Atheism is still NOT a “lack of belief”: A polemical WilliamLaneCraigdum (addendum)


I’ve already written a refutation of the “atheism is a mere lack of belief” ploy abused by the New Atheists and their acolytes. However, I’ve conceived of another way to demonstrate and thereby lay bare this intellectually disingenuous tactic. And it’s going to mine deeper levels of irritation and gnashing of teeth by those married to deploying such rhetorical subterfuge. How so?

I’m about to invoke the Devil…

…at least the Devil for New Atheists: THE WILLIAM LANE CRAIG.

Yes, the mild-mannered philosopher, Christian apologist, debater and research professor at Biola University — who takes douchebaggery to whole new plane of existence, as he evidently doesn’t abide by the bro maxim of “sun’s out, guns out” — is such a Beelzebub-type archdemon in the collective conscious of online New Atheists. Their fermenting distaste for Craig and his arguments, in many respects, resembles a quasi-religious fervor and aversion that many hosts of the “deluded faithful” reserve for the malicious supernatural figure or forces that occupy some prominent adversarial role in their respective theologies.

Well, take heed of his baby, THE SPAWN OF CRAIG, his presentation of The Damien–I mean Kalam cosmological argument:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
  2. The universe began to exist
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause

It’s simple, almost demure, making it both great for popular apologetics and easy to scoff at.

Now, for another plot twist, I have no interest in defending Kalam here. Nor am I about to make a case for the aforementioned cause as being what the theist affirms as God, like Craig eventually does. My prevailing intention is to dissuade you, good atheist, from ever adopting or resorting again to the “lack of belief” meme, which is typically used as follows:

  1. Atheism is merely a “lack of belief”
  2. One can’t argue for or prove a negative or a “lack of belief”
  3. Therefore, atheism does not require justification;
    is the default position in the debate;
    doesn’t have to provide any account for other phenomena like morality;
    isn’t a comprehensive worldview or ideology like that of religion;
    the burden of proof is solely for the theist; etc.

Well, I exclaim this will do you no good, atheist, especially if you’re one of those types who is so passionate about secularism, humanism and fending off oppressive religious dogma from infiltrating education, government and infringing on the non-religious’ liberties that you feel compelled to provide regular diatribes denouncing Christianity and its followers’ beliefs and actions as threats and functions of pernicious superstition. Conversely, I wholeheartedly concede and acknowledge there are atheists, who aren’t this noisy and just don’t believe in God, not giving the matter much thought in their daily affairs. So, my thesis here is not referring to these uncritical atheists, nor am I arguing about what makes one an atheist. I’m instead referencing the self-proclaimed “anti-theists,” often New Atheists, who are at least critical in voice if not critical in mind, as I’m about to show, and their definition of atheism as a mere “lack of belief.”

See, in addition to their tirades against religion and insistence that atheism is a “mere lack of belief,” I guarantee these atheists can be and have been observed doing a particular behavior when stimulated by an argument for God’s existence. They vehemently deny one or more of the premisses, especially if the argument is structurally valid. Or in the case of Craig’s Kalam, for example, they reject as false either of the syllogism’s premisses: 1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause and 2) The universe began to exist. Hence, they are committed to some if not all of the following negations of the claims advanced in Kalam’s premisses:

  1. Everything that begins to exist doesn’t have a cause, i.e., some thing begins to exist without a cause
  2. The universe did not begin to exist, i.e., the universe has always existed
  3. The universe does not exist

Undoubtedly, these atheists would disregard 3, as so deduced here, making it of no further consequence. Nevertheless, they are stuck with 1, 2  or the combination of the two; and as such, their atheism no longer merely consists of a lack of belief in God. In addition to their alleged absence of belief, they at least uphold one positive belief in order to diffuse Kalam and its theistic conclusion. By the very act of arguing, they do show their noggin is indeed empty but certainly not in the sense they purport it to be. Simply, they doth protest too much.

Nor is this problem exclusive to Kalam. Sure, you might be an atheist invested in showing the folly of religious belief via your YouTube channel where you “refute” all the arguments for God’s existence in videos, yet your repudiation of any of those efforts’ premisses entails your subscription to some positive epistemic and or metaphysical proposition to maintain your atheism. As one of my philosophy professors, an open atheist, said once during lecture — and I’m paraphrasing: “For every solution to a philosophical problem, there is a cost.” Let’s explore said cost.

