Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bubble-wrapped atheism

Recently, I noted that Jeff Lowder posted an intellectually confused critique of article by Warner Wallace. Jeff has responded with an intellectually confused reply to my observations. At least he's consistent–albeit consistently confused. 

In the title of his post (as well as the body of his post) he misclassifies what I wrote as a Another Failed Defense of “The Inevitable Consequences of an Atheist Worldview”

Unfortunately for Jeff, my original post wasn't a defense of Wallace's article. So Jeff's entire response goes off on a tangent. I'm not defending (or opposing) Wallace's article. That was never my stated aim or implicit aim. Rather, I was making a narrow, but damaging, point about Jeff's response. I can critique Jeff's response without endorsing what he attacks. So Jeff's reaction is illogical. 

In commenting on his critique of Wallace, I drew attention to the fact that Jeff fails “to distinguish between the logical implications of atheism and what individual atheists happen to believe.” 

Jeff denies this, yet that's exactly what he does. For instance, Jeff tries to counter E. O. Wilson's contention that morality “an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate” by citing Larry Arnhart's Aristotelian ethical naturalism. 

But that confuses atheism with atheists. The fact that some atheist subscribes to "objective moral values and duties" doesn't make his subscription a logical implication of atheism. Indeed, his position could be logically incompatible with atheism. 

Likewise, Jeff tries to prove that atheism is neutral on morality with a name-dropping footnotes. But that, once again, illustrates my point. Citing what any particular atheist believes is a separate issue from the logical implications of atheism. For one thing, many atheists try to make the best of the losing hand they dealt themselves. They labor to turn a losing hand into a winning hand. They can't face up to the unremittingly bleak consequences of atheism. 

Jeff then casts himself in the role of scorekeeper:

Final score: Lowder 8, Hays 0.

But, of course, his score is predicated on his false premise that my observations constituted a "failed defense" of Wallace. Since, however, they were never a defense of Wallace, I can't very well fail to defend what I never attempted to defend in the first place. Jeff's final score is about as nonsensical as accusing Magnus Carlsen of losing the Superbowl. Well, it's true that Carlsen didn't win the Superbowl, but not because he failed to win the Superbowl.

Jeff isn't in the same game I'm in. He's not even in the same kind of game I'm in. I can't lose a game I wasn't playing. 

That they are inconsistent is the very point at issue. Hays hasn’t shown that yet. Hays hasn’t yet responded to my logical critique of these claims of the “logical implications” or “radical consequences” of atheism.

True. I haven't responded to that because that was never my objective. That wasn't the target. 

Again, Hays offers no defense of his claims about the “logical implications” or “radical consequences” of atheism. Instead, he just continues to beg the question by ignoring my point-by-point rebuttal to all of Wallace’s claims.

I needn't reinvent the wheel for Jeff's benefit. I've been defending my claims about the logical implications and the radical consequences of atheism for 10 years on my blog. 

I’m going to end this post by paraphrasing something William Lane Craig once wrote in response to one of his critics (Sean Carroll), keeping the essence of WLC’s point while applying it to Hays.
Finally, I’m disappointed that Hays cannot find it in himself to have a collegial discussion of these important questions but feels the need to resort to snide, personal attacks in his closing paragraph, as well as numerous blog posts. … His condescension is especially awkward in light of his own missteps in correctly characterizing the logical implications of atheism. Hays will pardon us, I hope, for our skepticism about his counting himself among the ranks of the open-minded.

To be open-minded about atheism is to be open-minded about moral nihilism, existential nihilism, and global skepticism. That kind of open-mindedness is not an intellectual virtue, but the subversion of all normative values and virtues. 

I would add this. I used to consider Hays a friend, but I don’t find Hays’ recent behavior very Christ-like. 

It's true that my behavior towards Jeff is unchrist-like. If Jeff dies as atheist, this is how Christ will behave towards him:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left…41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt 25:31-32-41). 
when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thes 1:7-9).
I will never be in a position to do that to Jeff. Indeed, it's way above my pay-grade. 

