On the alleged atheist faith

UK Christian powerhouse, Premier Christianity; which also happens to host the Unbeliveable? podcast that I referenced in my last post (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/who-wants-to-believe-without-evidence/), has popped up a blog post this week which rolls out a rusty old trope on atheism. Given how much the Unbeliveable? podcast shouts about its encouragement of dialogue between believers and non believers, I am dismayed that they’d let a post like this through. One thing this post does not do is encourage dialogue, it appears to seek to paint the atheist as something inferior to the Christian and therefore not worthy.

Have a read here: http://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Why-I-don-t-have-enough-faith-to-be-an-atheist

Note how the criticism of atheists is that they have a faith based belief system. Forget for one moment how that simple claim is utterly false and savor for a moment the gloriousness of Mr Goswami proclaiming the nonsense of a faith based belief system, while himself adhering to a faith based belief system. He may as well condense his tirade into “Look at those dumb atheists and their beliefs, they are just as illogical and silly as us with our own beliefs.” I suspect the juicy irony is lost on him.

Below I’ll pull apart what I can from his post, feel free to comment with your own take.

The title.

Why I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist

Oh no, how bad it must be to have that much faith! Poor dear Christian, go and read in your bible about how Abraham was held up for how much faith he had. The bible extols as a virtue large dollops of faith. If atheism requires more faith than you are capable of, then atheism surely must be followed by biblically awesome people. Try harder dear Christian, maybe one day you will achieve this exalted height.

Yet, ask the atheist and they’ll tell you that it doesn’t take any faith to be atheist. Faith is the requirement of religious belief, theism being one example. Atheism is by definition not that and so is without faith. By claiming atheism requires faith, the title is already framing atheism as something it’s not and framing it in such a way that the Christian can credit themselves with a faux humility. Yuk! The words used intentionally build it as a system requiring more faith than the authors chosen religion. With man of straw successfully constructed, there’ll be no prizes for predicting that the main article takes the form of a straw bashing stick thing!

Having set the scene, the author jumps straight into ..

Here is what we could say is their basic creed:

This is interesting, not only does this Christian know than I have more faith than him, he knows what my creed is too. This is news to me. It seems that self-appointed atheist expert Christians know my beliefs and creeds better than I do and they’ll stop at nothing to tell their flock about it. “Don’t listen to the atheist dear believers, for I and only I can tell the contents of their minds!” Can you see the humility dripping off your screen?

The universe exists by chance

The universe might exist by chance, or it might have been inevitable, given whatever there was that preceded the universe. The alternative to any one of the many human imagined gods creating the universe is not limited to the single option of chance existence.

This is a good educational link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/earth/story/20141106-why-does-anything-exist-at-all

The more accurate claim would be that the atheist position on the existence of the universe is that it exists.

How or why it came to be is an open question. Scientists way more clever than myself and Mr Goswami are still working on a way to figure it out. Should we be arrogant enough to make a claim on the matter? I’m not and so I don’t. I think (not believe) that its existence was inevitable, based on the properties of the ‘stuff’ that makes up the universe. When evidence comes up on the subject of the universe’s existence, I’ll read that evidence and listen to what the experts say and adopt the suggested conclusion.

Do all atheists hold the same view as me? I doubt it. Some will, some won’t. The claimed position of chance existence is not accurate.

Nothing exists beyond this life – there is no ultimate source of trust in the universe

It’s not absolutely clear what the author means by ‘beyond this life’ but one can be fairly certain that he means the Christian supernatural realm. Why not any other religious realm? Why is the Christian afterlife the only option on the table? Does the author accept that they could exist? On what basis should anyone believe there is more to the physical life we live on this planet?

My position is that we do not have enough information to be certain of any form of existence beyond this life. Everything so far points to this being the only life we get. It’s not a belief I hold, it’s a conclusion based on the evidence and it will change if the evidence changes to suggest something else.

Does the author have that evidence in his possession? Can he demonstrate it?