Again, referencing Kalam, to subvert the proof is to profess that some thing begins to exist without a cause and or the universe has always existed. Assuredly, there are atheists who do assert that something can begin to exist without a cause, citing that matter cannot be destroyed and utterly rejecting Aristotelian forms. I imagine even more believe the universe is eternal. Personally, the latter undermines causality, which, in turn, makes their precious science worthless, as the discipline utterly relies on matter interacting with other matter and causing new material states of affairs to appear that are empirically accessible. They would have to formulate some other causal principle that makes scientific investigation possible while remaining sterile for logical armament in cosmological arguments — not a trivial challenge, to be sure. Moreover, in regard to the former, it’s also difficult to justify the necessity of the universe and the existence of a quantitative infinite, which an eternal universe would be. Additionally, notions of causality, necessity and quantitative infinity are all metaphysical issues, thereby, demonstrating that metaphysics is not just theistic bullshit disguising mysticism but is inevitable for anyone treading in these waters.

Anyway, it’s not so much whether these naturalistic metaphysical theses can be stomached, but rather they are the sort of pills that must be swallowed. Admittedly, for the New Atheist, none of it is appetizing. If you actively reject the premisses in the arguments for God’s existence, then atheism is not a mere “lack of belief.” Otherwise, you don’t really believe the reasons as to why you find the cosmological, moral and ontological proofs flawed, essentially lying, which is dishonest. Or you can be true to character, dismissing my argumentation and stubbornly retaining that you can rebuff the premisses in the arguments for God’s existence and simultaneously affirm atheism as a mere “lack of belief,” which is dishonest. Ignorance no longer has any utility as an excuse. The only option is to forfeit the notion that atheism is a mere “lack of belief” in God.

It frankly is by no means an expensive concession to make. It has no bearing on whether or not atheism is any less true or false. The God-question is very much up for grabs. All it does is reset the game board and ensure that the deck is not stacked heavily in the atheist’s favor. What I have argued for is so modest of a proposal that it ought not have been a point of contention — simply fighting for a fair debate.

Undoubtedly, in doing so, however, I will have incensed many of the incorrigible New Atheists out there. They take their lack of beli–I mean positive belief in the purely natural and physical world very seriously. Old habits die very hard indeed. In fact, I would say their devotion can be characterized as spiritual in nature. Not only have I, the deluded Christian theist afflicted by “mind-viruses,” described their dislike for Craig as being so zealous, which is repulsive to them, I have struck at the veritable heart of their anti-theistic enterprise.

In their polemical sorties against religion, New Atheists love to attack from both the moral and cognitive high ground. They pride themselves on their understanding and application of reason and science, their open-mindedness and how tolerant they are. Well, I have stung their pride and impugned their self-indulgent romanticism. At least in this case, it’s been strongly implied but now will be explicitly stated that they are anything but superior, instead being dogmatic, dishonest, intellectually facile. Their self-ascribed righteousness is a resolute parody worthy of contempt.

Their abuse of philosophy to buttress their ideology is abominable. They have no respect for it and it’s purposeful quest for the truth. Instead of honest inquiry, they wield philosophy as a blunt instrument, denying causality to defend their hollow “lack of belief,” for example, all the the while negligent to the absence of their own foresight to determine that such a denial leads into utter Humean skepticism. It’s true that everyone who enters the struggle between theism and atheism is at once a neophyte. But, at some point, it behooves that person, regardless if they align philosophically with ranks transcendental or physical, to mature and be mindful of not only what they belief but how they believe it.

With their persistence in the “lack of belief” meme and other gauche conduct in discourse, I cannot perceive any such humble introspection from the New Atheists and other anti-theists: The Dawkinses, the Graylings, the Dennetts, the Barkers and the Thunderf00t’s of the world. Despicable, the lot of them and what amounts to their anti-philosophy. Of course, there are thoughtful and erudite atheists I admire, but the New Atheists and their disciples are not among them when it comes to philosophy of religion. Oh, I know I’m not making any friends here. Yet, one must first be a friend of Truth first before one can have a productive and amicable discussion with someone whom one diametrically disagrees with. If we are to personify Truth, then she is a fair maiden to be courted.

The New Atheists are unsavory, rapacious and ungentle in pursuit of her,

Modus Pownens

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24 thoughts on “Atheism is still NOT a “lack of belief”: A polemical WilliamLaneCraigdum (addendum)

    1. Ben,

      First of all, thanks for stopping by.

      “Does that mean agreeing with the apologist at the beginning of the discussion?”

      I’m unsure of your intent here. Are you wholeheartedly agreeing with me or are you being facetious? I’m going to assume it’s the latter in my response, especially after skimming your blog — nice place, by the way, as I agree with your criticism of Craig as presented (I haven’t read Reasonable Faith) and your post “Clarity” — but I apologize if such an interpretation is incorrect.

      What I mean by a “friend of Truth” is someone doing honest inquiry and reflection into what is the case or what can be colloquially called honestly looking for the truth of a matter. This is something genuine philosophers, whatever their knowledge and competency, do.

