Atheists: “Our Worldviews Explain These Things Better”

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This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Atheists' Explanations


Series: Atheists' Explanations

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A couple days ago I asked atheists to let us know what their worldviews explained better than Christianity. (I did not say atheism was a worldview. See that post for more on that.)

I’ve processed the answers through a Mac program called “The Brain.” It’s pretty interesting what it can do. See the outline and interconnections here. It looks like this (though larger), but click on any of the outline points there, and you’re likely to find it’s linked in multiple ways to other items.

athexp

I’m using this software now on a 30-day trial, after which I think that page may disappear unless I buy the program. (It isn’t cheap.) If this fancy webpage goes away next month, I think this scaled-down version will at least remain.

So atheists, this is your chance to see what you might have missed and to complete your description of what you think your worldview explains better than Christianity. Please also let us know if you think some of this fits others, perhaps, but not yourself. I think it would be interesting to know whether this is a fairly general view, taken as a whole.

Theists, let’s just listen this time, okay? I can assure you I’ll give us a chance to jump in on a later post. This is just for the purpose of finding out what others think, not suggesting to them what they ought to think.

Update 1:20 pm EDT: I’ve re-organized the information in here since the original posting. There are no new bullet points other than one I thought was in there previously but turned out not to be: divine hiddenness. Otherwise the only difference is the main title and the organizational scheme.

Series Navigation (Atheists' Explanations):<<< Atheists: What Does Your Worldview Explain Better Than Christianity?Atheists’ Skepticism as Better Explanation? >>>
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31 Responses to “ Atheists: “Our Worldviews Explain These Things Better” ”

  1. Tom, I think your list needs some sorting. The problem isn’t in the contents, it’s in the header: “Atheist Explanations,” followed by an assortment of objections to theism in general or Christianity in particular (plus some nouns in desperate need of further explication, i.e., “The Bible” or “Contrasts”).

    A simple fix to clarify your intent would be to update the header as “Atheist Explanations of….” — followed by whatever you think these are explanations of. Why atheists aren’t Christians, presumably.

  2. Tom,
    “So atheists, this is your chance to see what you might have missed and to complete your description of what you think your worldview explains better than Christianity.”

    I presented an argument here: https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2015/03/atheists-what-does-your-worldview-explain-better-than-christianity/#comment-112709

    which doesn’t seem to fit anywhere on the current diagram.

    I’d planned to present at least a few more arguments in detail, but it appears time is running out. So here’s a list of the topics of those arguments, some of which are already covered:

    – the existence of seemingly gratuitous evil in the world
    – the amount of evil in the world
    – the demographics of religions, ancient
    – the demographics of religions, modern
    – the demographics of theism and atheism
    – suboptimal biological design
    – suboptimal cosmological design
    – the nature of theism as an explanation*
    – the nature of Christianity as an explanation*
    – the existence of seemingly contradictory bible verses**

    *these are a little hard to describe in just a few words. The idea here is that I examine what theism/Christianity are actually offering as a proposed explanation, and conclude that they don’t even meet the criteria for a good explanation in the first place (although they could, if they were expanded with additional details). It’s not that they’re incoherent – it’s that they’re incomplete.

    **This is not an argument that there actually are contradictions. It’s about the effects of what seem to be contradictions at first glance; whether they can be shown not to conflict is irrelevant to the argument.

  3. Forgot to add:
    ” Please also let us know if you think some of this fits others, perhaps, but not yourself. I think it would be interesting to know whether this is a fairly general view, taken as a whole.”

    Well, to be fair, I’m not exactly representative of most atheists. But here’s some of what I disagree with:

    “Problem of Hell”
    While I have a problem with Hell, I don’t take that to be a defeater for Christianity, since there are other views that avoid the problem (such as annihilationism).

    “Morality”
    That’s pretty vague. While I think divine command and Adams-style “God is the good” theories of meta-ethics are false, I don’t consider that a knock against theism. Once again, there are other views (cf. Swinburne).

