The Collapsing Atheist Escape Hatch

Modern day atheism is built on a simple claim – There is no evidence that God exists.  But how does the atheist know this?  It’s one thing to claim, “I don’t see any evidence for God” or “What you consider evidence for God is not what I consider evidence for God.”  But to proclaim “There is no evidence for God” is to make a truth claim about all of objective reality – wherever you look, whoever you are, how ever hard you look, you will not find any evidence for God.  Because “there is no evidence” to be found.  And that’s supposed to be true for all of us.

Yet this is nothing more than empty posturing.  We’ve seen how easy it to completely neuter this claim – simply ask the atheist what would count as evidence for God.  After all, when the atheist insists “There is no evidence for God,” this question is a perfectly legitimate way to get the atheist to clarify what he is saying.

And what have we found?  First, many atheists will point to some miraculous event, perhaps writing in the stars.   In other words, some event that could not possibly be explained by natural causes; something that would present itself as a Gap in our current understanding by natural causes.  But if that is the case, those events could only be evidence if we agreed that the God of the Gaps approach is a valid and legitimate way of determining whether God exists.  If we are to count a Gap as evidence, we necessarily assume the validity of the God of the Gaps logic.  Yet atheists everywhere have insisted that the God of the Gaps approach is NOT a valid approach.  Thus, all these examples of miracles that would supposedly count as evidence for God truly would not count as evidence for God as far as the atheist is concerned.  The atheist is engaged in deceptive hand-waving.

The honest approach is for the atheist to admit that nothing would count as evidence for the existence of God.  But then the atheist is simply admitting his/her closed mind and the pronouncement that “There is no evidence for God” becomes vacuous.  If nothing can count as evidence for the existence of God, then of course the atheist is going to believe there is no evidence for God.  How could it be otherwise?

Not wanting to be seen as closed-minded dogmatists, some atheists have been looking for an escape hatch.  Atheist activist Matt Dillahunty offers up one such attempt that I have seen elsewhere.  Since he takes over 27 minutes to make a two minute point, I’ll focus you to 26:16 in the video:

Specifically:

What would change my mind? Evidence and argument.  I can’t give you specifics.   But if there is a God, that God should know exactly what would change my mind.  Should be capable of doing so. And hasn’t.  Which means either that God doesn’t exist or doesn’t want me to know He exists.  Yet.  Either way, it’s not my problem.

First, don’t lose sight that Dillahunty is addressing a similar, yet different point.  For “what would change my mind?” is not the same as “What would count as evidence?”   In the future, we need to explore the variants of this question.  But for now, let’s deal with the way Dillahunty frames it.

Okay, so Dillahunty can’t think of anything that would change his mind about God’s existence.  Sounds like a closed minded atheist.  But then he punts and tries to make his inability to contemplate what it would take for him to admit being wrong into some type of argument against the existence of God.  In essence:

  • God, being omniscient,  would know what would change Matt Dillahunty’s mind.
  • God, being omnipotent, would be able to do this.
  • Matt, still being an atheist, means such an omniscient and omnipotent God does not exist.

There are lots of ways to deal with this, but I’ll make it simple and quickly neutralize the escape hatch argument by cutting away the key premise  – “But if there is a God, that God should know exactly what would change my mind” – and replace it with one that is just as plausible – “But if there is a God, that God should know that nothing would change Matt Dillahunty’s mind.”  And since nothing would change Matt’s mind, why bother?

In fact, my premise is actually supported by evidence – Matt Dillahunty can’t think of any possibility that would change his mind.   This is to be expected from someone whose mind is so closed that nothing would change his mind.   That’s why he can’t give specifics.

Or look at it this way.  Clever little attempts to turn this into “God’s problem” don’t work once we recognize the “evidence and arguments” either build on an event that was supernaturally caused or one that was naturally caused.  One or the other.  And omniscience or omnipotence doesn’t change that.  So,  if the event-to-be-evidence was supernaturally caused, you’d have to invoke the God of the Gaps argument to turn the supernatural cause into evidence.  But Dillahunty explains why that is not allowed in the earlier part of his video.  On the other hand, if the event-to-be-evidence was naturally caused, why invoke a supernatural being when the natural cause itself will suffice?  In other words, nothing can count  as evidence for God.  It’s either a Gap or a natural cause, and, we are told, neither one purchases evidence for God.

Now that his reframe has been knocked to the ground, let’s get back to the focusing just how serious this problem is for the atheist.  I don’t care what would change Matt Dillahunty’s mind.  His beliefs and reasons for believing are simply not important to me.  But if someone like Dillahunty insists there is no evidence for God, and that I am to agree if I want to remain rational, then that person must explain what would count as evidence for God.  Not what would change his/her mind.  What would count.  Otherwise, he/she is propping up a truth claim by Hiding the Goalposts.

Because if the atheist cannot think of anything that would count as evidence for God, the “no evidence” claim collapses in a dramatic and sudden implosion.  For if the atheist cannot think of anything that would count as evidence for God, how do they even know there is none?  If they admit they have no idea what it looks like, not the slightest clue what it might be, then how can they know it does not exist?  It could be sitting right next to them and they would not notice.   Even worse, if they have no idea what would count as evidence for God, they have effectively admitted they are not intellectually qualified to have a respectable opinion about the existence of God.

