Atheism Exposed: Skepticism
“Sometimes the truth is inexplicable – and that is the plain and simple truth.”
Consider this: If a dog really did eat your homework, how’re you going to prove it? You could examine the bowel movement of the animal. However, assuming your homework was written on paper, it would have already become an indistinguishable, finely digested mulch at that point. The teacher’s skepticism about your story is palpable though, largely because of their inability to prove it and the unlikelihood of its occurrence. Does your teacher’s doubt about your story prove that it isn’t true? No. Yet, this is how skeptics think. They believe that whatever can be doubted is not likely to be true. Skeptical Atheists love this technique for asserting the “likely” non existence of God. While that is true on some level, it’s easily the worst way to make any kind of assertive proof of anything.
Skeptics are people who only believe in what they cannot doubt. Their system of belief is based on the Cartesian principle of the same idea (which curiously, was actually developed in an attempt to prove the existence of God!). Their system of structured belief applies not just to religion, but to science, philosophy, politics and everything in between. As such, they don’t argue against religion or theism as a matter of specific contention. Rather, they argue for the general idea that what cannot be proven cannot be rationally accepted, especially from an empirical perspective.
Arguments & Counterpoints
Traditionally, theists have had some great difficulty with skeptical arguments largely because they are framed around empirical evidence of ostensible phenomena and reasonable doubt. However, this is also why the basis of most of these arguments are flawed. They are attempting to use empirical measures to disprove a concept that by its very nature cannot be empirically quantified. Concordantly, the following is a series of rebuttals of traditional skeptical arguments for the non-existence of God:
1. Inconsistency in Scripture
Argument: Theists claim that God’s word is inerrant and infallible. However, the holy texts are often inconsistent in their description of the qualities of God – many times citing God with human characteristics in one passage, with God like attributes in another, or commanding people to do things which God himself forbade them to. Because of this inconsistency, God cannot be a real being.
Counter-Argument: All holy texts were written by men. Therefore it is inescapable that they will contain inconsistencies or errors. If God wrote the Bible, then this would be a rational criticism. Never-the-less, errant men do not exempt the existence of an inerrant God. Furthermore, the ancient men who wrote the Bible had no referent for many of their experiences that would translate meaningfully into today’s language. This explains many of the outlandish descriptions and stories in the Bible. Concordantly, it is irrational to expect these men (who are lay men in comparison to even today’s children) to describe a God using consistently accurate philosophical descriptions. A moderately imperfect transmission of an important message does not necessarily invalidate the necessity or the essence of the message.
Argument: The very existence of evil contradicts with the definition of God which says that He is both omnipotent (all powerful) and omnibenevolent (all good). If God is against evil but unable to stop it, then he is not all powerful. If He is able to stop it, but not willing to, then he is not omnibenevolent. If He is both able to stop evil and does stop evil, then why does evil exist? If He is neither able to stop evil nor willing to do so, then he is not God.
Counter-Argument: God is neither good nor evil as those constructs only exist in human minds. Good and evil are ideas which describe a state that is either beneficial or detrimental to the observer. However, this is only relative to the observer as what is good for one may be evil to another. God by definition is the only being in the universe of that kind. Thus the definitions of good and evil do not apply. Therefore God is not omnibenevolent. That is a false teaching of Christianity. God by definition is sovereign, which includes the right to do anything such a being desires. This does not make God malevolent (or evil) for all the same reasons stated earlier. Furthermore, ascribing human attributes to God (i.e. anthropomorphication) automatically defeats the purpose of describing a being as such in the first place. What’s the point of being God if such a being is bound by the parameters of humanity? Doesn’t that defeat the whole point of being god?
3. The Imperfect Creator
Argument: God cannot exist because if God is perfect and he intelligently designed nature, then the fact that nature has flaws shows that God is imperfect, which contradicts with the definition of God. This is the traditional argument against intelligent design theory.
Counter-Argument: Perfection is relative to the observer. Thus in this context, the definition of perfection is not what is ostensibly perfect as it relates to humans, but rather the definition of perfection that is relevant to God. The argument fails because it assumes that the essence of perfection is the same for all beings.
4. The Inefficient Creator
Argument: If God is perfect, he certainly uses the most inefficient ways of winning people to his cause. Why is God invisible? God should show himself in the sky and cause people to believe in him instead of resorting to subterfuge and causing the deaths of millions of his followers.
Counter-Argument: As with the previous rebuttal, functional perfection is relative. The meaning of perfection differs from entity to entity. Ergo, if God exists, perfection by human standards is irrelevant and does not apply to such a being. The argument assumes that God’s perfection is necessarily bound to that of a human. If God were sufficiently human, that would give such a perception validity – although this would automatically mean that the definition of God would fail, validating the argument against existence of such a being. Since nothing can be and not be at the same time, we have to decide that God either is or isn’t as defined to be. If so, then the whys of God’s modus operandi are naturally inexplicable by our obviously limited capacity to perceive them.
5. God is Redundant
Argument: God does not need to exist since science can adequately explain natural phenomena.
