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

The Argument from Poultry

We’ve all heard it.  “What came first, the chicken or the egg?”  At first, it seems like it must be the chicken.  It’s the adult and lays eggs.  Therefore, it’s causally prior and came first.  “But wait!” cries the proponents of eggism, “chickens come from eggs; hence the chicken is dependent on the egg for its existence.  The egg is first.”  I’m sure the chicken-first theorists would then retort akin to eggs are contingent objects and require a reason for their existence, presumably chickens, as the birds mate to create  eggs…  *Sigh.

It speaks for itself.

The proverbial riddle is obviously a quintessential instance of circular reasoning.  However, there is a way to get out of this dilemma.  What the eggist and chickenist fail to distinguish is that both chickens and eggs are contingent, meaning they don’t exist out of necessity like mathematical statements or other abstract objects.  It is conceivable to think chickens and eggs could’ve not existed.  In other words, in some possible world, there could have been no chicken and eggs.  Simply, one can’t be posited over the other as causally primal, especially in an Aristotelian sense as eggs and chickens are both the efficient and material causes of each other.

Then, for the sake or argument, let us say the actual world is filled with just chickens and eggs.  As both are tokens of a type, call it contingent beings, another ontological category logically is needed to explain the existence of poultry, lest we fall into vicious circularity.  There must be a necessary being or First Cause.  Such a conclusion is what theists have been contending all along.

Moreover, this necessary being cannot either be a necessary chicken or egg.  Both notions are logical absurdities.  Something can’t simultaneously be contingent and necessary.  Secondly, as necessary and non-contingent upon anything, the necessary being must have agency or freedom of the will.  Eggs certainly don’t, and necessary abstract objects don’t either.  Chickens are a little more difficult to determine, but it’s equally hard to argue that they do.  So at the very worst, it’s a stalemate, and as contingent, chickens still need a cause.

The Cosmological Argument from Poultry

Here’s my best attempt at a formal formulation of the quaint argument:

1) In any world W, iff chickens exist, then they are the cause of eggs.

2) In W, iff eggs exist, then they are the cause of chickens.

3) Chickens and eggs both exist in W.

4) Therefore, they are the causes of each other.

5) Given 4, to say the chicken or the egg came first is logically circular.

6) Therefore, there must be an external cause of poultry in W.

7) Poultry only exists in W.

C) There must be a causeless cause outside of W for poultry to exist.

*It should be noted this could formulated as an argument from contingency.  I do above argue using contingency and necessity although not formally like I do with causal efficacy.

Cluck, cluck,

Modus Pownens

“So You Think You Understand the Cosmological Argument?!”

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon this excellent blog post by theistic philosopher (yes, they do exist!) Edward Feser entitled “So You Think You Understand the Cosmological Argument?”.  After reading it, my mind had concluded three things: Feser can certainly write, boy, can he can gun sling (argue) and jeepers, I need to feature this on my humble blog.

You see, prior to blogging, I’ve always been irritated by the lack of respect the New Atheists seem to have for theism as a position, and Feser expresses the same sentiment in his post.  They dismiss it without giving it any legitimate consideration.  They ignore the rich intellectual history behind theism and the erudite people who contributed to its ideology.  May I please insert how antithetical to free-thinking—a virtue all New Atheists hold in high regard—such an attitude is.  One of my goals with this is blog is to directly combat this pompous predilection.  So if you are an atheist, who has Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett’s books on your shelves and their disembodied heads on either your boxers or briefs, this post is for you!

I honestly hope this blog to be somewhat educational in the sense that if you feel like you’re in the “Four Horsemen’s” khanate, you won’t want to be after interfacing with this blog.  I don’t aim to convert, but to inform.  As an atheist, I want you to be embarrassed by the bedside manner of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Dennett.  I’d rather you desert the “Golden Horde” and become a full-time member of David Hume and Bertrand Russell’s pub instead.  Drink their Kool-Aid; it has a more substantive flavor and it’s on draught.

Bottoms up!

Modus Pownens

P.S.  Read Feser’s post.

Gottfried Leibniz’s Argument From Contingency

Hi folks,

I’ve realized all my substantive posts are responses prompted from a video on YouTube or something going on in the Internet.  It’s easy to draw inspiration from these things, and it’s always been fun for me to analyze and attempt to tear down someone else’s arguments.  I know that sounds terrible, but in my defense, I like the intellectual challenge of such an endeavor, not so much the poo-pooing on someone’s beliefs for self-vindication.  I do confess I must perpetually look in to ensure that is not my motivation to write this blog.  I want to be on here for the right reasons, and flexing the intellectual abdominals for the sake of my gratification ought not be among them.

That is why I want to offer something available for criticism to get the dialogue, well, dialoguing.  It’s fair and it’s a more representative way to showcase all our mettle, I think.  Hence, I’m going to present one of the arguments I find compelling for my theism, especially when I haven’t explicitly expressed which ones I do feel are provocative.

