that there is only one such worldview, which in fact is more of a statement on Slick's ignorance than anything else. Indeed, there are many worldviews which dispense with theism, and they are not all the same. Slick needs to take a philosophy course if this is what he really thinks. Thus, the question "Can the atheistic worldview present a logical reason why its worldview can account for the abstract laws of logic?" is misleading and dishonest. Slick's opinion that he does not think that "the atheistic worldview" can present such reasons, has about as much value as a donut hole. Indeed, he does not ask the question "Can the Objectivist worldview present a logical reason why its worldview can account for the abstract laws of logic?" and this does not surprise me.
He then states that "the Christian world view can" present such reasons. But alas, is it really a question of whether competing worldviews are able to present reasons to "account for the abstract laws of logic," or whether the reasons given are true? To say that the atheist worldview cannot present such reasons while the Christian worldview can almost sounds like a play-yard heckle chant: "My worldview is better than your worldview!"
Slick then states, "Atheism maintains that physical laws are properties of matter, and that truth and logic are relative conventions (agreed upon principles)." It does? Where does "atheism" maintain this? Indeed, this is what some philosophies teach, but atheism as such is not a philosophy, contrary to what Slick would like his readers to believe. Again, Slick should take an introductory philosophy course and attempt to grasp some basics here. Does Slick think, for instance, that all atheists then think that "physical laws are properties of matter, and that truth and logic are relative conventions (agreed upon principles)?" Indeed, does agreement upon principles make those principles "relative conventions"? Slick's efforts throughout this paper are as unimpressive as his opening lines.
The same kind of poor reasoning afflicts Slick's attempt to rescue "TAG" from the devastating pen of Martin. For instance, Slick admits that "We do not know all the laws of the universe," but then states, "God does [know them all], since He brought the universe into existence." But the existence of a god is precisely what is in question. In other words, the only way Slick can rebut Martin's critique of "TAG" is by begging the very question at issue. At another point, Slick writes, "Mr. Martin uses the phrase 'objective morality'. that phrase in itself is worthy of a long discussion. nevertheless, I see no reason to state that moral obligation being dependent upon the will of God is incompatible with objective morality." This is simply an argument from ignorance, and also shows his conception of morality is nothing more than the fulfillment of someone else's dictates (which would make Slick an ideal subject for a dictatorship).
I think the best responses to "TAG" which I have heard include the following:
An Examination of Panabaker's "TAG roughly stated" and the Presuppositionalist Apologetic Strategy, by Anton Thorn
Induction and Presuppositional Apologetics, by Anton Thorn
The Drange-Wilson Debate - This debate between atheist philosopher Dr. Theodore Drange and Christian apologist Douglas Wilson is one of the best online, in my opinion. Indeed, Drange did not even have to say a word; rather, he could have let Wilson jabber on and continue to dig a grave for "TAG" deeper and deeper as he went.
Then, being more educated on the topic at hand, he could have addressed that issue instead of asking questions which are already answered in the atheism section on CARM.
I'll let readers decide who they think is "more educated." But while they're making this assessment, it is curious that Slick would make this statement, since one of his primary criticisms about my response to his "Is Atheism Valid?" is that he found it "condescending."
First of all, my point about the "moon made of green cheese" was not a comment, but a question. Here it is again:
If one were to claim that the moon is made of green cheese and presented "evidences" for this claim, would Slick be acting "on faith" if he found those "evidences" insufficient to establish this claim and thus did not accept it as truth?
I notice that Slick does not answer it, but accuses that it "does not logically follow." It was not intended to be a conclusion of an argument. From what precisely was it suppose to "follow"? Perhaps Slick has difficulty in distinguishing between an argument and a question? Again, why doesn't he answer it?
Furthermore, to say that the Bible nowhere advocates rationality is a statement of his ignorance. The Bible says in Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the Lord..." reason deals with logic. God wants us to be logical. Mr. Bethrick is proven wrong on this point and has demonstrated that he does not know the Bible very well - yet he condemns it.
To say that Isaiah 1:18's exhortation ("let us reason together") constitutes an instance of advocating rationality is, at the very least, a most superficial and desperate stretch. And to insinuate that I am ignorant of this passage is simply to cast aspersions for the fun of it. Indeed, where does the Bible define 'rationality'? Can one learn from reading the pages of the Bible that "reason deals with logic" or that "God wants us to be logical"? Did God want Abraham to be logical when He commanded him to prepare his son as a sacrifice? Were Jesus' answers to Pilate a model of "logic"? Are any of Paul's contorted, vapid and contentless arguments truly "logical"? Slick of course would say yes, but clearly because he is motivated to defend a confessional investment. I.e., he wants these things to be true.
Since rationality is the commitment to reason as one's only means of knowledge, then obviously the Bible, which advocates 'faith' from Genesis to Revelation, does not advocate anything remotely resembling reason. Jesus says in Mark 5:36, "just believe!" (NIV) Those who advocate reason and rationality, do not tell us to "just believe," because they recognize that knowledge requires a process of validation, not mere acceptance on the basis of hopes, fears, wishes or threats.
Slick writes, "If they [i.e., atheists] can create an evidential vacuum in which no theistic argument can survive, their position can be seen as more intellectually viable." Why would one have to "create an evidential vacuum" in order to show why theism is irrational? One merely needs to show why the notion of a universe-creating, reality-ruling god is a terminally invalid idea to show that belief in such a being is wholly contrary to reason. Theistic arguments quite literally invalidate themselves before they even attempt to get off the ground.
The logical reason why someone would need to create an "evidential vacuum" in order to show why theism is irrational is because if there is evidence that there is a god, that would disprove atheism.
This assumes that the only way to go about demonstrating the irrationality of god-belief is to question those evidences proposed on its behalf. But of course, this is not the only way to accomplish this end. Rather, there is a much cleaner, more direct route to this, and that's by going to the very root of god-belief itself, which is the assumption that the primacy of consciousness view of reality is valid. All god-belief must assume this, for that is the substance of god-belief - the view that consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over existence, that a consciousness can create the universe and its contents, manipulate its objects and conform reality to its dictates and whims. Christianity is pure, 100% primacy of consciousness philosophy.
