bookmark_borderA Case for Atheism: Outline and Introduction

OUTLINE

I. Introduction
II. There are good reasons to be SKEPTICAL about religion and religious beliefs.
III. There is no good case for the belief that God exists (THEISM).
IV. There are good reasons for rejecting the belief that God exists (ATHEISM).

 
I. INTRODUCTION
I am going to make a case for atheism.  In order to be clear, the first thing that I need to do is to DEFINE some key terms.
There is a strong and a weak sense of the term theism:

strong-sense theism:  the belief that God exists. 

weak-sense theism: the belief that at least one god exists.

In order to understand “weak-sense theism” we need to know what the word “god” means:

A god is a person who has at least one supernatural power or characteristic.

In order to understand “strong-sense theism” we need to know what the phrase “God exists” means:

God exists IF AND ONLY IF there is exactly one person who is (a) omnipotent, and (b) omniscient, and (c) perfectly morally good, and (d) eternal, and (e) bodiless,  and who is (f) the creator of the universe.

A person who is a strong-sense theist must ALSO be a weak-sense theist, because the belief that “God exists” logically implies the belief that “at least one god exists”.  But a person who is a weak-sense theist need not be a strong-sense theist, because he or she might believe only in finite gods,  gods who are less than omnipotent, less than omniscient, and/or less than perfectly morally good.
A strong-sense theist believes that there is ONLY ONE person who is omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly morally good, etc.  But this does NOT mean that a strong-sense theist must believe that there is ONLY ONE god.  This is because it is possible to believe that there is exactly one god of the infinite sort (omnipotent, omniscient, etc.), while at the same time believing that there are other gods of a finite sort (less than omnipotent, less than omniscient, etc.).  In other words, a strong-sense theist could be a polytheist.  Believing in an infinite god does NOT mean rejecting belief in finite gods.
Now that we have defined “theism”, we can define “atheism”:

atheism: the rejection of theism.

An atheist is a person who has rejected theism.  Some atheists reject theism because they believe that the available evidence shows that theism is FALSE.  But other atheists reject theism because they think the available evidence is NOT SUFFICIENT to show that theism is true.  Still other atheists reject theism because they think that theism doesn’t make a factual claim that could be either true or false, so no amount of evidence either way could ever resolve the issue.  There are many different reasons why atheists reject theism.
But I have previously pointed out that “theism” is an ambiguous term.  There are at least two different meanings of “theism”.  Therefore, there are at least two different meanings of the word “atheism”:

atheism-type1: the rejection of the belief that God exists (i.e. rejection of strong-sense theism).

atheism-type2: the rejection of the belief that at least one god exists (i.e. rejection of weak-sense theism)

A person who is a type2 atheist must ALSO be a type1 atheist, because if there are no gods at all, then clearly there is no omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, eternal, bodiless, creator-of-the-universe sort of god.  However, a type1 atheist is not necessarily also a type2 atheist, because rejecting belief in an infinite god (who is omnipotent, omniscient, etc.) does not logically imply rejecting belief in all finite gods (who are less than omnipotent, and/or less than omniscient, etc.).
I am going to make a case for atheism, but since the word “atheism” is ambiguous, I need to clarify which sort of atheism I will be defending:  I will be making a case for atheism-type1.  I will be arguing that we should REJECT the belief that God Exists; we should reject strong-sense theism.  I also believe that we should reject weak-sense theism, but I will not be arguing for that view here.

bookmark_borderThibodeau on the Real Atheology podcast

I recently appeared as a guest on an episode of the Real Atheology podcast. The co-hosts, Ben Watkins and John Lopilato, and I talked about the Euthyphro dilemma and its implications for divine command theory. You can listen to the episode below.
Ben and John are great hosts and I want to thank them for inviting me. You can find Real Atheology on Facebook and YouTube; and download and listen to other episodes of the podcast here (or wherever you download podcasts). If you enjoy philosophy of religion (and why else would you be reading this blog?), I highly recommend subscribing to the podcast. Ben, John, and their co-host, Ben Bavar (who does not appear in this episode) are thoughtful, careful, and well-informed and they have terrific guests.

