Archives For atheism

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Atheism: A Reader

Anthony Weber —  February 22, 2014 — 1 Comment

I recently I went to a local bookstore in search of a book that would give me a solid overview of the atheistic worldview. Atheism: A Reader happened to featured prominently. It is handily divided into eight sections that offer a broad range of atheistic objections to Christianity with representations from various eras of history and areas of expertise. I will provide a very brief (and hopefully fair) summary of the sections and essays before offering some comments at the end.

“Some Overviews”

  • Thomas Huxley notes that “The agnostic says, ‘I cannot find good evidence that so and so is true.’”
  • Leslie Stephen basically agrees with the definition, because “there are limits to the sphere of human intelligence.”
  • Emma Goldman writes that since all religions are based in fear and ignorance and developed by people who are not that bright, atheism is a boon to mankind, a “dissolution of the phantoms of the beyond; the light of reason has dispelled the theistic nightmare.”
  • Carl Von Doren agrees that religions give no good reason for anyone to accept any of them.

 “A Refutation of Deism”

  • Percy Shelley claims that “design must be proved before a designer can be inferred.” Since this cannot be shown, positing a Creator is unwarranted.
  • A.J. Ayer rejects the Argument from Design because it could allow for multiple creators, does not require an eternal deity, and needs a creator outside of time, which seems difficult at best.
  • Robert Ingersoll’s refutation of Deism can be summarized in two key questions: Why did God apparently create so many defective things? And why did a good and wise God create so much evil?
  • Bertrand Russell addresses a number of the arguments for God, but he focuses on the link between morality and God. He claims that Christians think they are the only ones who can be moral, then highlights bad Christians throughout history. Continue Reading…

The Problem of Pain

Anthony Weber —  March 16, 2012 — 3 Comments

The problem of suffering and pain in a world that the theist claims has been created by an all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God has long been a flashpoint in the debate surrounding God’s nature and existence. The argument about the mere presence of evil pushes the limits of human history (i.e. Job), but the escalated horrors of the 20th century, specifically the Holocaust, have brought the debate about the magnitude of the problem to the forefront now more than ever.

Interestingly, the problem of pain was not a serious threat to Christian thought until the last several centuries; suffering has only recently been seen as a ground for final skepticism rather than an incentive for inquiry. When Descartes and other theologians began to discuss the existence of God by stressing philosophy and reason rather than the person of Christ, they opened the door to a new room of argument.

The problem of evil – specifically, the claim that the existence of evil necessitates or at least argues strongly for the non-existence of God – has been formulated on two different levels.  The most foundational question is if the existence of God and the existence of evil are compatible.   A different approach grants that God and evil may exist, but questions what kind of God would allow the apparently gratuitous pain we see in the world.  

Though there is some variation in the formulation, the Logical Problem of Evil (LPE) can be stated as follows: 

God exists, and is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good.  

This is logically inconsistent with the idea that evil exists, because a perfectly good being would want to eliminate evil, and an all powerful being would eliminate evil.  

Evil exists; therefore, God does not exist. Continue Reading…

God of Beauty

Anthony Weber —  February 5, 2012 — Leave a comment

From a longer post on the connection between God and beauty:

“In the presence of sometimes staggering pain and ugliness, one must either explain it or explain it away. Worldviews have dismissed it as illusory (some Eastern religions), refused to even define it (Atheism), or sought to understand the reason and the solution (Christianity).  The presence of grandeur and goodness provides no less of a challenge. One must either explain things like beauty, awe and wonder… A good worldview needs to explain the world, not explain the world away.”

Continue Reading…

God and Beauty

Anthony Weber —  January 16, 2012 — Leave a comment

Numerous Christian theologians (as well as philosophers such as Plato) have developed an argument for the existence of God that builds from the presence of beauty in the world.  While it is important for Christians to explain the co-existence of a Creator God with the seemingly gratuitous ugliness of some of the evil of the world, it is equally important to ask those who do not believe in God to explain the presence of superfluous beauty in a chaotic, impersonal universe. From “Hiking The Transcendent Trail”:

“For a couple hours, I was immersed in the stunningly unnecessary beauty of creation.  The idea that all of reality can be reduced to nothing but atoms in motion may pass some kind of muster in a philosophy classroom, but not in midst of the raw beauty of nature.  Yes, there is ugliness too.  I get that.  In fact, in a materialist universe of blind forces and chance, I understand gratuitous evil and decay.  But what do we do with gratuitous beauty?   What do we do when sticks, frozen water, dead chlorophyll sacks, dirt and a distant star take our breath away?  We enjoy it, and remember that our existence is greater than the sum of the details.”

Monday morning chuckle for you.

 

(Clip from “The Soloist”)

No, I don’t believe all atheists are as dopey as this guy is portrayed. It is refreshing to see that Hollywood doesn’t always make the Christian the idiot, though. Steve Lopez (Downey’s real-life character) asks some fantastic questions and makes some great observations here.

Great line:  “Not a lot to talk about.”

This exchange highlights what I consider to be an absurdity of atheism. If you don’t believe in God, fine. I get it. You don’t have to. But why organize around disbelief? Why evangelize against something? I just don’t understand. Do people gather to share their dislike of music or art? Do people have meetings to talk about why they never started smoking?

As Christians, we ought not be hostile. But in honest dialog, it is fair to turn the tables. When belittled for “gathering around our superstition”, it must be asked how gathering around lack of belief is inherently more reasonable or noble.