Therefore, atheists don't want theistic evidence to stand lest their position fail and atheism is be proven wrong. This is a simple matter of logic and Mr. Bethrick, apparently, missed it.
How does he show that I have missed this? Obviously I'm quite aware that this is essentially the only card in his deck. I have pointed to other cards which come prior to the card he's holding, and yet he has dismissed those cards as "irrelevant.
Again, Slick should have looked at the footnotes in my essay. Particular footnote #2.
Slick thinks that there is "only one way that atheism is intellectually defensible and that is in the abstract realm of simple possibility." By this, he is referring to the supposition that "it is possible that there is no God." This, however, Slick holds, is not sufficient to disprove theistic claims since "stating that something is possible doesn't mean that it is a reality or that it is wise to adopt the position." Slick gives an example to demonstrate his point. He reasons:
If I said it is possible that there is an ice cream factory on Jupiter, does that make it intellectually defensible or a position worth adopting merely because it is merely a possibility? Not at all. So, simply claiming a possibility based on nothing more than it being a logical option is not sufficient grounds for atheists to claim viability. They must come up with more than "It is possible," otherwise, there really must be an ice cream factory on Jupiter and the atheist should step up on the band wagon and start defending the position that Jupiterian ice cream exists.
Ironically, the very point which Slick is making here is one which works against his own commitment to theism in two fundamental ways. For one, this same objection can serve adequately to parody Slick's god-belief in order to show just how unstable it is. For, simply by saying that it is possible that there is a god which created the universe, does that make it intellectually defensible or a position worth adopting merely because it is suggested as a possibility? Slick should agree with himself here: "Not at all." And he provides the reason why: "simply claiming a possibility based on nothing more that it being a logical option is not sufficient grounds for [theists] to claim viability." Indeed, it's even worse if the proposed possibility in question does not have the advantage of being "a logical option," but turns out to be an idea completely antithetical to the very foundations of logic.
What Mr. Bethrick fails to understand is that we Christians, myself in particular, do not simply offer an evidential-less and non-rational reason for God's existence. I have never stated that believing in God is sufficient simply because believing in God is sufficient.
One does not need to declare this as his modus operandi for it to be his m. o. in effect.
I have no problem with producing logical proofs for God's existence nor do I have any problem defending the reliability of the biblical accounts of God's miraculous works in the person of Jesus Christ. Simply go to the atheism section for proofs and the Bible section on CARM for biblical evidences. So Mr. Bethrick fails to take this into account -- again.
Actually, that is not true. I have taken the articles in the atheism section as well as the apologetics section of the CARM site into account. I have only briefly looked over the Bible section, because there are far more sophisticated Bible arguments presented on other sites. But clearly it is not the case that I have failed to take into account other essays by Matt Slick. I have responded to other essays, in fact:
And notice something else: Slick is obviously assuming the primacy of existence principle in his reasoning here: he is assuming that reality does not conform to one's desires or hypotheses. And he's right - reality does not conform to consciousness. However, it is this very principle, ironically, which tells us why god-belief is irrational, since it is this principle which god-belief essentially contradicts.
Back the truck up. I have made no assumption that reality does or does not not conform to my desires or hypotheses.
Wrong. Slick has made this assumption, only he does not recognize it. This primacy of consciousness view is the very root of his god-belief. Remove this root, and you remove god-belief with it.
His insertion of an irrelevant and unsubstantiated comment further invalidates the ability of Mr. Bethrick to validate his position of atheism.
Slick repeats his error: atheism is a negation, not a position. My position is that god-belief is irrational. And I have validated it. Slick simply does not want to admit this.
Seriously, what relevance is this to the issue of the viability of atheism? It would be far better for him to actually tackle the issue at hand instead of inserting into the argument things which I have not stated nor assumed. Is he at a loss for logical response and so needs to introduce irrelevant material?
What Slick is calling "irrelevant material" is indeed the heart of the matter, namely the issue of metaphysical primacy. Slick chooses to call it "irrelevant" because either a) he does not recognize its relevance, b) he does not want to deal with it, or c) both a) and b). If there is an alternative additional to these, Slick should point it out. But clearly, the issue of metaphysical primacy, since it lies at the foundation of all worldviews, is the most relevant issue of them all.
Moreover, Slick's entire analogy is wholly misapplied in the context of the debate on the existence of a god. He wants to characterize "the atheistic position" with one asserting the existence of an ice cream factory on Jupiter. However, it's more likely to be the other way around: the theist is the proper analogue of the hypothetical somebody claiming the possibility that an ice cream factory exists on Jupiter, and the atheist is the who points out that merely asserting the existence of a god is not sufficient to show that assertion to be true. The theist, like the one making a claim about an ice cream factory on Jupiter, is making an existentially positive claim, for he is the one saying that somewhere a particular something exists. The atheist is making no such claim; he simply does not accept the existentially positive claim which the theist asserts. Ironically, Slick not only inadvertently makes the atheist's case all the more simple to grasp, he also weaves the rope to hang himself in the process.
The truth is that it is Mr. Bethrick's missed application of the information that is demonstrated here in his paper. Atheism is a claim.
Wrong. Atheism is the absence of a claim. It is not a belief, it is the absence of a belief. It is what results when one discards a claim found to be unfit for acceptance as knowledge.
Atheism is not a "non position."
Atheism is a negation.
A non position has no existence.
Belief takes up space in the mind. Not having that belief leaves that space free for other beliefs.
The atheist has a position called atheism which he can define and try to defend. How do you defend a non position?
My atheism requires no defense. My atheism results from the determination that the claim "god exists" is unworthy of acceptance as knowledge, and must be discarded.
But my claim that god-belief is irrational is a position which I hold, and I have shown that I am willing and capable of defending it.
Mr. Bethrick is doing nothing more than dodging the real issue and attempting to introduce concepts not dealt with nor addressed in the original paper.
Slick resents the fact that I do not accept his terms and arbitrary standards. Consequently, he accuses me of "dodging the real issue." And indeed, it is because the original paper fails to inform a view consistent with contradictory positions which it assumes, that they need to be identified and discussed. Slick does not seem willing to do so, but I certainly am.
Additionally, he has repeatedly based comments upon what he thinks I believe or know or assume.