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56 Responses to The Collapsing Atheist Escape Hatch

  1. Kevin says:

    I think avoiding the question of what would count as evidence for God is often a deliberate strategy, like the “lack of belief” assertion. It gives them the freedom to sit back and deny without having to do anything.

    For the atheists who are so dogmatic in their naturalism that the only possible evidence they would accept would be a Super Duper Miracle that is somehow distinguishable from a Gap, I think the end goal is the same – they know this type of evidence can’t be produced by any Christian interlocutor, so once again they get to sit back and deny with impunity, regardless of the evidence’s actual merit.

    I would be happy to share why I believe in God with someone who genuinely wants to know, but if that someone can’t even fathom something that would count, then already I can tell they’ve eliminated all historical and scientific evidence as invalid. All personal experience is invalid. All testimony, including that of miracles, is invalid. Everything that exists physically in the universe is invalid. Anything that has even the tiniest hypothetical possibility of having a naturalistic explanation is invalid.

    In other words, nothing can possibly count except Super Duper Non-Gap Miracles which Christians can’t produce and that even if the Christian personally experienced one, their experience and testimony would be rejected. So why even ask for evidence?

    Even if said atheist is actually wanting to know and not simply looking for a good time saying “Nope, you didn’t convince me so you’re irrational”, this level of dogmatic close-mindedness is not worth the time, at least not online

  2. Ilíon says:

    But then he punts and tries to make his inability to contemplate what it would take for him to admit being wrong into some type of argument against the existence of God. In essence: …

    Put another way — “Unless God rapes me, I will not acknowledge that he is.

  3. Archon's Den says:

    Dillahunty very carefully does not say that there is no evidence for God, He clearly states that he has not been presented with adequately convincing evidence for such existence. If God is not sufficiently concerned about Matt’s Atheist existence to do anything about it. why are you? 😕

  4. Ilíon says:

    ^ God-deniers are not interesting in *reasoning*

  5. TFBW says:

    @Archon’s Den: Matt Dillahunty’s nonsense would be of very little concern if he weren’t acting as an evangelist. The first to present his case seems right until another steps forward and questions him. Dillahunty may have chosen his own fate, but we might dissuade others from following him there.

  6. Michael says:

    He clearly states that he has not been presented with adequately convincing evidence for such existence.

    And from that, tries to conclude – Which means either that God doesn’t exist or doesn’t want me to know He exists.

    As I showed, none of that follows.

  7. Doug says:

    Michael very charitably summarizes Matt’s “argument” thus:

    • God, being omniscient, would know what would change Matt Dillahunty’s mind.
    • God, being omnipotent, would be able to do this.
    • Matt, still being an atheist, means such an omniscient and omnipotent God does not exist.

    And, no doubt, Matt would approve of the fact that his preferences in the matter were abstracted from the sphere of argument. But on what grounds? Either Matt is, in fact, open to having his mind changed on the matter, or God is willing to override Matt’s openness in the interests of changing Matt’s mind. As is so often the case, the “hidden premise” is where the action is.

    Are we willing to accept that God is willing to override Matt’s openness? The same source for our attributing “omniscience” and “omnipotence” to God (i.e., the Bible) gives numerous indications that God has considerable respect for human free will and is not in the habit of overriding it. On the other hand, do we have any evidence at all that Matt is open to have his mind changed on the matter of God’s existence? Of all the people on the planet, he seems to be invested (emotionally and financially) in maintaining his present view on the matter.

  8. Doug says:

    @Archon’s Den — God was sufficiently concerned about Matt’s salvation that he:
    • sent His Son as a man to suffer and die for Matt’s sins so that he could enjoy fellowship with God forever.
    • filled the universe with evidence of His existence and His love for humanity.
    Seems like a big deal.

  9. jim- says:

    Evidence for god would be a universal truth. The closest proximity to that is core shamanistic principle and practice that was common throughout all corners of the word, developed over the millennia by utility. Nobody ever heard of Yahweh outside the near east. Panpsychism May be the closest modern equivalent. You can’t make up evidence for god, which is what you all seem to be doing. It’s called shoehorning.

  10. Doug says:

    @jim, considering that

    • it seems to you (by your own testimony) that folks here are “making up evidence for god”

    but

    • nobody on this thread (not Michael, not Kevin, not Ilion, not TFBW, not yours truly) has even so much as itemized a single “evidence for god” (we’ve only made reference to it, if you read carefully),

    why would anyone trust your assessment on any matter whatsoever?

  11. Kevin says:

    Evidence for god would be a universal truth.

    Can you name something else that is a universal truth? Just to get an idea of how literal you are being.

  12. Dhay says:

    Best I can make out, for jim- the universal truth is panpsychism:

    Knowledge is simply the absence of delusion—The you who is not the one you see in the mirror, but the you that defines who you really are beyond that (personality, consciousness) is not the ego you’ve been told. Perceiving the essence of yourself in our natural existence is similar to a fish’s tail achieving awareness of itself, that could never comprehend the head of the fish—so it is with the universe. We are merely a function, the eyes and ears and perceptions, a nerve ending on the whole living organism.

    https://jimoeba.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/all-the-world-is-a-stage/

    There seems to be a swell of support for it recently. If you want to know more about panpsychism, trawl Jerry Coyne’s recent blog posts, or enter “panpsychism” in his blog’s Search box.

