(redated post originally published on 3 December 2006)
Disclaimer: the following post is sarcastic. It is not intended to be representative of the tactics used by all or most atheist “apologists.”
1. Any reason for doubt, no matter how far-fetched or speculative, is sufficient for avoiding the conclusion that God exists. For example, even if we don’t have the first clue about physics or cosmology, posit the mere possibility of the existence of multiple universes in order to avoid the theistic conclusion of the probabilistic fine-tuning argument for God’s existence. This isn’t like an American criminal trial where we expect the prosecution to prove the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” We expect theists to prove God exists beyond any doubt.
2. Arrogantly assume that all atheists are freethinkers (by virtue of their atheism) and that all theists are not freethinkers (by virtue of their theism), despite the fact that there is no necessary connection between a person’s beliefs and how they arrived at their beliefs. Along the same lines, claim that all theists are either stupid or uneducated about the evidence relevant to the existence of God.
3. Don’t take seriously recent, pro-theistic work in the philosophy of religion. After all, if we admit that Hume and Kant did not refute all theistic arguments –including ones that were just formulated in the last 40 years–then we might be forced to consider the possibility that not all theists are stupid.
4. Along the same lines, misrepresent theistic arguments whenever it is convenient to do so. For example, if a theist presents an argument for God’s existence based upon moral ontology (God is required for objective moral values to exist), respond with an objection from moral epistemology (atheists can know objective moral values) and then act as if you’ve said something profound and relevant.
5. Require extrabiblical evidence for relatively modest empirical claims in the NT such as the historicity of Jesus, as if there were anything extraordinary about the New Testament Jesus being based upon a real historical individual.
6. If an atheist or an agnostic accepts the historicity of Jesus, accuse them of being a closet theist. (When we say we are freethinkers, there’s a limit to how much we are willing to “think freely.”) Besides, we like a certain degree of symmetry between our beliefs about cosmology (the universe began to exist uncaused) and history of religions (Christianity began to exist without a historical Jesus).
7. Scientism. (‘Nuf said.)
8. Define “atheism” as the lack of belief in God, not the belief that God does not exist, so that even newborns and individuals who are in a permanent vegetative state count as “atheists,” despite the fact the vast majority of speakers of the English language do not use the word “atheist” in that way.
9. Deny that religious claims are testable and then present evidence for their falsity. You can have your apologetic cake and eat it too!
10. Compare belief in God to belief in Santa Claus, leprechauns, invisible pink unicorns, the flying spaghetti monster, and so forth, as if all supernatural explanatory hypotheses are equally plausible, despite the fact that considerations from inductive logic like scope, simplicity, etc. show that these hypotheses do not have equal intrinsic probability.
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