Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Square one

An atheist attempted to refute my post:

No. The village atheist has no burden of proof. All he needs do is say "convince me". 

It's not my responsibility to convince anyone. No doubt an atheist would love to control the debate by appointing himself the arbiter, but what he's prepared to believe is not the standard of comparison. 

Square one must be non-belief. That's the default. 

Does that refer to Christianity in particular, or is that meant to be a general statement about epistemological starting-points? Is non-belief in anything and everything square one? Is non-belief in other minds, the reality of the past, or an external world the default position? Is the onus on me to convince you that we're not trapped in the Matrix? Is the onus on me to convince you that the world didn't spring into existence five minutes ago, complete with false memories?  

We don't need to give reasons for rejecting Christianity.  

Either God exists or he doesn't. If God exists, but you make non-belief your default position, then your starting-point is in error. Shouldn't square one be the reality? Shouldn't square one be whatever the evidence points to? Not some abstract, fact-free non-belief.  

So give us that evidence. 

As if I haven't done that in 14 years of nonstop blogging. 

How did you arrive at the conclusion Christianity was right. 

Actually, it doesn't matter how I arrived at that conclusion. I might have different reasons for being a Christian than I had for becoming a Christian. 

But it's not for atheists to have to justify non-belief.

So the onus is not on atheists to justify non-belief in Last Thursdayism or solipsism? What about non-belief that chain-smoking is hazardous to one's health? 


  1. I have found after numerous discussions with atheists, its always:

    a) i don't want to think my life is a foregone conclusion. ie i don't want to accept God's sovereignty;

    b) i don't want to be in heaven because there are no pets in heaven;

    c) how can God allow suffering?

  2. "Square one must be non-belief. That's the default."

    I don't believe in that position. Therefore, I satisfy the requirement it claims.

    Gee, it's almost like simplistic atheistic claims about where you "ought" to begin, are self-contradictory.

  3. "The claimant of claims has the burden of proof."

    The problem with that statement is that it does not clarify what proof would count. What quality and quantity of proof would be acceptable. That which is discernible by physical sciences, or historical investigation, or philosophical inquiry, all of the above or none of the above, etc.? And in what measure?

    The similar problem is with, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."

    No one in this case goes to define the form of "extraordinary proof", and how one comes at that definition objectively. At what point does a proof jump from ordinary status to extraordinary status? When it convinces that particular person or with something more objective? But if the former, wouldnt that then mean that the definition is so malleable that it is useless? And if the latter, well - what is it?

    1. Exactly. On top of it, as I've mentioned elsewhere, denying the existence of God is itself making several claims that bear a subsequent burden of proof, just like saying "I don't believe 2 + 2 has an answer" implies much more than just that you don't believe in the existence of the number 4.

    2. Yup. That's there too. But I was accommodating the cowardly definition of atheism these days, that it is "merely a lack of belief in God". As far as definition go, it is one of the most useless definitions thought of by man - because it makes my dogs smelly poop, along with my door, keyboard, carkeys, potentially cockroach, an atheist (no offense meant but just applying the said definition (which is why I feel it is so useless)) - but still... You know granting them that silly definition... I still feel they are unclear as the arbiters of evidence. Any evidence.

      P.S. P.Aga, prominent scientist atheist like Sean Carroll abhor theism because it is not defined in a rigorous way like say Force or Speed is. Carroll must find that seemingly idiotic definition equally nauseating. Again, I neither know what theological definition Carroll has been exposed to, nor would I go to define theological terms. But.... Just saying.

    3. Pardon the typos. Using the handset here... Which astronomically increases my typos.

    4. I still followed what you said :-) And yes, you are correct that the definition is itself inherently silly, and even then they can't really back it.

    5. I would add that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" is itself a claim. So by their own standard, atheists have the burden of proving it. Which of course they haven't, and can't.

    6. @Top Quark: that is why they hate philosophy, the new atheist. Because philosophy does not spare anyone but always burdens the opposite camp with questions.

      My PhD. uncle in religious philosophy alway untiringly tells to me... Theology works on the axiom God exists. Philosophy says, well prove it. Point being philosophy is not satisfied with axioms. Either for theists or atheists. That is one of the reason why I respect that field... It dares to ask uncomfortable questions.