      Many of the New Atheists, militant atheists, “anti-theists,” or what have you are more motivated by their anger than a real love of the truth when they criticize religious belief. So, when they evaluate a philosophical argument for the existence of God, they are interested in rejecting it for the sake of ideology instead of finding the truth. They are using philosophy without any respect for it to uphold their own dogmas. And this is evidenced, for instance, by stunts like claiming atheism is a “mere lack of belief.” Another case is flippantly rejecting premisses in Kalam without any or little consideration of what that philosophically entails.

      No, this does not at all mean that only theists and Christians are “friends of truth.” I’m sure there are those on my side of things that are equally guilty of naively philosophizing to maintain their beliefs without any further appreciation or integrity into what they’re doing. My post is intended as less a work of Christian apologetics but more of an essay on philosophy or online popular philosophy of religion.

      Moreover, my atheist buddy Oscar, who commented just above, is a “friend of truth,” though I suspect he would eschew that label–he’s very Nietzschean. Yet, what he calls “scribblings of a drunkard” are an honest and romantic Emersonian-inspired search for the transcendental in life.

      Moreover, after perusing your blog, I would say you don’t qualify as the target of my ridicule. Of course, I don’t necessarily agree with some of your criticisms of Kalam, for example, but they are fair and thoughtful. Whatever you’re doing thus far, in my opinion, you’re genuinely trying to get to the heart of things to the best of your abilities, aka being a “friend of Truth.”

      If you’re interested, following the link attached to my “friend of truth” remark in my post will take you to one of my favorite philosopher’s blog and his post about civil discourse and what philosophy is for. He’s the one that influenced my commentary here: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2014/10/a-reader-poses-some-political-philosophical-questions.html

      1. Hi Modus Pownens, I am thankful that you consider me a “friend of truth.” My original remark was facetious, but only in a tongue-in-cheek way. I had just published that post on the “apologetics game” when I came across yours, and I didn’t respond to be belligerent, but I had that post on my mind at the time. (Incidentally, I hope that you didn’t take that post to mean that all apologists necessarily play the “apologetics game,” as I’ve described it. In my experience, many do, but there are notable exceptions. [In my mind, it’s up for debate whether they should even be called “apologists.”] Further, whether someone plays the apologetics game or not is irrelevant to whether the arguments they present are good or bad. I pointed to Craig specifically because I think he best illustrates the principle at work. The merit of his arguments can be judged wholly apart from his epistemic predilections.)

        I think it’s worthwhile examining apologetic arguments properly, even if they don’t hold up under scrutiny. There is something very *irritating* about seeing a poorly considered objection to an apologetic argument. It is doubly irritating when such an objection is presented by someone you would expect to know better (i.e., someone who is frequently lumped among the so-called “new atheists”). That said, I do think the arguments most frequently presented do tend to crack under pressure, which is why many apologists feel the need to fall back on the “inner witness” gambit.

        In any case, thanks for taking the time to respond! Your response is warmly appreciated.

  1. Ben,

    You’re fine and no problem. You’re initial question just could have been interpreted ambiguously, so I answered it on the side of caution. But I’m glad we cleared things up.

    I hear what you’re saying about apologists being wishy-washy, and I don’t necessarily agree with mainstream apologists all the time. I’m starting to wonder if my blog is less apologetics — though I definitely do what could be considered as such — more philosophy and politics. And should I re-brand things a bit around here.

    I think one thing to remember that the apologetics put forth by Craig and others are for the Christian masses to use. That, they are distilling philosophy and other disciplines down so the average Christian can deploy it in everyday use. I mean, in spite of his popularity, Craig is very much an academic. This is evidenced by how atheists philosophers like Quentin Smith respectfully treat his work. Moreover, I believe (I got to check) but for one of his doctorates Craig wrote an anthology of the cosmological argument, so the man is an expert on that sort of thing. I’ve also read parts of his scholarly articles on the Trinity and they are much more sophisticated than his popular apologetics.

    Anyway, I’ll look forward to more of your content and running into you more on the blogosphere.

  2. Okay, this isn’t related, but I’m curious about your views of the Republican/Democratic primary campaigns. In general, and I’m also curious if you’ve noticed the general media actively manipulating the news/screen time of candidates?

  3. You know, Sam, I haven’t been paying enough attention to that as I should. Everyone is kind of going after Trump last time I checked. What I’ve noticed is more coverage based and framed by ideology. For instance, this Selma-like significance attached to Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter. NBC Nightly had one of the most unethical followups a year after the shooting of Michael, which implied that the shooting of Michael Brown was not justified, favorably showed how residents are protesting, mentioned the Justice Department’s inflated, saving-face report of Ferguson’s police department that conclusively showed very little, implicated that this was just more a civil rights cause, showed that 24 unarmed black men have been give out of 500-some police killings this year or the previous year with no greater statistical context, failed to note Darren Wilson was exonerated and Michael Brown had violently resisted arrest and did not surrender “hands up, don’t shoot” style. Also they’ve been silent on Planned Parenthood’s scandal, perhaps not even suggesting that federal law and policy on fetal tissue donation should at the very least be re-examined.