Why should I believe in something beyond this life for which there is no positive evidence? There are many claims to existences beyond this life and some are mutually exclusive. They can’t all exist. If I am to accept that there is an existence beyond this life, then I want to know which one of the many that is and what the evidence is. Not accepting something because it’s not demonstrated is a perfectly rational position. What it’s not is a creed and it’s certainly not specifically atheistic.

As for ‘there is no ultimate source of trust in the universe’, WTF is that even supposed to mean? Is this some form of special Christianese? I’ve clearly been out of the fold for too long.

Humans are the ultimate judge of all things – there is no final moral reckoning

More Christianese I fear. The phrasing of this item is so slanted towards religiosity, it’s pretty much impossible not to reject it outright as being nonsense. Of course rejecting it means that the author can claim that they are indeed right that they have identified a creed item. Viola, erected straw man successfully bashed down. *le sigh*.

Truth is; final reckoning is so far off my radar I don’t even give it a thought. I know the author is referring to the Christian day of judgement. How about the other religious end of life positions? They don’t hold to the Christian one. What’s the faith relationship between Christians and those religions, or atheists and those religions? Do I need faith to doubt those claims too? Does the Christian need faith to doubt them? I fear a complex web of faith and yet more faith in denial of all these conflicting religious claims.

What the Christian author is assuming here is that the Christian position is the only one that matters and that to deny it is to have a bad belief. In his critique of the atheist position, he is forgetting that there are way more than just the two. There are many religious positions he could be arguing against.

Is there an atheist creed on this? Not that I’ve seen, no one has ever told me that I must take that position that there is no afterlife, of any sort. Do I hold to the view that there is no afterlife? Close. I don’t believe there is one, but I also don’t hold the belief that there isn’t. I doubt very much that one exists but not to the point where I proclaim any belief on the matter. Much like the previous point, should evidence suggest one; then I’ll follow the suggestions of the evidence.

Any value or purpose of life can be worked out from the wisdom of mankind

Ah yes, the old purpose gambit, should have been able to see this one coming. More Christian centric waffle. Sadly for Mr Goswami, atheism doesn’t have a position on purpose, because it’s not a belief system or a faith.

Our purpose in life is what we self assign. This is a philosophy position. The wisdom of mankind tag at the end is typical of the Christian way of phrasing things that I am used to and do not miss in the least. It’s framed to suggest that man’s wisdom is inferior and oh so arrogant. The Christian God’s wisdom is so much betterer. I have never seen any memo that says I need to hold to this. Any purpose I have in life is my own. It’s a purpose that I self assign, to say that I believe or hold to a creed that I should work it out is false. There is no working out; I simply pick what I want. No creed required.

Everything can be discovered by science

Hang on a minute! Isn’t this supposed to be a critique of atheist creeds? Why the sudden switch to science? What does he mean by ‘science’ anyway? For the purposes of my response I shall assume that what’s being referred to is the scientific method.

I partially covered this one in my last post but I’ll do it again here.

All that we know, we know by the process known as the scientific method. There’s nothing faith based about that. If the Christian wants to challenge that, then all they need to do is demonstrate, in a non science way, something that we know that’s not down to the scientific process. There is a theme to the way some of these items have been phrased that is typically Christian in that it’s attempting to paint the perceived atheist position as either closed minded or negative. This is a good example of that blatant dishonesty.

I do not think that anything we currently know and that can be demonstrated can be done so by methods other than the scientific. Does that mean I think that as a result of science we will one day know everything? No. I believe (hah!) that there will always be mysteries and something new to learn. I also believe (ye gads!) that the scientific method is currently the best way of discovering new things. That may change one day or it might not. If ever a better way of discovering things is discovered, I’ll gladly follow that method.

Currently, the scientific method works a little like this: someone comes up with an idea, that idea is tested and predictions are made on the results of those tests to see if the idea has value. If the tests fail, then the idea is discarded or changed. When the tests pass, the idea is adopted until further tests or idea render it inaccurate. This method is a well tested method and has shown itself to be effective in improving our knowledge of the world.

