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The Atheist Delusion

1. I don’t believe in atheists.

‘Atheism’ is a very confused concept and I wish for the universe1 that it is settled once and for all in this essay. I claim that ‘atheist’ has only one coherent sense, and this sense is as metaphysically dogmatic as any religion or ethos that has ever existed. The atheist asserts that ‘there are no gods’2 is true.

If you disagree on this definition of ‘atheist’, then I ask you: What exactly distinguishes ‘atheist’ from ‘agnostic’? The two terms are often contrasted with each other, so we can assume that their concepts lie in roughly the same conceptual plane. Here is how ‘atheism’ is commonly defined:

  1. Atheists are a- theists; they deny the essential tenet of theism: ‘There is a (at least one) god’ is a true statement. Logically, this is equivalent to saying: ‘There are no gods’ is a true statement. The atheist believes what science tells us, and nothing else.
  2. The atheist “doesn’t believe in god/gods”. Atheism is not a claim; atheism is the lack of a claim. The atheist believes what science tells us, and nothing else.

I don’t claim that these exhaust the senses of ‘atheist’, but I claim that these are the two dominant strands. The claims are clearly different: One claims a particular statement true/false, and the other makes no claims. No. 1 are the a/theists, and no. 2 are the agnostics. If you are not making a strong claim (e.g. ‘I’m pretty sure there are no gods’), then you are an agnostic. Atheists are the extremists along the skeptical continuum. Atheists assert that there are no gods (or they’re pretty darn sure).

To reiterate: If you do not assert ‘there are no gods’ to be true or false, then you are an agnostic. If you would not go so far as to say that you know that gods of any description don’t exist in this universe, outside this universe or anywhere else in the vast scope that potentially constitutes all that exists, then you are an agnostic and not an atheist.

2. Richard Dawkins and a Dearth of Evidence

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins presents the atheist/agnostic/theist conceptual landscape according to individuals’ judgements on the probability that a god exists. Dawkins presents a seven-fold breakdown of these positions, from atheist to theist. At the extremes, individuals claim knowledge, not just a degree of belief. In the middle is the “completely impartial agnostic”. This sounds like a cogent scientific methodology for delineating these muddled concepts, but I will argue that this methodology is ridiculous and almost nonsensical. The primary problem is that any such judgment of probability must be completely baseless. I will begin with the brunt of my argument.

The glaring hole in Dawkins’ conceptual scheme is that he presumes that we can have any reasons on which to base such a judgment of probability. To make a judgment on the probability that a god exists, one must have reasons. So, those who say that there is no god presumably have reasons for making this judgment. Correct? My question is: What are these reasons?3 There are really only two angles at answering the question: Science and/or philosophy. By this, I mean empirical evidence or formal demonstration (via proof). It isn’t possible to proove (demonstratively) that god doesn’t exist, so that leaves empirical science. Please continue.

Atheists, this is what I take y’all to be saying. Empirical science has eliminated any recourse to “gods” in its explanation of nature. Extremely powerful equations describe the minutest and the most vast and distant events known to man. All of the variables and constants of these equations refer to natural properties/events.4 As a result of this, god/gods are entirely removed from our highest-level explanations of nature. The atheist might say: Science leaves absolutely no reason to believe in god/gods.

I don’t disagree with the above. But, the atheist does not just argue that we have no reason to believe in gods – the atheist argues that we have good reason to believe that there are no gods. Here, the atheist commits a basic fallacy in assuming that empirical science constitutes any counterevidence to the existence of god/gods. In the next installment, I will fill in this conclusion and consider the concepts of ‘God’ and ‘god/gods’ and the implications of these distinctions.

  1. even if there are other civilizations out there, it has not yet been decided that ours are not insignificant []
  2. of any description (not even one!). And by ‘gods’, I mean any supernatural entities that have/had any hand in the universe. []
  3. Since I am familiar with the debate, I already know the common answers and I am merely setting you (the reader) up for the boo-ya stroke. []
  4. This is false. []