    (Coyne is very informative about anything he objects to strongly and provides links to what he objects to. I’ve learned a lot from him.)

  13. Ilíon says:

    Doug:nobody on this thread (not Michael, not Kevin, not Ilion, not TFBW, not yours truly) has even so much as itemized a single “evidence for god” (we’ve only made reference to it, if you read carefully),

    On the other hand, in older threads (and on his own small blog), Ilíon has provided logical proof — with no recourse to any religion or any purported revelation by/about God — that God is … and these God-deniers just wave their hands and try yo play the “Prove IT Again!” card.

  14. Ilíon says:

    Intellectually dishonest God-denier (but I repeat myself):Evidence for god would be a universal truth.

    Kevin:Can you name something else that is a universal truth? Just to get an idea of how literal you are being.

    Oh, ‘literal’ isn’t the word for what he’s being.

    And by “universal truth”, he assuredly does not mean, say, the laws of logic, which are, indeed, universally true.

    Rather, by “universal truth” he means some statement — whether or not it is actually true — that everyone in the world affirms, that no one in the world denies.

    And, naturally, there is no such statement, for men are agents-possessing-freedom — which fact is itself proof that atheism is a false view of the nature of reality, which is to say, this fact is itself proof that God is — and this agency includes the freedom to lie.

    So, he’s really just doing the same-old same-old that God-deniers always do.

  15. Ilíon says:

    Dhay:[quote asserting the “truth” of ‘panpsychism’: “Your folk-psychology belief in the reality of yourself is a delusion”]

    God-deniers *always* end up asserting that no one actually exists. Well, they can’t help it, as that absurdity is “baked-into” God-denial.

  16. Isaac says:

    In my estimation, Daniel’s timeline prophecies are at least as miraculous as something like “writing in the stars.”

    The very latest possible, improbably-late date for the Book of Daniel still places prophesies nailing the date of Jesus’ coming, his death, and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by Prince Titus, hundreds of years before they happened. As well as a description of Christianity as a kingdom made by God, without human planning, encompassing the whole Earth afterwards.

    Atheists do, in fact, chalk these uniquely accurate prophesies up to coincidence or lucky guesses. So we don’t have to speculate about what they would do in the face of something like “writing in the stars.”

  17. Ilíon says:

    … and, there is always “Space Aliens” as a handy naturalistic “explanation”: never mind that there is a total zilch of evidence for any extraterrestrial civilization, much less that any have visited our planet, much less that such visitation is even possible.

    Also, never mind that there is no, nor can be any, naturalistic explanation for the reality of the God-denier himself.

  18. TFBW says:

    There are lots of ways to deal with this, but I’ll make it simple and quickly neutralize the escape hatch argument by cutting away the key premise – “But if there is a God, that God should know exactly what would change my mind” – and replace it with one that is just as plausible – “But if there is a God, that God should know that nothing would change Matt Dillahunty’s mind.” And since nothing would change Matt’s mind, why bother?

    As far as I’m concerned, the appeal to omnipotence is nothing more than, “I dare God to force me to believe in Him,” dressed up in sophistic language. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, after all, then the fact that no evidence would persuade any given atheist (e.g. Dillahunty) is no barrier: omnipotence implies that God could simply cause belief to appear in the mind of the atheist, even if by as unobtrusive a method as an epiphany which causes said atheist to suddenly recognise the validity of some already-known argument for the existence of God. The possibilities are legion, but at base they have in common the element that the atheist takes a defiant stance towards God and dares Him to do something about it.

  19. Isaac says:

    It sounds like he’s just rejecting, out of hand, the possibility that God would want to allow for non-belief to exist anywhere.

    The very fact that this goof doesn’t believe in God leads directly to his conclusion that God must not exist.

    But he doesn’t provide any reason to dismiss the premise of Christianity and the Bible in regard to disbelief: that God deliberately hides himself from certain people (most specifically, people with undue self-regard and arrogant pride) allowing them to remain in ignorance, but reveals himself to others.

    God, by definition being a person with agency, can very easily choose to allow Dillahunty the option of living his entire life without being forced to acknowledge God’s existence. Simultaneously, Dillahunty can be responsible for not seeking God, in the face of an entire universe full of evidence pointing to a Creator.

    In fact, the universe itself, while NOT having agency, still “hides” the existence of many critical things. Dark matter and energy make up most of the universe, for example. A God responsible for creation could very easily choose to go unobserved, and to have “set things up” in regards to who “finds” God in whatever way he chose. With this being self-evident, a supposed thinker like Dillahunty should have some humility.

  20. Dhay says:

    I had long wondered why Sam Harris’ book Waking Up (and his blog post, “Drugs and the Meaning of Life”, which became the last Chapter) should include the following passage (which I have trimmed for length and relevance):

    It is possible … to seize this evidence from the other end and argue, as Aldous Huxley did in his classic The Doors of Perception, that the primary function of the brain may be eliminative: Its purpose may be to prevent a transpersonal dimension of mind from flooding consciousness, thereby allowing apes like ourselves to make their way in the world without being dazzled at every step by visionary phenomena that are irrelevant to their physical survival. Huxley thought of the brain as a kind of “reducing valve” for “Mind at Large.” …

    We have reason to be skeptical of the brain-as-barrier thesis. If the brain were merely a filter on the mind, damaging it should increase cognition. … But that is not how the mind works.