This is the flexibility and open mindedness of atheists like myself. Why would any Christian critique that process as an unworthy belief system except to self-justify their own incoherent and deeply suspicious beliefs?

There is no purpose or meaning to the universe (And it’s a silly question to ask anyway – see below)

What possible purpose can it have? (And yes it is a silly question)

If the universe has a purpose how does it know and how do I find out?

If the Christian wants me to believe, as he presumably does, that the universe has a purpose, then it’s up to him to show me how that can be known and confirmed. Until then, there is no point in even thinking about it, and I don’t. Suggesting that I’m somehow deficient for not accepting his religiously motivated belief is exactly the sort of ugliness I have learnt to expect from the sort of Christians who views atheists as inferior. I don’t care enough about the universe having a purpose to hold a position on the matter. It’s a sentence that holds no meaning or value.

Human ideals are progress, tolerance, and individualism

Huh? I don’t even understand what that’s doing there. It is surely a philosophical position of one form or another. Humanism maybe? It’s certainly not something that forms part of any atheist non creed that I’ve seen.

That said. I think that as ideals, those are not bad ideals. However I do doubt that they are set. Some humans may behave as though those are their ideals, some certainly don’t. Atheism doesn’t say anything about the subject and the Christian who makes that claim doesn’t understand atheism. This item has a feeling of desperation about it.

That looks like a belief system to me. But not only that, secular atheism is pretty exclusive in its beliefs.

Oh its secular atheism now is it? How does that differ from religious atheism? Isn’t this supposed to be how atheism is a bad religious belief system?

It looks like a belief system to the Christian that paints it as a belief system. Unfortunately, the painting is as accurate a representation of atheism as a Picasso portrait is of my reflection on shaving day.

Atheism is a faith that claims there is only one kind of truth

Said no atheist ever!

There’s even a name for it ‘Scientism’ – which roughly means that all questions must be answered by scientific method and all truth must be amenable to science

Is there an echo? Hasn’t this been covered already?

I have seen the ‘Scientism’ accusation many times. It’s not a new religious tactic. It’s basically trying to tie the atheist/skeptic/scientist/whatever into a corner that says they are closed minded because they don’t accept or believe things that can’t be demonstrated through the scientific method. It’s a frustrating claim to counter because there is so much dishonesty behind it that it really can be hard to get the other party to understand the problem with their thinking.

Here is my attempt:

The scientific method is an evolving process where we test what we think we know so that we can get confirmation of its veracity. If someone who believes in a god wants to convince the world that that god exists, then they should describe a process that demonstrates that god. Why should I accept it without examining evidence? Surely the Christian doesn’t want me to believe in something that could be false or made up! Or do they?

I think what this item is complaining about is that in science generally, if someone makes a claim for something being true, then they must demonstrate that. Why is that a bad thing? This should be celebrated and supported by Christians as a good and rational way to be certain. The Christian bible puts too much emphasis on believing something because someone said it and not enough emphasis on validation and honest critique and the result of that is the rotten logic display in this item.

If a Christian makes a claim of someone that’s amazing then they should and they must be prepared to back that up. In that sense, yes, I will own this item, I will stand up and say yes, all questions must be answered by the scientific method (as described briefly here). If the Christian wants to decry that as Scientism, then I embrace that wholeheartedly because I will not believe in something just because someone else says it’s true and the Christian should not either.

Let’s look at another faith – the one that believes in God.

Yes, let’s!

As well as science, this faith takes on board historical evidence for the life of Jesus Christ and the reliability of the Bible (evidence which is a mile high compared with many historical events).

Let’s not forget the events that didn’t happen either! Oh and who measured the mile?

This faith takes seriously the notion that our universe is fine-tuned for life to an almost incomprehensible extent.

The universe is so fine tuned for life that life exists on only a fraction of a part of a small rock that orbits a single insignificant star that’s one of billions in a galaxy that is itself one of billions of galaxies. There are regions of that rock that will kill most forms of life and especially the life that is typing this blog post. Leave that rock and the universe will kill us week humans very quickly in all sorts of imaginative and deeply unpleasant ways.

