Dissecting Questions for Atheists

This has been sat in my drafts for quite some time. I thought, now that I’m back on to my blogging hobby, I would tune up a few of the answers and share them for your recreational reading. The questions come from an apologist named Matt Slick. He is a presuppositional apologist. What this means is that he has refined the art of replacing dialogue with stubbornness. He will insist that the assumption a God exists is justified and everything spawns from that assumption (including reason and morality). He then systematically ignores rebuttals, because he refuses to believe you can disagree with him as rely on reason or logic. It’s interesting, then, to see whether he can produce fair and useful questions for the theism/atheism debate.

(I can’t find the ‘Proofread’ function on this new editor. Expect typos, passive voice, hidden verbs and complex language that hinders understanding to increase slightly.)

How would you define atheism?
This is a fair and intelligent first question. It sets the tone for an unbiased and levelled discussion without prejudice to assumption. It also allows the atheist to define their terms, which is fair given that the atheist is the one on trial. In isolation, the main problem with this question is that the answer already well established: a lack of belief in deities. In context, well, the problem is about whether the author of these questions (Matt Slick) can maintain that level tone.

Do you act according to what you believe (there is no God) in or what you don’t believe in (lack belief in God)?
Here we go. This question is loaded. How do you act in accordance with things you don’t believe? I don’t believe “God exists”, and I don’t act in accordance with that. No one acts according to what they don’t believe. I don’t consider what I don’t believe when I act. I act in accordance with things I do believe.

Do you think it is inconsistent for someone who “lacks belief” in God to work against God’s existence by attempting to show that God doesn’t exist?
If I work against the existence of a political group, I work to disband or destroy that group. That assumes the existence of that political group. So it would be inconsistent to work against the existence of God, as an atheist or not: believing in but working against the omnipotent is inconsistent because it means taking arms against the undefeatable; working against something you don’t believe exists assume its existence.
Luckily, I am entirely unaware of any atheist who does this. I am one of many atheists who argued that the idea is irrational and doesn’t hold up to rational scrutiny, as any good idea should. That is not the same.

How sure are you that your atheism properly represents reality?
It doesn’t. The question assumes atheism is a positive claim. It is not; atheism cannot be summarised in the following way: “Atheist is based on the following sentence being true: [insert sentence here]”. Atheism is simply not accepting one claim: at least one God exists. Equally, I don’t think my empiricism represents reality, I think it is a good method for identifying claims that do represent reality.

How sure are you that your atheism is correct?
See above. It is not a positive claim, it cannot be correct. I just don’t think your claim a God does exist is justified.

How would you define what truth is?
That which comports to reality.

Why do you believe your atheism is a justifiable position to hold?
Justifiable is a much better word than true. Justifiable is closer to rational. Atheism is rational to anyone who does not have sufficient evidence to support the claim God exists. There is a side note to be made here: instead of recognising the default position, the author of the question has asked the default position to be justified, presupposing the validity of theism. That’s not philosophically defensible.

Are you a materialist or a physicalist or what?
Methodological naturalist; empiricist; sceptic.

Do you affirm or deny that atheism is a worldview?  Why or why not?
Deny. It does not inform anything. Worldviews are a part of everything. Atheism is a response, not a view.

Not all atheists are antagonistic to Christianity but for those of you who are, why the antagonism?
Actually being antagonistic is quite rare. The assumption or problem with this question is that it is predicated on an oversensitivity and assumption that religion should not be challenged. Direct moral, intellectual or rational challenges to religion are seen as antagonism. It is eerily similar to challenging a psychiatrically deluded patient.

If you were at one time a believer in the Christian God, what caused you to deny his existence?
“Deny his existence”? Why did you even ask me to define atheism. Despite the first question allowing me to define my terms, the questions are all loaded.

Do you believe the world would be better off without religion?
Would it be better if something precious to people was destroyed? That is both loaded and irrelevant to what comports to reality. However, yes. This is not because I think religion is inherently evil, but because all dogmas inherently permit atrocities.

Do you believe the world would be better off without Christianity?
Dogma without question is bad. So yes.

Do you believe that faith in a God or gods is a mental disorder?
Define your terms. Medically speaking, a condition doesn’t become a disorder until it interferes with your ability to function. It evidently doesn’t interfere with the ability of a number of people. Some people are deluded morally and intellectually by religion, so for them it is a disorder. Ironically, members of the Islamic State, who are following the Koran more literally than any Muslim I have ever got along with, are displaying their religion as a mental disorder while being truer to it.