Slick claims to believe that an invisible magic being created the universe and directs its history. This is the Christian god-belief in essential terms. Since Slick has identified himself as defender of Christianity, then it is not unrealistic for me to know what he believes and assumes.
At least, he has admitted some subjectivity in a few of his comments in this regard. But it is unfortunate that he cannot retain such subjectivity in regards to his unprovable atheistic position.
Feeling the heat of scrutiny, Slick takes a cheap opportunity to try to catch a sigh of relief in accusing me of subjectivity.
Subjectivity in metaphysics is the view that existence finds its source in a form of consciousness. This is the primacy of consciousness view of reality. I do not affirm it.
Subjectivity in epistemology is the view that something is true because one wants it to be true. This is the basic nature of faith. I do not affirm it.
Where have I "admitted some subjectivity"?
But the point which Slick should be considering is not whether something is possible simply at the suggesting thereof, but whether or not he can prove the negative. Does Slick believe that "it is possible that there is an ice cream factory on Jupiter"? If he does, how would he substantiate this belief? If he doesn't believe this supposed possibility, how does he rule it out? If Slick accepts the proposed possibility that a god exists, why wouldn't he accept the proposed possibility that an ice cream factory exists on Jupiter? He does not argue in an attempt to prove that there is no such ice cream factory on Jupiter; rather, his whole concern is to point to reasons why one can justifiably dismiss such claims.
I am actually amused (no disrespect meant) at the attempts to try and turned the ice cream factory on Jupiter illustration around against me.
Amusement is good. And to be honest, I'm amused at how well they do serve as an illustration against Slick's position.
Mr. Bethrick needs to read the context again. Atheism, like an ice cream factory on Jupiter, is an intellectually possible position if we were to assert that basically anything is possible.
Slick supposes that the belief that an fictional ice cream factory exists on Jupiter in his example is analogous to atheism? That's odd. I see it as wholly analogous to his god-belief. Funny he doesn't see this.
But being possible does not mean that it is probable, let alone an actuality.
How does Slick show that it is possible for an ice cream factory to exist on Jupiter? Is he saying it is possible to build an ice cream factory on Jupiter? If he thinks so, what substantiates this opinion? Interesting. Why not build one closer to earth?
That is the point of the ice cream factory on Jupiter.
Atheism has no proof for its position.
Here Slick presents a universally negative claim. How does he justify it? Indeed, it falls for the very reason why he says atheism itself falls! He says that atheism falls because one cannot prove that there are no gods, and one cannot prove there are no gods essentially because proving universal negative claims is impossible. But here he asserts a universal negative claim against atheism. Thus, like a dog chasing his own tail, Slick spirals into a circle of self-refutation which swallows his position in sum. That's what some might call a slick move.
It has no evidence to substantiate itself.
Here's another universal negative claim against atheism. How does Slick know that atheism "has no evidence to substantiate itself"? Indeed, I've provided plenty of evidence for the position that atheism is the only rationally proper alternative to god-beliefabove. Slick has not dealt with my argument yet, and I'm truly concerned that he will not be able to.
At best all it has is attempts to invalidate theistic proofs and evidences.
This is essentially the claim that it has no attempts to establish itself in other ways. How does Slick know this? He has not shown how he can conclude this; rather, he merely asserts it.
That is it. That is all there is for atheism. Aside from the mere intellectual "possibility" that there might be no god and existence, atheism doesn't have much going for it any more than there is the intellectual "possibility" of an ice cream factory on Jupiter. And, as I said before, trying to claim "non belief" or "lack of belief" concerning God has its problems as well.
In claiming that atheism is wrong or invalid because he thinks that atheists cannot prove that no gods exist, Slick merely shows how empty and anti-intellectual his god-belief really is. He is basically saying, "Well, I can't prove that there are no gods, so I might as well believe in one." It does not matter to him that god-belief has been proven to be both irrational and dangerous to man. In spite of this, he wants to seek shelter in it any way.
As for the supposed "problems" which he thinks result from "trying to claim 'non belief' or 'lack of belief' concerning God," they have been examined and refuted in spades. He will need an act of God to resurrect them.
For this, see my paper responding to the atheist position of "I lack belief in God."
I have already reviewed this article and shown why Slick's attempts to establish his desired conclusion fail. My review can be found at the following web address:
Slick points out that "there is another problem for atheists." That problem, he holds, consists of the following: "Refuting evidences for God?s existence does not prove atheism true anymore than refuting an eyewitness testimony of a marriage denies the reality of the marriage." How are the two situations which Slick has in mind here at all analogous? In the case of a disputed marriage, what is being debated is a contract between two people. This dispute can be settled simply by asking the couple involved. But is there any dispute that either party of the marriage in question exist?
But even more importantly, Slick simply points to the evasive nature of his god-belief commitment. Where earlier he expected proofs of god's non-existence from atheists, he now admits that he would not allow himself to accept any such proofs as conclusive. In other words, Slick is simply announcing that he intends to believe that there is a god regardless of the rational merits (supposing there are any) of his particular god-belief. As Richard Robinson points out, the essence of faith is "the determination to believe that there is a god no matter what the evidence may be."
It is Mr. Bethrick who is being evasive about his atheist belief commitment. He has not demonstrated the intellectual viability of atheism at all -- and that is what the paper was about.
The "intellectual viability of atheism" would only need to be demonstrated if there were any hope of presenting a sound argument concluding that a god exists. Yet Slick himself admitted earlier that he could not prove that there is a god. So why bother? Besides, if by "intellectual viability of atheism" one means proving that atheism is the only rationally proper alternative to god-belief, then obviously I have done this by proving that god-belief is irrational. Slick has nowhere demonstrated awareness of this argument, let alone answer it, even though this argument was at his fingertips in my footnote #2 had he honestly wanted an answer to the question titling his essay "Is Atheism Viable?" However, it is pretty clear that he does not honestly want an answer.
Mr. Bethrick has not invalidated the original paper nor validated atheism.
If by presenting a proof that god-belief is irrational, then yes, I have. Of course, Slick has ignored it in order to claim that I have not refuted his original paper. More dishonesty.
Furthermore, he makes even more inaccurate statements when he says "Slick is simply announcing that he intends to believe that there is a god regardless of the rational merits (supposing there are any) of his particular god belief." What is that? I did not announce anywhere in the original paper that I intended to believe in God regardless of rational merits.