    Some people try to get around this by suggesting that the brain may function more like a radio, a receiver of conscious states rather than a barrier to them. … There is a problem with this metaphor, however. Those who employ it invariably forget that we are the music, not the radio. If the brain were nothing more than a receiver of conscious states, it should be impossible to diminish a person’s experience of the cosmos by damaging her brain. She might seem unconscious from the outside—like a broken radio—but, subjectively speaking, the music would play on.

    https://samharris.org/podcasts/drugs-and-the-meaning-of-life/

    Who argues for “Mind at Large”, and for the brain as a reducing valve – apart from the self-declared “nerve ending on the whole living organism [of the universe]”, jim-, that is? But now I read Jerry Coyne’s 16 January 2020 blog post entitled “The weirdness of split-brain experiments”:

    I’m reading Annaka Harris‘s recent book Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind, which is a short but very readable and absorbing account of recent work on consciousness, both empirical and philosophical. Although she seems to have a weakness for panpsychism…

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2020/01/16/the-weirdness-of-split-brain-experiments/

    Ah, Sam Harris was there arguing against his wife’s views. And possibly arguing against the apparently similar views of jim-.

  21. Ilíon says:

    TFBW:As far as I’m concerned, the appeal to omnipotence is nothing more than, “I dare God to force me to believe in Him,” dressed up in sophistic language. …

    In other words, they demand that God be The Cosmic Rapist … and that their agency and freedom be illusions. “As a dog returns to its vomit,” it seems they always return to that demand or desire to deterministic machines rather than free selves/minds/agents.

  22. Ilíon says:

    Dhay:… “Mind at Large” …

    It seems that for a couple of generations now, one of the favorite dodges of some God-deniers has been to posit free-floating ‘Mind‘ (“Mind at Large”) or free-floating Consciousness‘ as the “explanation” for how it is that there are free agents in a deterministic physical world.

    But, ‘Mind‘ and ‘Consciousness‘ are themselves mental constructs: there is no such thing as ‘Mind‘ unless there is at least one actually existing mind; there is no such thing as ‘Consciousness‘ unless there is at least one ‘actually conscious entity‘.

  23. RobertM says:

    Pharaoh hardens his heart, Pharaoh’s heart was hard, and God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. But wouldn’t an omniscient and omnipotent God have known how to soften Pharaoh’s heart, and just done that instead, without the frogs and the locusts and the boils?

    I think it’s the same as the proposition that God would know what evidence it takes to convince the atheist, and that God would do it. Note the ambiguity with who’s doing the hardening, and whether it’s active or passive (or neither… I’m not a scholar of the ancient language). Also in at least some of the plagues, Pharaoh’s magicians can do the same things, and so Pharaoh can write it off as a magic trick… probably the ones his magicians couldn’t do were just aliens messing with him… and his heart hardens all over again.

  24. Mel Wild says:

    I’ve run into the same bogus question for “evidence” over and over in the two years I engaged with atheists on my blog. I got the same response. They cannot coherently define what would constitute evidence for God. But I will present the most fundamental, empirical evidence for God of all. We continue to exist.

    But why do we continue to exist? And what source is holding our existence together? They’ve tried to answer this question with M-theory and the like. But pointing to multiverses, quantum foam, or gravity, or saying there’s infinite outcomes doesn’t address the question at all. It’s a bit like saying we don’t need a power source if we just plug an infinite number of power strips together. They have done nothing to address the question of the existence of “God.” And I really think they don’t want to. But yet, we continue to exist.

    The rest of their fallacious logic only confirms that they don’t want to believe in God no matter what you present to them. God won’t convince Dillihunty and his ilk against their will because we’re not puppets, but free moral agents. So we can only blame ourselves for the decisions we make, to believe or not believe. We can deny the most fundamental question of our being if we want, while feigning our unbelief on some lack of evidence. The truth is, it takes just a much faith to believe that the material world is all there is as it does to believe that there is a reality beyond it. Neither one can be proven by science.

    As C.S. Lewis said in his article, “The Seeing Eye,” to some God is discoverable everywhere, to others nowhere.

  25. Ilíon says:

    Mel Wild:It’s a bit like saying we don’t need a power source if we just plug an infinite number of power strips together.

    Oh, now! Simply everyone knows that that if you add Nothing to Nothing a sufficient number of times, you eventually get Something (and you get Something even sooner if you use Less-Than-Nothing instead of simple Nothing). It’s the Transmogrification Principle in action — the number of times you add Nothing (or Less-Than-Nothing) to your accumulating total affects the total.

    Mel Wild:The truth is, it takes just a much faith to believe that the material world is all there is as it does to believe that there is a reality beyond it. Neither one can be proven by science.

    That’s because science is a toy for little boys.

    On the other hand, reason shows us that atheism is the false conception of reality; to wit:

    Mel Wild:God won’t convince Dillihunty and his ilk against their will because we’re not puppets, but free moral agents

    If atheism were indeed the truth about the nature of reality, then there an exist no such things as ‘free moral agents’. Yet, we know that there are over 7 billion ‘free moral agents’ in this planet alone. ERGO, we know that atheism is *not* the truth about the nature of reality. AND, as there is no excluded middle between the two mutually exclusive propositions (“God is” vs “God is not”), we know that “God is” is the truth about the nature of reality.

