Saturday, September 17, 2011

Atheistic Evangelism

Today I want to talk a bit about atheistic evangelism. Specifically, the naturalistic atheism. With the presence of the "New Atheists" and many others who follow in their footsteps, it seems that there is a lot more proselytizing of atheism than in previous years. I am quite confused at this phenomenon for three reasons: according to naturalism, first, there is nothing after a person dies; second, everything that happens is determined; third, everything is meaningless and purposeless.


No Life After Death
On the first point: if there is nothing that happens after death, the naturalist should be busy doing what brings them the most pleasure before they take the eternal, unconscious nap. Spending time telling people that there is no life after death is not going to make a slight bit of difference in the long run if there really isn't. They are not having any lasting effects on people. I would think that this reasoning would make the vocal naturalist think twice about giving up time that could be spent on carnal pleasures to tell someone that there is no God. I mean, this really should be depressing...if no lasting impression can be made, why not pleasure one's self as much as possible with the little bit of time they have of conscious life?

I would really like to leave it there, but I won't. The problem is that if naturalism is true, then there are no objective "should"'s or "should not"'s. Which means that the naturalist is free to determine what they "should" or "should not" do. If they get more pleasure out of insisting that no God exists than out of some other action they could be doing, who is anyone else to tell them they are wrong or "should" be doing anything else? By vehemently denying the existence of God, naturalist A is being just as consistent in his worldview as married naturalist B who sleeps with a new woman every night for kicks, both are just as consistent with naturalist C who devises ways to exterminate an entire race of human beings. One has no right to judge the other; one has no right to tell the other that they "should not" be acting out their chosen desire...then again, they can still judge one another if it brings them pleasure. It is their choice.

No Free Will
On the second point: by providing reasons to not believe in God, naturalists are assuming that the people they are attempting to convince have a choice in the matter. On the contrary, naturalism has no room for free choice. Free choice requires the existence of a mind, not just a brain. The brain is a mechanism that reacts to input (from the senses). The input provided by the naturalist is not guaranteed to produce more naturalists. There is no assurance that the new input will override the previous input. In fact, the brain (or person) does not make authentic choices, it only reacts to the input in ways predetermined by the DNA nature gave to it.

Because of that, every person has already been randomly, fatalistically determined to either believe in God or not. The input offered by the naturalist is ultimately disregarded. Our DNA has already committed us to a position. However, that is not all that DNA has determined. Remember the end sentence of the first point? If DNA has determined all, it has determined what brings pleasure and if (what) actions will be taken to bring pleasure. Ironically, even if I were to argue soundly to a naturalist that their actions of evangelizing naturalism is pointless, their brain is (according to naturalism) programmed to ignore my input (reasoning audible vibrations or visual light patterns), and continue their quest. Some will rationalize create their own audible vibrations or visual light patterns to justify their continued behavior restore the feeling of lost pleasure; others won't care react.

No Meaning, No Purpose
Thirdly, the naturalist believes that what they are saying/writing/doing has meaning...including the idea that life is meaningless. The naturalist believes that all life is purposeless. This would include their own lives, which are spent telling others that there is no God. Both of these are self-defeating. But, an a-rational brain cares nothing of logic. It is only randomly programmed to complete a random set of tasks. If all behavior has no meaning, then neither do specific behaviors. If all people have no purpose, then neither do individuals. If all behavior is determined, so are single actions.

Why not cheat on one's husband on a nightly basis? Why not pacify the anxious "boy-toy" by informing him that he will not be held responsible for his sin because there is no God? Why stop there? Tell them the whole truth of the complete package of the naturalistic worldview- that he is a tool for the naturalist's own pleasure, and he has no choice in the matter because his brain is programmed to be the means of ecstasy for the adulterous woman?

I truly don't get it. Evangelizing the naturalistic worldview has no ultimate impact, so it is meaningless and purposeless. People can't "change their minds" based on the arguments even if they are sound- making evangelizing even more meaningless and purposeless and now, a waste of time. AND its self-defeating to any strategy one might have for gaining pleasure (not to mention for others attempting the same thing)...what is the naturalist thinking when they do such a thing as actually tell people that there is no God?!...<stupid, preprogrammed, nonrational, human brain> Evolution sucks...or does it? The other person has a brain just as preprogrammed and nonrational as the naturalist, so is telling people there is no God really self-defeating in practice? Nope, but only if naturalism is true.

