A few days ago, Braxton Hunter uploaded a video asking Atheists ten questions:
Below is a transcript of my video answering Hunter’s questions.
This is a fuzzy question resting on possible equivocation of the word “explain”. One can contrive a story that takes into account all relevant facts, but is that what we generally mean by explanation? Or does explanation require objective evidence to actually explain how something comes about? Certainly, various ancient myths explain creation and cosmic evolution in the former sense, but do we give them the same seriousness as cosmology based on the laws of nature following the big bang? Do we think a claim that a metaphysical creator created light, the earth and water before he created the stars to be the equal of an explanation that says gravity pulled together hydrogen atoms which coalesced into stars that, through nuclear fusion, formed heavier elements which dying stars spewed into space, and which themselves coalesced through gravity into planets?
Hunter asks us to answer according to our own personal worldview. OK. I would characterize mine as a non-reductionist physicalist whose approach primarily takes on a Heideggerian inquiry into Being. So what does that really mean? First of all, it means I reject anything beyond physical reality on the grounds of lack of evidence and the limits of human epistemology to ever know such a thing. Second, it means that I respect science within its proper limits, but believe esthetic knowledge can lead to deeper truth. The last scene of Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov can teach us far more about morality than all the systematic philosophies ever devised. Most importantly, it means that I am comfortable with mystery and uncertainty. In fact, I am skeptical of any worldview that claims to answer everything. The world is endlessly mysterious, and relatively little is knowable to us. And when Being does disclose an aspect of itself it simultaneously conceals so much more. This is inherent from first perception, when our observation collapses super position to a perceived Eigenstate which forever conceals all other possibilities.
It is the draw of this mystery that unites physicists, philosophers, and poets in search of truth, each in our own way. If there were such a thing as sin, it would be to decolor that rainbow mystery with false images of ghostly otherworldly shadows. This physical universe in which we dwell will never be ultimately explained and will offer all the mystery we can ever handle. We need not create stories of nonexistent miracles from another realm. Physicality is a brute fact and it’s a fool’s game to look beyond it. Everything we can know will be found right here.
While I freely admit my worldview leaves much unexplained, I am certain Christianity explains nothing at all. Morality is better explained through evolution and an ontological questioning of man’s nature manifest in our innate sense of morality, a sensibility which we objectively see refined over the millennia. The claims of the supernatural are better explained by psychologists. Free will remains an open question, which if it exists, might eventually be explained through quantum mind theory. Christianity and religion have cultural, political, and psychological explanations. The search for meaning can only be an esthetic one. Christianity can explain none of that, but instead offers an empty imaginary mythology that competes with other equally vacuous myths.
The lack of belief among atheists ranges from agnosticism to total rejection and everything in between. There are those who refuse to draw any conclusion, and they aren’t usually the ones comparing it to Santa Claus. There are others who acknowledge the inability to prove the negative of a metaphysical assertion, but still find the likelihood of a god to be as low as that of Santa Claus. I think Hunter is equivocating the term “lack of belief” to imply a lack of honesty on the part of atheists, when perhaps the dishonesty inheres in his question.
The rejection of Christianity entails rejection of some of its strictures also. As we have refined our sense of morality we have slowly and over millennia moved to increase empathy, tolerance of differences, respect for individuals and the jettisoning of superstition. This results in a clear move away from biblical morality, including the rejection of slavery, genocide, brutal killing of those who don’t share biblical belief as well as those thought to be possessed. We don’t necessarily condemn all that the bible calls sin, and a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of sexuality is a case in point. I see sex as an extremely positive and healthy part of being human. Christianity sees it as dangerous and disgusting, as it turns what is naturally beautiful into something ugly; only to be tolerated in its most attenuated and denatured form. This view is rife with superstition, such as homosexuality brings about god’s wrathful destruction, or strong-willed women (i.e. threatening women outside the control of men) are possessed as witches. Fear caused Christians to call this sin. I do not. If I were to call anything sin, it would be the blasphemous Christian denunciation of the most profound human communion, which entails the most profound experience of Being and our part in it. That is the sin that leads to the distorted wreckage of the psyche. As Nietzsche wrote in Aphorism 130 of the Gay Science:
The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.