  4. Modus,

    Another question: where can I go for a balanced view of the news? I’d prefer you, but that’s a lot of posting that I don’t think you schedule could endure. So, I’m trying to find moderate sources as opposed to Leftist (which seems to be most of the media) and the Right.

    1. Sam,

      I don’t think what I do here is news, and I’m unabashedly conservative (classically liberal). But I do have a background in journalism and am not a layperson when it comes to the discipline’s ethics. The fact of the matter there really is no moderate, as in ideologically neutral, news organization out there. They’re all more interested in what’s called the “journalism of affirmation” instead of the “journalism of verification.” They’re interested in confirming an audiences preconceived biases because it is more financially viable in the age of media uncertainty and upheaval launched by the Internet. In a few words, they’re all unethical by 20th century American journalism standards. FOX News is excoriated because it dissents more than being traditionally unethical. To my knowledge, you’re best bet is to go to realclearpolitics.com, which offers links to twice daily commentary on the news from both sides.

      My news diet consists of perusing conservative sites throughout the day, and I fairly consistently watch mainstream nightly news (NBC), which heavily leans to the Left. So, I get both to some degree, and that’s what I would advise if you want to get the most accurate picture of what’s going on. It unfortunately requires a fair amount of work. Sam, I hope that helps.

  5. Modus,

    Thanks for the advice. I’ve found realclearpolitics to be rather helpful.

    Who are you rooting for in the Presidential candidacy?

  6. Rubio is my first pick. He’s as humble as Carson, but he has the experience of politics with a clear grasp on foreign policy.

    Carson is my second choice.

    Cruz is my reluctant third choice.

  7. My problem with the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA) is that it asserts strange verbiage into something that we don’t have any real hard evidence about, namely what started the universe and how. Anybody can make validly structured arguments, but whether they are sound is another matter entirely. When Sean Carroll debated WLC, Carroll pointed out that the KCA isn’t even wrong. Meaning that what we now know about physics doesn’t deal with transcendent causes etc… As to the lack of belief and atheism. I really do lack a belief in God whether you choose to believe it or not. Most people do not define themselves as a-unicornists because there isn’t a body of people trying to affect political change and make educational demands based on unicorns. There are with regards to God/Theism issues (abortion, LGBTQ rights, euthansia, prayer in school, the teaching of evolution, etc …). These issues often come across as anti-theist, but from my point of view it looks like some atheists are collectively trying to defend the null hypothesis. If unicorns were to assert their existence, than this belief would have to change so however one defines that position, “qwerty” for example, than I suppose I’m qwerty or whatever you understand that position to be even if you disagree with that position.

    1. Scrupulous,

      Your comment jumps around a bit, so I’m going to try to focus on what I think is the heart of it, though I might get carried away.

      “Begins to exist” probably does need some unpacking, but I think Craig has spoken and written at length what he means by it. I agree actually with you and Carroll that physics doesn’t deal with the transcendent or what happened prior to the Big Bang. So, we need another form of inquiry other than science like philosophy to provide possible answers to that sort of question. And Craig’s argument is philosophical and not scientific. Sure, he uses science to help justify his claim that the universe began to exist, but he offers philosophical reasons as well, e.g., impossibility of a quantitative infinite. The point is Kalam and cosmological arguments in general are not dependent on science for their soundness. Moreover, I did not defend Kalam here, so I don’t know why you discursively criticized it thusly. I merely used it as a rhetorical device for my thesis in the post.

      “As to the lack of belief and atheism. I really do lack a belief in God whether you choose to believe it or not.”

      Well, it really depends on what you mean by “lack of belief.” If you mean “lack of belief” as in you don’t maintain the following proposition as true, i.e. God exists, then I would agree. But if that’s the case, it’s trivially true and not a matter of controversy, as they’re are people who are atheists as so described.

      However, if you think “lack of belief” garners atheism the status of a default position or “null hypothesis”– that atheism doesn’t need an assertive, positive case made in its favor — well, I’ve made an argument here to show why that can’t be the case, and to declare otherwise is to be intellectually facile and dishonest. From my standpoint, you’ve completely ignored said argument. So, I earnestly ask, where do you take issue with it?