  26. Ilíon says:

    oops:
    “… then there [c]an exist no such …”

  27. Mel Wild says:

    “Transmogrification Principle” Ha! I like that. Yup.
    The equation is simple: ∞ x 0 = Something

  28. Frankie Lee says:

    “Since he takes over 27 minutes to make a two minute point”
    If there’s one thing Matt Dillahunty loves, it’s the sound of his own voice!

  29. Dhay says:

    > But if there is a God, that God should know exactly what would change my mind.

    He’s got it wrong, subtly but importantly:

    But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+16%3A29-31&version=ESVUK

    If it’s not to conflict with Jesus’ teaching, hence with Christian teaching, Christianity and theology, Dillahunty’s claim should be re-stated as, “But if there is a God, that God would know exactly what should change my mind.”

    As it stands, it’s a shot that misses.

  30. John Branyan says:

    Atheist’s personal disbelief somehow substantiates itself. “Since I don’t believe in God, He doesn’t exist.”
    The atheist will not tolerate theists using the same logic. “Since I believe in God, God must exist.”

  31. Doug Peters says:

    Dhay wrote:

    Dillahunty’s claim should be re-stated as, “But if there is a God, that God would know exactly what should change my mind.”

    nailed it.

  32. nsr says:

    The faulty assumption on the atheist’s part appears to be that he’s an entirely rational being who is only interested in seeking the truth and has no inherent biases that would pull him away from a truth he might personally find unpalatable.

    Hmm. It’s not as if the Bible makes that exact point over and over. Oh wait, it does.

  33. Isaac says:

    M-theory is such a naked cop-out. Anyone clever enough to see subtext would read it as “okay, theists, you win. But here’s a long-shot way you might be wrong, just as a bone thrown to us atheist holdouts.”

    Instead of their usual “God is foolishness” posturing, when it comes time to actually present a possible scientific counter to theism, Dawkins and the like say, “it is not necessary for a God to start the universe” and then launch into a description of something like M-theory. I thought God was not even a valid theory; why frame M-theory as a possible worthy alternative? It’s not as if I’d ever say, “here’s a possible way the universe could be the way it is without unicorns.”

    Then they describe vibrating superstrings and a host of other systems that would have to be in place, unobservable and supernatural, for M-theory to work. Touché, atheists. I suppose a cake could exist without human involvement, as well. All you need are the right quantities of eggs, flour, milk, and sugar to be lying around, and also a cooking robot. Proof such a thing would convince anyone that cakes have no designer.

  34. Ilíon says:

    ^ Similarly, they don’t object to (alleged) miracles because they supposedly “violate the laws of nature”, but rather because, definitionally, an actual miracle points toward God.

    After all, as Carl Sagan wrote in ‘The Demon-Haunted World‘ —

    Consider this claim: as I walk along, time -as measured by my wristwatch or my ageing process -slows down. Also, I shrink in the direction of motion. Also, I get more massive. Who has ever witnessed such a thing? It’s easy to dismiss it out of hand. Here’s another: matter and antimatter are all the time, throughout the universe, being created from nothing. Here’s a third: once in a very great while, your car will spontaneously ooze through the brick wall of your garage and be found the next morning on the street. They’re all absurd! But the first is a statement of special relativity, and the other two are consequences of quantum mechanics (vacuum fluctuations and barrier tunnelling,* they’re called). Like it or not, that’s the way the world is. If you insist it’s ridiculous, you’ll be forever closed to some of the major findings on the rules that govern the Universe.

    *The average waiting time per stochastic ooze is much longer than the age of the Universe since the Big Bang. But, however improbable, in principle it might happen tomorrow.

    Or, paraphrasing what an atheist professor asserted (decades ago) when I was in college: “At any moment, all the oxygen molecules in this room might/could “defy” gravity and cluster in that upper corner of the room … with the result that all of us in this room might suffocate.

  35. Ilíon says:

    ^ … Yet, the same people (and their ilk) who would make assertions such as above will *also* assert that it is illogical and irrational to believe that some ancient early Iron Age Israelites really did witness a prophet of God cause a (to them, rare and precious) iron axe-head float to the surface of a body of water in which they’d lost it.

  36. Like that old joke: Can any evidence persuade a blind man that rainbows exist?

    As for Matt’s issue, he should be careful, as John C Wright learned…
    http://www.scifiwright.com/2007/09/total-conversion-2/

    Third, a friend of mine asked me what evidence, if any, would be sufficient to convince me that the supernatural existed. This question stumped me. My philosophy at the time excluded the contemplation of the supernatural axiomatically: by definition (my definition) even the word “super-natural” was a contradiction in terms. Logic then said that, if my conclusions were definitional, they were circular. I was assuming the conclusion of the subject matter in dispute.

    Now, my philosophy at the time was as rigorous and exact as 35 years of study could make it (I started philosophy when I was seven). This meant there was no point for reasonable doubt in the foundational structure of my axioms, definitions, and common notions. This meant that, logically, even if God existed, and manifested Himself to me, my philosophy would force me to reject the evidence of my senses, and dismiss any manifestations as a coincidence, hallucination, or dream. Under this hypothetical, my philosophy would force me to an exactly wrong conclusion due to structural errors of assumption.