    “Default Position”
    I think there’s a default position in both an epistemic sense and a psychological sense – and interestingly, not only are the epistemic and psychological defaults two different positions, I don’t hold to either one. However, I don’t think that tells us anything about which position is actually true. The topic interests be greatly though, so perhaps we could discuss that sometime.

    “Contrasts -> Arrogance of Claiming to Know”
    Hard pass. I don’t think it’s at all arrogant to claim to know whether theism is true.

    There’s probably more I disagree with, but I guess that’s enough for now.

  4. Adam, I understand the thing isn’t presented perfectly. It’s only a list of topics you and others mentioned in the post before this one, with links showing some of the interrelationships. Think of it as a bullet-point outline in graphical form to organize and connect topics. That’s all it’s intended to be.

    I’ll let your comment here stand as a corrective, while leaving the presentation as it is.

  5. Fair enough. But my objection does go a little deeper than that. As a (necessarily incomplete) list of objections to theism and Christianity, it’s not especially problematic. But as a list of “things atheists think are better explained by an atheist ‘worldview’,” it’s incoherent.

  6. Granted. It’s not a list of “things atheists think are better explained by an atheist ‘worldview.'” It’s a list of topics that came up in a discussion on what some atheists think are better explained by their worldviews.

    Your corrective comment #1, and my answer later, are there to help clarify what this is about.

    And as I told you already, this is not intended to be viewed apart from the pages it’s linked from, where the context should be abundantly clear.

    Can we quit quibbling over the philosophical adequacy of a graphically presented bullet list now, please?

  7. scbrownlhrm,

    Please note the last line of the OP. We’ll have another opportunity soon enough.

    I posted this for a specific purpose, and I’d like to stay focused on that purpose, or else it won’t be accomplished.

    (My comments to Adam here are not contradictory to that. They’re for the purpose of clarifying what the graphic is for, not for the purpose of arguing or debating what it contains.)

  8. Tom @#6: Sorry if my responses seemed pedantic. It’s just that I wanted to clarify what I saw as an important ambiguity, especially in light of the title of this post. Since you asked for input, I’ll make one more comment and thenceforth leave the subject to others.

    Sorting out what I feel to be the ambiguities, then, I have the following reactions depending on what it is the list sets out to accomplish:

    Considered as a bullet-point list of topics raised in the previous comments on the subject, it’s not especially objectionable.

    Considered as a generalized list of objections to theism and Christianity, it’s not especially objectionable.

    Considered as a list of things that seem to atheists better explained under atheism — which is an interesting topic, well worth investigating! — it’s incoherent.

    And yes, I find the ambiguous word “worldview” both unnecessary and potentially misleading in this context.

    (Okay, I’m done!)

  9. It feels kind of weird to say things like “my atheistic worldview explains better why it it is “odd that the universal being would care who I have sex with” than Christianity does” 😀
    I´d say the following items:
    – it´s a default position
    – problem of hell
    – the general inadequacy of christian claims
    – the presence of unverifiable beliefs in religions
    – no need of that hypothesis
    – god is an unnecessary insertion before…
    – odd that the universal being would care…
    could be removed, they were all mentioned in the thread, but they are not explananda – just general criticisms directed against Christianity.

    Otherwise I´d say that the list is probably not exhaustive but a very good start.
    Also a suggestion for a follow-up: ask theist readers if they think that there is anything that can be more easily explained within an atheistic worldview and vice versa for atheist readers.

  10. At the risk of making some of the preceding comments here obsolete, I’ve just re-organized this information. I think it might address some of Adam’s concerns, as I understand those concerns.