Must God be known through the scientific method?
How could you know something about the external reality by another method?

If you answered yes to the previous question, then how do you avoid a category mistake by requiring material evidence for an immaterial God?
Epistemology: the question is how we know anything.

Do we have any purpose as human beings?
No. But, also, yes.

If we do have purpose, can you as an atheist please explain how that purpose is determined?
By experience and wellbeing. The ‘purpose’ of anything is only the purpose is appears to have. The purpose of trees are not to produce oxygen for animals. However, if we reforest an area the purpose of those trees is oxygen (and soil binding and ecosystem support). Purpose is the not deontological and universal thing the author hopes it to be.

Where does morality come from?
For fun, let’s say there is no morality. On a universal scale, all things are in fact permissible. It turns out Cosmic Background Microwave Radiation doesn’t care what we do. The only thing that cares what we do is society. Oops. That’d be morality, wouldn’t it? Even if not, what would it have to do with God, anyway?

Are there moral absolutes?

If there are moral absolutes, could you list a few of them?
At some point, you will realise that looking after people actually matters.

Do you believe there is such a thing as evil?  If so, what is it?
Yes. The intentional violation of the wellbeing of others. It might look like cutting down the rainforest, starving entire ecosystems in exchange for money or beheading a humanitarian because you have no idea what might constitute a society.

If you believe that the God of the Old Testament is morally bad, by what standard do you judge that he is bad?
Literally any given understanding of morality. Even relativism.

What would it take for you to believe in God?
I don’t know. But God should know. There is no reason that a god should even be knowable.

What would constitute sufficient evidence for God’s existence?
That really depends on your conception of God. Another blogger referred to the universal conception of moral laws. We don’t have that, but if we did it would be an arrow in the right direction (towards any God of the ontological argument). For a biblical God: evidence of the flood, the arc, walls of Jericho, DNA evidence that supports genesis; the absence of natural explanations for phenomena.

Must this evidence be rationally based, archaeological, testable in a lab, etc., or what?
Must it be demonstrable and sensible? Yes.

Do you think that a society that is run by Christians or atheists would be safer?  Why?
That really depends. Atheists who are also deranged and succumb to heinous dogma are incredibly dangerous. But a country run by Christians when the population is so diverse… isn’t that just asking for Crusades and Inquisitions?

Do you believe in free will?  (free will being the ability to make choices without coersion).

If you believe in free will, do you see any problem with defending the idea that the physical brain, which is limited and subject to the neuro-chemical laws of the brain, can still produce free will choices?
What would this have to do with God?

If you affirm evolution and that the universe will continue to expand forever, then do you think it is probable that given enough time, brains would evolve to the point of exceeding mere physical limitations and become free of the physical and temporal and thereby become “deity” and not be restricted by space and time?  If not, why not?
No. What would be the evolutionary pressure for that? What would the intermediate look like? What is the author talking about? What does it even mean to have consciousness without a physical, material medium?

If you answered the previous question in the affirmative, then aren’t you saying that it is probable that some sort of God exists?
No. The previous question seems design to trip up people who are less aware of what evolution is. It is as if there is some sort of end goal of evolution and everything is just on a spectrum between mud and God. Do you see the ridiculousness of the author?


13 thoughts on “Dissecting Questions for Atheists”

  1. I can’t seem to access this post on your blog site, so I will merely respond this way.

    Regarding “Not all atheists are antagonistic to Christianity but for those of you who are, why the antagonism?” I am one of those antagonistic to Christianity. It is primarily because of the Christian Thought Police. Historically these people told us what to think and if we didn’t do it there way, they killed us. Believe as we do or die. If you don’t it is acceptable to lie. There is a reason atheists were called “Free Thinkers” not so long ago.

    And, I believe in Free Will, except when that term is limited to that of the conscious mind. I believe our free will is rooted sub- or un-consciously which explains all of the experimental studies showing the time lag between actions and thoughts (conscious thoughts; our conscious minds had to wait to get the memo).

    Again, another thought provoking post!

