“Atheism” According to Matt Slick

Somehow I wound up on the website of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM). Since the website has a section on atheism, I decided to take a look. I found problems in the very first article I read, “What Is Atheism?”

The Definition of Atheism

I’ll begin with something positive. Unlike virtually every other Christian apologist I have read, Slick seems to be willing to engage his opponents on their own terms. He accepts the idea that there are both strong and weak varieties of atheism. Corresponding to these two varieties of atheists, Slick says that atheists typically hold one of two positions about God and evidence. The first position says the evidence for God’s existence isn’t sufficient. The second position says that the evidence points against God’s existence.

Arguments for Atheism

It’s unfortunate that Slick’s only example of an argument used to support the second position is is a rather weak version of the argument from evil; he evinces no awareness of the work of atheistic philosophers of religion (see here). For my part, drawing upon the work of Purdue University philosopher Paul Draper, I’ve defended a cumulative case for naturalism (and so atheism) here.

Atheism and Morality

In the final section of his article, Slick gives a list of eight alleged ‘tenets of atheism.’ Two of his tenets (#1 and #4) are logical implications of strong atheism, as Slick defines it. Three of his tenets (#2, #3, #7) are more properly associated with naturalism, while the final three remaining tenets  (#5, #6, and #8) are more properly associated with materialism. While atheism, naturalism, and materialism are all related, they are not identical (see here). But let that pass.

The major problem with this section is #8 on his list, the claim that atheists “tend to adopt” the tenet that “Ethics and morals are relative.” In fairness to Slick, many atheists are guilty of this mistake also. But, as I’ve explained many times before, atheism is neither a metaethical nor an ethical theory. By itself, atheism does not make it obligatory, permitted, or forbidden to do anything. See, for example, herehere, and here.

Slick wraps up his article by promising “very good answers” to atheistic criticisms in his “coming papers.” We shall see.