  11. The Atheist debate is mute!
    First one must concede that “atheism” exists, the very title is an oxymoron in itself. If God does not exist then they should call themselves by a different name.
    An atheist proclaims “there is no God”, which can only be true if the believer of such a position has the ability to be:
    1.Omnipresent
    2.Omnipotent
    3.Omniscient
    The three attributes that are required to ascertain with complete certainty that God does not exist!
    Should one possess those qualities, than he/she IS God, therefore self refuting the argument.
    http://doctrinesofdemons.atspace.co.uk/

  12. Sick and/or working from home for a while, so I haven’t been able to contribute to this one. On the other hand, SkepticismFirst’s list in #2 above is a good summary, and I wouldn’t put them under the “general explanatory inferiority of Christian claims and approaches”. For me they are on the “superiority of atheist approaches” side.

    When I look at the “Problem of Evil”, for example, an atheist framework seems to account for it way more sensibly than the various monotheist frameworks I’ve encountered. I don’t see it as a failure of theist explanations so much as atheism handling things better.

  13. stephen johnson,

    An atheist proclaims “there is no God”, which can only be true if the believer of such a position has the ability to be:
    1.Omnipresent
    2.Omnipotent
    3.Omniscient
    The three attributes that are required to ascertain with complete certainty that God does not exist!

    Aha. So, are you omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient? Because if you are not, then following your logic here, you cannot possibly be a theist because without these attributes, you cannot “ascertain with complete certainty that God (i.e., you yourself if you had these attributes) does exist”.
    A hint: if you require “complete certainty”, then you cannot know anything at all without having divine attributes like omniscience.

  14. Andy,

    The claim that God does not exist is a null hypothesis. IMO, the atheist asserts with this claim that s/he rejects his or her own understanding of what is meant by God and what it means for whatever it is that s/he conceptualizes as God to “exist.” The name God is the deification of the forces and powers and causes that create/created everything that exists. In reality, it cannot be said that God as the deity of monotheism does not exist because to say such a thing is merely to misunderstand what the name/term God means. The “God doesn’t exist” claim is simply irrelevant rhetoric. The God that Christians worship, the one and only God, the Creator cannot NOT exist because if God did not exist, nothing else would or could exist, most especially you and me.

  15. Jenna,

    The name God is the deification of the forces and powers and causes that create/created everything that exists. In reality, it cannot be said that God as the deity of monotheism does not exist because to say such a thing is merely to misunderstand what the name/term God means. The “God doesn’t exist” claim is simply irrelevant rhetoric. The God that Christians worship, the one and only God, the Creator cannot NOT exist because if God did not exist, nothing else would or could exist, most especially you and me.

    First of all, this is not orthodox Christianity that you are describing. If it were, then Christianity would be literally identical to mere deism. Christianity makes plenty of claims about God and his actions. To phrase it differently, if someone would believe in the existence of “pure actuality” which is the first cause of everything contingent that exists, but would reject that Jesus was the human incarnation of this pure actuality, and also reject the claim that this pure actuality selected the ancient hebrews as his chosen people and interacted with them through prophets and miracles, would you call this person a “Christian”?
    Second, what you are saying is circular, it boils down to the assumption that everything that exists was created and then saying that a “creator” cannot be denied – well, of course it cannot be denied if you define it that way, but this is, again, completely circular.

  16. Tom & Andy,

    I forgot that you had asked us Christians to not respond yet. Tom, I’ll repost my comment in the other blog where we are conversing. Please delete it here. Or can I? Andy, we can chat there.

    Sorry. JB

  17. It seems to me that the main thing that is explained better in an atheist worldview as opposed to a Christian one is God. Our world view doesn’t contain an all powerful, all knowing and all good being. To claim there exists a being with one of those traits requires an inordinate amount of evidence, let alone all of the above.

    To expand on that, you could prove that there is a God who created the universe and all the life that lives in it; you could prove that He walked Among us as a man performing all manner of miracles, was crucified and then rose from the dead; and you would still be a long way from proving that God is all powerful, all knowing and all good. Powerful? Sure. Knowledgeable? Sure. Good? Sure. But how do you demonstrate that He doesn’t make mistakes, has total mastery of everything that exists and always acts in the best possible way! This perfection that the Christian God possesses, is so much more easily explained in the atheist worldview. Because there is nothing for us to explain.