    A philosopher (and I mean a serious and manly philosopher, not a sophomoric boy) does not use philosophy to flinch away from truth or hide from it. A philosophy composed of structural false-to-facts assumptions is insupportable.

    A philosopher goes where the truth leads, and has no patience with mere emotion.

    But it was impossible, logically impossible, that I should ever believe in such nonsense as to believe in the supernatural. It would be a miracle to get me to believe in miracles.

    So I prayed. “Dear God, I know (because I can prove it with the certainty that a geometer can prove opposite angles are equal) that you do not exist. Nonetheless, as a scholar, I am forced to entertain the hypothetical possibility that I am mistaken. So just in case I am mistaken, please reveal yourself to me in some fashion that will prove your case. If you do not answer, I can safely assume that either you do not care whether I believe in you, or that you have no power to produce evidence to persuade me. The former argues you not beneficent, the latter not omnipotent: in either case unworthy of worship. If you do not exist, this prayer is merely words in the air, and I lose nothing but a bit of my dignity. Thanking you in advance for your kind cooperation in this matter, John Wright.”

    I had a heart attack two days later. God obviously has a sense of humor as well as a sense of timing.

    (I leave the rest to the audience to read if they will.)

  37. Derek Ramsey says:

    “please reveal yourself to me in some fashion that will prove your case [..] I had a heart attack two days later. God obviously has a sense of humor as well as a sense of timing.”

    This is a beautiful conversion story. I wonder, how many atheists really want God to reveal himself by killing them and forcing them to stand in judgement at His presence? Michael echoed this a few days ago:

    “God, being infinitely powerful, could easily make its godliness just as obvious and undeniable and universal among humans as our perceptions of the sun.”

    Which is what we all will one day experience. Y’see, His Godliness becomes obvious and undeniable as Judge. The God you demand to see is the God who knows all about you and will judge your sins. Every one. You are asking to be judged right now.

    It goes to John C. Wright’s credit that he immediately understood this. God, in His mercy, did not grant Wright’s wish.

  38. pennywit says:

    As for Matt’s issue, he should be careful, as John C Wright learned

    I don’t want to mock Wright experience or ridicule him at all, but I do think his experience illustrates the difficulty of converting people, one way or another, by logic and reason alone. Wright recounts a powerful, subjective experience that shook him to the core and forced him to re-evaluate his beliefs. Given that it’s subjective, it’s also not the sort of thing that will persuade other atheists.

  39. Ilíon says:

    … God, in His mercy, did not grant Wright’s wish.

    Though, as CS Lewis noted, ultimately there are two only kinds of men: those who say to God, “Thy will be done”, and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done”.

  40. Ilíon says:

    … but I do think his experience illustrates the difficulty of converting people, one way or another, by logic and reason alone.

    You don’t say!

    In the end, *you* are responsible only for *your* assent to or denial of the logic and reason showing that God is. So far, you’re still stuffing your fingers in your ears, chanting “La, la la! Can’t hear you!”

  41. nsr says:

    “… but I do think his experience illustrates the difficulty of converting people, one way or another, by logic and reason alone.”

    That would be because most sceptics, despite their claims, are not really motivated to use logic or reason, and their objections to faith in God are generally subjective and emotional.

  42. Ilíon says:

    … and, as has been well known for forever, “You (generally) can’t reason a man out of a position he wasn’t reasoned into.

  43. pennywit says:

    So far, you’re still stuffing your fingers in your ears, chanting “La, la la! Can’t hear you!”

    As I’ve said before — I don’t find the arguments convincing. Also, as I said before, it will probably take an intensely mystical, personal, and subjective experience if I ever convert to theism.

    That would be because most sceptics, despite their claims, are not really motivated to use logic or reason, and their objections to faith in God are generally subjective and emotional.

    I find that for most people, religious positions (pro or con) are postulates, not conclusions.

    and, as has been well known for forever, “You (generally) can’t reason a man out of a position he wasn’t reasoned into.“

    Then why do people try to do so?

  44. Ilíon says:

    As I’ve said before — I don’t find the arguments convincing.

    You can’t show any flaws in (any of) the arguments, in either the premises or in the reasoning-to-the-conclusions. Yet, you refuse to simply admit that God is.

    God-denial logically entails the denial that you yourself even exist. Yet, you refuse to live as though you don’t exist.

    You claim that you you are unswayed by the arguments that God is, including the one showing that atheism logically entails that there can exist no entities capable of engaging in logical reasoning. Yet, in an act of utmost irrationality, you demand an even “better” argument to determine which is true of the two mutually exclusive-and-exhaustive propositions concerning the nature of reality.

    Then why do people try to do so?

    Because rational men consider emotionalism to be … unappealing, at best. And because not literally everyone is as irrational as you are. And, you may notice that I myself mostly ignore your posts (I make a conscious, and generally successful, effort to not even see them); this is because you *are* irrational.

    There is in the world at least one person (I know, for he has told me so) who has converted from atheism to “theism”, and indeed to Christianity, due to reasoned argument; to wit:
    1) that the “Problem of Good”, as a real-world contradiction with what *must* be true if atheism is the truth about the nature of reality, was already worrying at his mind;
    2) that the “Argument for Reason”, and specifically as I present it, shows that atheism *cannot* be true.

