Faith in atheism

“The skeptic begins by doubting. There is nothing reasonable about that. His only use of reason is to reinforce his doubt, and thus, he sinks through floor after floor of a bottomless universe.” GK Chesterton (paraphrased by Dale Ahlquist to be exact)

For a person who doesn’t like ambiguity you sure use the word a lot.

Aquinas and Kalam: I looked on wiki and what i discovered was that Kalam also based his argument on Aristotle’s argument. So the argument (as you said) didn’t seem different at all and in fact they have the exact same structure and end. On the site it didn’t show the different arguments it just should that basically they were all the same argument. I might not have pulled down the right one though so check to make sure. But from where i am now it seems to me if Aquinas had a “gaping hole” in his argument then so does Kalam but i still do not see this “gaping hole”. If it’s not a hassle explain this hole to me.

I’ll take this as the definition of religion for the sake of the argument. “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe” Your atheism still qualifies i believe because of your faith in the Big Bang (cause), all you say about nature (nature), and your belief that the purpose of the universe is that there is no purpose (purpose). As for your comparison with blondes and atheist, it is not a valid comparison since one involves choice and the other chance, one involves some sort of faith the other none at all. Also your parody i thought held “some truth”.

It sounds like your trying to come up with a universal philosophy, something i thought you were trying to avoid. If i can suggest to you to read Aristotle’s ethics, he has already created such a philosophy (not to mention Aquinas got a lot of material from him as well as Augustine) How can one claim to have been Christian and then not even be certain that Jesus existed? When i became atheist it was because of my ignorance. I truly didn’t know what it meant to be Christian and there for really (in this sense) never was Christian until as of late.

Proof: I can only give philosophical proof. As for your claim you say you are not convinced. When you say you’re not convinced i take it that you can be convinced by argument, thus i’m here to provide my proof. Arguments involve two sides and i assume that you would want to prove yourself convinced that there is no God not the other way around.

Another Chesterton quote, “The ultimate Paradox…is that the very things we can not comprehend are the things we have to take for granted.” , and another “Whatever may be the meaning of faith, it must always mean a certainty about something we cannot prove.”

“You are right that we either do or do not have a purpose (in the metaphysical sense). But this does not imply that there is no point to life.” Please make this clear for me, i thought if we didn’t have purpose ourselves to live then there would be no purpose to living life. When you say life is all we have, do you mean we have no soul? And what about respect, how do we treat “life” with respect this is also a bit ambig. My last question is whether or not you would agree that life is a miracle, with all the little intangible things that happen so we can exist? (i ask a lot of questions, i know)

I should be more careful with my words. When i say we can agree on colors i am assuming we can all see without any defects and agree because these are the colors we are seeing (in other words being truthful). To say someone is color blind is already stating that they can’t see normally. Your second reason for subjectivity in experience (whatever that means) i find it very unlikely that your red is my blue. This seems quite inconsistent of you since you have no proof of this just as i have no (physical) proof of God, yet you’re convinced, really? By the way i used to ask this same quetion about what color your seeing and i’m seeing, when i was younger it had me stumped too.(i think it still does)

Let us suppose Jesus existed. Let us also suppose He claimed to be God and was serious. If he wasn’t, which you are stating by saying that you are atheist, then you are implying he was a liar, am i right?

Yes we can agree on our truths. So let us discuss Truths, eternal Truths.

“having a real or physical existence, as opposed to one that is spiritual, intellectual, fictitious, etc. with the clarification that I consider thought to be natural.” This part is unclear to me because you say it must have physical existence then turn around and say that thought is natural this is contradictory. I would propose using the first definition on then we can tackle the thing called man.

