Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Boy's philosophies..."

"Atheism is too simple.... [It is a] boy's philosophy." -C.S. Lewis

In my previous post, I demonstrated how the response I received from an atheist (I'll call him Alec, b/c it's a cool name) showed the results of epistemological nihilism, i.e., how claiming that there are "no authorities" reduces all arguments (including atheistic arguments) to absurdity and non-existence. I showed how, in an attempt to silence my arguments, Alec was willing (whether he realized it or not) to demolish the very foundations of argumentation itself in order to win the argument, i.e., he was trying to argue that there are no arguments, which is an obvious contradiction. That was perhaps the most fatal flaw of his whole response.
I am not finished, however. There is yet another flaw I wish to expose, a flaw which that same response demonstrated perfectly, a flaw that (though not quite as fatal as the first one) still demonstrates the inherent weaknesses in atheistic reasoning.
Angry at my implication that atheism can philosophically lead to nihilism, Alec (speaking for all atheist: "We are the (currently living) atheists") decided to instruct my unlearned mind on what atheism really is: "Atheism is defined thusly: The absence of a belief in a god. Period. End of definition." What this response demonstrates is the supreme naiveté that apparently most atheists are working under (if Alec is truly speaking for all of them). This supreme naiveté is the assumption that ideas do not have consequences, i.e., that absence of a belief in a god merely means that and nothing more (aside from the freedom "to consider any other set of values you wish.")
Atheism is not as simple as "absence of a belief in a god," however, and the reason why is because the question of God/god(s) is no mere simple inquiry. It is the prime question, the question dealing with prime reality, with what is the source of all things. When you are asking the question about God/god(s), you are not merely saying something about supernatural entities; you are really asking the question, "What is really real; what is fundamental reality?" The God/god(s) question is the first and foundational question in regards to shaping your worldview. The answer that you give to that question will directly affect the way the rest of your worldview turns out, including your answers to: What is the nature of external reality? What is a human being? What happens after death? Can we know anything? How do we determine what is right and wrong? What is the meaning of human history? etc. The question about God/god(s) is alot weightier than Alec seems willing to allow for himself (and all atheists).
As such, atheism does not end at "absence of a belief in a god." That statement is a presupposition that must be thought out to its logical conclusion(s), i.e., "What does it mean if there is no God/god(s)?" I had mentioned that philosophical atheism will logically lead to nihilism, and Alec took except to that; but he preceded to give me no alternative logical conclusion except that atheism sets one free from religion, which is a tautology (a philosophical "no duh"). That atheism only sets one free from religious institutions and principles is only surface scratchings. What does it mean to be absent from a belief in God/god(s)?
I tried to mention to my friend that Nietzsche realized that, if there is no God, if we are merely a conglomeration of molecules that came together purely by chance through arational, random, natural forces, then we are merely puppets trapped in the system of natural cause and effect, and our actions have no more meaning to them because they are not our actions, but random acts of nature imposed on us by nature through cause and effect happenings that we know nothing of (you can find this in his book Human, All too Human). Thus we have the complete loss of meaning to our actions, and thus all loss of meaning period (he also realized this in his work "The Madman").
I tried to mention to my friend that H.G. Wells realized that if there is no God, then man is merely left to himself, and is solely dependent and reliant upon his own devices; and after seeing two world wars, Wells concluded that if man's only hope is man, then man is doomed (you can find this in his book Mind at the End of its Tether). Thus we have the complete loss of hope in "human potential." We are our own worst enemy, and we cannot save ourselves; and since there is no God, then there is no one to save us from ourselves. Therefore, again, we are doomed.
That wasn't good enough for him, though; so now I must quote from another atheist, a modern atheist, a contemporary atheist, a current atheist, a "we atheists". Prominent atheistic evolutionary biologist and historian William Provine of Cornell University put it this way: if there is no God, then (1) there is no life after death, (2) there is no foundation for right and wrong, (3) there is no ultimate meaning for life, and (4) people do not really have free will (you can find this in Phillip E. Johnson's book Darwin on Trial, as well as Ben Stein's documentary Expelled). This man is living today (though I hear that he has cancer). He is, therefore, one of the "we atheist" that my friend was speaking of, and apparently Provine disagrees with my friend on what exactly atheism is, because he has looked beyond mere surface scratchings to logical conclusions.
What do Nietzsche, Wells and Provine all have in common? They all moved beyond childish atheism, beyond naive ideas, and went onward to the consequences of those ideas. They all possessed the courage and maturity to look their belief's conclusions square in the eye and be honest about it. Some were honest to a fault (Nietzsche committed suicide), but they all were more honest than Alec was. He believes in a "boy's philosophy," a kiddie belief that does not see or does not want to see the true logical conclusions of its own belief system; atheists who have seen the conclusions are summarily dismissed as irrelevant. This is not adult thinking, but childish naiveté that refuses to grow up and face the reality of their own ideas.

P.S. For a well done, easy to understand perspective on what atheism's logical conclusions are and how it reaches them, I recommend James W. Sire's book The Universe Next Door

5 comments:

Doug Indeap said...

How about these alternatives to nihilism? http://www.atheistfaq.com/2008/02/doesnt-atheism-inevitably-lead-to.html

Jonathan Vowell said...

That link took me to more of the same wimpy atheism that I was talking about. Atheism is not a "starting point with no end route". It is a complete worldview with philosophical consequences. Trying to say otherwise does not change the fact that other atheists (Nietzsche, Wells, and Provine) found that out and admitted it.

If atheists found alternatives to nihilism (and they have) it is ONLY because they are not practicing what they preach, not being true atheist.

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