  45. Ilíon says:

    As I’ve said before — I don’t find the arguments convincing.

    And as *I’ve* said before, So far, you’re still stuffing your fingers in your ears, chanting “La, la la! Can’t hear you!”

    I have *never* seen you (obviously, I mean before I decided to do my best to ignore your posts) engage with any of the argument I or others have presented here. I gotta tell ya, it rings hollow to then say, “I don’t find the arguments convincing“. How would you even *know* whether you do or not?

    Your claim (and behavior) is just the flip-side of the atheistic SOP — “There is no evidence of God“, while being utterly unable, or unwilling, to give any example of what would be evidence.

  46. TFBW says:

    Pennywit is our resident Apatheist.

  47. Ilíon says:

    Yet still a God-denier.

  48. Ilíon says:

    … and also not “apatheist” enough to just go away (which fact I had meant to mention in my posts above).

  49. TFBW says:

    Engagement for the sake of entertainment rather than a concern for the truth seems like a case of apatheist bona fides to me.

  50. Ilíon says:

    Engagement for the sake of entertainment rather than a concern for the truth …

    Or, as I bluntly call it, “intellectual dishonesty”; and I long ago came to understand that one *cannot* reason with an intellectually dishonest person.

  51. pennywit says:

    Ilion, you have repeatedly heaped contempt on people who disagree with you, including a repeated assertion that anybody who happens to disagree with you is per se unreasonable. I find that attitude loathsome, so, well, I openly loathe you and much you stand for. Now, if you would hop off the continual circular race track and cease your attempts to build yourself up by putting me down, perhaps you might understand my central thesis above.

    I used to think that reason and logic were dispositive when it came to the question of belief in a deity, but (to repeat myself yet again), I have observed people in my circles, and circles close to me, do not migrate from theism to atheism (or vice versa) by way of logic and reason. There is almost always a precipitating incident, one that shakes a person’s faith or non-faith, then moves that person to reconsider postulates. An atheist has a mystical experience that leads him away from his belief. A theist endures trauma that rattles his faith in a benevolent, divine deity overseeing the cosmos.

    Occasionally, there are logical arguments, but they seem so much window dressing. They don’t get to things that exist in the bones. In other words, they do not speak to faith.

    TFBW, I am unsure whether you view the apatheist label as a perjorative or not. But I remain here because the arguments and posts sometimes interest me, and (as you say) there is more entertainment and occasional thought to be had here than in the self-satisfied pseudo-intellectual masturbation that I find in purely atheist fora.

    And I will go away, as you put it, either when I choose to, or if those who run this site choose to bar me.

  52. TFBW says:

    Pennywit said, “I have observed people in my circles, and circles close to me, do not migrate from theism to atheism (or vice versa) by way of logic and reason.”

    Have you gone on to make the broader observation that hardly anyone migrates from any position to any other position on the basis of logic and reason? And that people who harp on the loudest about the subject are not exceptions to this rule? The primary use of logic and reason is to rationalise positions already held. Occasionally people will try to use logic and reason as a guide rather than a support, but the usual outcome in that case is indecisive.

    As to whether I view “apatheist” as a pejorative, I have a tendency to use pejorative terms when the shoe fits, but without the emotional content. I describe myself as a “fundamentalist” much of the time, because I am one in the original sense. The fact that it’s nearly always used in a pejorative sense means very little to me, but it can be useful as a deliberate trigger. If someone reacts to the admission “I’m a fundamentalist” angrily, then they’re obviously an emotional person with a suite of prejudices already in place, suggesting that reasoned discussion will be difficult; but if they react to it with a question like, “what do you mean by that?” or, “why so?” then it suggests that a productive discussion might be possible.

  53. Ilíon says:

    Pennywit, who is a liar:Ilion, you have repeatedly heaped contempt on people …

    I heap contempt on behavior, especially lies and intellectual dishonesty (which is worse that mere lies). That you refuse to differentiate between your intellectual dishonesty and your person may tell us something about you, but it tells us nothing about me.

    And the greatest contempt I “heap” is to consciously ignore a person’s posts. But again, this is contempt of behavior.

    a liar, lying again:… you have repeatedly … [made the] assertion that anybody who happens to disagree with you is per se unreasonable

    I have never done so. I don’t recall that I’ve ever committed this particular alleged sin even as a joke.

    that liar, trying to garner sympathy from the peanut gallery:I find that attitude loathsome, so, well, I openly loathe you and much you stand for.

    Oh, noes! An intellectually dishonest person loathes me! Whatever shall I do? However shall I get through this day, to say nothing of the next?

    a liar, making no sense at all:Now, if you would hop off the continual circular race track and cease your attempts to build yourself up by putting me down, …

    My deliberate policy to ignore this liar as much as possible is a “continual circular race track [of] attempts to build [myself] up by putting [him/her] down“? What a bizarre world some of us seem to image we live in.

    that liar, conflating unlike things:… my central thesis above.

    I used to think that reason and logic were dispositive when it came to the question of belief in a deity, but (to repeat myself yet again), I have observed people in my circles, and circles close to me, do not migrate from theism to atheism (or vice versa) by way of logic and reason.

    Pennywit’s “thesis” is that SINCE rational beings are *free* to *ignore* the deliverances of logically sound reasoning (i.e. human beings are free to engage in intellectual dishonesty), THEREFORE the deliverances of logically sound reasoning are not dispositive.