As for any theory i will say that they are not based on facts but try to explain them. A theory sometimes turns into a scientific philosophy or a philosophy propelled by science but science says nothing it remains silent. That something can come from nothing was not explained to me, just because “Quantum physics allows this” doesn’t prove anything to me especially since i’ve never seen something come from nothing and i doubt you have. The odds of the Earth coming about in this way are truly impossible sense i’ve never seen any of this sort of thing happen and there is no proof of it ever happening. Again you seem convinced by this the same way you were about your colors though not convinced of God. As for the rest of the argument i really don’t care you’ve won it, take it, this part i find important. (Main reason for me discarding the rest of the argument, i don’t want to do research on it and i don’t feel like talking science or scientific theories, both these i really don’t care about)

“The default position is a willingness to know” said by Me. I stole this from the guy below. “All men by nature desire knowledge.” Aristotle And you say that this carries no philosophical implications. The Philosopher himself would beg to differ. That is how we get started i believe. A question like, “What caused the universe?” is implying a natural cause, who are we to say that Whoever or whatever created the universe was natural or supernatural. If you wish to be unbiased you can’t take the side of nature just like you’re not letting me take the side of the supernatural.

I won’t give up on either of us. I finally got around to doing my research. Ockham’s razor is used by Aquinas in the unmoved mover example, correct? If that is the case then here is more proof. Second in the lamp illustration we just proved that God or satan were responsible for breaking the lamp, so we can use this tool to prove His existence in the unmoved mover case and the lamp? I call doing research going to wikki here’s a quote from the site that Aquinas says, “If a thing can be done adequately by means of one, it is superfluous to do it by means of several; for we observe that nature does not employ two instruments where one suffices.” This still leaves out the probability of the preferred explanation being wrong just because of it is valued solely for its simplicity.

We can put off morals for now i suppose. So let me ask these questions; what is the good, what is happiness, what is bad or evil? Discussing these will take us far i believe.

As for my GK Chesterton quotage, i’m recently taking a seminar on him and CS Lewis. I thought to myself, “i really don’t care much for this Chesterton fellow but CS i’ve heard a great deal about so i’ll give the class a shot.” It turns out Chesterton was all or most the inspiration for Lewis. During his life time his material was being taught in many universities throughout the world and after ww2 he was inexplicably forgotten (how, i have no idea). He is truly one of the greatest writers of all time, i’m fortunate to by chance be learning about him and from him. So i’ll be kind and suggest you do the same or you’ll miss out on a great mind. (by the way Lewis pales in comparison to Chesterton)

Well, that was quite the depressing quote to start the conversation off with! I have difficulty seeing how one can feel any confidence in their beliefs if they do not doubt them on occasion and seek evidence that their doubts are unwarranted.

It is true that Aquinas and Kalam have a lot in common, but I think that the Kalam cosmological argument is better defined than similar arguments by Aquinas, even though their structures are similar.

To demonstrate why I say this, let’s take a quick (and, perhaps, overly simplistic) look at Aquinas’ five ways:

  1. The first begins by saying that some things are moved and everything that is moving has a mover. This seems to assume that things which are moving were at some point in the past not moving, and this is not a warranted assumption.
  2. The second begins by saying that some things are caused and that everything that is caused is caused by something else. This assumes that everything natural is caused without giving reason for that assumption.
  3. The third — the argument from contingency — is better, but still assumes that everything natural is contingent and that time is finite.
  4. The fourth assumes an ultimate standard of perfection in order for comparisons to perfection to be possible. I personally think this is the silliest of his arguments, but taking it as seriously as I can I don’t see how it proves that the ultimate standard of perfection must be an actual thing as opposed to a purely conceptual thing.
  5. The final of Aquinas’ ways assumes that everything has a goal. Again, I see no reason to assume any such thing.

The Kalam cosmological argument begins by stating that everything that begins to exist has a cause. I’d say that this is a good, narrow premise that pretty much everyone can agree on. It does not assume that everything begins to exist, so it avoids some of the traps Aquinas falls into. Even if he makes basically the same argument as Aquinas, he does it in a way that does not allow the argument to be dismissed out of hand because it is based on unprovable premises. I’d say that this is very significant.

Defining religion: Even if we’re going to stick with the truncated version of’s first definition of religion, I would say that atheism does not fall under that heading unless science also falls under that heading, and to say that science is a religion is clearly not useful. Can you point out something that would make atheism fall under this definition but not science? (As an aside, you asserted that I have faith in the Big Bang — I do not.)

Regarding the comparison of blonds and atheists as coherent groups, you are right that one involves chance and the other choice (in a sense, but I’ll let that go). But the fact remains that atheists are so diverse that there is really not much you can say about them as a body of people other than that they are atheists. Atheists are not a coherent group.

