Saturday, February 4, 2012

Approaching Atheism - An Overview

Recently, I have become somewhat obsessed with studying what is euphemistically referred to as the "New Atheism." This is a movement in the last few years among (mostly academic) thinkers and writers to stand up for their disbelief in God in an uncompromising fashion. In order to get my ideas out of my head so that I can hopefully get back to playing video games in my free time, it has occurred to me that I should perhaps lay out the entirety of my opinions in a public venue. Blogger is a convenient mechanism to do that.

Unfortunately, in outlining what I believe and don't believe, much less why I do or don't believe things, I've discovered that it's not something I could possibly toss off in one post. Therefore, I seem to have committed myself to an entire series of essays. In the future, if challenged I can merely link back to one or more of these rather than repeat myself ad infinitum.

As a personal observation, it seems to me that many atheists today (at least those of the Internet variety) find ourselves in a similar position to Jewish thinkers of the Middle Ages, in that we seem to be frequently challenged and demanded to provide the reasons for our worldview in a variety of ad-hoc situations, or according to the arbitrary limitations set by our questioner of the moment. When a theist at a website demands immediate answers to a long list of questions (some of which have simple Googleable answers, whereas some others are not currently well known to science) I'm reminded of the Gentile who demanded of Hillel that the Torah be explained to him while he stood on one foot. It can be no accident that Hillel appended his response with the further admonition "go and learn."

By and large, I'll be addressing Christianity here, at least early on. This is because I live in the U.S.A. where Christians are the main aggressors in public life. However, I'm aware that similar arguments are made by other religions. In skepticism, I therefore move from the more specific to the more general. If explicitly Christian arguments don't apply to you, feel free to skip ahead until you find something that does.

I'll edit this post as needed to include links to each essay once they're posted.

Science vs. God

Although many Christians might claim that they have no conflict with the current findings of science, the sad fact of the matter is that an alarming number of others do. This includes many of our political representatives today. I'll first address the ant-science positions of many Christians, from Young Earth Creationists through those who are generally suspicious of the scientific community. Once they've been cleared from the field, we can discuss deeper matters.

Ethics vs. God

One oft-mentioned claim by the religious is that since God is the only possible arbiter of morality, nobody without a (direct or indirect) belief in God's edicts can possibly be moral in their lives. I'll discuss here the implications of that claim, as well as an interesting scriptural counter-claim, and then address how moral considerations arise as an emergent property of nature.

Proofs of God

I happen to personally enjoy theological conjectures. Here, I'll address the main claimed proofs of God's existence. Although these are presented in their more historical/formal forms, you may recognize more casual restatements of these given in arguments by theists even today.

Disproofs of God

Here I take the position of coming to the Lord Almighty's defense against a great many historical claims of His of disproof.

It is merely insufficient to disbelieve in God either because one is angry at Him, or because one thinks that His existence has been categorically disproven. The result of this chapter up to this point should be at the most, a position of agnosticism.

Dualism, Deity, and Faith

I get more to the heart of the issue, giving my reasons for opposing the general dualist perspective, more robust definitions of God, and the value of having any sort of faith at all.

Subjective Epistemicism - Constructing a Sound Worldview

In the next series, I'll go positive in order to discuss how to know what can be believed, to understand what it means to know something at all, and to what degree we can claim knowledge or belief in any given proposition. Rather than merely a "why I think you're wrong," I'll go out on a limb and present "what I believe and why."

This is less a part of the same series rather than a separate thesis in its own right. I append a mention of it here in the spirit of fairness; it's one thing to saw off the limb upon which another is sitting, it's quite another to go out on a limb yourself. So, this is my limb. I consider it reasonably saw-proof.


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