Yes, he did. Only he does not recognize it, even though I pointed it out.
Again, this is another fabrication on the part of Mr. Bethrick in his attempts to weaken the paper.
Indeed, an argument which has little content and zero inferential value is weak enough; it does not need anyone to show its weaknesses, but to correct its mistakes, which I have done. Slick just does not want to learn.
It is a faulty method of defense and a faulty method of attack. But the fact that he has introduced innuendo without substantiation only weakens his arguments.
So is Slick here saying that faith has nothing to do with his god-belief? In hispaper on the "entropy argument," Slick admits explicitly that he has allowed his confessional investment to fill an enormous logical gap when he writes:
At this point I admit to making a leap of logic and assert that the supernatural, uncaused cause is the God of the Bible.
Clearly, naming the identity of the "uncaused cause" which he thinks he proves to be real in his argument as "the God of the Bible" is based on his desires. He could have chosen any deity, and it would still have been a choice. Thus, far from being "innuendo without substantiation," my identification of the fact that it is wishes, not reason and informed logic, which compel Slick to think that his god-belief is valid.
He quotes a Mr. Robinson who says that faith is "the determination to believe that there is a god no matter what the evidence may be." I do not know who Mr. Robinson is, but I do not agree with what his definition of faith is and I know no Christian who would adopt such a fallacious definition.
This is rich. Whileearlier we found in his version of the "transcendental argument," Slick thinks that, according to his straw man of atheism the laws of logic are "relative conventions" because they are "agreed upon principles," he now rebuts a valid characterization of faith (I say 'valid' because Slick just validated it above!) on the basis that it is one which is not conventionally agreed upon by Christians! That Slick knows "no Christian who would adopt such a fallacious definition" does not show it to be fallacious. Something is not determined to be fallacious on the basis of who accepts or does not accept it.
I do not believe contrary to evidence nor rationality.
Sure he does. He believes that some man was executed and three days later rose from the dead, walked around in a desert community, preached and then ('tween 10 and 40 days later) wafted up to heaven in a cloud. Indeed, this same preacher says to the doubting Thomas type in John 20:29 "?because thou hast seen me, though has believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." Thus Jesus' followers are praised for rejecting the need for evidence in believing his arbitrary claims. Again, Jesus, we learn in Mark 5:36, wants his followers to "just believe." (NIV) This is not rationality.
But, this is not something that Mr. Bethrick seems to care to admit.
Why would it be up to me to "admit" this? Indeed, he's the Christian who's supposed to take every word attributed to Jesus in the New Testament (including Mark 5:36 and John 20:29) as "gospel." The Bible's very clear about its antagonism to the need for evidence and rationality.
Instead, Mr. Bethrick has only quoted a definition of faith that agrees with his premises.
Would Slick consider it virtuous if I endorsed a definition which did not agree with my premises?
Since the definition is faulty it is a straw man argument that he is trying to establish.
Slick has not shown the definition in question to be faulty. And indeed, I have shown both where the Bible endorses such a view, and where Slick has admitted to it in his own argument for the existence of a god! What more does he need? Of course, he's again acting on faith: just as he accepts the Bible's claims because he wants them to be true, now he rejects validated identifications because he wants them not to be true. Well, at least he's consistent!
Mr. Bethrick then goes on to say then I am determined to believe no matter what the criticisms and evidences are. Since I have already stated contrary to that and since I have already commented upon the lack of, shall we say, mind reading ability on the part of Mr. Bethrick, I will leave it to the reader to discern whether or not he is being rational in his argumentation or if he is merely inserting his own prejudices and emotions into the subject in an attempt to dismantle my paper.
Indeed, I shall leave it to the reader to judge for himself as well. For it certainly does not take a mind-reader to recognize this.
Slick reasons, "Since atheism cannot be proven and since disproving evidences for God does not prove there is no God, atheists have a position that is intellectually indefensible." But where does Slick prove that "atheism cannot be proven"? How does Slick establish this claim? All he does is assert it in one form or another. But assertion does not equal proof. Besides, Slick is again missing the point by treating atheism as if it were a positive claim which needs to be proven. As has already been shown, atheism is the absence of a belief, and it is fully justified if the context of one's knowledge does not support the claim that there is a god.
Again, I have offered the proof that atheism cannot be proven by stating that in order to prove there is no god one must know all things in all places in all times to be able to determine that there is no god anywhere.
Yes, that's true, Slick has stated this. But I have provided counter-evidence, suggesting that atheism can be proven to be the only rationally proper alternative to god-belief.See my argument above. If it can be shown that god-belief is irrational (which I have proven), then it follows that, to be rational, one should discard this belief and consequently become an atheist. It's really quite simple. By insisting that atheism must entail the belief "there are no gods" and therefore a validation of atheism must entail a proof that no gods exists, Slick simply engages in arbitrary artifice, attempting to be cute. Unfortunately for him, he fails to attack what really threatens his confessional investment, which is the recognition that they are irrational.
I cannot see how offering an intellectual proof that God does not exist is possible.
Does it follow from the fact that apologist Matt Slick "cannot see how offering an intellectual proof that God does not exist is possible," that in fact such a proof is not possible?
If Mr. Bethrick would care to offer some intellectual proof that God does not exist, I would be more than happy to examine it.
But I don't need to prove that the non-existent does not exist. That which is non-existent by definition does not exist.
Rather, I present the argument to the fact that god-belief is irrational. Will Slick be "happy to examine it"? I'm standing by.
But since neither he nor any other atheists have provided such proof, as far as I have seen, and since he cannot know all things in all places in the universe, I assume that no proof for God's non existence exists.
Notice Slick's reasoning here, and ask if he would accept the identical course of reasoning for the non-existence of gods from atheists. Consider the following parallel argument:
But since neither Slick nor any other theists have provided a proof of god's existence, as far as I have seen, and since Slick cannot know all things in all places in the universe (where such proofs might be hiding!), I assume that no proof for the existence of gods exists.
Now, would Slick accept this? It is precisely the very reasoning which he presents to the conclusion "that no proof for God's non existence exists."
Perhaps I have assumed too much, but since the subject is atheism and its viability, and since Mr. Bethrick has chosen to defend its viability by attacking the paper, I await his proof that there is no god.
