Response to “The Atheist is a Thief”

I will admit to attempting to be inflammatory with the title of my last post, “The Atheist is a Thief“, but I honestly didn’t expect the plethora of comments that I got.  Ok maybe it’s not a lot for some blogs, but it’s alot for mine in one day.  I have six people to respond to and, instead of mucking up the discussion board, I thought I would respond out here in the open, and go from there.  Each responder will have his/her name put in bold and then have their response . . . responded to.  Afterwards, if any of you would like to weigh in again, then we can keep it on the discussion section.

(The original comments can be seen here)

Sweetwaffles

You said:  “I don’t know what kind of atheists you have been talking to, but the universe most certainly did not come about by random means; unless you define random as coming about without the thought of a higher being.”

I define random as being not guided or controlled in any way.  If you attempt to say that the beginning of the universe was guided by natural forces then you’re in trouble because the natural forces didn’t begin until the beginning of the universe.  You’ll be begging the very question asked to you.  If you attempt to say that the universe can be guided by something outside the natural laws, you’ll be making an argument for a Guider.  So I ask you:  If the beginning of the universe wasn’t random, what was it guided by?

I’ll also ask you:  Do you disagree with Bertrand Russell?

“Everything comes about from something else.”

The only way you can know this is if you’ve studied “everything” and discovered the origin of everything.  This is an absolute, faith based statement.

“One cannot say with knowledge that the universe was made by God.”

Another faith based statement.  In order to make this statement true I ask, have you searched all of the knowledge in the world and some how discovered than none of it pertaines to knowledge of God’s Creation?  Why are you the only one who can make absolute statements?

“And if one cannot explain the origin of the universe (or anything else), it is quite silly to commend an imaginary being.”

Your presupposition here is that God is “imaginary”, this is something you cannot know.  When reasoning through an argument, it’s a good idea to think through the presuppositions one is making.

On a basic level, my attributing the universe to God is no less silly then attributing it to “natural processes somehow”, especially when you consider science to be the way all knowledge is gained and how unscientific the phrase “somehow” is.  Your “god” called Naturalism has shown NO power to create while God has.

Greg

“An atheist doesn’t have to know anything about science or adopt any particular worldview; all the atheist has to do is find theistic claims unconvincing.”

Stop it.  A human being HAS TO have assumptions and presuppositions.  No human being can have “no position”.  One of the main theistic claims is “God exists”.  You find this position “unconvincing”.  Fine, you’re not convinced that God exist, that means your position is that God doesn’t exist.  It’s a position, and it’s an assumption (since the position can’t be tested empirically).  Please read my posts “The Myth of Neutrality” and “Worldviews Are For Everyone” and respond to my arguments there. 

“Science has certainly worked better than faith where technological progress is concerned;”

When have I ever argued against “science”?  I love science.  When was I talking about “technological progress”?  Talk about the definition of a strawman!

“I’ll stick to science for explanations about the parts of the universe we do understand, content to say “I don’t know” when no answer exists. Faith isn’t an answer; faith is something someone makes up or accepts.”

This makes me think you didn’t actually read or understand the entirety of my post.  Scientific explanations are based upon faith.  You have “faith” that nature is uniform.  You have NO reason to believe that nature is uniform except that you believe it is true.  Science is based upon the unscientific principle that EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE acts the same way (this is unscientific because it cannot be tested).  It’s also based on the circular reasoning that the future will inherently act like the past (this is something we cannot know).  Please, read the part of my post about the Uniformity of Nature and respond accordingly.

If “faith” isn’t an answer, then science is in trouble.

Scott

“If I handn’t read this post entitled “The Atheist is a Thief”, I never would’ve known I didn’t believe in absolutes.”

So you do believe in absolutes?  Which ones?  And how do you explain that they are absolute?

“Nature aside, do we actually have to have an answer for everything? In the end that seems to be what is required to disprove god.”

