The Mind of a New Atheist

In the comments section, New Atheist Stardusty Pysche taunts me into providing evidence for the existence of God:

you cannot state what your supposed evidence is, so you only dance around the subject with endless excuses as to why you don’t simply state it.

What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?

Yet when Dusty was asked what type of data he would count as evidence for God, he replied:

I think there are potential demonstrations that could be analyzed to find that they violate the fundamental behaviors of the material universe, for example creating something from nothing, traveling both back and forward in time at will, making something be both true and untrue at the same time.

In other words, a Gap – something that could not possibly be explained by natural laws. The evidence Dusty needs is a powerful, undeniable Gap. His atheism is built on god-of-the-gaps logic in that it entails the acceptance of Gaps as evidence for God.  Yet like all New Atheists, Dusty rejects the god-of-the-gaps logic as valid.

All that New Atheist talk about there being no evidence for  god is nothing more than the Gnu insisting there isn’t a gappy enough Gap for him/her. Look, if I provided Dusty with a gap, he would complain about god-of-the-gaps. If I provided him with something that is not a gap, he’d complain that it’s not a gap and thus there is no need to invoke God.  This is a classic example of the  “heads I win, tails you lose” con.

Dusty and the Gnus don’t understand the subjective dimension to evidence.

Look, it’s clear to me  that Dusty has a closed-mind about the issue of God’s existence (a common trait of New Atheists). His hyper-skepticism thus functions as a shield for this closed mind. What’s more, he thinks the God of the Bible is a monster. Thus, it would only make sense that he doesn’t want God to exist. For who would want such a Monster to exist? It’s important to understand his mindset as he “evalulates” the “evidence” for God. When you are dealing with someone who is so closed-minded about God and who doesn’t want God to exist, he is going to need something that will force/compel him to acknowledge any such evidence exists. And sure enough, he does. The only thing he will count as evidence for the existence of God is some Earth-Shattering Gap – some supernatural display of power that cannot ever possibly be explained by natural causes. He needs such shocking and mind-numbing events as “evidence” because he needs something to blow his closed-mind open. But even then, being existentially threatened by the possibility that an Omnipotent Monster exists, the hyper-skepticism will kick into overdrive in an intense effort to return to the comfort of his closed-mind –

 “Depends how you define god. If a person in real time demonstrates an ability to perform an act then that is evidence that person has the power to perform that act. It does not mean that person is omnipotent, omniscient, all loving, perfectly moral, eternal, or other such attributes commonly ascribed to god.”

What Dusty does not understand is that most of us here do not share his closed-mind or his perception that God is a monster. As such, we do not require such shocking, forceful events as “evidence.” We don’t require that every detail about God’s existence must be proved.  But because of Dusty’s mindset, he cannot contemplate our evidence as evidence because it fails to be powerful enough to blow up his mind that is bolted and nailed shut.

Look, what Dusty brings to the table is a ham-handed, binary viewpoint that insists God’s existence entails Dusty has an experience with Earth-Shattering Gaps. Thus, no Gap, no God. But the rest of us occupy the great expanse of middle ground between his extreme choices (Undeniable Gap vs. No God). In this middle realm, there is room for clues. There is room for hunches. There is room for ambiguity and uncertainty. There is room to acknowledge God as a plausible, even “more plausible” explanation. There is room to take all the clues and come up with the explanation that seems most reasonable to each person. But Dusty cannot intellectually participate in such exploration, because anything less than a Undeniable Gap is flushed. As a New Atheist, Dusty is completely invested in defending and maintaining the core talking point of New Atheist activism – “there is no evidence for  god!”  To stray from that message would be to betray the Cause.

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20 Responses to The Mind of a New Atheist

  1. Ilíon says:

    In other words, a Gap – something that could not possibly be explained by natural laws.

    He demanded more than a mere Gap, he demanded an impossibility — “making something be both true and untrue at the same time.”

  2. TFBW says:

    What’s more, he thinks the God of the Bible is a monster. Thus, it would only make sense that he doesn’t want God to exist. For who would want such a Monster to exist?

    The funny thing is that he seems even more resistant to the idea that God might be good and loving. That is, Stardusty would begrudgingly accept the existence of a god, if only that god would prove his power by doing something impossible, but Stardusty would still resist the idea that this is the Good God which Christians acknowledge. He’s offered no possible circumstances under which he would acknowledge something as evidence for the existence of the God of Christianity. None. At. All.

    This might seem odd, but I don’t find it all that surprising. New Atheism consists in large part of anti-theism, and it’s so much easier to feel justified in hating a moral monster of a god than it is to hate a good one. The best of all possible worlds for the New Atheist is the one in which God does not exist. There’s nothing to fear but inevitable oblivion, and that’s a problem which can be ignored most of the time. The second best of all worlds is one in which God does exist, and he’s every bit as awful as they make him out to be. That’s bad in the sense that God is bigger and stronger than you, but at least you get to claim the moral high ground. The worst of all worlds is the Christian one, where God is not only all-powerful and all-knowing, but also morally flawless. There’s just no way to come out of that looking better than Him.