My conclusion is consistent, yet it is all self-defeating. So, why can I not "get" it? According to naturalism, the reason is because I am trying to use a tool in a way it was not "designed". I am trying to reason, and my human brain simply was not "designed" to perform that function. According to reason, it self-defeats because it is false. Interesting dilemma: reason or atheism...its your choice...if you actually have one.

Related Posts:
Multiverse and Rationality
Is Consistency Important?

12 comments:

  1. My experiences on Twitter, Weblogs, Facebook and the like show that Internet atheists are indeed "evangelizing". When people dare to mention flaws in evolutionary theory, we are attacked and ridiculed for being "ignorant" (and other words that I will not mention in polite company). I have had people who want to "help" me, and show me the error of my Christian beliefs, by using "tough love" to destroy my faith through "reason" (and, ironically, innumerable logical fallacies).

    Naturalistic evolution is the cornerstone of the atheist religion. It must be both promoted and protected at all costs in their worldview.

    Your article sums up very nicely three basic flaws and the subsequent inconsistencies that are characteristic of atheist philosophies.

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  2. Piltdown Superman,
    Very well put. Thank you for the encouragement.

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  3. If someone were really interested in understanding how a certain group of people thought, wouldn't it make more sense to ask (or read articles written by) members of that group? If someone were considering converting to Christianity, would you recommend they base their understanding of Christians (and their beliefs) on articles posted on an atheists blog?

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  4. Brian,
    Thank you for taking the time to bring that to light. I have written on concerns similar to yours in two posts. They can be found here:
    Understanding and Belief
    Misengaged In Battle

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  5. Luke,
    I enjoyed those two articles you referenced me to, and I agree with your views in them. I also agree with the importance I perceive you place on HOW a person debates. I've seen a Koukl video or two, and I see him placing a similar importance on the HOW. Too many times fruitful discussion is cut short when one side (or both) succumbs to straw men attacks, or flat-out ad hominem statements. Once emotion displaces reason, everyone loses. Concerning the "Atheistic Evangelism" article, I think my question still stands... I would expect to get a skewed (if not altogether incorrect) perspective of the things that a Democrat believes from reading a Republican blog (and vice-versa). I've seen many atheists give an extremely unflattering and incorrect description of Christian beliefs, but I think it's misleading whichever side does it. What if you found a moderate, respectful atheist to give their perspective on topics? As long as it didn't devolve into petty personal attacks, it would probably sharpen your apologetic skills, and show people that you were confident enough to show your views being challenged. Just a thought...

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  6. Brian,
    I totally agree with you about dealing with specific people.

    Its important to realize that everyone will tend to give a skewed version of what another person holds, because of the fact that others (we included) do not always hold consistent beliefs. Those representing another attempt to derive unknown views from known views via consistency (or at least what we perceive as consistent).

    The point of this particular article was to address atheism as a consistent worldview, not necessarily a particular atheist who may hold some inconsistent views. I was just showing that if an atheist wished to remain consistent in their worldview, they might have to give up something important to them (including consistency, itself).

    If we are addressing just the consistent worldview, then deriving via logical consistency is perfectly adequate for the job; however, if we are addressing an adherent to a worldview, then we must interact with their particular view (consistent or not) by interacting with them.

    When I interact with individuals, I tend to always focus on consistency. But that goes on my assumption that consistency is important to them. Part of the interaction is discovering if that assumption is even correct.

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  7. I think I get the gist of what you're saying, but are you basing your understanding of the atheist "worldview" on conversations you've had with atheists, or a book, or a website? Many times when someone makes a statement, it's important to understand what sources they're basing their views on. There are many atheists with incomplete (and often incorrect) understandings of Christianity that can make some pretty convincing arguments on how the "Christian worldview" is inconsistent.

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  8. Brian,
    That is a very good question. Since a book, website, or conversation would involve a particular point of view of atheism from a person, and this post is not responding to a particular point of view by a particular person, none of the options provided were actually the context of this post. What I have done in this one is to take a foundational belief of most atheistic worldviews (not Buddhism, though) of materialism (nothing exists but the physical) and draw out some of the logical implications of it.

    If a person holds to a consistent atheism based on materialism, then this post would be addressed to their view. However, if one does not hold to materialism, then it does not apply. Since I make the claim that the implications are consistent, I would ask why the particular person denies the implications.

    This, of course, does leave me wide open. Commenters are welcome to provide alternative explanations to maintain consistency (be it on the back end [the foundational belief] or the front end [the implications of materialism]), and then I can address my readers on a more personal basis.