Yes, I would say that if you are in the business of attempting to disprove God you have your work cut out for you.  Scott, this is an interesting statement because science drives to explain everything and won’t rest with “I don’t know’s”, are you saying that “I don’t know” is an acceptable stopping point?

Also, this itself is a strawman.  No where, not once did I say, “well since atheists don’t have an answer…”.  In short, I’m saying that atheists cannot account for the reality that we see all around us.  I agree with you, there ARE absolutes.  I’m saying that the atheistic worldview cannot account for the existence of absolutes and cannot explain the basis of science (the uniformity of nature).

“You’re the ones making the claim, we’re not.”

Aren’t you making the claim that God doesn’t exist?  This isn’t a claim?

“I don’t see god anywhere. I go outside, I still don’t see god. I don’t know anyone else that can tell me that they have seen god.”

You cannot see the beginning of the universe and yet you believe God didn’t do it.  You cannot see the beginning of life and yet you believe God didn’t do it.  You cannot see that nature acts uniformly everywhere (which is the basis of all science) and yet you believe it.  You cannot see small evolutionary changes leading to big evolutionary changes yet you still believe it happened.  Can you see how hypocritical it is to say, “I can’t see God therefore He doesn’t exist”?

“If we can’t use our five sences to determine the existance of god, than how did we determine he exists in the first place?”

You are assuming that we CAN’T use our five senses to see God.  Everytime I see a beautiful sunset I see God.  Everytime I climb to the top of a mountain I see God.  You cannot use your five senses to see gravity, you can only see what gravity has done and does.  Same thing with God.

“Just because we don’t know everything or can’t explain everything ABSOLUTLY doesn’t prove that god exists.”

I never said that.  Not once.  The atheistic worldview cannot account for/explain the most basic principle that science is built upon, the uniformity of nature.  THAT’S what I said.  Feel free to respond to what I actually said at any time now.

James

“Before Christianity was humanities worldview that of disorder?”

Pagans?  Yes!  Fickle, malevolent gods messing with humanity at will is quite disorderly.  What’s the point of the question?

labright

“God cannot exist in this universe.”

Well, that’s settles it I guess.  No more need to discuss because of your absolute knowledge on the issue and absolute statement of what God can’t do.  Case close, I’m so glad you figured it out for all of us.

“1. Information must have a physical substrate upon which to exist. There is no information in a vacuum.”

I’m not sure that you know this about the atheistic worldview, but it absolutely presupposes that information can come from nothing.  DNA formed itself remember?  Non-information created information with no cause, so information came from “a vacuum” as you put it.  Btw, YOU are the only one who believes information can come from nothing. That is NOT my position at all.  Information has existed in the mind of God long before Creation.

Also, I think is a round about way of saying that only the material exists.  Is that what you are saying?

“2. The Judeo/Christian/Islamo god is an “entity”, has thoughts and acts upon our real world. Actually, that god must operate faster than light to do all he’s attributed to do.”

And?

“3. Since nothing material can operate faster than light, on what particles do the thoughts of god exist?”

Actually, your first statement is false.  It would be correct to say “we have YET to discover a material that can operate faster than light” and I’m not even sure if THAT’S true.  Are you saying that God is material?  As in, you could touch Him if you found Him?  Cause if you are, then you’ve redefined what the Christian worldview is to fit your argument.  Redifining your opponents’ argument, and then arguing that redefinition is called a strawman argument and it’s a fallacy. 

Upon what substrate do YOUR thoughts exist?  Can you measure them?

You then began to give me a bunch of evolutionary examples.

Evolutionary theory is based on the metaphysical assumption that nature is uniform.  An atheistic universe, which came about randomly and in which only material exists, cannot account for immaterial, universal laws such as the uniformity of nature.  You can’t even explain the basis upon which science is built without stealing the Christian worldview and yet you attempt to use science to disprove God.  It’s irrational.