Why doesn't Slick accept the argument which I recast above? After all, it's the very same reasoning which he presents for his position that "no proof for God's non existence exists." If Slick's "argument" qualifies as an acceptable proof for the non-existence of something (namely the non-existence of a proof that no gods exists), then why does he not accept the same course of reasoning when the conclusion is discordant with his desires?
And, what if I have proof that there are no gods, but decide to withhold it? Of course, Slick will want to dismiss it somehow. Why? Because he wants a god to exist. That's all.
Slick points out the following:
I lack belief in God" and attempted to demonstrate in the paper that any atheist who openly states that he lacks belief in God and in so doing negates proofs and/or evidences for God's existence is in reality believing that there is no God since his actions reflect his belief system.
I have tackled the "absence of belief" issue on CARM already under the paper titled "
Clearly such an attempt as this would have to be predicated upon the assumption that a lack of belief is equivalent to a belief (for instance, the belief that something is not the case). A belief takes up space in someone's mind; the absence of a belief does not.
But Slick fails again to recognize that my absence of belief in the existence of gods is coupled with the certainty that god-belief is irrational, as themany essays to which I referred above make clear.
In dropping the crucial distinction between belief and absence of belief, and in failing to recognize that atheism is the rationally proper alternative to god-belief given the fact that god-belief is irrational, Slick attempts to focus discussion on the deity which he imagines exists, rather than on his belief that this deity exists. In other words, he is attempting to evade scrutiny of the foundations of his beliefs by trying to refocus that scrutiny on a construct of his own imagination.
If someone has a lack of belief in something, then his actions would be consistent with that. I lack belief in the existence of screaming blue ants from Venus. And because I lack belief in them, I do not try and defend the position that I lack belief in them nor do I go around announcing to people that I lack belief in screaming blue ants from Venus.
Indeed. This is why one does not need to defend his atheism. But when one presents a positive attribution, as I do when I claim that god-belief is irrational, then of course I am called to defend that position, which I have done. I think Slick finally gets it!
Slick then writes:
Unlike Mr. Bethrick, I am not try to prove or substantiate a negative position or "non position" about something. In other words, his actions speak louder than his words as he claims that he lacks belief in God yet behaves as though he believes there is no god.
Slick again fails to recognize that I have a position which I have asserted and which I am willing to defend, which is, namely, that god-belief is irrational. Just when Slick seemed to be sensing his way to the sunlight, he crawled back into the darkness of his misrepresentations.
Slick then admits that "atheists can only say that there are no convincing evidences for God so far presented." But if that's the case, then what precisely is Slick's fuss? If a particular non-believer holds that the "evidences for God" are not convincing, does Slick think that the non-believer should believe anyway? If a person is honest to himself and finds, after reviewing arguments and "evidences" proposed on behalf of proving one's god-belief, that those arguments and "evidences" are insufficient to convince him, he will acknowledge that believing the claim that there is a god would be irrational.
I have no fuss. Mr. Beth Frank does not challenged my comment the atheists can only say there are no convincing evidences for God.
I'm not exactly sure what Slick was trying to say here. Perhaps he could rephrase it for clarity's sake.
That is all atheists can really say in spite of what the evidence of the logic might be. Remember, the atheists presupposition will not allow him or her to seriously entertain the possibility of does existence lest he undermine his own belief system; namely, that there is no god.
Again, this statement has seemed to gotten muddled, and is consequently not very clear. He could have done some editing perhaps before he pasted his rebuttal to his website.
Again, let me say that I am far from convinced that the "lack of belief "position of atheists is anything more than an attempt to get around the weakness of their position.
It's certainly clear that this is what Slick thinks. Indeed, it is frustrating for him as an apologist because it is impossible for him to attack. That's why he wants so desperately to characterize atheism as necessarily entailing the "belief" that "no gods exist." When atheists recognize that the fact which makes them atheists is that they do not have a god-belief, they also recognize that they don't have to play the apologist's little games. This really annoys apologists to no end, which is why we see Slick going to such lengths to reverse the truth. Clearly he wants atheism to be wrong. But reality does not follow anyone's whims, human or divine.
Logically, if they said there was no god, and they would be at a great loss to prove their position.
And if they simply say that they do not have a god-belief, then the claim that "they would be at a great loss to prove their position" would be ill-suited as an apologetic goal. Too bad for Slick that this is the case.
If they believe that there is no god, this opens them up to further cross-examination.
I believe that god-belief is irrational. This certainly opens me up to cross-examination. If Slick disagrees, he's certainly free to bring it on.
So, atheists tend to say "I lack belief" as if to say that they have no position at all about God. But, as I have stated elsewhere on Carm, in the I lack belief paper, if the atheist lacks belief and why is he so adamant about attacking theistic proofs? His behavior is that he believes there is no god and works to substantiate the belief.
I respond to this question in numerous portions of this paper (for instance,see below) and in my response to the paper which Slick mentions. (URL: http://www.geocities.com/katholon/CARM/Slicks_Folly.htm) Clearly his attempts to prove his position fail.
When Slick points out that atheists "cannot say there are no evidences for God because the atheist cannot know all evidences that possibly exist in the world" [sic], he overlooks the fact that an atheist can justifiably say that he does not know of any legitimate evidences for god. And, given that the same "evidences" are offered in support of claims that different gods exists, it is hard to see how any "evidences" can be considered legitimate. Again, knowledge and belief are hierarchically and contextually dependent upon prior knowledge and beliefs, reducing ultimately to one's starting points (assuming one is systematic about the content of his mind). If one is not aware of any "evidences for God," he is certainly justified in not accepting the claim that there is a god. If one has been presented with "evidences for God" and, after examining those evidences, concludes that they are insufficient, he is justified in not accepting the claim that there is a god. Furthermore, if one can present good reasons for why belief in a god is irrational, then by all means, he is fully justified in rejecting the claim that a god exists. Slick does not seem to be aware of these points.
Again Mr. Bethrick makes another mistake. I stated in the paper "Is atheism viable?", "At best, atheists can only say that there are no convincing evidences for God so far presented." This means, logically, that the atheist does not yet know of any legitimate evidence for God. That is why I said "so far presented."