I’m not trying to avoid creating a universal philosophy, neither am I trying to come up with one. Rather, I have a system for analyzing moral statements that everyone should be able to agree upon, regardless of their philosophy. For what it’s worth, I have read both Aristotle and Aquinas.

You ask how one can claim to have been Christian and then not even be certain that Jesus existed. This is not clear — are you talking about me or yourself here? When I was a Christian, I was certain that Jesus existed, and today as an atheist I think it is very likely that Jesus existed (although I grant you that my definition of “Jesus” has changed). You would say that it is possible that Jesus didn’t exist, but you are a Christian, and I don’t see that as a contradiction.

I don’t understand what you mean when you say, “i assume that you would want to prove yourself convinced that there is no God not the other way around.” I don’t need to prove that I am not convinced that God exists. You have to take my word for that. If you are saying that I would want to prove that there is no God, then you are incorrect. If there is a compelling proof — philosophical or otherwise — that God exists, I’m happy to accept it.

You say, “i thought if we didn’t have purpose ourselves to live then there would be no purpose to living life.” We need to draw a distinction between two kinds of purpose: purpose given by an outside entity, and purpose given by ourselves. I would say that life has no purpose in the sense that we were not put here by some supreme being to perform some task. I would also say that people can (and should) create a purpose for themselves, and in my opinion some purposes are better than others (e.g., “make the world a better place” is a better purpose than “avoid punishment.”)

You ask, “When you say life is all we have, do you mean we have no soul?” That is not specifically what I meant, but it comes close. What I mean was more along the lines of “life must be treasured, because when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

How do we treat life with respect? By not cheapening it or taking it thoughtlessly.

Finally, you ask whether or not I would agree that life is a miracle. I would say it’s a miracle in the sense that it’s amazing, it’s hard to wrap your head around, and it causes a sense of wonder. I would not say it is a miracle in the sense that anything supernatural is involved.

When you say that it is unlikely that your red is my blue, I would agree. But the point is that there is no way to test this because only I know how the sky looks to me — you can’t get into my head to compare (this is “subjectivity in experience”).

You ask, “Let us suppose Jesus existed. Let us also suppose He claimed to be God and was serious. If he wasn’t, which you are stating by saying that you are atheist, then you are implying he was a liar, am i right?” Given these assumptions, Jesus could have been a liar or he could simply have been wrong. I would not call Buddha or Mohammed liars for similar reasons.

Regarding thought, I say that thought is natural because I consider it to be a function of the brain. I pointed this out because some people consider thought to be a function of the soul.

You ask for an explanation of something coming from nothing: it sounds like you don’t really want to get into this too far, but you can look up quantum foam, Hawking radiation, and the Casimir effect on Wikipedia to get an overview. Really, the point is that within our universe there is (in a sense) no such thing as space with nothing in it, and pairs of particles can appear without apparent cause at any time.

I would agree that the odds of the Earth appearing from nothing are so low as to be impossible, but I am surprised that you would say so, given our previous discussion.

I say that “All men desire knowledge” has no philosophical implications because I can’t see how it can be used as a premise as part of a philosophical argument. A question like “what caused the universe?” can exist whether or not men desire knowledge. Saying “All men by nature desire knowledge” is very different than saying “The default position is a willingness to know,” particularly when you are proposing the latter as an alternative to the null hypothesis (that the default position is that the unproved is untrue).

I don’t think that the question “What caused the universe?” implies either a natural or a supernatural cause. It’s an open question. All we can do is look at the evidence and find the answer that seems most likely to be true.

You say that I can’t take the side of nature and remain unbiased, and that I’m not letting you take the side of the supernatural. I am indeed biased toward nature because I am convinced that natural things exist and I am not convinced that supernatural things exist. But I am not dead-set against the supernatural — an argument that shows the supernatural to make more sense than the natural will cause me to change my mind. You can prefer a supernatural explanation and that’s fine, but you should be able to say why you prefer it to a natural one. If you cannot, then I don’t see how you can decide whether to prefer natural or supernatural explanations for other phenomena.