  3. Jeffrey S. says:

    “I think there are potential demonstrations that could be analyzed to find that they violate the fundamental behaviors of the material universe,…”

    I wonder if an atheist philosopher like Thomas Nagel could help someone like Dusty begin to understand that the materialist worldview is problematic. In a way, Nagel demonstrates, via philosophical argument, that consciousness cannot be solely a material phenomenon. Once you cross that bridge, you are on your way toward understanding God (not totally there, as Nagel himself rejects religion, but it is a starting point.)

  4. SteveK says:

    What Dusty does not understand is that most of us here do not share his closed-mind or his perception that God is a monster.

    That perception creates a huge bias. Imagine a powerful person in your life that you cannot distance yourself from. You would not want that learn that this person is a monster because the emotional toll would be too great to bear. Not wanting to live under severe emotional duress, you’ll go the extra mile to ignore things, make up excuses or look the other way just to maintain your sanity. You don’t want to know that the monster exists.

    I don’t see God as a moral monster so I don’t have this particular bias. I may have other biases but not this one.

  5. Ryan says:

    TFBW: The second best of all worlds is one in which God does exist, and he’s every bit as awful as they make him out to be. That’s bad in the sense that God is bigger and stronger than you, but at least you get to claim the moral high ground. The worst of all worlds is the Christian one, where God is not only all-powerful and all-knowing, but also morally flawless.

    Excellent insight. A monster-God may be able to punish and destroy you, but you can still feel at least morally superior and justified in not submitting. A perfectly glorious God, full of beauty and righteousness, is even more terrifying because he exposes how imperfect, inglorious, unrighteous, and ugly we are. To a person enslaved to pride suffering under a monster-God is more desirable than submitting to a glorious God and having eternal blessing. The former allows one to keep their pride and forever remain their own god; the latter requires surrender of one’s godhood. This reminds me of an excellent article I read a couple months ago: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2016/world-fears-beauty

  6. Ryan says:

    What Dusty does not understand is that most of us here do not share his closed-mind or his perception that God is a monster.

    This is why I began questioning him on Sam Harris’ infamous quote: Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. It shows his bias very clearly. Anyone who tries to defend such a stupid statement while calling God a monster obviously has a very strong bias. And, predictably, Stardusty is defending his Teacher like a good disciple.

  7. Ryan says:

    Dusty and the Gnus don’t understand the subjective dimension to evidence.

    This is a huge issue. They seem to think of themselves as impersonal, passionless information-processing machines. When I pressed Stardusty on this he actually said that it is impossible that he may have deep, repressed psychological motivations that prevent him from being objective with the topic of God. According to him, it’s possible that he’s a brain in a vat, and it’s possible that he is God and we’re figments of his imagination, but it is not possible that he is not being perfectly objective with this topic. This is how fear affects reason. He realizes that admitting that possibility introduces a major crack in his defenses that he’s set up to protect himself from God. His mind is completely closed; shut, locked, bolted, with the furniture piled up in front of the door. This is what fear does.

  8. stcordova says:

    GNU’s say ““there is no evidence for god!”

    They have no right to speak for everyone, they aren’t the final arbiter of truth.

    Astronaut Charles Duke after returning from his moon walk became a Christian. He prayed in the name of Jesus for a blind girl’s eyes and she healed in a matter of minutes. The account is in his book Moon Walker.

    Many of Duke’s prayers haven’t been answered, but the one for the blind girl was. If Stardusty wants to disbelieve Duke’s account, that’s up to him, but Stardusty has no right to impose his scoffing and disbelief by saying on other people’s behalf, “there is no evidence”. He has no right to say that to people like Charles Duke and that formerly blind girl (who might rightly think God exists) that “there is no evidence for God.”

    Duke in the 1970s was a national hero, became a millionaire, had everything except God. His testimony seems credible to me. Anyone has the right to accept for themselves that God did something for them, and they further have the right to teach this good faith to their kids. Duke surely has the right to teach what great things he felt the Lord did in his life and the lives of others.

    GNUs wrongly presume their limited sample size of reality entitles them to speak as if they were present at every event since the beginning of time — in other words they feel entitled to speak on all matters as if they were God. They presume their limited sample size is sufficient for all time and for all places to establish that miracles never happened and that God never revealed his great power in people’s lives. It’s presumptuous, and pretty shallow intellectually.