 

bookmark_borderA Simple and Obvious Explanation

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Scandal: 7 Excerpts From the Grand Jury Report

A nearly 900-page report investigating abuse in six dioceses over a period of 70 years documents more than 300 abusive priests.

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How can God allow priests and bishops to sexually abuse thousands of children for decades, and allow them to work at covering up this abuse for decades? How can God allow so many corrupt and evil church leaders to exist, leaders who supposedly guide faithful Christians on matters of character, virtues, and morality?
There is a very simple and obvious answer to this question:

There is no God.

NOBODY is guiding the Catholic Church from heaven. The Catholic Church is a human institution governed by morally flawed human beings and by some evil human beings.
IF there is no God, then it is no surprise that the Catholic Church and other religious institutions are sometimes among the worst promoters of evil and immorality in the world. IF there is no God, then it is no surprise that thousands of children have been sexually abused by morally corrupt Catholic priests for decades, and that their horrible crimes have been covered up by morally corrupt bishops for decades.
There is no need to be puzzled or perplexed by these facts, they make perfect sense if you simply accept the assumption that there is no God, that there is no Father in heaven who is watching over us, protecting us. We are on our own. We must protect ourselves from morally corrupt and evil people.
The Catholic Church will not protect you or your children from harm, and God will not protect you or your children from the Catholic Church. If you want protection from harm and evil, then don’t turn to the Catholic Church, and don’t pray to God; that is just a waste of your limited time and energy. If you want protection from harm and from evil people, YOU have to protect yourself and your children, because there is no “heavenly Father” watching over you or those you love.

bookmark_borderI’ve Got One Less Prophet Without You

One way of arguing for atheism (in the strong sense of rejection of ALL gods) is to tell a religious believer that you accept just one less god than he/she does.  Christians, for example, are unbelievers with respect to thousands of gods that others have worshiped.  Christians do NOT believe in or worship any of the following gods:

  • Airmid: Celtic Goddess of Healing, Medicine, and Spring. Brings the dead back to life
  • Ama no Uzume: Japanese fertility goddess who performed the lewd dance to draw Amaterasu out of the cave
  • Amaterasu: Guardian of the Japanese people, ruler of all deities
  • Amida-nyorai:  A form of the Buddha. A Japanese god of protection, forgiveness
  • Angrboda: Norse goddess and wife of Loki
  • Aphrodite: Greek goddess of Love and Beauty
  • Apollo: Greek god of Music
  • Apollo: Roman god of Sun, Music, Poetry, Prophecy, and Healing
  • Ares: Greek god of War
  • Artemis: Greek goddess of the Night and the Hunt
  • Artio: Celtic goddess of the Wild
  • Astrild: Norse goddess of love
  • Athena: Protector of women
  • Atla: Norse water goddess
  • Bacchus: Roman god of Wine
  • Balder: Norse god who is the Fairest of the gods
  • Balor: Celtic goddess with a venomous eye. Good on the battlefield
  • Bellona: Roman goddess of War
  • Benten: Only Japanese goddess of good luck
  • Borgchild: Norse goddess of the evening mist or moon, she slays the sun each evening
  • Bragi: the god of poets and the patron of all skaldi (poets) in Norse culture
  • Branwen: Celtic goddess of Love and Beauty
  • Brono: Norse god who is the son of Balder. He is the god of daylight
  • Bylgia: Norse Water goddess
  • Camalus: Celtic god of the Sky and War
  • Ceres: Roman goddess of Corn
  • Cerunnos: Celtic god of Fertility, Life, Animals, Wealth, and the Underworld
  • Chimati no Kami: Japanese god of crossroads and footpaths
  • Cupid: Roman god of Love
  • Cyhiraeth: Celtic goddess of Streams

Atheists are more logically consistent because we reject ALL gods, and don’t make an exception for the one god that our family or our community happens to believe in and worship.
A similar argument can be made that atheists and skeptics simply accept ONE LESS PROPHET than religious believers.  More accurately, atheists and skeptics typically reject ALL prophets, even the prophets who are accepted and revered by our own families or our communities.  Christians reject many prophets as being “false prophets”, but they accept and follow the prophets who are revered by their families or by their communities.
Evangelical Christians and Catholics, for example, reject the following alleged prophets from America:

Charles Taze Russell (founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses)

Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormons)

Mary Baker Eddy (founder of Christian Science)

Most Evangelicals and Catholics also reject another alleged American prophet:

Ellen Gould White (founder of Seventh Day Adventism)

Most Christians do not accept Muhammad (founder of Islam) as a true prophet, and do not view the Quran as a book that was inspired by God.
But Christians believe that Moses was a true prophet, and Christians believe that Jesus was a true prophet; they accept and follow the prophets that their families and/or their communities revere.
In my view, Evangelicals and Catholics are correct to reject Charles Russell, Joseph Smith, Mary Eddy, and Ellen White, and to view those people as FALSE PROPHETS.  There are very good reasons to conclude that each of these people was a FALSE PROPHET.
Here is one good reason each, for rejecting these alleged prophets from America:
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CR1. IF Charles Taze Russell predicted that Jesus would rule the world starting in 1914 but Jesus did not rule the world starting in 1914 , THEN Charles Taze Russell was a false prophet.

CR2. Charles Taze Russell predicted that Jesus would rule the world starting in 1914 but Jesus did not rule the world starting in 1914.

THEREFORE:

CR3. Chareles Taze Russell was a false prophet.

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JS1. IF Joseph Smith claimed to have translated The Book of Mormon from ancient text on golden plates but he wrote part of 2 Nephi (in The Book of Mormon) by copying from Chapter 6 of Isaiah in the King James Version of the Bible, THEN Joseph Smith was a false prophet.

JS2. Joseph Smith claimed to have translated The Book of Mormon from ancient text on golden plates but he wrote a part of 2 Nephi (in The Book of Mormon) by copying from Chapter 6 of Isaiah in the King James Version of the Bible.

THEREFORE:

JS3. Joseph Smith was a false prophet.

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ME1. IF Mary Baker Eddy proclaimed that disease and death were nonexistent but she died of pneumonia in December of 1910, THEN Mary Baker Eddy was a false prophet.

ME2. Mary Baker Eddy proclaimed that disease and death were nonexistent but she died of pneumonia in December of 1910.

THEREFORE:

ME3. Mary Baker Eddy was a false prophet.

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EW1.  IF Ellen Gould White had a vision about the planets in our solar system and based on that vision she asserted that there were tall sinless people living on Saturn but there were in fact no people living on Saturn, THEN Ellen Gould White was a false prophet.

EW2. Ellen Gould White had a vision about the planets in our solar system and based on that vision she asserted that there were tall sinless people living on Saturn but there were in fact no people living on Saturn. 

THEREFORE:

EW3. Ellen Gould White was a false prophet.

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It is clear that Evangelical Christians and Catholics are correct in rejecting these alleged American prophets.
However, there are very good reasons for concluding that Moses and Jesus are also false prophets.  But before we go there, let’s consider some very good reasons to conclude that Muhammad was a false prophet:
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TQ1. IF The Quran commands that there be a harsh punishment for adultery (e.g. 100 lashes), and if it encourages sexist practices (e.g. by permitting husbands to beat their wives), and if it permits prisoners of war to be executed and permits captured women and children to be enslaved,  and if it encourages Muslims to go to war against Christians and other non-Muslims, THEN Muhammad was a false prophet.

TQ2. The Quran commands that there be a harsh punishment for adultery (e.g. 100 lashes), and it encourages sexist practices (e.g. by permitting husbands to beat their wives), and it permits prisoners of war to be executed and permits captured women and children to be enslaved,  and it encourages Muslims to go to war against Christians and other non-Muslims.

THEREFORE:

TQ3. Muhammad was a false prophet.