The universe is trying to kill you (http://www.astronomycast.com/2014/05/ep-343-the-universe-is-trying-to-kill-you/).

If the universe was fine tuned for life, then life would be everywhere. This claim is bogus.

There is spiritual, ethical and moral truth, there is experiential truth, truth as allegory and metaphor. There is literature, history, philosophy. More than just science.

Correct, there is. All created in the human mind! Some of good value and some infuriatingly ridiculous. How does one discern the difference between ideas that are correct and ones that are wrong?

Scientism in any case is self-defeating. Saying “it’s not scientific, so ignore it” is itself not scientific.

Does anyone actually say that?

More to the point, what is the connection between that and atheism anyway?

It’s as though the author thinks ‘scientific’ means some pre-determined set of findings (creeds and beliefs maybe?). No wonder he’s all in a blather, when you misunderstand something by such a wide margin it’s hardly surprising that your critique of it makes no sense whatsoever!

When I read the word scientific, I read it as a methodological process by which we test or measure something to determine how it works or what is correct. It’s a process, not a set of beliefs. It’s as though the author is trying to poison the meaning of scientific to make it seem like its a bad thing. Which is a bad thing.

There is no scientific theory that says “all answers must come from science”, no experiment that can prove “science must be your only worldview”.

See!

Science isn’t a worldview and it can’t be a worldview. Redefining something incorrectly for the purpose of your own delusion is dishonest and not Christian. God will judge you for that!

Surely the way to approach all questions is to say, “I want to find out the truth – even if that that truth lies outside my narrow comfort-zone.”

I do want to find out the truth, even if it takes me outside my comfort zone. I am willing to bet that all atheists want that. I have seen what happens when you show Christians something that takes them so far outside their comfort zone that it suggests there is no god at all. The result is not pretty! The author is trying to eleveate himself to being the open minded one for thinking outside of the innacurately assembled box called science. But the reverse is true, show the atheist reliable, testable and demonstrateable evidnce for god that they’ll stop being atheist. Show the Christian that their god claims can not be known with certainty and prepare for insults.

if your brain is the result of mindless, unguided processes – why would you even trust it?

You shouldn’t. That’s why we have the scientific method. To remove the human from the equation. The human brain will fool us and let us belive all sorts of nonsesnse. We should never trust our brain on it’s own.

To be sure, atheism is a belief system in many ways like any other. Yet when you say that to atheists it touches a raw nerve.

When you keep repeating a lie about people, they will get upset about it. That should not be a surprise.

I don’t have enough faith to believe that the universe is some kind of gigantic car-crash, a colossal accident that just happened to come about. I don’t have enough faith to believe that there was a big bang followed by an ordered world. It’s a step beyond reason, a leap in the dark.

Nor do I.

Yet pretending it was all started by a matterless, all knowing, absolutely everywhere being that can’t be detected by our untrustworthy brains but somehow interferes with us and everything we see is perfectly reasonable? Okay.

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2 thoughts on “On the alleged atheist faith

  1. In coming up with my creed, I’ll give him a perfect score. That’s a perfect zero, of course. Completely and totally wrong.

    But he is doing great on violating his own commandment about “bearing false witness”.

    I don’t go around telling Christians what they do or don’t believe or what they should or shouldn’t believe. If they want to have their own quaint beliefs, that’s okay with me as long as they keep them to themselves. Wouldn’t it be nice if they would treat us in much the same way.

  2. Great breakdown.
    It occurred to me ( and I commented as such on the Premier post) that the “Creed” is in effect just a mirror image of a Christian creed. If you take the opposite of each bullet point you will find a Christian piece of dogma.
    This is like a Muslim declaring that “The Christian creed is that Allah is not the creator, and Jesus and Mohammed are not his prophets” Even if its true in parts when analyzed, it really is just an attempt to reframe a position so that one’s own beliefs are still at the center.

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