    Anytime that I am basing a post on a conversation, web page, or book, I do mention it. This one is just not one of those posts (in fact, I haven't had one of those in a while).

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  9. Here's the views of one atheist who doesn't seem as nihilistic as many people think he should be:

    http://thisibelieve.org/essay/34/

    I haven't heard of any counterpoints to his worldview. Every time I read of how atheists are "supposed" to act/think, theists usually paint them as grim, selfish, materialistic nihilists. I have yet to read the views of one atheist who believes/acts this way. Could your understanding of the views of (most) atheists be incorrect?

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  10. Brian,
    Thank you for posting that link. There are many aspects that need to be addressed that don't flow with the original post here (I'll address them in the future), but there are a couple that do.

    As I mentioned in the first part of my post, atheism does not allow for any "should"'s. Notice that when I stated that an atheist "should" behave a certain way, I stated that I should stop there, but I couldn't. I continued to explain that there really are no "should"'s in atheism. I provided examples of actions that have no "good" or "evil" relationship to each other or to a standard. This is my acknowledgment of the point that many people do try to say how an atheist "should" act, but if they are to be critiquing atheism as a worldview, they can't really say that.

    The article that you posted shows the less depressing side of the coin. Jillete's chosen behavior and demeanor are just as consistent with atheism as the behaviors that I (and other theists) present. Because of the fact that they are just as consistent, he cannot claim that his chosen actions are any more "good" than a person who chooses the behaviors that I gave as examples.

    Jillete stated, "I'm not greedy." He states that with the assumption that "greed" is a bad thing, and that his opposition to it is "good". However, in the atheistic worldview, there is no foundation for determining what is good or evil except for one's self. He also stated, "I have love..." What is so great about having love on the atheistic view? First, he has no foundation to define what "love" is (besides himself), and second, he has no way to determine if his relative definition "good" or "evil". Once again, he cannot state that his behavior or demeanor are any more "good" or "evil" than another.

    In my post, any and all "should"'s that I project onto the adherent of consistent atheism is coming from an appeal to pleasure...the atheist's pleasure. This is relative to the person. As I mentioned in the post, what one find pleasurable, another might not. Jillete may not find any of the behaviors I mentioned pleasurable. He can reject those actions based on *his* pleasure, while another is welcome to accept them based on *her* pleasure. Both are consistent. Any attempts at persuasion must be based on relative feelings.

    Going back to the original topic of evangelism: the closest that I come to giving an actual "should" is my critique related to the absense of free-will in consistent views of atheism. This lack of being able to be persuaded by another seems to defeat any value or founded satisfaction that one might get from "converting" a person to atheism. In reality, any victory would be hollow. However, we can come right back to the appeal to pleasure: if one gets pleasure from the "conversions" (by ignoring the hollowness of the victory) then said behavior is perfectly consistent with atheism via an appeal to their personal feelings of pleasure.

    Any and all behaviors of atheists are perfectly compatible with the atheistic worldview. But none of the adherents have a solid foundation for claiming (directly or indirectly) that any of their behaviors are any more "good" or "evil" than the others' behaviors or their own behaviors.

    Theists do not focus on the behaviors that societies consider "good" in their magnification of the implications of atheism, because the behaviors are perfectly acceptable to people. Theists focus on the behaviors that societies consider "abhorrent" in their magnification of the implications of atheist, because the behaviors are NOT acceptable to people. This appeal is to show the true subjectivism of atheism and show people that they have to make a huge moral sacrifice if they wish to maintain the worldview.

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  11. But isn't one person's definitions of good/evil just as valid as another persons? If a Christian defines "good" as doing whatever God wants, and that act is human sacrifice, why isn't it valid for an atheist to call that act "wrong" based on his or her own definitions of good/evil? Several atheists make the distinction between good and evil based on whether it will increase or decrease the net well-being of other conscious creatures. I understand that theists disagree with this definition, and claim that theirs is the only "valid" one. Many atheists claim the same thing about their definition. They often bring up good points...the 9/11 hijackers believed they were doing "good" by the theistic definition. Barring the obvious fact that you don't share their faith, how does the theist defend their definition of "good" when this glaring inconsistency is brought up?

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  12. Brian,
    Allow me to ask a few clarifying questions before I answer:

    1. What do you mean by "valid"?
    2. Do you believe that the "net well-being of other conscious creatures" is knowable?
    3. Do you believe that the Muslim concept of God and the Christian concept of God are the same?

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