    To paraphrase a recent comment made on this blog: “A dispositive argument is one that *should* convince one of the truth of some proposition.” That one cannot demonstrate that the argument is not dispositive, after all, and yet still does not assent to the proposition, says nothing about the argument nor the proposition.

    Pennywit, continuing to fail to get it:… A theist endures trauma that rattles his faith in a benevolent, divine deity overseeing the cosmos.

    A “theist” whose “faith in a benevolent, divine deity overseeing the cosmos” can be rattled by a trauma is a person who does not understand “theism”, nor faith in God, nor what Christianity says is true about either God or Man.

    Pennywit, being a liar, attempting to move the goal-posts wholly beyond the realm of reason:Occasionally, there are logical arguments, but they seem so much window dressing. They don’t get to things that exist in the bones. In other words, they do not speak to faith.

    Arguments *cannot* be addressed to one’s stomach, but only to one’s mind. Long after one’s stomach is worm food, the sound arguments one has either accepted or ignored remain. So, it’s not the arguments, but the stomach, which is the “window dressing”.

    Also, as is customary with God-deniers, Pennywit refuses to understand the meaning of the word ‘faith’. ‘Faith‘ is the act and committment of continuing to adhere to the deliverances of reason … even if one has indigestion today.

    ========
    If Pennywit is determined to admit the truth that ‘God is’, not on the basis of logically sound reasoning, but *only* on the condition of experiencing a “crisis of (un)faith”, then Pennywit will have to take that up with God. All we here have to offer is logically sound reasoning that ‘God is’.

    ========
    that liar, again, trying to have it both ways:TFBW, I am unsure whether you view the apatheist label as a perjorative or not.

    Even were the ‘apatheist’ label pejorative, and even were all the false accusations that pennywit has lobbed at me true, so what? IF God is not, THEN there is no “way things ought to be”, there are no such things as moral obligations (*).

    that liar, playing at stupidity:And I will go away, as you put it, either when I choose to, or if those who run this site choose to bar me.

    Noting the oddity of this liar — who has not a single argument in favor of God-denial, and who studiously *refuses* to engage any argument for the contrary — continuing to bless one and all with his/her on-line presence is in no wit a demand, or even a request, that the liar go away.

    One may express mordant amusement, and mean nothing more.

    (*) moreover, if there are moral obligations (hint: there are, as even this God-denying liar acknowledges), it is *not* the case that one of them is “You must never use a pejorative label“. How odd is it that pejorative labels are the primary “argument” of God-deniers as a group, and yet, nearly to a man, they shriek-and-accuse others of labeling them pejoratively?

  54. Ilíon says:

    @TFBW, re “fundamentalist”

    Same here.

  55. pennywit says:

    Have you gone on to make the broader observation that hardly anyone migrates from any position to any other position on the basis of logic and reason? And that people who harp on the loudest about the subject are not exceptions to this rule? The primary use of logic and reason is to rationalise positions already held. Occasionally people will try to use logic and reason as a guide rather than a support, but the usual outcome in that case is indecisive.

    I had observed it, but not really verbalized it, thank you.

    As to whether I view “apatheist” as a pejorative, I have a tendency to use pejorative terms when the shoe fits, but without the emotional content. I describe myself as a “fundamentalist” much of the time, because I am one in the original sense. The fact that it’s nearly always used in a pejorative sense means very little to me, but it can be useful as a deliberate trigger. If someone reacts to the admission “I’m a fundamentalist” angrily, then they’re obviously an emotional person with a suite of prejudices already in place, suggesting that reasoned discussion will be difficult; but if they react to it with a question like, “what do you mean by that?” or, “why so?” then it suggests that a productive discussion might be possible.

    I guess my reaction is more along the lines of “So, am I supposed to be angry at that?”

  56. TFBW says:

    I’m just making an observation, not fishing for a reaction. On the other hand, certain things do follow from the “apatheist” label, and they may or may not offend.

    The problem is not the insufficiency of logic and reason: you look at human behaviour and note the operational role they play, but we know from Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem (and its broader implications) that formal systems like logic cannot prove their own correctness. Even if you could provide a logical proof for the existence of God, you couldn’t prove the logic used in the proof. Epistemology becomes the governing issue, and it’s not like it has any firm answers to offer.

    You have some awareness of these issues, but apatheism is apathetic towards knowledge of the existence of God, so you treat it as an intellectual diversion: an amusement. As such, you have a frivolous attitude towards the deepest, most fundamental questions of human existence. Frivolity can be appropriate, but it seems deeply inappropriate in this case—unless theism is, in fact, false. In that case, “eat, drink, and be merry (including diverting intellectual self-gratification on the Internet), for tomorrow we die.” On Nihilism, “appropriateness” doesn’t exist.

    As such, apatheism is simply atheism where the atheist doesn’t care that his position isn’t based on reason. You’ve acknowledged nearly all of this, but I suspect you hadn’t noticed that apatheism is reasonable/appropriate only on the assumption that God doesn’t exist. If He does exist, you’re behaving like a fool; conversely if you don’t think of your position as foolish, that suggests you’re operating on the implicit assumption that God does not exist.

    This, as I say, may or may not offend. If my intentions matter in that equation, then my intentions are to provide further food for thought, both for you and other readers.

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