Leibniz, in all his hairy glory, pondering why there "is something rather than nothing."

I’m a proponent of cosmological arguments, and in my humble experience, the ones from contingency are the strongest.  As the title above reveals, I’ll be discussing German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz’s contribution to this storied argument.  I will use YouTuber Theologica37’s videos to help, which I admit, were of great inspiration for this post.  But let it be noted, I have studied the argument for my own in philosophy courses.

The Pre-game Show

For starters, I need to explain some terminology central to Leibniz’s argument.  First up are contingent and necessary beings.  Contingent beings are ones that require an external explanation for their existence.  In other words, they are finite, can change and have not always existed.  Contrarily, a necessary being does not have an external explanation, but exist due to the necessity found within its essence.  Its justification is inward, not outward.  Moreover, a necessary being is not dependent on anything for its existence, is immutable, and if it exists, it must have always existed.

Already embedded within these terms is Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason, which is as follows: everything that exists has reason for doing so, either in an external explanation or within the necessity of its own nature.  Leibniz puts it this way,

And that of sufficient reason, by virtue of which we consider that we can find no true or existent fact, no true assertion, without there being a sufficient reason why it is thus and not otherwise,[1]

YouTuber Theologica37’s video (below) goes into more detail.  Caution: he is heavy in the philosophical jargon, so it may not be for everyone.

The Main Event

Voila, here it is!

1)  At least one contingent being exists.

2)  This contingent being has a sufficient reason for its existence.

3)  A contingent being can’t be its own sufficient reason.

4)  Either another contingent being or a necessary being is the sufficient reason.

5)  There can’t be an infinite chain of contingent beings because a quantitative infinite is impossible.

6)  A necessary being must be the ultimate sufficient reason for the contingent being.

Therefore, a necessary being exists.

Possible Objections

It’s valid with the conclusion following from the premises, and premise 1 is uncontroversial and intuitively obvious.  If anything, Rene Descartes’ Cogito—I think, therefore I am— is solid justification for it.  It also should be evident that I haven’t always existed, and hence I am a contingent being.  Also, the definitions of necessary and contingent beings are well established.

Where I anticipate attacks upon this argument is against the Principle of Sufficient Reason, the possibility of quantitative infinities and what actually is the necessary being.

With the Principle of Sufficient Reason, I suppose you could reject it, but this isn’t without a heavy cost.  It’s denial undermines all of deductive science as the enterprise presupposes sufficient reasons and efficient causes for why the physical universe operates as it does.  I don’t think that’s a route that seems too appealing to many atheists who base their positive beliefs in science.

Quantitative infinities are also problematic.  They simply don’t exist.  It’s logically impossible  to traverse one.

for the state which is, in a sense, copied from the preceding, though in accordance with certain laws of change.  And so, however far back we might go into previous states, we will never find in those states a complete explanation for why, indeed, there is any world at all, and why it is the way it is.[2]

Thanks, Gottfried.  Not good enough?  Well, lets read a little admittance from one of the argument’s biggest detractors, Scottish philosopher David Hume, shall we?

If I ask, why you believe any particular matter of fact, which you relate, you must tell me some reason; and this reason will be some other fact, connected with it.  But as you cannot proceed after this manner, in infinitum, you must at last terminate in some fact, which is present to your memory or sense; or must allow that your belief is entirely without foundation.[3]

Still don’t believe me?  Then count to infinity, and when you get there, then we’ll talk, ye of little faith.

Now, I suppose you could say the universe is the necessary being, but this has a number of issues both philosophical and scientific.  First of all, the universe doesn’t exhibit any attributes of a necessary being.  It’s easy to consider how things could have been different.  For instance, you didn’t have to exist or cosmically speaking, the universe could have different physical laws governing it than it does.  Neither of which are entailed of a necessary being.  Moreover, our current empirical knowledge shows the universe to be finite: cosmic background radiation levels, the doppler effect with the red shift of galaxies and the universe would have already experienced heat death if it had been eternal just to list a few.  In conclusion, the universe isn’t metaphysically necessary.

So, there you guys have it.  I look forward to any critiques or issues you see with this.  Feel free to point them out, and we’ll go from there.  I’ll leave you guys with another video from Theologica37 which provides more argumentation than I did as a little bonus.


Modus Pownens

[1] Gottfried Leibniz, The Monadology, trans. Daniel Garber and Roger Ariew (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company), 1991, §32.

[2] Gottfried Leibniz, On the Ultimate Origination of Things, trans. Daniel Garber and Roger Ariew (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company), 1991, 42.

[3] David Hume, “Sceptical Solution of These Doubts,” in Eric Steinberg, ed., An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company), 1977, 30.