Elizabeth sent me to this very interesting Luke McKinney article at Cracked, 5 Atheist Arguments Which Aren’t Helping Anyone. It is written by my kind of atheist: one who seems constantly frustrated at the state of atheism today. Back in 1990, I started going to local atheist meetings in Portland. And they were filled with the most extreme group of oddballs you have ever seen. But look at atheism today: it is so much more “normal” and acceptable. So I think people now can be more delusional about it. They think the day when religion is gone is nigh. And they really do sound a lot like missionaries.
In the past, it was enough to know that Christians were silly and to find others who knew that too. But here’s a big thing, most arguments I got into in those days were extremely open-minded on my side. I would have loved for my Christian friends to have been able to convince me. Such cheap salvation! Just believe one silly thing and your life has meaning! Who wouldn’t want that to be true? Of course, on the other side of those arguments were always the most closed-minded of people. There was no way they were ever going to yield a point because they had discovered that One Weird Trick for endless ecstasy.
One of the most annoying things that Christians do is make really lame arguments. How do you know that heaven is real? It says right here in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Oh, that explains everything. So I know that heaven exists because someone who thought heaven existed wrote it down in a book. This is the kind of closed-minded and closed-loop thinking that drives atheists crazy. And with good reason!
Today, there are far too many atheists whose thinking is every bit as closed-minded and closed-loop as the worst Christians. And a lot of atheist arguments are just a bag of tricks that they think just destroy Christianity or whatever other religion you want to talk about. The most annoying of these are the paradox arguments. I wrote about this before, No Contradiction in Genesis Eve Creation. My main point there was that paradoxes are found everywhere — even in deductive systems. And certainly the existence of the universe is a paradox, so why wouldn’t a creation story have paradoxes? (I then go on to show that there isn’t really a paradox to begin with.)
But the biggest problem with these kinds of trivial atheist arguments is that they really only address Biblical literalism: the most primitive kind of belief. And it isn’t just the smug Twitter atheists who do this. I’ve read atheist books by Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and many others. And not one of them deals with religion as it is practiced by intelligent, thoughtful people. Now that’s fine! The vast majority of people do practice a kind of brainless fideism. But these same authors seem to think that their atheist arguments have wider currency. And they don’t.
What I hate in all things is hubris. (I hate it in myself most of all.) When Penn Jillette wrote his pathetic book God, No! his main argument is that we just don’t know and that we shouldn’t believe in things that we don’t know about. It’s a nice thought. But of course, Jillette is lying. Atheists are as certain of their worldviews as everyone else. And the vast majority of them have far more faith in science than they should have. They suffer from some a kind of literalist-like error regarding it, “Science says it; I believe it; that settles it.” Well, no. That’s the thing about science: nothing is ever settled.
Atheists have decided that they should have faith in science. And that’s good! Science is about the best thing we have going. But it doesn’t provide us with ultimate truth. There are limits to science. (If there are limits to logic, there are limits to science — see Kurt Gödel.) But with regard to the atheist debates, we are stuck with the fact that most religious people have just as much faith in science. Read Carl Sagan’s interview (pdf) with the Dalai Lama.
I complain so much about atheists because I expect better of them. When a Jehovah’s Witness comes to my door wanting to explain how we know that God loves me because John said so, I don’t much care because they are idiots. What I can’t tolerate is people thinking that just because they believe in science, they can make equally specious but atheist arguments.