“You have a “Need to Seek a Higher-Power”, but atheists don’t. That’s why I can’t covert you, and you can’t convert me. “

So you now telling me my psychology?  Is that how you defend your worldview, but telling me what I need?  You’re right however, I do seek a Higher-Power because He created me and loves me.  You, on the other hand, “Seek a Smarter Power”.  You believe that men who are smarter than you have figured it all out and you believe what they say is true.  What’s the difference?

You are a believer as well.  You believe that empiricism is the answer to all.  You believe that Naturalism explains everything.

“I suspect you’ll not accept this, but it is truth.”

I want to be clear.  Are you saying that belief in God is the reason the Earth is over-crowded?  And therefore, once “belief in God” goes away then more people will die and the Earth will less crowded and that’s why a non-belief in God is becoming more of a benefit in this day?  More death = good, right?  Are you saying that you’re the next step in the evolutionary ladder?  You’re more “advanced” than I am?

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11 Comments on “Response to “The Atheist is a Thief””

  1. Bad Says:

    I define random as being not guided or controlled in any way.

    That’s a bit of a problem then, because that’s not what “random” means. The best, most useful understanding of it is that something is uncorrelated with something else (i.e. patternless relative to it), and thus random in regards to it. Talking about things that are hypothetically uncaused is a different kettle of fish. Uncaused doesn’t necessarily mean without any predictable pattern or regularity.

    It seems to me that most of your responses are cheap shots: jumping on clumsy phrasings and rebutting them, but rather missing the point.

    We don’t know how, or even if, the universe had an ontological beginning. We aren’t even sure we’re asking the right questions in regards to how to conceptualize it. All we do have is knowledge of the Big Bang and the beginning of the universe as we are familiar with it. And while it’s true that most of the natural laws we are familiar with likely were shaped by the particular nature of the Big Bang, we have no way to discerning how or why things are that way: i.e. if there were simply more basic, underlying laws. You could call them “natural” or not depending on how you define natural. But it’s clear that philosophically, there is no justification for calling them “guiders” or asserting that they must be God. The field of possibility remains wide open.

    Enter your assertion that “Godidit.” But if you unpack this claim, all you are really saying is “a being that we have no way of understanding the capabilities or methods of but can potentially do anything possible did it… in an unknown way.”

    The problem with this claim is that it doesn’t really tell us anything. If all existence began for a particular set of reasons, we’d like to know what these are, whatever they might be. But your answer isn’t really anything more than restating our ignorance and even adding an additional inexplicable entity. When I ask what causes rain to fall, the right answer is a particular set of entities and laws (clouds, properties of the atmosphere, gravity).

    But when you answer a question with “God” in the way you do, you aren’t actually specifying anything at all: you’re basically just saying that something that could potentially cause anything to happen… made event X happen, in a yet unknown or even impossible to understand manner. But that’s a possibility that is true for ANY question we might want to ask. It isn’t itself really an answer or explanation of how or why X happened. And there’s likewise always the possibility that an unknown something with only the capacities necessary to cause X (and nothing else) did it.

    So we are left with a simple reality: we have some stuff here (a universe) and we want to explain it. But we don’t seem to have enough evidence at present to really understand what we need to understand. So we’re left with the observable material universe, and lots of unanswered questions.

    What you are advocating is jumping to a particular conclusion that a) doesn’t actually explain anything but then b) basically smuggles in all the other capacities and characteristics of God (i.e. sentience, omniscience, etc.) along with whatever still unknown capacities were actually necessary to cause our universe (if it was caused at all).

    It’s as if we encounter a man dead with a knife in his back. We conclude that whatever caused the knife to end up in his back, it had to be sentient. You then immediately jump to the conclusion that God did it, since God is sentient. But this conclusion is unwarranted: the cause could merely be sentient without being God (i.e. Jessica Simpson could have done it). Thus, your leap to a conclusion is unwarranted, in addition to basically abandoning any hope of knowing HOW the knife sticking was done, since a God could have done it in litterally any way at all, including simply making any one way look to us like any other.