Actually, an atheist who is informed of Rational Philosophy can say much more than this. For Rational Philosophy tells us just why god-belief is irrational, and, because of this, no evidences can legitimately serve to defend it from scrutiny. Slick himself does not seem to be aware of this fact, as he wants to keep the discussion on his terms. However, his terms have been shown to be arbitrary and built on sand.
I am fully a ware of the points that Mr. Bethrick has raised in the preceding paragraph and I have attempted to deal with them in my writing against atheism in other papers by stating that there is a degree of agnosticism among atheists.
But "stating that there is a degree of agnosticism among atheists" does not prove that there is in fact "a degree of agnosticism among atheists." While there may be "a degree of agnosticism among SOME atheists," it would not follow from this that this is the case among all atheists. Indeed, I would say that agnostics (at least some instances of agnosticism) are a breed of atheist, where it seems that Slick would rather say that atheists are a breed of agnostic. Agnosticism is essentially the position that certainty is not possible. Slick himself seems to confirm this in his paper "I don't' see any evidence of the existence of God" when he claims that "an agnostic holds that God may exist but he is unknowable." The commonality between my view and Slick's view of agnosticism is the "unknowable" part (where I prefer the term 'uncertainty').
But clearly it is not necessarily the case that all atheists are also agnostics. For I am an atheist, and I do not claim a position of uncertainty or unknowability. I am fully confident in the verdict that god-belief is irrational, and I am certain that god-belief is dangerous to man. So there is no "degree of agnosticism" in this atheist.
What I mean that is that since the atheist cannot know all evidences, or anti-god evidences, or anti-god proofs, etc., it is logically necessary that there may indeed be such evidence and/or proofs out there not yet known.
Essentially, Slick wants to hold the ideal of omniscience rather than reason as his standard of determining what is and what is not the case. It may be the case (i.e., a possibility) that there are in existence numerous proofs for all sorts of claims which I do not accept. If we take omniscience to be our ideal, then, since we will never achieve omniscience (we must act in order to achieve our knowledge by discovering and validating it, and I do not think that anyone will ever live long enough to discover and validate all the knowledge there is to be had out there), we must adopt a position of perpetual uncertainty on virtually all matters (for one could always counter any claim to certainty with the supposed possibility that there are proofs to the contrary in existence but outside our knowledge). But if we take reason to be our guide, then we recognize that knowledge of the world is contextual, and that in order to claim knowledge about something, we need contextual support which reduces ultimately to our perceptual level of consciousness (our "first contact" with reality).
So, if we accept the supposed (but unconfirmed) possibility that there exist proofs antithetical to our claims to certainty on various matters, we still have to go with the verdicts which the context of our knowledge does support, not with the hypothetical verdicts which that context does not support.
The context of my knowledge does not and cannot support the belief that there is a god or gods. This is because at the basis of my knowledge context is the principle of the primacy of existence. This principle tells us that existence exists independent of consciousness, that the task of consciousness is not to create and manipulate reality to conform to its dictates (as god is supposed to be able to do), but to discover and identify what reality is for the purpose of meeting our living needs. In order to accept the claim that there are gods as knowledge, I would have to betray this foundation and contradict it, which would be irrational. Hence, I discard the claim that there are gods, and consequently have no god-belief.
Since he cannot know that there is no god, he can only believe, based upon a "lack of evidences" that there is no god. This is not proof. This is a measure of faith in knowing you don't know enough; hence, the agnosticism, or the not knowing for sure.
But clearly, if Slick will read the last few paragraphs which I have written, he will see that the matter is not so simple as he would like to assume. Again, he drones on and on about atheists who "cannot know that there is no god," but again it is not the atheist's claim that there is a god in the first place. This is the theist's claim, and he must provide good reasons to accept it as legitimate knowledge, otherwise those who do not make this assertion are free to ignore it or discard it, and move on with their lives without its obvious burdens.
Besides, I know for sure that god-belief is irrational and dangerous to man. Nothing Slick has stated anywhere in his rebuttal to my paper has effectively called this conclusion into question. However, if he wants to show that atheism is not "viable," this is the area where he will have to focus his efforts.
My position is that the atheist makes a choice to believe that there is no god and/or makes a choice to hold the position of "lack of belief."
My choice is to discard god-belief because of its irrationality.
I further maintain that logic requires agnosticism rather than atheism.
That is because Slick takes as his standard of knowledge the omniscience which he will never achieve, and thus is forced to enshrine uncertainty as an epistemological end in itself. Since he embraces the form of logic without its content (which reason supplies), this is the only orientation towards knowledge open to him. By neglecting the need for content, the theist ignores the need to identify his conceptual starting point and the means by which he is aware of it. He ignores this because he ignores the fact that knowledge is hierarchical in nature, a fact which the omniscience view of knowledge denies. And indeed, the "knowledge" possessed by an omniscient being would neither be contextual nor hierarchical, and a proof of this would be the fact (assuming omniscience were possible) that the omniscient mind would have no need to validate new knowledge by integrating it with previously validated knowledge. This is why Slick's entire focus is on whether or not the atheist can prove that gods do not exist, rather than on what are his starting points and what are the means by which he validates them. Thus he ignores the needs to identify the foundations of his knowledge in terms of fundamentals, and treats all his knowledge claims as if they had no hierarchical or contextual relationship to each other (and in the case of arbitrary claims like "god exists" and "Jesus rose from the dead," there are no such relationships). It is because of this false view of knowledge, which Slick probably does not even realize he embraces, that he does not care to engage the proof that god-belief is irrational, to which I alluded in my initial critique. Quite simply, it's beyond his comprehension.
I had written:
Slick then wants to conclude that "since there could be evidences presented in the future, the atheist must acknowledge that there may indeed be a proof that has so far been undiscovered and that the existence of God is possible." That would be the case if the what is claimed were shown to be a legitimate possibility. However, if one recognizes that god-belief is inherently contradictory to reality and thus irrational, then it would be wrong to think that "there could be evidences presented in the future" for such belief. Thus I cannot accept Slick's contention that an atheist is really only an agnostic "since at best the atheist can only be skeptical of God's existence." Clearly this is not the case for those who embrace reason consistently. One need not "prove that there is no god" nor does he have to worry about hypothetical "evidences presented in the future." If he does not believe, he is an atheist.