      Moreover, I don’t consider myself an a-unicornist, but I don’t believe in unicorns either, not because of lack of evidence, but due to the fact there are positive reasons that rule their existence as highly unlikely: We can go across the globe with satellite imaging and see there are no single-horned horse herds on the plains in the country; The concept of magic is logically incoherent and therefore magic creatures are as well, etc.

      The references to hot button issues and political organization surrounding them is irrelevant. The definition of atheism conflated with politics is not appurtenant to the discussion at hand, though I feel obligated to point out that one does not need to be a theist or Christian to oppose abortion, “same-sex marriage,” euthanasia, prayer in school, the teaching of evolution. In many of these cases, one does not need to appeal to the Bible to show abortion is infanticide, the recognition of “same-sex marriage” vitiates civil marriage and destroys the good of the institution for society or that euthanasia is immoral.

      1. I don’t know how quite to respond. While I may make some ontological/epistomological assumptions in order to function “in my world.” (Known as my point of view). I am by no means the arbiter of what is real or have the inside track to what is ultimate reality. I only have a method to discern between ideas good or bad. One of those methods is logic. Logic is a tool to be able to sift out what is correct or incorrect. Logic by itself, in my opinion does nothing useful. Case in point: Consider quantum virtual particles. We know they exist via detection, but their isn’t a logical set of axioms that we yet know that would answer how and why virtual particles pop into and out of existence. In other words, these natural occurrences appear to be uncaused. Once the last leg of Bell’s theorem is tested, we will know with a fair amount of certainty, that the nature of reality is quantum instead of classical. I bring this up because you seem highly impressed by Kalam and, at risk of putting words in your mouth which I do not mean to do, believe that metaphysics is a way to ascertain knowledge. I do not. Metaphysics may yield answers if the language used is strictly defined on a domain. Language is not as strict as say mathematics where relations can be drawn with precision whereas equivocations can happen easily and unintentionally because words have multiple meanings.

        What is your definition of “God?”
        How would you phrase the null hypothesis with regards to said God?
        Regarding the Kalam: How does it avoid the fallacy of composition?
        Regarding your deconstruction of unicorns, do you see any similarities to the God hypothesis? I too, do not see any gods as I too “can go across the globe with satellite imaging and see there are no” “gods.” Would this be positive evidence against gods? If not, why not?
        How do you know Zeus and Athena do or do not exist?

        Ultimately for me, I need some sort of evidence that is compelling and independently verifiable. It is too easy to be lured by one’s wishes for something to exist. In other words, how do I know I’m not deceiving myself?

        You seem to believe that metaphysics solves problems of infinite regress (again at risk of putting words in your mouth, which I do not mean to do), by simply concluding God. Aren’t you just pushing the problem back a step? Why did said God wait an eternity to create the world?
        What does it mean to be outside of space and time? Being spaceless and/or timeless?
        Unfortunately many problems like this only seem to push the back a step whatever problem it is attempting to solve.
        Lastly I only brought up the political dimension as a reason why I’m motivated to speak out against religious rationalizations of hot button topics. You are correct that there are a variety of reasons people may be opposed to hot button topics without appealing to religious/God issues.

        1. Again, there’s a lot here, Scrupulous, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to get to all of it. It seems to me the discussions has moved on beyond whether atheism is a mere “lack of belief.” You’ve made no mention of defending it here, but have attempted to show logic, metaphysics and philosophy as not very useful, no? Therefore, I will proceed accordingly.

          Logic, as in the laws of logic, e.g., the laws of identity, noncontradiction and excluded middle, are very useful, to the point denying them is to engage in nonsense. They don’t determine truth or falsity; they determine coherence, intelligibility for us. For something to be either true or false is to assume both the laws of identity, noncontradiction and excluded middle. That, what’s being scrutinized is indeed the the thing being scrutinized, that the proposition can’t be both true and false in the same context and that there is no go-between truth and falsity in which the proposition can be. To wit, to suppose there is something called truth is to suppose there is falsity, which all presupposes the laws of logic.

          Hence, your appeal to quantum mechanics is misplaced. The results you describe don’t do anything to invalidate logic but actually rely on them. That, what was studied is identical to itself, and that the study is designed to better understand what the truth of a given matter likely is and therefore what’s also more likely to be false in regard to it. If anything, your example attempts to discredit a metaphysical principle of ex nihilo, nihil fit, out of nothing, nothing comes.

          But once again, I don’t see how quantum particles apparently popping in and out of existence in a quantum vacuum, even if the efficient cause for it appears unclear, draws any blood here. The quantum vacuum and or quantum mechanics governing it aren’t nothing. Metaphysically, they’re something, and at least are part of the explanation even if there isn’t a completely sufficient one yet, according to the laws of quantum physics. The results remain intelligible to science after all, even if mysterious. Scientific experimentation itself again is dependent on phenomena having causes that can be controlled for, otherwise the whole enterprise wouldn’t be very useful. Indeed, I would wager variables were controlled for in order to ascertain these particles as “causeless.”