  2. Billy Says:

    I wonder why you like to waste your time posting this blog when you could be traveling around the country, teaching at top universities and bragging about how much you know about everything and how everybody else is wrong. Boy, you are throwing away your talent! Listening to other points of view is not harmful to your health and it won’t make you a bad Christian. I look forward to your next post dedicated to telling me how much this comment is wrong.

  3. Eric Kemp Says:

    Billy

    At what point have I stopped listening? In order to thoughtfully respond to people’s arguments, as I’ve done, I would have had to listen first. As I stated, the only reason I made a post about it was because it was 6 people at once and I wanted to be able to give their positions the responses they deserved.

    Oh, I’m sorry Billy, I missed the point of your comment. You didn’t actually want to a response. You wanted to completely ignore what I actually said in the post and create a strawman argument dripping with sarcasm in order to insult me. My mistake.

  4. Bad Says:

    Billy, I dare you to explain to me what the substantive purpose of your paragraph was. And how on earth does responding to a bunch of people at length make someone guilty of “not listening to other points of view?”

  5. James Says:

    Pagans? Yes! Fickle, malevolent gods messing with humanity at will is quite disorderly. What’s the point of the question?

    Do you included Judaism in this (which the Ten Commandments come from) in with the Pagans? Also what about the Greeks and Romans?

    Rome was founded at least 800 years before Jesus and well established by the time of Jesus. If they were people who believed in a disorderly world, then why did they invest resources and plan long term for a city and vast road system to promote commerce?

    How do miracles from God fit into an orderly world? I speak not of the miracle of those amazing moments in normal life such as the birth of a child but of miracles that defy the norm.
    If Christians believe in an orderly universe where the results of an action are repeatable. Then how would they also believe in a universe where the results of action can be different depending upon God’s action?

  6. Eric Kemp Says:

    Bad

    “That’s a bit of a problem then, because that’s not what “random” means. The best, most useful understanding of it is that something is uncorrelated with something else (i.e. patternless relative to it), and thus random in regards to it.”

    That’s fine, I wouldn’t argue with that. The universe is unrelated to it’s cause because it had none, it just happened. Therefore it’s beginning was random. If you are attempting to say that the universe had some “unknown” cause then #1: it could have had NO cause for all you know and we’re at the same place and #2: the explanation of “God was the cause” makes more sense than saying, “We have no idea but we know we don’t like the idea of God so we’re just sticking with ignorance.”

    “Uncaused doesn’t necessarily mean without any predictable pattern or regularity.”

    Can you give me an example of a beginning that didn’t have a cause? Can you give me an example of any uncaused phenomena?

    “It seems to me that most of your responses are cheap shots: jumping on clumsy phrasings and rebutting them, but rather missing the point.”

    Actually, I did nothing of the sort. I jumped on the absolute statements people were making. I completely understood their point, and made the argument that they can’t possibly make that statement and be rational or consistent at the same time.

    “We don’t know how, or even if, the universe had an ontological beginning. We aren’t even sure we’re asking the right questions in regards to how to conceptualize it.”

    Well the fact that the universe is still expanding points to the fact that it had a singularity, so I’m not exactly sure what you’re saying here. I also don’t quite know what you are saying about “asking the right questions.” Can you clarify?

    But I agree with you, in the atheistic universe, you CAN’T really know.

    “we have no way to discerning how or why things are that way: i.e. if there were simply more basic, underlying laws.”

    Right, you can have no idea “how” anything came about or “why” things the way they are or what really happened.

    “Enter your assertion that “Godidit.” But if you unpack this claim, all you are really saying is “a being that we have no way of understanding the capabilities or methods of but can potentially do anything possible did it… in an unknown way.”

    Wait, I thought you just said we couldn’t know how it happened? So you are just excluding God from the “We can’t know”…why?

