Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Atheists Know that God Exists?

There’s a popular field of religious apologetics called “Presuppositional Apologetics” in which the religious apologist, rather than debating the evidence, compares and contrasts different worldviews to show that only the Christian worldview provides a foundation for the existence of knowledge. The claim is that only with God can you know that your thoughts and senses are reliable, and that the laws of nature won’t suddenly change tomorrow, etc.

So how does a Christian worldview claim to justify these ideas? Well these apologists claim to know, with absolute certainty, that God exists, and that God wouldn’t let such bad things happen. In fact, they even claim that atheists know that God exists, but they are “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness”.

This whole idea comes from Romans 1:18-20.

"18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

This is a core argument of presuppositional apologetics, and I will dispatch it now. I’d like to present one question I’ve asked presuppers, and then I’ll give my responses to their answers.

The question is: What do you mean when you say I, an atheist, “know” that God exists?

A. You consciously know that God exists, but you lie and say you don’t. Just like if you knew your phone bill was overdue, but you chose to ignore it.
B. You know it unconsciously: you know it deep down, but you don’t recognize that you know it.

And now for my responses to these two answers:

1A. Do you really think that atheists are that stupid? Do you think we’re sitting around thinking, “Man, I really want to watch porn and get drunk and hate God, but I don’t want to go to Hell for it… I know! I’ll pretend that God doesn’t exist! It’s the perfect solution!” 

Actually, in this day and age, speculation about atheists’ inner thoughts is not necessary: we have lie detectors; you could hook me up and demonstrate that I’m not lying. But I doubt many apologists would accept this fact if it were presented to them. 

1B. Not recognizing that I know something is the same as not knowing it. To see how this works, let’s look at an analogous claim:

My favorite color is green; I have green sheets, my bedroom walls are green, my carpet is green, and in general, I like green things. If someone comes up to me and says, “Well, you think your favorite color is green, but it’s actually orange, you just don’t realize it”, in what sense is this true? In what sense is my favorite color “actually” orange if I like green in the way I described above? 

This is an example of the No-True-Scotsman fallacy: Person A presents a universal claim (“Everyone knows that God exists.”), person B presents a counter-example (“I don’t believe in God.”), and person A, rather than debunking the counter-example or admitting that their claim is wrong, superficially changes their claim to try and fit both ideas together (“Well you don’t 'truly' disbelieve.”). But again, what does it mean to disbelieve, but, at the same time, to not “truly” disbelieve? This is a meaningless assertion.

And with that, presuppositional apologetics has lost its flagship: despite what the Bible says, atheists do not, in any sense of the word, know that God exists. That’s why we call them “atheists”. 


Thesauros said...

1A - Yes, SOME of those who claim to be atheists are that stupid. Although it was a process rather than a light-switch type of decision.
1B It's more a denial of evidence rather than something unconscious. Our choices are:
. either matter has always existed OR
. the creator of matter has always existed

. either matter created itself OR
. something from outside of and pre existent to matter brought matter / energy, space / time and the laws that govern those things into being

Atheists simply ignore that the existence of a material universe is evidence for a Creator (they accept an infinite regress of cause or the material infinite - both impossible) and in that way "unconsciously" don't believe in Creator God.

Because you're not in group 1A, you know at some level that based upon logic and the scientific method a Creator is required for the universe to begin to exist, but you push that knowledge to an unconscious level and go merrily on your way.

Anonymous said...

Great job limiting the choices to only the ones you can come up with an overused and flawed explanation for. Ever think outside the box? If there is no evidence for somethings existence, and it exists outside the known universe then there is no point in speculating about it. Instead of jumping to baseless conclusions, how about we say that we don't yet know for sure where energy or mass comes from, or maybe we will never know for sure. Is that really that hard?

I think we "unconsciously" know what it isn't though. The Christians who believe there is a personified god who created the universe and the laws of physics, and watches you masturbate while shaking his (figurative) head are the ones who probably feel "unconsciously" uncertain about something.

Anonymous said...

Who created the creator?

Anonymous said...

That's an easy one.. His parents!

┤├Christopher┤├ said...

No, thesauros, it doesn't work that way. "I don't know how this happened yet." is not an open invitation to try to plaster over the gap in knowledge by saying a wizard did it. That's like finding a murder victim and blaming some random hobo you grabbed off the street without any investigation. No work was done, so your claim merits no consideration and should be thrown out.

Anonymous said...

"Because you're not in group 1A, you know at some level that based upon logic and the scientific method a Creator is required for the universe to begin to exist"

No. Based upon the scientific method, we don't really know what the universe is made of. So far one of the best way to describe the universe is a 4 dimensional space containing (or being generated by) different types of field. It's the fluctuations of the value of these fields that cause the illusion of "matter".

So far we can measure the fluctuations of the field, but we don't know what they are, we don't understand their true nature. Hence we can't really say much about them... and less are we able to tell that they needed a external cause.

funion987 said...

Natural law doesn't COME from Romans; St. Paul just mentions it there. We have Aristotle's teleology much earlier (St. Thomas Aquinas was highly influenced by Aristotle and would expand on his work in light of revelation).

That said, Thesauros nailed it. To those who claim this is a "God of the gaps" argument, I suggest watching this video, which clearly distinguishes what can be known through the scientific method and what can be known through philosophy.

God bless!

Anonymous said...

Presuppositional Apologetics is just a way of admitting, up front, rather shamelessly, that you're begging the question.

theB1ackSwan said...

The biggest (of many, I should add) flaw of your post, dear Thesauros, is that you've failed to demonstrate that the universe was - in any manner, supernatural or not - created. On the same line, we can denote whether something is naturally occurring or designed ("created", if you wish to substitute). Designed things are called such because they stand out from naturally occurring things. However, we have nothing to indicate that the universe was created *or* designed because there is nothing to compare it against. What would an undesigned or created universe look like, for instance? Could such a thing exist?

As a post-script, note that your condescending attitude does nothing to promote your belief, but rather it promotes the notion that you are, at best, intolerable and, at worst, intolerant.

Chase200mph said...

There is no evidence of god/Jesus, no contemporary accounts (only third or greater hearsay). Yet magic Trump's evidence, lies protect faith and apologetics protects gods ignorances..... yup, that's religion!

Anonymous said...

I am atheist myself, but I do believe in a god. The problem is, which one is the right one? There are millions of different gods, but which one is the "original" creator? God exist, How? Let me show you. In the beginning, an explosion happened, more stuff happens, ETC. And then life appears, How? Anyone past the third grade will tell you that rocks can't reproduce, and neither does carbon, so how was the first bacteria formed? Magic? No, I believe that something did it, I think it is a god, but I am still unsure, as a god seems much more likely then a cluster of different elements exploding an magically creating life. The only problem with this is that god would do the same thing, only in a much more comforting way.

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