    The issue of God being invisible and hidden is up to God. It’s by grace if He chooses to show up in someone’s life and affect their lives. Just because he didn’t show up in Stardusty’s life, doesn’t entitle Stardusty to declare for everyone “there is no evidence of God.” God’s absence from Stardusty’s life could just as well be interpreted as God dissing Stardusty and instead blessing guys like Charles Duke and the blind girl Duke prayed for.

  9. SteveK says:

    It seems “extraordinary evidence” is a euphemism for “really big gap”. A claim about God, miracles, resurrections and the like requires not just an ordinary sized gap like the sudden disappearance of cancer tumors (too common to justify belief), but a really big gap like the sudden regrowth of human limbs. Now THAT’S a gap that a hyper skeptic can believe in.

  10. Ilíon says:

    Michael:Dusty and the Gnus don’t understand the subjective dimension to evidence.

    Ryan:This is a huge issue. They seem to think of themselves as impersonal, passionless information-processing machines.

    This is another manifestation of their denial (*) of their own agency/freedom-of-will — they generally refuse to acknowledge (**) that people, including themselves, choose to believe ‘A’ or ‘not-A’.

    (*) when convenient
    (**) and always refuse to do so when such acknowledgment would tend to expose their atheism to critical rational evaluation.

  11. Kevin says:

    “but a really big gap like the sudden regrowth of human limbs. Now THAT’S a gap that a hyper skeptic can believe in.”

    Nope. I asked that very question and she said that it would only prove that someone had the power to regrow limbs. Not evidence for the Christian god.

  12. SteveK says:

    Kevin,
    Every person is different. The size of the gap necessary to justify belief depends on how skeptical the person is. Looks like you were dealing with an uber skeptic.

  13. Kevin says:

    Indeed. It was Stardusty haha.

  14. Jon Garvey says:

    One of the original examples was “creating something from nothing”.
    We can offer the entire universe – but it seems the uber skeptic requires something bigger.

  15. Ryan says:

    Jon Garvey: One of the original examples was “creating something from nothing”.
    We can offer the entire universe – but it seems the uber skeptic requires something bigger.

    Exactly. The uber skeptic Stardusty (who relinquishes all skepticism when his own logic is questioned) has admitted that a purely mechanical origin of the universe (matter interacting by the laws of physics) leads to absurdities. The origin of the universe is not only a megagap, but is logically absurd without an all-powerful mind having the capacity of choice.

    We could say that everything is a gap. The fact that I’m sitting here typing right now is a gap. We can’t explain why anything exists at all. We can’t explain why physics is the way that it is. It’s completely unnecessary. It just is. Every single fact of reality is a gap. Ergo, all existence is evidence for God.

    Paul said it this way: For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Rom 1:20 ESV) So Stardusty is without excuse. He demands gaps: all of reality is a gap.

  16. Dhay says:

    Jon Garvey > We can offer the entire universe…

    We can offer any multiverse or conceivable polyverse, too.

    (Like your blog.)

  17. stcordova says:

    “. I asked that very question and she said that it would only prove that someone had the power to regrow limbs. Not evidence for the Christian god.”

    If a voice from heaven were heard and the dead were raised, a skeptic could say, “that proves nature can give the appearance of miracles with voices from God.”

  18. FZM says:

    What’s more, he thinks the God of the Bible is a monster. Thus, it would only make sense that he doesn’t want God to exist. For who would want such a Monster to exist?

    If a person finds no problem in accepting (or actively embracing and promoting?) a world view with content like this:

    Evolution has produced humans who sometimes behave in extremely violent ways towards each other; this behaviour is totally natural and a product of the workings of nature.

    Morality is relative and just a matter of emotions and power.

    There can’t really be such a thing as free will and so on.

    The fact that they have so many issues with the morality of the God of the Bible seems strange.

  19. Ilíon says:

    That’s because their “concerns” are a smokescreen.

    A monster-God may be able to punish and destroy you, but you can still feel at least morally superior and justified in not submitting. A perfectly glorious God, full of beauty and righteousness, is even more terrifying because he exposes how imperfect, inglorious, unrighteous, and ugly we are. To a person enslaved to pride suffering under a monster-God is more desirable than submitting to a glorious God and having eternal blessing. The former allows one to keep their pride and forever remain their own god; the latter requires surrender of one’s godhood.

  20. Ilíon says:

    Let’s try this again —

    TFWB nail the real issue, and Ryan counter-sunk it: “A monster-God may be able to punish and destroy you, but you can still feel at least morally superior and justified in not submitting. A perfectly glorious God, full of beauty and righteousness, is even more terrifying because he exposes how imperfect, inglorious, unrighteous, and ugly we are. To a person enslaved to pride suffering under a monster-God is more desirable than submitting to a glorious God and having eternal blessing. The former allows one to keep their pride and forever remain their own god; the latter requires surrender of one’s godhood.

    These so-called atheist are denying the reality of God for the same reason Lucifer does — “If *I* can’t be God, then there is no God!

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