Mr. Bethrick continues to commit logic fallacies. Here he begs the question. He says "if one recognizes that god belief is inherently contradictory to reality and thus irrational" as though this is the truth. He has not established its defensibility nor rationality. He simply stated an "if then" premise that is unsubstantiated in order to sound more rational. But it is not logically consistent to base the conclusion upon a premise that is unsubstantiated, which is what he has done here and other places.
Slick accuses me of the fallacy of begging the question for not presenting an argument to the conclusion that god-belief is irrational, but assert its conclusion anyway. But Slick fails to take into account that in footnote #2 of my essay (http://www.geocities.com/intellectoasis/Slicks_Fuss.htm) I provided a link to an article which presents this argument, thus alleviating me of the need to repeat it in my review of Slick's article. Indeed, the purpose of my review of Slick's article was to present a comprehensive review of it, not present the argument showing why god-belief is irrational. That argument already exists in another page, but clearly Slick has not chosen to respond to it. Interested readers will find that article here:
Why god-belief is irrational, by CJ Holmes
Thus, the premise of my argument is not unsubstantiated, and Slick had access to its substantiation all the while. He simply chose to ignore it. That he would then accuse me of begging the question simply shows how desperate he is to find a flaw in my position. Quite humorous.
Slick closes his little piece with the following statement:
This is why atheists need to attack Christianity. It is because Christianity makes very high claims concerning God?s existence which challenges their atheism and pokes holes in their vacuum. They like the vacuum. They like having the universe with only one god in it: themselves.
While it is the case that "Christianity makes very high claims concerning God's existence," it is not the case that these claims pose a challenge to atheists.
Christianity is long on claims, but short on proofs, and even shorter on rationality. Slick seems to think that the recognition of these facts constitutes a "vacuum" and reflects a desire to see oneself as a god. However, it is hard to rule out, judging by Slick's tone of resentment here, that his comments are not motivated by disingenuous intentions. For not believing in the Christian god does not mean that one necessarily considers himself to be the Christian god, any more than not believing that Zeus exists means that one necessarily considers himself to be Zeus. If Slick could achieve any consistency in applying the principles which he himself wants to throw around in his rant against atheism, he might begin to see some of the holes in his own faith commitments.
If the claims of Christianity posed no challenge to atheism, then why are atheists constantly attacking the Bible and Christian theistic proofs? Take this very paper that I am answering. Mr. Bethrick is going to great lengths to "refute" a challenge that he says is no challenge. If it were no challenge, then why is he tackling it?
One atheist can hardly speak for the motivations and ambitions of another atheist, or of all atheists. I cannot speak for other atheists whom Slick has encountered in his quest for taking his belief in invisible magic beings to the world. But one thing is clear: religious persons who are commanded to go out and proselytize the world do represent a threat to the civilized human race. If the attacks against American citizens by religious zealots on September 11, 2001 are not taken as evidence for this, I do not know what will. The religious mind is a primitive mind, the mind of a child desperate for a father figure who will take control of him, and of those whom he encounters. The Bible, for instance, is explicit in its expectation that believers come to their religious beliefs with the gullibility and naivete of a child.
For instance, Mark's gospel has Jesus say, "Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein" (10:15). Matthew's gospel has Jesus repeat essentially the same thing: "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (18:3). Similar verses can be found elsewhere, but clearly the evangelists have seen it fit to emphasize its desired demeanor for those who would surrender their minds in exchange for the fantasy of "the mind of Christ" (I Cor. 2:16), and their will for the whims of some invisible magic being (cf. Mark 14:36 and parallels) which they claim exists, but can never produce.
Even today Christianity continues to pump out armies of evangelists and proselytizers bent on world domination, the ranks of whom would make the priests of the Dark Ages proud. They spread a gospel of hatred for man and resentment for liberty, a liturgy of intolerance and a canon of fear. A few quotes from some of these Witch Doctors should suffice to demonstrate that they are serious in their ambition to divide men along religious lines, to cleave mankind into two collectives - the chosen versus the damned, where whim is the standard, not reality, where fear is the currency, not values, where mysticism is the key to truth, not reason:
Atheistic secular humanists should be removed from office and Christians should be elected...Government and true Christianity are inseparable.
Robert Simonds, founder & president of Citizens for Excellence in Education
When we get an active Christian parents committee in operation in all districts, we can take complete control of all local school boards.
Robert Simonds, founder and president of Citizens for Excellence in Education
We are talking about Christianizing America. We are talking about spreading the Gospel in a political context.
Paul Weyrich, founder & president of the Free Congress Foundation
What Christians have got to do is take back this country, one precinct at a time, one neighborhood at a time and one state at a time...I honestly believe that in my lifetime we will see a country once again governed by Christians.
Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition
I want you to let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good...Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism.
Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, Indiana News Sentinel
The threat is clear. Those who intend to defend their value of a nation of free individuals, where one's conscience can enjoy the liberty needed to guide his choices and actions by reason instead of priestly wishes, will recognize the threat to their values no matter what form they take. Why do other atheists make a stink about the religious anti-mentality which is choking the world? I cannot answer for them. I can only answer for myself. There's too much at stake to sit by and let the Witch Doctors - the mystics of spirit - continually try to retake the world. Faith and force are always corollaries - the one always necessitates the other. Both deny reason, and it is because they deny reason that they must resort to force when dealing with others, either physical or psychological. Evil only happens when those who know to act in order to prevent it, fail to act and allow it to happen. We are watching religion unleash its hate and savagery on the civilized world all over the globe. Today our leaders are saying that a retreat to faith is the answer to our failing security. Indeed, it is not faith which will save us - it is faith which is destroying us. We do not hear our leaders extolling the virtues of reason, and like cockroaches rising through the floorboards the religious zombies are threshing the harvest, separating the wheat from the chaff, recruiting the latter and persecuting the former. "Believe, or go to hell" - those are the priest's terms. He does not deal with reality, he deals only with whim, and he intends to do so at the expense of those who will not bow. History is repeating itself, but men like Matt Slick would prefer that we bury our heads in the sand like ostriches and take no notice of the men of the white robes coming to lynch our minds. Indeed, he seeks to be one of them!