      @Peter: it is indeed a privilege to talk to someone who resonates so much with you. I have noticed this before but perhaps now is a good time to speak aloud my opinion on you. I am sure we have our disagreements and that you are easily the one more matured in the faith than I (I don't remotely think about these things (theology) as any of you bloggers on this blog)... But refreshingly though our outlook on atheism is very closely related. The Epistle of Dude is another such brother who thinks very closely to the way I do in these specific matters.

    7. James McCloud

      "The Epistle of Dude is another such brother who thinks very closely to the way I do in these specific matters."

      Thanks, James McCloud! I appreciate it, and I think very closely to you as well, I believe.

      Militant atheists typically define atheism as "the lack of belief" in theism. Nonbelief rather than disbelief. Of course, militant atheists typically define atheism this way because it keeps them from having to make a proposition or take a position, which, if they did, then they'd have to argue for their proposition or position. This amounts to intellectual laziness at best.

      However, suppose atheism is just the lack of belief in theism. If that's all it is, then why couldn't atheism be consistent with religion? At the very least, atheism is not mutually exclusive with religion. There are nontheistic religions (e.g. pantheistic religions). Yet militant atheists typically criticize all religions.

    8. >>>However, suppose atheism is just the lack of belief in theism. If that's all it is, then why couldn't atheism be consistent with religion?

      Yes, that is an interesting point to ponder upon. I have seen a few of Matt Dillahunty's take on this and his argument is as follows:

      1. Atheism is a lack of belief in God
      2. I dont object to supernaturalism, but supernaturalism cannot be investigated
      3. My demand is that my beliefs best represent reality
      4. Because of number 2. point no. 3 cannot be tested for certainty
      5. There we are left with point no. 1 as the only sane option

      Or something on those lines based on the little I saw him use this new definition.

      If you have time, watch his debate with Licona (even though I found Licona leading for his cause rather than defending it) and Sye Ten Bruggencate (only the first half of the debate. He swallows Sye whole in the second half because Sye was ill-prepared). It will give you a sense of the position atheists who think like him come from - of course assuming you havent noticed it already.

      There is a new British 20 year old whose atheistic Youtube channel has recently taken off (Alex O'Connor). I have seen him employ similar arguments - so it is not just the oldies like "Uncle" Dillahunty using it. I frankly lost interest in O'Connor the moment he said that Christianity is worse than Islam. That foolish statement was so off from the null reading that I had no choice to conclude that this man is not worth taking serious - but that does not change the prospect that perhaps he is one of the new faces of atheism. I am sure most of his YT subscribers are folks of his age... hence the reference to him.

  4. 'The village atheist has no burden of proof. All he needs do is say "convince me."'

    Oh please. This is just intellectual and philosophical cowardice. And then the cowardly atheist, who gets to arbitrate with his "convince me", can conveniently respond to any argument with, "I'm not convinced." Well, who'd have thought it? Where did all the real atheist men go? Those honest types who defended the positive belief that is atheism.

    Meanwhile, in spite of the hot air, on any coherent definition, atheism carries a tremendous burden of responsibility. To say that the universe, the laws by which it is governed, and all of life arose by purely naturalistic means is a claim which, some might say, carries an insurmountable burden of responsibility... Oh, wait, I wonder why the definition of atheism has taken a battering in recent years.

    1. Yup. Add to the fundamental intellectual laziness the fact that it's always easier to attack someone else's view than to defend your own and radical skepticism can be wielded against every position. Even this one.

      But how do you know it can be used against this one?

      Because it just was.

      But how do you know it actually was and wasn't just some inception-level irony going on?


    2. Interestingly Peter, ever since I knew that I could not be a professional apologists... For the exact reason cited by you I usually don't make claims. Like you said... It is far easier to critique a claim than to defend it. While critiquing a claim, your questions are only bound by your imagination. But while defending it, you are bound by available facts and evidence.

      It's rather unfair... But so it is. In a way I empathise with professional apologists. Their work is truly cut out for them. Me and the likes like me take the easy way out... Because so people deserve that treatment. By that I mean, they deserve to be treated with imaginative questions. Ask "how" or "why" ten or twenty times consecutively and one can drive anyone mad.