    “The problem with this claim is that it doesn’t really tell us anything.”

    Wait, I thought you just said we can’t know anything?

    “If all existence began for a particular set of reasons, we’d like to know what these are, whatever they might be. But your answer isn’t really anything more than restating our ignorance and even adding an additional inexplicable entity.”

    So your answer is, “We can’t know” and when I say, “We CAN know”, you say “Yea, well I don’t like your answer.” Is that it? Your answer is just as inexplicable.

    “But we don’t seem to have enough evidence at present to really understand what we need to understand. So we’re left with the observable material universe, and lots of unanswered questions.”

    You’re presupposition is that the observable material universe is all that exists. You can’t know this to be true. However, I agree, lets deal with what we can observe/test around us. In fact, there is something I want to clear up…

    For the record: I’m not trying to convince you that God exists. That’s not possible. I never even brought up any cosmological arguments for God’s existence, that was you. My point is to show that the atheistic universe cannot account for the uniformity of nature, which is what science depends on. Atheism cannot explain where the constant uniformity that science demands comes from in a random, “We can’t know”, purely material universe. Please, reread my post “The Atheist is a Thief” with that purpose in mind.


  7. […] Theism Cannot Explain Anything (Origins Especially) In having a bit of a debate with blogger Eric Kemp, we hit an impasse at which he declared that “God” is a sensible explanation for an […]

  8. Bad Says:

    “the explanation of “God was the cause” makes more sense than saying, “We have no idea but we know we don’t like the idea of God so we’re just sticking with ignorance.””

    This is like saying that when we come upon a dead body in the street, saying that Jessica Simpson was the killer makes more sense than admitting that we don’t know who did it (or if it was even a murder in the first place).

    In response to this, I’ve done a post on the general explanatory pointlessness of asserting that a being that could hypothetical do anything did a specific something.

    But as for me saying we “can’t” know, that’s not what I said. I said that we don’t know: have no way of knowing (at least presently). It’s certainly possible that, because of our own limitations, we can’t know. But we don’t know even that (and may never be able to know that we can’t know, ironically). But in any case, you seem to think our limitations on knowledge has some relevance to what you can or cannot claim. It doesn’t. If we can’t legitimately know the answer to something, that’s too bad for us. But it doesn’t justify answers you couldn’t justify on their own merits to begin with.

    And I more than “don’t like” you answer. I’ve argued that it’s really not an answer at all. In fact, it doesn’t do what you complain that atheism “can’t do.” It doesn’t explain anything at all about how the universe came to be the way it is (if, in fact, it did).

    “So you are just excluding God from the “We can’t know”…why?”

    I haven’t made any such exclusion. I’ve pointed out that your “answer” doesn’t actually constitute any further knowledge or insight into the origin or nature of the universe: the very thing which you demanded non-theists produce, immediately, in order to satisfy you.

    And, of course, merely claiming that a being that you hypothesize as being capable of anything did something is not the same thing as “knowledge.” I can just as easily claim that a thing capable of creating universes but that isn’t god did it. That isn’t knowledge either. It’s just a bare, hypothetical claim.

    “You’re presupposition is that the observable material universe is all that exists.”

    No, I don’t. I see what YOU call the material universe. And so do you. We both agree that it exists, or else we couldn’t even be sensibly talking to each other. We also both agree that there are very likely many things that exist that we don’t know about, and many things we don’t know about what exists.

    But you, on the other hand, assert that there IS some specific set of other things that you “know” about. And you are trying to justify that (and indirectly, apparently). I’m willing and awaiting your convincing arguments on this score. But if all you’ve got is “well, you don’t have any explanation for X” I’m afraid that you haven’t actually done any better at all than not explaining it yourself. That failure to explain certainly doesn’t justify you making claims about the nature of all reality, what’s possible to not possible, and so on.