Again, how does Mr. Bethrick justify his mind-reading abilities by stating my "tone" and my "resentment" and my "disingenuous intentions." I say mind-reading because what else could it be? My emotions are not stated in the paper. He must either guess or manufacture information to bolster his position. Either way, he is failing to stick to the issue at hand as well as failing to present a logical defense of the viability of atheism.
The ambitions and motivations of the religious mind are not difficult to detect or identify. Indeed, a quick read of the statements by some of today's religious leaders (see above) is sufficient to see what they are. Slick seems to think that he needs to announce this at the top of his voice for others to recognize it, but he's sorely wrong.
Slick makes the following suggestion:
Perhaps it is Mr. Bethrick who needs to examine what true rationality is. I do not know what he thinks, since I cannot claim the ability to read minds. However by his claiming that belief in God is irrational, he must by necessity also condemn to the ranks of irrationality the likes of Einstein, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Pascal, etc. who all believed in God.
By 'rationality' I mean "the recognition and acceptance of reason as one's only source of knowledge, one's only judge of values and one's only guide to action." (Ayn Rand, "The Objectivist Ethics," The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 28.) By this understanding of rationality, we can readily see that god-belief, which is a mystical idea, and which is based on faith, not on reason, cannot be rational. The claim that in spite of this fact that god-belief is true, and the decision to cling to it emotionally regardless of the innumerable points against its presumed validity, are themselves irrational.
Notice again that Slick wants to equivocate my position. My position has consistently been that god-belief is irrational. But here Slick wants to mischaracterize my position as saying that God is irrational. But if I do not accept the claim that there is a god, then clearly this cannot be my position. Again, Slick wants to shift the terms of debate off his beliefs and any justification he might try to muster up in their defense, and refocus it to the construct of his imagination, the deity which he wants to exist.
Slick rightly acknowledges that "by claiming that belief in God is irrational, he must by necessity also condemn to the ranks of irrationality the likes of Einstein, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Pascal, etc. who all believed in God." And of course, to the extent that these individuals did hold to a god-belief, the same extent I hold that these individuals, and those like them, were irrational in this regard. This is of course irrelevant, and it is certainly not an argument which can salvage the claim to validity which Slick wants his readers to take for granted.
Slick then asks:
Who is Mr. Bethrick to state what is and is not rational in light of the intellectual giants of history who have believed contrary to what he claims is true rationality not to mention the fact that he has been irrational in his paper by playing the mind-reader?
Mr. Bethrick is a man just like Matt Slick. In Mr. Bethrick's case, he is a man who holds that principled thought is the key to rationality, where other men hold that their emotions and the consequences which threaten their emotions are the key to their escape from rationality.
Like Matt Slick, I face a fundamental choice: to think, or to evade thinking. I have chosen to think. I intend only to deal with the real world, while Slick wants to hide in a world of make-belief, a realm of invisible magic beings and miraculous fables handed down from the ages and mistaken for truth and substituted for rational principle. While I have summoned the courage to question authorities, Slick surrendered to the first passer-by who claimed authority over him, and hasn't questioned since. Sadly, he does not want to admit this to himself, and when difficult questions arise he hides under the skirt of the arbitrary to protect his enshrinement of whim where he can coddle his guilt under the guise of piety.
In conclusion, the existence of God is not established nor verified by whether or not intellectual giants of history have or have not believed in God. To make the assertion is a logical fallacy. I simply stated that those who are rational and brilliant have indeed believed in God. I am far from brilliant, but I do not consider myself to be irrational. My belief in God is based both on experience, logic, and evidence. My presupposition allows me to examine evidence even against God's existence. As I said earlier, if it can be reasonably demonstrated that Jesus did not rise from the dead I would give up Christianity. This is not irrational faith. On the contrary, it is faith based upon evidence and rationality as well as biblical revelation.
While it is certainly true that the existence of a god has neither been established nor verified, either by Slick himself, or by the "intellectual giants of history," this does not seem to concern him. Although he seems to acknowledge that the position that belief in god should be considered valid by virtue of the fact that people believe there is a god "is a logical fallacy," Slick offers no contest to the points raised against the assumption that god-belief is justifiable, or to those raised against his own epistemological infidelities. The fact that brilliant people have believed that a god exists is irrelevant. For it is clearly possible for one to be brilliant on the one hand, but to leave unexamined one's confessional investments. Slick says that he is "far from brilliant," but one does not have to be brilliant to see why god-belief is irretrievably irrational. And if it is the case that Slick does "not consider [himself] to be irrational," it is of no thanks to his god-belief, for god-belief can only guarantee irrationality. It may be the case that Slick does not really know what rationality is, and/or does not look too closely at his life to determine whether or not his beliefs, actions and choices are rational. He says that his "presupposition allows [him] to examine evidence even against God's existence," but if that "presupposition" consists essentially of an emotional commitment to god-belief, then that "presupposition" will not enable him to review that evidence objectively, which does not seem to be a concern to Slick. He repeats his admission,encountered above, that his position is predicated upon an arbitrary standard ("if it can be reasonably demonstrated that Jesus did not rise from the dead I would give up Christianity"), and then says "This is not irrational faith." Indeed, "irrational faith" is an unnecessary redundancy. Faith, as we have seen demonstrated throughout my critiques, is the determination to believe something strictly on the basis that one wants it to be true. It is this determination, this emotional commitment to an idea at the expense of reason, which compels theists like Slick to abandon rationality and then claim that their "faith [is] based upon evidence and rationality." But if his belief were "based on evidence and rationality," then clearly he would not need to seek the hopeless shelter of faith in "biblical revelation" in order to substantiate it.
Slick's final comment was:
And finally, Mr. Bethrick has not support atheism in any way.
Oh yes I have. Only, Slick doesn't want to admit this. Again, see themany essays proving the irrationality of god-belief above. In order to defend the validity of his god-belief, Slick will have to defend against the charge that it is irrational. And in order to defend against the charge that his god-belief is irrational, he will have to present a comprehensive response to the arguments and points critical of his god-belief which are developed and defended in the many essays which I linked above. Failure to meet this challenge even in part, constitutes a concession to my verdict that god-belief is irrational, and, consequently, that atheism is the only rationally proper alternative to god-belief.
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