Thursday, 23 May 2019

Atheism is Not Dead: Consider this a snarky rebuttal

I recently saw this post on Twitter and was astounded by stunning display of modesty.

It turns out that this guy, J. Allen has written an article entitled, ‘Atheism Is Dead. Consider This The Obituary.’ It can be found at https://rightsmarts.com/atheism. I was curious to see how he ‘ended’ atheism.

His opening argument:

Atheism is not “a lack of belief in God,” as atheists are so fond of saying. If you lack belief in God, but don’t deny God’s existence, you’re agnostic (neutral position), not atheist (negative position).

Words have more than one usage. A lot of atheists (myself included) use ‘atheism’ in the sense of ‘lack of belief’ and ‘agnosticism’ in the sense of ‘not knowing for a fact’. Therefore, we identify as both atheists and agnostics. Some atheists do believe that there is no god; these atheists are often called ‘strong atheists’ (or ‘hard’), and those with a lack of belief are termed ‘weak atheists’ (or ‘soft’). I wouldn’t call the hard atheist position ‘denial’ either, because that implies that there is a god who is proven to exist and that they’re refusing to admit it.

Regardless, when an atheist tells you the usage of atheism they’re using, it’s arrogant of you to assert that their position is actually something else. If your article is attacking the belief that there is no god and lumping all atheists into that category, that’s called a strawman.

When asked to defend it atheists must play make-believe agnostics, retreating into the safe space of neutrality. This allows them to dodge their own burden of proof: offering a stronger explanation for existence than God.

If any particular atheist makes the claim that there is no god, they have a burden of proof. However, those of us who don’t make such a claim, do not.

If simply lacking belief in God makes one an atheist, then all agnostics are atheists. And if all agnostics are atheists? The U.S. (and the world) has a lot more atheists than we thought.

No, actually. There are people who identify as agnostic theists too; they believe in a god (or gods) but don’t claim to know it for a fact. Those agnostics who also lack a belief in a god would be atheists by the sense of the word I use, but I don’t like to impose labels upon people. As long as it’s clear how they’re using the word, there needn’t be an issue.

To be credible, a worldview must offer a positive, testable argument.

This one is easy to answer: atheism isn’t a world view. Even if you’re using the definition, ‘the belief that there is no god,’ it still doesn’t qualify as a world view. A world view is a philosophy or conception of the world. A single belief or position doesn’t qualify.

In claiming that God does not exist, atheism logically entails that something other than God must be responsible for why something (rather than nothing) exists.

If God didn’t create existence, then something else had to. Makes sense, right?

And if you deny that God created existence, as atheists do, then you must believe something else did, right?

If a person doesn’t accept one explanation for something, it doesn’t mean that they have another. For example, if the police had someone in custody and after interviewing him, they determined that he didn’t commit the crime, that doesn’t mean that they know who committed the crime.

  • Fact: existence exists (if I didn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this right now).
  • There must be an explanation for this fact.

We may never know the explanation. Maybe existence rather than non-existence is the default. We don’t know.

  • Atheists deny one possible explanation: God.
  • In denying the God explanation, atheism entails that some explanation other than God must be true.

No, ‘denying’ one possibility doesn’t mean that one has to accept another.

  • Atheists refuse to say what this other explanation is, let alone offer evidence in support of it.

Nor do they have to.

  • Thus, we’re left with a cold, hard conclusion: Atheism is a blind faith; a position with no evidence supporting it.

That’s a non sequitur. Having no explanation for why there is something rather than nothing isn’t the same as having no justification for believing there is no god. You can ask somebody who holds the hard atheist position what their justification is and weigh each argument on its merit. You can’t, however, assert that their position should address issues that are outside of its scope.

Atheists like to pretend that science is their domain.

There are many scientists who are theists and many atheists who have no interest in science. It’s possible that there are some atheists who think that ‘science is their domain’, but that’s certainly not true of all atheists. Sharing a position on a single issue doesn’t mean that we agree on everything. Making blanket statements is lazy.

Science “works” for two reasons:

  1. The universe is comprehensible. That is, it follows a set of orderly guidelines (laws) which allow it to be understood by cognitive observers (that’d be us).
  2. Cognitive observers exists [sic] (hi, mom!).

Scientific laws are descriptive; that is, they are our description of how things work. They aren’t prescriptive. The laws of gravity aren’t guidelines that bodies with mass follow in order to know how to be attracted to one another. Bodies with mass are attracted to each other, and the laws of gravity describe this phenomenon.