    As for the sideline on uncaused events, it is philosophically impossible to know that there is such a thing as causality in the first place: this is an assumption that empiricism makes, not a known fact. And there are things we know of which seem to have a certain regularity, but no specific cause: for instance, many thing in QM. Quantum particles, for instance, which appear spontaneously in positive/negative pairs and then annihilate again (bizarrely all within the laws of thermodynamics since the total energy remains 0 throughout).
    Likewise, we don’t know if it makes sense to apply natural laws or rules to the universe itself. The universe is the context in which we observe all these things. Applying the same rules to it that it itself has within it may well be a category error. Likewise, the truth of the universal singularity is not that it was an ontological beginning, but that we don’t know what it was prior to a certain point in the past. We don’t know if it began or even if that concept makes sense (because “began” is a concept of time, and time doesn’t happen in a singularity in any conventional sense). This is not to say that we won’t ever learn more. But pretending that we know the answers to these questions, or even that we’re asking the right questions, would be dishonest and unjustified.

  9. cindyinsd Says:

    Hi, Eric

    I don’t enjoy arguing much, or even listening to other people arguing, unless the opponents are more or less equally matched and the arguments given at least make sense.

    It’s hard to listen to these guys. How do you put up with them? Some of the arguments are so bad they hurt my feelings. Maybe God will have mercy on them and inspire them to study logic or something.

    I’m praying with you for them. Of course, the God they don’t believe in is kind and long-suffering enough not to pound them, so most of them will continue to defy Him and shake their impotent fists in the face of His love for them. For a little while. Perhaps God will use your patience and level-headed thinking to help some of them.

    Grace and peace,

    Cindy

  10. Eric Kemp Says:

    James

    “Do you included Judaism in this (which the Ten Commandments come from) in with the Pagans?”

    Considering that Judaism is not a pagan religion, I would not include the Jews in this distinction.

    “Also what about the Greeks and Romans?”

    The Greeks and the Romas are pagan religions yes. They made sacrifices to the gods in order to appease them so that the god would leave their children, crops, cities etc alone.

    “If they were people who believed in a disorderly world, then why did they invest resources and plan long term for a city and vast road system to promote commerce?”

    This question is off topic. We are talking about science. The correct question would be, “why didn’t the Greeks and Romans invent science?” Do you have an answer for that question?

    “If Christians believe in an orderly universe where the results of an action are repeatable. Then how would they also believe in a universe where the results of action can be different depending upon God’s action?”

    Good question. You are confusing Elohim with the fickle pagan gods of the aformentioned Greeks and Romans. This law-like order is in the nature of God. Although true, it’s not that the order we see in the universe was created by God, it’s the fact that order is within His very Being. God is Lawful. He can’t be any other way.

    The very order that we enjoy comes from God and cannot be explained with out God. A purely material universe cannot account for order, since nothing is guiding it. A universe of fickle gods cannot account for order because none can exist on the whims of gods. So the atheist must steal the idea of an orderly God in order to expect an orderly universe.

    However, since God DID create the universe, the universe is under His ultimate control. If God chooses to suspend those laws for a bit to create a “miracle”, then so be it, He’s got that power.

  11. Mike Says:

    Just remember, that making babies is what perpetuates a species, not making mutants, or “positive, beneficial, life-affirming selections”. Consider: If we randomly evolved the ability to have &*@#$ by blowing our noses or scratching our feet, instead of having it tied to the reproductive process, then the human race would have died out a long, long time ago (but died happy, at least)! To me, that sounds like somebody knew what they were doing.

    And if “natural selection” is now being defined as only positive, life-affirming mutations, then Natural Selection is now God, is it not? Natural selection is all-powerful (all living matter is under its Law) and all-knowing (every cell is under its direction), and Its power flows through every living being with a Purpose to promote the “Good” thing that we call life, and not the “Bad” thing we call death. And we should expect to find it as an omnipresent constant througout the universe, as an active process everywhere, tending to It’s work. Until It decides to implode and start over again. Because Natural Selection loves us.


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