          Now, it’s true when talking about metaphysics one must be clear what they mean and such as language is imprecise, and we’re talking about the first principles and underlying fabric of reality and are bumping against what can be considered intelligible. But to say this cast doubts on gaining any insight or knowledge is again confused. Take your atheism for example. Starting from that point of view, does that not have any effect on your views on morality, or how the universe operates or notions of human dignity or. Aren’t these metaphysical questions still worth being grappled with, whose potential following answers correspond to the belief that God does not exist? Haven’t your views on these issues been influenced and or shaped by the belief that God does not exist?

          As to your speed-round of questions:

          “What is your definition of ‘God?'”
          Briefly, for philosophical purposes, subsistent being itself upon which all the rest of reality is dependent upon for its own existence and intelligibility.

          “How would you phrase the null hypothesis with regards to said God?”
          I’m not sure what you mean by this, but here’s it goes: There is something and that requires an explanation. “Why is there something, rather than nothing?”

          “Regarding the Kalam: How does it avoid the fallacy of composition?”
          Take it from Craig’s mouth himself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzN1xPGy_Gg
          You seem to be conflating taking a general principle and inferring what it entails for inferring from the whole of an object as being applicable to its parts. If such is the case, that undermines logical entailment, which is an uncontroversial form of inference. The fallacy of composition is not just a carte blanche. I don’t think Kalam is guilty here of it or its converse, the fallacy of division.

          “Regarding your deconstruction of unicorns, do you see any similarities to the God hypothesis?”
          In a word, no.

          “I too, do not see any gods as I too ‘can go across the globe with satellite imaging and see there are no’ ‘gods.’ Would this be positive evidence against gods? If not, why not? How do you know Zeus and Athena do or do not exist?”
          As God is subsistent being itself, with the consideration of his other tradition properties of being metaphysically simple (composed of no parts), omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence, omnipresence, etc., I think there is no comparison between him and the likes of Zeus and Athena. More specifically, for example, God, classically understood, is or was not beget by anything or anyone, while Zeus has parents (the titans Rhea and Chronos) and so does Athena (Zeus and Metis). He is not a creature or a being amongst beings but being itself. Zeus and Athena are very much creatures. Moreover, God is not contingent but necessary and completely self-fulfilled, while Zeus and Athena are dependent on things for their being — their parents and prayers from mortals. I know Zeus and Athena don’t exist because we can fly to the top of Mount Olympus and see there is no palace housing 12 humanoids named Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Artemis, Hephaestus, Ares, Demeter, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Hestia, Athena, Hermes. And even if there were, given the other reasons above, I wouldn’t consider them gods worthy of worship. They’re still creatures and or beings, perhaps even greater than us, that nevertheless require something outside themselves for their existence or being, while God is not susceptible to such description, as presented classically.

          “Ultimately for me, I need some sort of evidence that is compelling and independently verifiable. It is too easy to be lured by one’s wishes for something to exist. In other words, how do I know I’m not deceiving myself?”
          Sure, we can deceive ourselves and our senses and faculties are fallible. But so what? We got to start somewhere unless we default into utter skepticism and epistemological nihilism. I mean would it be safe to assume that knowledge for you is what’s empirically verifiable? If so, you’ll find you can actually “know” nothing outside of your head except for sensory impressions that are randomly experienced and organized in the regular orders and manners in which they were experienced by habit of the mind. Moreover, what sort of evidence that is compelling and independently verifiable confirms your standard that knowledge must be “compelling and independently verifiable”?

          “You seem to believe that metaphysics solves problems of infinite regress (again at risk of putting words in your mouth, which I do not mean to do), by simply concluding God. Aren’t you just pushing the problem back a step?”
          No, I’m not simply concluding God. As argued above, there is nothing prior to God, so he does not require explanation outside his own nature. The point of the infinite regress is to show there must be something metaphysically ultimate that grounds all of reality otherwise it’s impossible to ultimately explain why there is something rather than nothing.

          “Why did said God wait an eternity to create the world?”
          Did he? I don’t think something atemporal “waits” for anything.

          “What does it mean to be outside of space and time? Being spaceless and/or timeless?”
          Only that he is not subject to them as he is ontologically prior to them. Under theism, God exists primally, then everything else comes secondarily and contingently. And I’m not referring to chronology but ontology, as in being. You me, the world, even space and time are all grounded in God, in being itself. But once again, you’re conceptually limited by your seeming commitment to scientism/logical positivism and struggle to conceive of anything existing outside of space and time. That, reality is exhausted by the material, spatial and temporal.