I’ve interacted with many scholars who try (and, I think, largely succeed) in being polite when doing Christian apologetics: William Lane Craig, Michael Horner, Glenn Miller, Doug Geivett, Victor Reppert, Craig Blomberg, and Richard Swinburne, to name just a few. If you’ll pardon an atheist offering advice to apologists, I’m pretty sure the NT never says that rudeness is a necessary condition for giving a reason for the hope that lies within you. If I ever become a theist, it will be in spite of Hays’ recent behavior, not because of it.

Several issues here:

i) Jeff is a hardened atheist. The existence of "polite" Christian apologists hasn't made a dent in his ardent atheism. So his admiration for "polite" Christian apologists is just a throwaway line. 

ii) Jeff doesn't specify what's "rude" about my recent comments. I know he's been complaining about how I tag some of his posts, as well as those of Keith Parsons, as "village atheist" material. Well, I do that when their arguments operate at that level. 

iii) The fact that I used words like "confused" or "village atheist" to characterize some of his arguments is exceedingly tame compared to much Biblical rhetoric about unbelievers. If anything, my language is charitable to a fault by biblical standards. 

iv) More to the point is judging Jeff's pique by secular standards. Jeff is one of those Dudley Do-Right atheists who never lets the raw, radical implications of atheism sink in. His moral vanity blinds him to the abyss. It's like a concentration camp where the guards are never rude. They politely ask the inmates to step into the gas chambers. They say "please" and "thank-you." Be oblivious to the surroundings. Be oblivious to your fate. Smile a lot. Admire a fresh coat of paint on the gas chambers. 

Jeff goes through life in his bubble-wrapped atheism. He doesn't allow himself to see himself from the viewpoint of the universe if atheism is true. What is he? Just a clump of matter. A little clump of matter that will cease to exist almost as soon as it came to exist. It didn't exist for billions of years. It will cease to exist for billions of years thereafter. Forgotten. Forgettable. Irrelevant.

If atheism is true, Jeff is worthless. Utterly worthless. He's defending a worthless creed that renders him worthless. 

He plays the straight-man to the gallow's humor of the universe. The straight-man never gets the joke. He's too serious–because he takes himself too seriously–to ever catch on to the fact that the joke is on him.  

Even though Jeff founded The Secular Web, he doesn't see himself as atheism sees him. He doesn't see himself for what he is if what he says is true.

One reason for this is that atheism is too degrading to take. The other reason is that atheism is false. An atheist is a rebel. A creature made in God's image. A creature who must think and live in a God-defined reality. 

As a result, an atheist can't help but view himself as something with inherent value. He never takes to the role that atheism assigns to him. It's too unreal. Too impossible. 


  1. The Bible classifies men like him as fools.

  2. 'I used to consider Hays a friend, but I don’t find Hays’ recent behavior very Christ-like.'

    This just leaves me rolling my eyes. How many times have I seen atheists resort to this! This kind of nonsense is a sure sign that they are running extremely low (just plain empty?) on ammunition, and this 'I used to consider you a friend, but now you're nasty!' nonsense is a transparent tactic to try to deflect attention from their own inability to argue coherently and consitently.

    1. I was going to say the same thing, but decided not to because it's so obvious. But since you did, I second that opinion. Also, why should atheists care about rudeness or politeness; as if humans have inherent dignity and should be treated with respect?

      Love is a *Christian* virtue, not an atheistic one. Atheists may desire it, but no atheist should expect or demand to be loved. Also, Lowder is smart enough to understand the concept of "tough love." If he insists on his atheism, he should expect to be treated in a way consistent with what atheism reduces him to. The most loving thing a Christian can do from his perspective (and especially since it's true) is to prove the folly and irrationality of atheism, and that's precisely what Steve did with Lowder's arguments.

    2. Quite right, AP. Such conduct belies Lowder's professed atheism. It's pitiful.