    Cheers
    Shane

  18. @Shane Fletcher:

    But how do you demonstrate that He doesn’t make mistakes, has total mastery of everything that exists and always acts in the best possible way!

    There are three different questions here but the answers tend to be pretty similar. The second follows from what God is as that which grounds the being of everything that exists. Aquinas goes through painstaking details through all this (in both the Summas), but other theologians in other traditions could be cited, like Samuel Clarke that has a whole book on it.

    The first question is incoherent. What could it possibly mean for an Omniscient Omnipotent being to make mistakes? As for the last question, in one reading, it is no different than the first one and therefore incoherent. But maybe you mean something different. Maybe your reasoning is like this:

    (1) God could have created a better World than the one we have.

    (2) But He did not.

    So the question becomes why? The answer depends then on what exactly you think the puzzle is here. The notion of a best possible world is incoherent, there is no such thing, so God could have created a better World, and God could have created a worse World. But no possible World is best, so that God is necessitated in actualizing it, neither is any possible World the worst, so that God is necessitated in not actualizing it.

    But then one could still press the question why this specific World, with its specific mix of miseries and glories, and not some other? First, we really do *not* know if God has indeed actualized other possible worlds. At any rate, the answer to why this World instead of some other is not one that can be given by someone other than God, that is, we simply do not know. We can say however that He created the World because of you, me and Tom Gilson. Because of the Incarnation and Redemption. Because of the Saints in Heaven. And we can trust, and more than trust we can rationally *know*, that whatever wrongs and miseries we endure, God is Omnipotent that even from such evils a greater Good can be drawn out. We can also know some *general* ways in which that happens, even if in *specific* instances the reasons why God permits such and such evils are unknown, and cannot be known, at least not in this life.

  19. Why do we have to prove anything to you, Shane? We present the evidence as best we can and you evaluate it as honestly as you can. If you are using words like “inordinate” to describe the amounts of evidence you expect in this conversation then I suspect that we wont ever get further than you expressing your incredulity at any claim that God exists.

    Besides all this, one doesn’t have to come to accept the basic beliefs of Christianity (e.g. the resurrection of Jesus) to come to believe that atheism is false.

  20. Shane is on to something. The evidence and arguments for Christianity are painstakingly detailed and complex. They twist and turn down philosophical tunnels that lead to more complexity and confusion, where words lose meaning and get confused. Debating things like the “fall” and all of the other strange things you have to consider to evaluate Christianity in particular, take a huge amount of effort… simply trying to make the arguments make sense. Like fitting a square peg into a round hole.

    Atheism, or non-theism, explains things better because its vastly simpler. All of these complex argument are unnecessary, because the world appears pretty much how we would expect the world to appear without a theistic deity in it.

  21. Chris, that’s a very strange thing for you to say.

    First of all, there are simple evidences for theism. Look at the world: it absolutely appears designed. Look at the Bible, and how it changes lives. That’s absolutely simple. Atheists challenge those kinds of answers, so we respond to the challenges at a corresponding level of detail. That’s hardly a mark against us.

    Second, I do not say that every line of evidence for Christianity is simple, only that some are. Now, the fact that there are complex explanations for reality should hardly surprise us. That’s no mark against a worldview!

    Third, you say the world appears pretty much how we would expect it to appear without a theistic deity. That means the world appears to be purely mechanical, a place where no human choice exists, no meaning, no purpose or telos, no ultimate good or evil, no real justice, no explanation for why anything is (much less why it’s the way it is). Is that how the world appears to you?

    Be careful with your answer, by the way. If you say the world is mechanical etc., that would probably be a conclusion you draw by inference from your belief that there’s no deity. It wouldn’t be a description of how the world appears.