I suppose you cold say that Occam’s razor is being used by Aquinas in the unmoved mover example, but since his premise is faulty, it doesn’t matter how he reasons. As for the lamp breaking example, are you saying that if we are choosing between God and Satan breaking the lamp, we can use Occam’s razor to prove that God did it? We can if we agree that God exists but we are not sure whether or not Satan exists. However, Occam would prefer an explanation with neither God nor Satan involved.

Your quote from Aquinas about preferring one to several is, as you imply, very close to Occam’s razor. You’re right that that the preferred explanation may be wrong even though it is the most simple. That’s why Occam’s razor isn’t a proof that an explanation is incorrect, only proof that the explanation isn’t compelling.

You ask for definitions of good, happiness, bad, and evil. Happiness is an emotional state. For the other three items, I’ll give you the definitions I’m using in my book:

I’m interested to hear that you are taking a seminar on Chesterton and Lewis (was this the inspiration for your question about whether Jesus was a liar, by the way?) I’ll definitely have to read some Chesterton, since to date I’ve read nothing substantial by him.

You were kind enough to forward a number of interesting Chesterton quotes, and I’ve placed them below for the entertainment of my readers.

Here are the passages i promised all Chesterton and Chesterton interpretations by Dale Ahlquist. I hope you take your time and read these because to be honest it took me a while to type them out. There is no need for a response just comment on them next time you respond on our argument. If you’ll notice i use a lot of his material.

“The ‘natural’ is the realm of science: the physical or ‘natural’ world, we might even say the mechanical world. We could cetainly say that nature is like a machine, and science looks after the machine, studying it, trying to understand how it works, trying to use it, even trying to take care of it. Science, then, is purely practical, which is to say, it is not philosophical. GK Chesterton says physical science is like simple addition. It either works or it doesn’t.”–Ahlquist on chesterton

“it’s up to my private physician to tell me which food will kill me. But it’s up to my private philosopher to tell me whether i ought to be killed.”

“Science must not impose any philosophy, any more than the telephone must tell us what to say.” He is pointing out that science is a tool and it really doesn’t speak to us as most people would like to think.”

Chesterton says this about science and then religion. “It is pleasanter to reflect on the mind of man bridging the starry abysses and dissecting the atoms of the ultimate, rather than to remember that the heart of man is still mysterious and barbaric, deceitful above all things and desprately wicked…”

Saying this to agnostics but i think it can go to atheist as well, “What we are fighting is a new false religion… It may almost be called a religion of irreligion. It trusts itself utterly to the anarchy of the unkown; and, unless civilisation can sober it with a shock of disappointment, it will be for ever inexhaustible in novelties of perversion and pride.”

Another quote for the popular theroms of today which are really unscientific, “We have gone, he says, from talking unphilosophically about philosophy to talking unscientifically about science.”–Ahlquist on Chesterton

And even if the evolutionary theory is true another quote, “It is enormuous, but irrelevent. Like the solar system, it is a colossal trifle.”

“God is by its nature a name of mystery, and nobody ever supposed that man could imagine how a world was created any more than he could create one. But evolution really is mistaken for explanation. It has the fatal quality of leaving on many minds the impression that they do understand it and everything else; just as many of them live under a sort of illusion that they have read the ‘Origin of Species’.” Keep this one in mind i’ll follow this one up later with a bigger passage that goes with it.

If your getting tired of me by now i’m sorry but thats good, if you don’t want me to leave anymore responses just let me know and i’ll stop, i’ll take it that your tired of protecting your atheism or that you simply disagree. You will not listen to me unless you have to think and question yourself that’s what i’m trying to do. I also hope that by now you’ve seen that atheism doesn’t answer any philisophical questions better than Christianity can.

Just to comment on your last paragraph, I’m not tired of hearing from you at all.

Regarding whether or not atheism can answer any philosophical questions better than Christianity can: I agree that Christianity has better answers to some questions (particularly “why?” questions) than atheism does. But I’d say that atheism has the advantage in that its answers are probably correct.

Posted on March 18, 2009 at 11:58 am by ideclare · Permalink
In: About atheism, Discussion, Evidence

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