In answer to the last question: Sure, I can imagine the signal that sends to Christians and couldn’t care less. I don’t let their pathologies influence my thoughts, actions or speech.
That was already answered in question 2. If I encountered direct and objective physical evidence of god’s existence and still refused to belief, it would only be at that point that I would consider myself disingenuous.
Not at all. Doesn’t it bother you that your explanation has no real basis to it at all but is pure imaginary speculation of what can never be known? The question you pose is faulty. The only honest position is to accept Kant’s demonstration in the Antinomies that the question of the origin of the universe, or the question of finite/infinite, results from the apparition of Transcendental Illusion. We not only can know nothing about the question of origin, we can’t even know the proper way to conceive of the question.
It is theism that is not only betrays its desperation by imposing god of the gaps, but is far less likely since the existence of a god on which theist explanation relies is so much less likely. There is literally nothing outside the imagination that gives evidence that any god exists. And if we were to retreat to god of the gaps, there is nothing that makes Yahweh and Elohim any more likely than the other Mesopotamian gods with which they cavorted in the earlier ANE myths. Or the Greek, Nordic, or Vedic gods.
No. They are all equally fallacious and unconvincing. Actually, I’m surprised anybody still takes them seriously. But then outside of apologetics, practically nobody still does. When an apologist appears who can honestly overcome Kant’s refutations in the Antinomies, I will enter the discussion. Until then these arguments are as meaningful as arguing how many angels fit on the head of a pin. The one true victory in intellectual history of the last couple centuries is the overcoming of metaphysics, which is now seen by serious thinkers as a medieval relic of historical note only. Much the way modern medicine would view bloodletting to balance the humors.
This is a sophist trick often employed by William Lane Craig. I saw Craig once evade Kant’s First Antinomy by dishonestly characterizing it as a claim that we can nothing, when in fact Kant’s whole thrust of the Critique of Pure Reason was to rescue knowledge from the extreme skepticism of Hume by limiting it to its proper scope and grounding it there. Hunter is pulling the same trick here by conflating a recognition that there are areas that are unknowable with a claim that nothing is knowable, and then falsely claiming that we are holding Christians to a double standard. This is nothing more than an attempt to escape the onus of burden of proof. There are things in the universe that we can know, and we arrive at that knowledge through observation and experience of the universe. We also have no hesitation to acknowledge the unknowable, and many of us know better than to resort to empty speculation about what cannot be known.
What we ask of Christians is something beyond metaphysical speculation, which is never compelling, and biblical claims which are no more compelling than the mythology of any other religion. This is something that Christians simply are incapable of. It would probably be impossible to convince me because you cannot possibly produce compelling verifiable evidence of your god.
Those elements did not start my deconversion, although they may have added fuel later on. There were two issues that simultaneously brought about my atheism: philosophical study that convinced me that metaphysics were unworthy of serious consideration, and the quality of the bible itself, consisting of reworkings of earlier ANE gods and myths and its many contradictions and errors.
The intent of this question seems to be to question the familiarity of atheists with writings of apologists and Christian philosophers, so I’ll answer this way. During undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Chicago I carefully read Christian philosophers such as Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Berkeley, and Kierkegaard. I did graduate study with Paul Ricoeur, the John Nuveen professor of philosophical theology with joint attachment to the Divinity School at Chicago, whose thought was grounded in a devotion to French Reformed Protestantism. In videos on this channel I’ve critiqued elements of Swinburne’s books Epistemic Justification and Mind, Brain and Freewill. I’ve refuted Plantinga’s reformed epistemology as presented in Warrant and Proper Function and Warranted Christian Belief. In other forums I have criticized Feser’s Five Proofs of the Existence of God.
Braxton, what were the last three books you’ve read by non-metaphysical writers such as Nietzsche, Heidegger or Wittgenstein and when was that?
No. I would search out and join the opposition to a truly evil Biblical god. Braxton, I have answered your questions thoughtfully and honestly. Anytime you want to discuss this I will be available