‘Being comprehensible’ isn’t a property of the universe, rather ‘being able to comprehend things’ is an ability that we as thinking agents possess. Would you claim that pebbles have the property of ‘being countable’, or that a ball has the property of ‘being able to be thrown’? The reason that pebbles can be counted by us is that we are beings who can count things. The reason that a ball can be thrown is that there are organisms capable of throwing. The reason the universe can be comprehended is that we are capable of comprehending things. In essence, you have it ass backwards.

Theists believe that God is the designer of the universe; a “cosmic engineer,” so to speak. Most theists also believe that God wants to be discovered. This would mean that science is the reverse engineering of the cosmic engineer’s work.

Sure enough, reverse engineering the universe perfectly described what science is and does. We study the various parts of nature and figure out how they work. That’s reverse engineering.

This is defining God into existence, and it’s no different from Ray Comfort’s argument, ‘Painting implies painter. Creation implies creator.’ Only by presupposing that there is a ‘cosmic engineer’ can you consider science to be reverse engineering.

Atheism entails mindlessness. Mindlessness entails chaos. Chaos is the opposite of science. Our minds are not chaos, and our universe is not chaos. If they were, science would be impossible.

You mean, the way that planets mindlessly orbit the Sun and chaotically stay in those orbits? Gravity is a mindless force, it doesn’t result in chaos, and science has a thorough understanding of it.

Is it any wonder, then, that God-fearing men have built science over the centuries? From the scientific method, to nearly every branch of science, they’ve all came from the blood, sweat, and tears of God-believers.

It’s not surprising that in a world where the majority of the world is religious, a lot of scientists are and have been religious. Did they reach their conclusions through prayer or by using science?

Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Max Planck . . . name a great scientist throughout history, and I’ll show you a believe [sic] in God.

Albert Einstein identified as agnostic. When he spoke of ‘God’ he was referencing Spinoza’s God.

In fact, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that atheists have done more evil than theists, despite being significantly outnumbered by them (sometimes by a factor in the thousands) throughout history.

Don’t believe me? Take a look below.

He then lists the murder rates in various countries without taking the populations of those countries into account, and without any indication of how many of those murders were committed by atheists.

Here’s an article that says that only 0.1% of the Federal Prison Population are atheists: Atheists Now Make Up 0.1% of the Federal Prison Population. A survey of individuals is a lot more meaningful than one of countries. I could look at this, pretend that correlation equals causation, and claim that atheists are more moral, but that would be ridiculous. Putting that aside, what does being evil have to do with whether or not a person has reached the correct conclusion about the existence of something?

To the atheist, human life is just a cosmic accident; pond scum which has, through a long series of beneficial mutations, evolved consciousness.

The universe has no purpose, nor does anything in it, including humanity. Any purpose we may think we have is just illusory; a lie we tell ourselves to better cope with the cold, dark, nihilistic reality of our existence.

Strawman! Look, I understand that Christians believe that there’s a special purpose bestowed by their God that makes everything ultimately meaningful, but things needn’t be ultimately meaningful to have meaning. I value my life. I value the lives of others. I don’t need a god to tell me that I and the other humans I co-exist have value; I can do that myself. My life is meaningful to me, my family, my friends, etc. That’s enough for me. I’m sorry that you can’t find meaning in your own life without the idea of some god to tell you that you’re his precious little snookums. That’s your issue.

Atheism, in a nutshell:

  • I know of no evidence for God. (this is the ignorance)
  • Therefor [sic], there is no evidence (here’s some more)
  • Therefore, God does not exist. (atheism’s argument from ignorance)
  • Therefore, the universe self-created via magic. (the logical consequence of atheism’s argument from ignorance)

Let me correct this for you.

  • I know of no evidence for God (or any other gods).
  • I don’t assume there is no evidence.
  • I don’t assume that a god doesn’t exist, but thus far I have no reason to assume a god does.
  • On an unrelated note, it’s my understanding the Big Bang Theory is the best explanation of how the universe came to be as it is, though not necessarily its origin. The Big Bang Theory doesn’t say that the universe ‘created itself’, nor does it say it’s ‘magical’. As to what came before the Big Bang, we don’t know. However, there are people who have expertise in this matter investigating it using the scientific method.

The preceding was me speaking for myself and not all atheists. Fancy individuals within a larger group having opinions of their own, eh?

What about biology? Surely Darwin solved all of that back in the mid-19th century, right? Atheists tell us he did.

No, Darwin didn’t ‘solve’ biology. He came up with a model for evolution, which has since been refined and contributed to by countless others. There are things about evolution that Darwin didn’t know, but which we know now. Science isn’t the work of any single individual; it’s a group effort.