          1. Pardons for this rushed reply. I didn’t mean to unload so many questions on you. I hope you didn’t mind, as I like the spar we are having so far. I also think we are speaking on different wavelengths. I’m no philosopher and I don’t pretend to be one. So I’m construing this as a conversational dialogue, more off-the-cuff, and not as a personal treatise. I’m not looking to “claim victory.” I found your two posts interesting though I disagree with them, the topic itself is interesting to me too.

            I did not mean to imply that logic is useless. What I mean to say is that logical statements are only as good as their premises. Since metaphysics deals with unbounded intangibles (at least these days), especially as practiced by some philosophers of religion,logic in this sense, is used for nothing more than mental masturbation. It doesn’t yield anything of value, at least in my opinion. Just because someone reaffirms that Object A = Object A. That doesn’t seem to me to be particularly insightful and we are not breaking any new ground.

            I brought up quantum mechanics because it is not a logical system, no rules of logic will get you to quantum mechanics. Virtual particles come into and out of existence and that is “just the way it is.” You say “Metaphysically, they’re something, and at least are part of the explanation even if there isn’t a completely sufficient one yet, according to the laws of quantum physics.” This is kinda the point that I’m making regarding metaphysics. Metaphysically, you may be correct, but so what! You have not actually found any bit of data, you have not established anything other than the obvious. You haven’t actually established an explanation, just the illusion of one. You’re simply imposing your view that there must be a cause, despite all observations to the contrary. The quantum vacuum is what’s there when everything else is removed. It’s the “nothing” that reality permits. Metaphysics in this respect doesn’t have a seat at the table when it comes to discussing such issues. It would be nice to see metaphysics actually do its job and advance explanations with the data we have instead of simply ignoring it.

            “Take your atheism for example. Starting from that point of view, does that not have any effect on your views on morality, or how the universe operates or notions of human dignity or. Aren’t these metaphysical questions still worth being grappled with, whose potential following answers correspond to the belief that God does not exist? Haven’t your views on these issues been influenced and or shaped by the belief that God does not exist?”

            This is a great question and I appreciate your willingness to hear me out on such topics.
            On morality, metaphysics will be useful as long as it takes into account current data. Morality as far as I know is an emergent property of minds having to work together, but there are other theories of morality that do intrigue me. In this area, I love the philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong.
            On how the universe operates, metaphysics seems pretty useless since the field has shrugged off their obligations as philosophers and theorists. It could become useful should they embrace the “after” physics approach it was intended to be.
            On human dignity, metaphysics can play a role but it needs to unlink itself from apologetics and focus on the numinous aspects of our lives and find vocabulary for us to use. I would think this area would be ripe for philosophers of metaphysics and linguists, but linguists only seem to be interested in this question in a narrow sort of way. I don’t know if God exists, I’m waiting for evidence, but as I mentioned I was raised a theist. My views on these issues are precisely opposite of what you suggest. In my attempts to be a “good” person by religious standards I conformed to them as best I could. It would be more precise to say that the religion/denomination hijacked my sense of what is morality, what is dignity or how the universe works. I basically learned about “God” through these venues. While God may not be a particular religious doctrine, there are an awful lot of people who seem to know exactly what God wants and is. I just wish God would tell me itself in an unambiguous way and independently verifiable way so as to avoid it appearing as hearsay. Belief in God turned me into a guilt-ridden fearful, judgmental asshole. Please do not extrapolate that I believe all religious people are assholes, it just turned me into one. Some metaphysical questions are worth grappling with, but most are not, as science has provided better results than natural philosophy. Please note that I don’t want this to be the case. I love philosophy and science. I want metaphysics to be exciting again. I want a philosopher to blow my mind away and challenge my perspective.

            As to your definition of God, do you see a way of testing it? Should I accept your definition of God as the definitive version? Why or why not? I would like to add that your definition of God is fairly uncontroversial. On good days, I consider myself a pantheist of sorts, but ultimately I can’t test it, and therefore can’t defend it, but by making the universe “God” for me, I change my relationship to the world around me. This is just a psychological observation of myself. But on that note, why is my definition of God different from yours? Do you have to accept my definition of God? Why do you reject it/accept it? I appreciate your thoughtfulness. For a moment I though you were someone who was going to advance that Yahweh exists instead of the Tillichian sort of God you described.

            In light of your definition of God, how would you compare it to the Greek primordial god Chaos? Why does that god exist or not? Chaos in not a contingent being like Zeus or Athena.

            Solipsism: You are correct that extreme skepticism yields brains in vats etc… which is why for my own sanity’s sake I have assumptions that I use in order to “function.” Just as an aside, this question is particularly interesting with regards to mental illness. I suffer from OCD (in my case, scrupulosity). When I was a theist (Roman Catholic & Seventh Day Adventist) I wasn’t able to function properly but as an a-theist I am able to.