Counter-Argument: Science does not explain everything. Evolution doesn’t adequately explain how sentient life formed from organic compounds (hence intelligent design theory). The laws of Quantum physics break down as we approach the singularity event and go past the big bang (hence Superstring and M theories). Every time science tries to create the ultimate origin theory, its proponents come up with something that seems to point to a “magical” solution. This is because science is inherently limited to the rules which define it (and theists are accused of doing the same thing with God… wow). In fact, more and more atheists are now admitting that science was never intended to provide an answer for anything when evolutionists were previously championing it in the 60′s and 70′s to do just that. It’s a convenient cop out devised by people who should know better.
6. God is Not Provable
Argument: It is impossible to prove or disprove that God exists simply because there exists no methodology to quantitatively do so.
Counter-Argument: Inability to prove only proves inability. It does not constitute any empirical justification for non-existence. In fact, this proves that picking either side of the meta-physical fence is only a matter of personal conviction – which by proxy is also proof that atheism is a faith. Furthermore, it is illogical to assert that quantitative methodology can be used to prove something that is inherently unquantifiable. If God exists, then by definition, such a being embodies all the power in the universe. There is no scale of reference to measure something like that in quantitative terms that humans can relate to without resorting to the use of the word “infinity”. Thus the argument is as useful as it is useless.
7. Unbelief proves non-existence
Argument: A perfectly loving God would want people to know that he exists and thus love him. However, by virtue of the fact that non-believers exist, then logically, God doesn’t exist.
Counter-Argument: The idea that God is perfectly loving is both a logical fallacy and a constitutionally errant philosophy of Christianity as well as any other faith which makes this claim. If God exists, then he is not human. Therefore God doesn’t “love” humans in the same way humans intend in the use of the word. What humans describe as God’s “love” is nothing more than a functional precedent for the execution of universal cause and effect. If God loved humans in the same way we understand love, then hell would be redundant as there would be provision for the impartial redemption of all humanity irrespective of sin and thus the argument would be valid. However, since none of these provisions exist, the argument is therefore demonstrably fallacious.
One of the most heavily debated issues is that of reasonable unbelief. This was proposed by J.L. Schellenberg in his 1993 book entitled “Divine Hiddeness and Human Reason“. The contention is that unlike the claims of many theists, some humans are simply incapable of coming to the conclusion that any reasonable god does exist. This, Schellenberg writes, should be tantamount to “Inculpable Unbelief” as said individual did make an effort to believe and failed.
Some theists have argued that such atheists are simply being stubborn and are too overtaken by their own self importance. While that may be true in many cases, there is enough evidence to the contrary. Personally, I think many atheists are genuinely in search of the truth and prefer to think that some god could exist. It certainly beats the idea that everything ends with death. However, as I mentioned before, motivation has a lot to do with belief.
My contention however, is not whether atheists carry that “natural capacity” to recognize God or the necessity thereof. That is debatable. My contention has to do with the stubbornness of skepticism. I will be the first to contend that skepticism is a very useful characteristic to develop. However, barring reasonable doubt, when would a skeptic be inclined to relinquish their skepticism? How much evidence is necessary for a skeptic to become a believer?
Skeptics believe there is a rational explanation for everything. Unfortunately, science is still inconclusive about many things. Thus, for every person who believes in UFOs, near death experiences, ghosts, poltergeists and long lost monsters, there’s a skeptic who will be very quick to offer a rational, possibly plausible explanation. I agree that many paranormal effects can be chalked up to either natural phenomena or just plain hoaxes. However some explanations just don’t fit.
Irrespective of whether these things exist or not, I suspect that if a skeptic actually saw a real ghost, was actually beamed into a real flying saucer, actually witnessed the brief emergence of an animal that was long thought to have gone extinct, cognitive dissonance would’ve kicked in right away and they would’ve offered some far fetched explanation as well. It doesn’t matter that the explanation doesn’t coincide with what was seen. So long as it appears to make sense, it introduces what similarly appears to be reasonable doubt to everyone else.
Similarly, if God exists and he actually made a cloud formation in the sky that literally said “I exist – signed, God“, skeptics would chalk it up to people seeing what they want to see. If God literally materialized in the sky so that everyone could see, I’m pretty sure skeptics would chalk it up to a rare light formation in the atmosphere due to the ionization of cosmic radiation (or some similar nonsense). My point is simply this: Commitment to doubt is not synonymous with commitment to truth. Skeptics however, can rarely tell the difference.
Many skeptic arguments against the existence of god lie squarely in the camp of religious fallacy. It seems that the such arguments against religion only make sense so long as we assume that religious dogma also makes sense. Take away the dogmatic preachings of religion and these skeptical arguments fail to stand on their own. This is why I think that skeptic atheists, while philosophically stronger than agnostics, are nowhere near as profound as their naturalist kin. It would be fair then to assert that many skeptics are simply anti-religion and are agnostic about everything else.
Never the less, some hard line skeptics are committed to what I would term “irrational rationality“. The oxymoron is quite fitting I believe because of what at times appears to be a desperate attempt to make sense out of everything. Skepticism is useful for finding truth and sniffing out deception. However, sometimes the truth is inexplicable - and that is the plain and simple truth. Thus the danger with being irrationally skeptical is that this unmitigated commitment to doubt may actually cause the observer to miss the very truth they probably sought to discern in the first place.
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