Defending Darwin is tantamount to defending atheism.

Tell that to the countless theists who accept evolution.

So, that settles it, right? Darwin’s theory means atheism wins.

No, Darwin’s theory means that we understand how things evolved… My atheism isn’t dependent upon evolution.

He goes on to try to poke holes in evolution. He also points out that Dr. Jonathan Wells is like really really smart, and he has issues with evolution, therefore he must be correct. It’s really beside the point, because evolution has nothing to do with atheism, nor would disproving it do anything to substantiate the claim that there’s a god.

He then issues this challenge, ‘Show us the evidence for atheism,’ by which he means, ‘Show us evidence that there is no god.’ It’s not my position that there is no god, and despite your distaste for people saying that they lack belief, I do indeed lack belief in any gods. Call it intellectual cowardice all you like, but I find nothing cowardly about not accepting a proposition until it’s met its burden of proof. I find nothing cowardly about admitting that I don’t know everything, and that there are matters on which I am unqualified to speak.

Is Atheism A Religion?

No, religions are belief systems not a single position on a single proposition. There’s no atheistic view on these things. The ‘atheistic view’ addresses a single issue: the proposition that a god exists. But even if atheism were a religion, what of it? Are you trying to argue that religion is a bad thing, and we’re being just as illogical as you?

So, if stringently imposing your preferred usage of the word ‘atheism’ on all atheists, creating a strawman of their position, misunderstanding the implications of not believing in a god, and making a lot of inane unsubstantiated assertions in a poorly written cocksure rant is ending atheism, I guess you’ve ended atheism.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

In Retrospect

The audiobook of The MisreadBible: Genesis has been submitted for retail approval, and it should be available on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes within a couple of weeks. Joshua Saxon did a stellar job narrating it, and I’m extremely happy with the result. I’m very excited to be able to share this with you.

At this stage, I am able to look back and reflect on the experience. What did I do right? What did I do wrong? What will I do differently? It’s been a great learning experience.

I’d heard a lot of authors harp on about the importance of proofreading, but I went into the process thinking, ‘I worked as a copyeditor; surely I’ll be able to do it all myself,’ and I was eager to finally publish. I tried my damnedest to catch every error in my book. I used the built-in spelling and grammar check, I used Grammarly, I re-read each chapter until my eyes were bleary, and I used text-to-speech software so that I could listen to it…

After the proof copy had arrived, and I’d read it and approved it, I gave the book to my sister who opened it and found a mistake in the dedication: ‘You’re no longer with us, but your guidance gave my life a foundation without which this book would not possible.’ The word ‘be’ was missing. Oops. There may be copies of my book out there that include this error.

So, it cannot be stressed enough how vital it is to thoroughly proofread yourself and to find others to do it for you. You may think you’ve gone over your book with a fine-tooth comb, but it’s easy for mistakes to slip through the cracks.

Producing the audiobook was an experience in itself. I thought it was just a case of sending Joshua a copy of the book, and he’d do the rest. It’s not that simple.

For starters, in a book of fiction, there are many different characters, and they all need voices. Joshua and I had to agree on what type of voice and accent to give each of the main characters. Another issue is that there are character and place names that the narrator may not be familiar with. The Bible especially has all kinds of weird names in it. Joshua actually cursed me for writing ‘Whatever Became of Esau?’ (luckily, we’re both atheists, so it didn’t take).

After Joshua had recorded hours of material, it felt awful to tell him, ‘You know that name that you’ve used dozens of times? I’d actually like it to be pronounced this way,’ and have him re-record whole sections of the book. To his credit, Joshua took it all in his stride.

Now I’ve researched writing audiobook scripts, and for the next book, A MisreadBible Christmas, I’ve begun preparing a script with pronunciation and performance notes to make the whole process easier for Joshua. The more information he has before recording, the less likely it is that I’m going to ask him to re-record. He works really hard on all the books he narrates, and giving him extra work on top of that is pretty shitty. If I want the audiobook to be a certain way, it’s up to me to put in the work.

Another thing I learned about that I feel is worth mentioning is promotion. I didn’t give it enough thought before I published, and as a result, some of the promotional material I produced afterwards was written in a panicked hurry. For the next book, I’m preparing things ahead of time. I’m writing the synopsis I want to use in various online shops, preparing templates to use for various covering letters, writing a document containing all the information that book sites require, and compiling a list of people to contact.

Hopefully, the process of producing the next book will be smoother, and the next one will be smoother still.