            RE: Kalam. After hearing WLC describe it, I have to conclude that he is in fact committing the fallacy of composition. He is attributing causation in the universe, to the universe itself, and as mentioned there are objects that appear to be uncaused within the universe. Again the only honest answer for me is “I don’t know.” It’s certainly possible that the universe had a cause but that is at most what WLC can assert no that it definitely had a cause. Again metaphysics itself is the problem as it approaches the problem by imposing logical rules on something that may not have a reason for its existence.

            You expanded on God as an Omni-God later on. I have major problems with this type of God, but we can get into that later and I feel other philosophers have tackled this type of God to my satisfaction.

            “I don’t think something atemporal “waits” for anything.” Why is there an infinite regress if God doesn’t exist? Can’t the universe have a component which was atemporal? I legit, do not have even the slightest hint at an answer so I’m not asking you to try to “get you.” “I don’t know” is sometimes the best answer and speculation doesn’t always make things clearer. It seems like you are just defining a being into existence that doesn’t need to have any explanations by fiat. This is deeply unsatisfying and unconvincing to me.
            I love this following quote by Hume:
            “If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”
            It’s a little heavy-handed, but It’s a pretty good way of determining what is worthwhile and not.

            Now I may not think metaphysics as whole an entirely worthless endeavor as natural philosophy was the first science we ever had, but metaphysics has refused to get with the times, a lot of what is said is just bunk.
            Lastly you describe what is space-less and timeless. Is there any object that is space-less and timeless that you know of that isn’t “God?” If not, why is this not special pleading? It sounds like you are describing an invisible Pink unicorn to me. It’s pink if you could see it, but it’s invisible. Something that is outside of space-time and is omnipresent doesn’t present a problem for you? What about a space-less timeless, omnipresent unicorn? The problem is that describing God is pretty difficult. Since God is in a set all by itself and doesn’t seem to share any properties with anything else, what does it mean to have unbounded power, unbounded knowledge, unbounded presence, unbounded benevolence, we don’t have any examples of this in the actual world and seems purely theoretical. More importantly how can one not have the burden of proof to show such a being exists. Your version of God is different from the guy down the street, who’s right and how do we find out? Who’s responsibility is it? You can’t tell me I just have to accept your definition of God, because the guy down the street has a really nifty proof that his God exists. The problem is I have to withhold judgment until I get something that indicates one way or the other. Either I have to learn something, gather evidence etc… Does this make any sense? I can sense that I’m not saying this succinctly/clearly enough, but there you have it. It’s all I got for now. Again, this was a rushed response so I didn’t get time to correct grammar. Apologies in Advance.

            Feel free to ask me anything you wish, btw. Do you consider me a “New Atheist?”

            1. Scrupulous,

              You’re fine, but there’s a lot in your comment, which reads like a stream of conscious. However, I too like our exchange here. I’m flattered that you think I can possibly answer them adequately because I’m very much an amateurish armchair philosopher which actual very little formal training and certification in the matter. I just read a lot of the musings of people who are or have been professional academic philosophers. But it’s gotten to the point that for me to grow, I have to start reading more original sources, but it’s just difficult to find the time. With that said, there are things in my life right now that require my attention that prevent me from being as active on here I would like. So, I’m going to refrain from responding more substantially for now. Is that ok? I promise to respond, but it might be in two or three weeks or even later.

              I will, however answer your last question about whether or not I consider you a New Atheist? And the truth is that I don’t. Do I think you have a few bad habits learned from what are likely pop atheism sources like Dawkins, Hitchens, Krauss, Barkert, etc.? Yes. On the contrary though, New Atheists are characterized by their militancy and dogmatism. As especially evidenced by you last comment, though, it seems you are open-minded and bear people like me any ill will for believing what we do. So no, you’re not a member of the Cult of Gnu.

              1. Of course it’s ok, Take your time. Life happens. And you are correct that I do not bear any ill will towards people in general. Whether or not you have any formal training isn’t a negative. I don’t have any formal training in philosophy either. If I may relay a story:

                ‘A scholar had an extensive background in Buddhist Studies and was an expert on the Nirvana Sutra. He came to study with a Buddhist master and after making the customary bows, asked her to teach him Zen. Then, he began to talk about his extensive doctrinal background and rambled on and on about the many sutras he had studied.

                The master listened patiently and then began to make tea. When it was ready, she poured the tea into the scholar’s cup until it began to overflow and run all over the floor. The scholar saw what was happening and shouted, “Stop, stop! The cup is full; you can’t get anymore in.”

                The master stopped pouring and said: “You are like this cup; you are full of ideas about Buddha’s Way. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can’t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.”‘

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