    1. I don’t know how you managed to read this a day early. Well done(?) You commented within minutes of it being posted.
      I don’t know that you are one of the antagonistic ones, but the accusation is thrown around pretty quickly and antagonism is (historically) justified. Not that I really believe in redressing past offences.
      The freewill question sounds like a bigger conversation for some other time…

  2. Atheists always base their arguments on logical fallacies.

    For brevity, I’ll only demonstrate the first four:

    1. Slick’s “tone” has nothing whatsoever to do with the definition of atheism. I can’t decide whether the major fallacy is irrelevance, moving the goal post, ad hominem attack or setting an arbitrary standard that requires Slick to respond in a certain manner.

    2. The logical fallacy presented in this case is a false claim, namely: “No one acts according to what they don’t believe.”

    If this erroneous claim were true, we all would all still believe in the Boogie Man. The child who grows past belief in the Boogie Man acts according to what he doesn’t believe.

    3. Here is yet another fallacy based on a false claim: “If I work against the existence of a political group, I work to disband or destroy that group.”

    Atheists have worked tirelessly to destroy religion for a long, long time. One proof of this is the atheist view of separation of church and state.

    The atheist falsely believes that praying at school or any public display of religion on public property is a violation of the separation of church and state.

    This in fact is not true. The first amendment does not limit the public or personal practice or expression of religious beliefs or customs.

    The 1st Amendment limits the government’s power to restrict religious practice.

    So in reality, the atheist view of separation of church and state is the exact opposite of the view expressed in the 1st Amendment.

    Atheists favor oppression and work tirelessly to destroy freedom of religion.

    4. This argument about what constitutes valid proof of the existence of God is also based on a false claim:

    “That really depends on your conception of God.”

    No it doesn’t.

    Since the existence of God is a self-evident truth (a truth knowable through reason) every human being on the planet can have the same concept of God.

    The atheist intentionally tries to make it appear that understanding the existence of God is a matter of faith.

    In fact, it is atheism that requires 100% unquestioning faith not the belief in the existence of God.

    1. 1. The “tone” refers to whether he is asking levelled unbiased questions, or loaded questions. Not irrelevant.

      2. Name one act a child makes based on the fact that don’t believe in the Boogey Man any more.

      3. Religion =/= God. Even if atheists do work against religion, that is not the same as working against God.

      4. God is not self evident.

      1. All,

        You responded with three items of gibberish and one false statement.

        The existence of God is self-evident to anyone with the ability to reason.

        To become an atheist you gave up your ability to reason.

        1. 1. Tone is relevant if a person involved in a debate is asking loaded questions with hidden assumptions. That it’s not gibberish.

          2. You have failed to elaborate on what decisions a child might make because they lack a believe in the Boogey Man. If you are to assert that prior make decisions based on what they do believe, an example is required.

          3. To work against religions would be different to working against God. Not gibberish.

          4. God is not self evident. You are refusing to present a counterargument.

    2. Slick’s tone is set when he begins by asking a very good question. Allowing someone to define their terms makes a discussion more likely to be understandable to both sides. It sets the “tone” of the discussion to be more of a back and forth rather than an argument.
      Your number 2 is just that. I think you misunderstand the statement “No one acts according to what they don’t believe.” You don’t go to bed and look under the bed or check your closet for the boogie man because you don’t believe in it. You don’t do that action because you don’t believe. It is quite similar to the fact that you don’t lose any sleep at night worrying if you are going to Niflheim, the Nordic mythological Hell.
      “If I work against the existence of a political group, I work to disband or destroy that group.”
      How is that a false claim?
      “Atheists favor oppression and work tirelessly to destroy freedom of religion.”
      Now there’s a false claim.
      ”The 1st Amendment limits the government’s power to restrict religious practice. So in reality, the atheist view of separation of church and state is the exact opposite of the view expressed in the 1st Amendment .”
      Umm, no. The 1st amendment limits the government’s power to enact or respect religions in government.
      “No it doesn’t.”
      Yes, it does.
      “Since the existence of God is a self-evident truth (a truth knowable through reason) every human being on the planet can have the same concept of God.”
      They can but they don’t; which is why the proof “depends on your conception of God”. If you believe in a god that can, and does, interact with the universe through miracles or tinkering the proof would be easily provided and would be demonstrable. If, however, you believe as some do in the universe being god itself, the proof would be very different.
      “In fact, it is atheism that requires 100% unquestioning faith not the belief in the existence of God.”
      Whoo, another one of those false claims, you should probably work on that SilenceofMind.

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