Tom Gilson

Could Atheism Survive Without All It ‘Knows’ About God?

I wonder whether atheism could exist if atheists didn’t know so much about God.

I’m talking about hard-core contemporary atheism: atheism that says, as John Loftus just wrote on Facebook,

The question is whether or not some kind of god did communicate to us.

Subjective doesn’t count on this score, otherwise we have no reason to object when someone claims a god commanded them to kill their children.

Read the context and you’ll see that “subjective” means, “not knowable through scientific evidence and reasoning.”

Loftus thinks he’s making a statement about the limitations of human knowledge: If we can’t know anything about God objectively (scientifically), then we can’t reasonably conclude we know anything about God at all.

What he’s really doing, however, is making a statement about the limits of God’s power: If God can’t communicate knowledge to humans objectively/scientifically, he can’t communicate knowledge at all. That is, if there is a God who wishes to communicate to humans, then the only power of communication that God could possibly possess is the power of scientifically-testable communication.

How does an atheist know that much about God, I wonder?

Or Loftus’s theology could be this instead: If a God exists, and that God wants to communicate truly and certainly to humans, then that God must want to communicate that way to all humans. It’s all or nothing. No God could possibly want to communicate truly and certainly to a subset of humans.

Does Loftus know that as a fact about God (or gods)?

I get his point about the possibility of human error. There’s plenty of evidence for that. There’s plenty of human overconfidence as well. But he takes those facts too far, to the conclusion that if some humans can be erroneously confident in their beliefs about God, then no confidently-held belief about God (or gods) could possibly be trusted as true. That’s a good conclusion insofar as truth and confidence depend on humans alone. Loftus, like many other atheists, assumes that to be the case. They’re assuming God couldn’t carry some or all of that load.

How do they know that about God?

I’ve only brought up one atheistic argument here, but if you survey atheists’ arguments, you’ll find it everywhere: They implicitly describe what God can or can’t do, or what God can or can’t be like, as if they knew.

I don’t know how contemporary atheism could survive without everything it knows about God. I do know that the gods they’ve disproved so knowledgeably are nothing like the God in whom Christians believe.

Point of Application for Christians

Watch for smuggled-in theologies when you’re debating atheists. Lots of their arguments depend on what they “know” must be true about God. Dig out those theologies. Don’t just ask yourself what must be true of humans or of nature, but also what must be true of God, in order for their point to be true. Then ask them how they know that much about God.

Image Credit(s): pixabay.

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3 thoughts on “Could Atheism Survive Without All It ‘Knows’ About God?

  1. John seems to remove the reality of temporal becoming from his formula as his prescription of God mandates that the “Now” in fact be complete, whole, and so on.

    John seems to remove the reality of Privation from his formula as his prescription of God mandates that the “Now” in fact be complete, whole, and so on.

    That’s really a complaint on the problem of evil. That’s fine, but if John wants to talk about God vs. our painfully fragmented reality then he has to demonstrate a logical path to wholeness, to the perfection of being.

    In short, he has to demonstrate a theological paradigm which satisfies truth as correspondence with the new supposed god he is claiming makes more sense.

    By truth as correspondence we mean also then that his new prescriptions for his new god cannot annihilate our present reality as it is nor can it annihilate Man as Man is. That means he’ll have to put his cards on the table with respect to the fundamental nature of all of those vectors. That then means…..and then THAT means he’ll have to….It all snowballs quite rapidly.

    That is one reason why the tiny “ontological cul-de-sacs” he’s presented so far in his sound-bites just won’t do. And besides, objective truth about God is knowable.

    So the proverbial “If God were God He’d do thusly…” needs to present that snowball or at least large chunks of it. Why? Because there’s no such thing as ontological cul-de-sacs.

  2. We also see some assumptions regarding the definition of “communication.” What is that stuff? How is it accomplished? Are we limiting that to verbal interaction? Billboards written across the sky? Telepathy? There is an assumption that God has not communicated, or that he has done so secretly, privately. I beg to differ.

    I would argue that God has communicated without favoritism. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork.” And, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

    In other cases, God spoke to specific individuals, but this was always done with the expectation that the message he gave them would be broadcast for all to consume.

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