    I’d say the world appears to be the way we would expect it to look on the Christian explanation: meaningful, filled with love, purpose, freedom, dignity, value, and beauty, yet with each of these things marred by actual evil, and with a reasonable hope for justice to rule in the end.

    So frankly, I think your last assertion there is wrong.

  22. @Chris:

    The evidence and arguments for Christianity are painstakingly detailed and complex. They twist and turn down philosophical tunnels that lead to more complexity and confusion, where words lose meaning and get confused.

    First, as Tom very well said this is simply not true, or at least not without a lot of qualifications. Neither do “words lose meaning and get confused”; that some people cannot grasp some abstract metaphysical issues, is one thing, it is quite another to say that in handling those issues “words lose meaning and get confused”.

    At any rate, so what? The proof of the Feit-Thompson theorem is a “painstakingly detailed and complex” maze of over 200 pages of difficult Mathematics. Yet, it is a true theorem, and with a computer-verified proof, so it has the highest degree of certainty we can ever achieve. Likewise, the Standard Model is “painstakingly detailed and complex”. To fully understand it, you have to understand an arcane complex of ideas, both from Mathematics and Physics. To those not in the loop it is just a jumble where “words lose meaning and get confused”.

  23. There is something which we all know, and it was born after the existence of the earth, namely: life. Our scientists state that earth was too hot (and some of them say it was too cold) for any kind of life to exist on it. It took the earth millions of years to become a suitable place for life. Life, therefore, is, undoubtedly, a newborn.

    Science, however, tells us that life does not originate from non-living being. Pasteur’s experiment, which took place in the 19th century, is still standing. Through his sterilized soup, he proved beyond any doubt that life does not originate from inanimate material. The scientists of today are still unable to disprove his conclusion.

    The earth, along with its atmosphere, at the time of its formation was sterile and unproductive. Transforming the inanimate materials, such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and iron into a living being could not, therefore, be done through a natural process. It must have been done miraculously.

    This means that the existence of life on this planet is a shining evidence on the existence of an Intelligent, Supernatural Designer.

  24. Science, however, tells us that life does not originate from non-living being. Pasteur’s experiment, which took place in the 19th century, is still standing. Through his sterilized soup, he proved beyond any doubt that life does not originate from inanimate material. The scientists of today are still unable to disprove his conclusion.

    You want to be careful how you phrase this. Pasteur only showed that, given the particular conditions in his experiment, that life does not arise. That being said, the hypothesis that life does not arise naturally from non-life has not been disproven, but this is not a strong enough statement to support the conclusions of your next two paragraphs. Going too far beyond what the evidence shows damages your credibility and blunts the impact of the valid points that you want to raise.

  25. As a matter of fact, the scientists for several decades have tried ceaselessly to unseal the secret of life and to explain its commencement on this planet. But their intensified efforts so far did not produce any substantial knowledge in this field.

    The presence of life on this planet is, no doubt, a great wonder that could not happen without a supernatural cause. Man has unsealed many secrets in the universe, advanced in his scientific and technical knowledge, and even landed on the moon; but in spite of all this, he is still unable to produce a leaf of a plant or a seed of an apple from nothing.

  26. Absurdity of Atheism
    If abiogenesis (spontaneous creation without specific design) can be admitted under such conditions of regularity, then purposeful generation and definitely balanced creation can be the result of error ad perplexity, since these two are opposed to abiogenesis.

    Such a statement is highly absurd that order and rectitude should come about without a Creator, and disorder and impropriety of design and fate should suppose a Creator. He is an ignoramus who says this, because anything produced without design will never be exact and proportioned, while disorder and contrariness cannot co-exist with orderly design. Allah (swt) is far above what the heretics say.

  27. Ray Ingles, may be in your fantasy?

    How can it be supposed that belief in the existence of God is the acceptance of contradiction, whereas belief in the uncaused nature of an effect such as matter is not contradictory?