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I completely agree with Christians who view Muhammad as a false prophet for these and other similar reasons concerning the contents of The Quran.   However, the same sorts of reasons also show that Moses was a false prophet, based on the contents of the Law of Moses found in the Old Testament:
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LOM1. IF the Law of Moses commands that there be a harsh punishment for adultery (e.g. the death penalty), and if it encourages sexist practices (e.g. commanding the execution of women, but not men, who are discovered to not be virgins when they got married), and if it permits prisoners of war to be executed and permits captured women and children to be enslaved,  and if it encourages worshipers of Yahweh to go to war against people who worship other gods, THEN Moses was a false prophet.

LOM2. The Law of Moses commands that there be a harsh punishment for adultery (e.g. the death penalty), and it encourages sexist practices (e.g. the execution of women, but not men, who are discovered to not be virgins when they got married), and it permits prisoners of war to be executed and permits captured women and children to be enslaved,  and it encourages worshipers of Yahweh to go to war against people who worship other gods.

THEREFORE:

LOM3. Moses was a false prophet.

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In order to be logically consistent, we must conclude that Moses was a false prophet for the same reasons we conclude that Muhammad was a false prophet.  Furthermore, the conclusion that Moses was a false prophet provides another very good reason for believing that Muhammad was a false prophet:
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MFP1. IF Muhammad taught that Moses was a true prophet but Moses was actually a false prophet, THEN Muhammad was a false prophet.

MFP2. Muhammad taught that Moses was a true prophet but Moses was actually a false prophet.

THEREFORE:

MFP3. Muhammad was a false prophet.

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This very good reason for concluding that Muhammad was a false prophet also applies to the prophet that Christians revere the most, namely Jesus:
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JFP1. IF Jesus taught that Moses was a true prophet but Moses was actually a false prophet, THEN Jesus was a false prophet.

JFP2. Jesus taught that Moses was a true prophet but Moses was actually a false prophet.

THEREFORE:

JFP3. Jesus was a false prophet.

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A true prophet is someone who God communicates with directly, and whom God uses to teach other people important ethical and theological truths.  So, if Moses was a false prophet (and we have very good reasons to conclude that he was a false prophet), then we would expect that any true prophet would know that Moses was a false prophet, for God would surely communicate to a true prophet warnings about false prophets, especially false prophets who are widely respected.
Thus, if Muhammad was a true prophet and God communicated directly with Muhammad, then Muhammad would have known that Moses was a false prophet.  The fact that Muhammad taught that Moses was a true prophet gives us a very good reason to conclude that Muhammad was a false prophet.
We have the very same good reason to conclude that Jesus was a false prophet, so we skeptics and atheists are logically consistent and draw the same conclusion about Jesus as the conclusion we draw about Muhammad: they are both FALSE PROPHETS.
 
AN ARGUMENT FOR ATHEISM
So, we have good reasons to believe that all of the following alleged prophets are FALSE PROPHETS:

  • Charles Taze Russell (founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
  • Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormons)
  • Mary Baker Eddy (founder of Christian Science)
  • Ellen Gould White (founder of Seventh Day Adventism)
  • Moses (founder of Judaism)
  • Muhammad (founder of Islam)
  • Jesus (founder of Christianity)

These are not the only people who have ever claimed to be prophets or messengers from God.  However, the fact that several alleged prophets both ancient and modern are clearly FALSE PROPHETS who are nevertheless revered and viewed as being true prophets by millions of people, supports skepticism about the existence of true prophets.  This evidence supports the generalization that THERE ARE NO TRUE PROPHETS.
Obviously, this is not sufficient evidence to PROVE that there has never been one single true prophet, but this is enough evidence to make the above generalization probable, and thus reasonable grounds for rejecting theism:

NTP1.  IF there are no true prophets, THEN God does not exist.

NTP2. There are no true prophets.

THEREFORE:

NTP3. God does not exist.

If God existed, God would communicate with human beings.  It is clear that God does NOT directly communicate with each and every human being.  This in itself is a good reason to doubt that God exists.  However, Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe that God does communicate with human beings through intermediaries known as “prophets”.
If a strong case could be made for the existence of prophets, that would support the belief that God exists.  But the evidence points in the opposite direction; there is good reason to believe that there are no true prophets, and this is evidence that it is NOT the case that God has communicated with human beings, and that is evidence that God does not exist.
The silence of God is proof that there is no God.