Atheism is Too Simple

Atheism is Too Simple– Atheism is Too Simple – 

“If a good God made the world why has it gone wrong? And for many years I simply refused to listen to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on feeling ‘whatever you say, and however clever your arguments are, isn’t it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by any intelligent power? Aren’t all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to avoid the obvious?’ But then that threw me back into another difficulty.

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who Atheism Will Always Failwas supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it id not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.”

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


 

– Lucas G. Westman

14 thoughts on “Atheism is Too Simple

  1. simple? well, it certainly abides by the philosophical principle of simplicity. in that, there’s nothing to complain about.

    the fact of the matter is that there can’t be evidence for transcendent beings. the fact of the matter is that logic doesn’t entail truth. all that is left for both theist and atheist is abduction, inference to the best explanation. that is based entirely on one’s impressions of reality. that’s it.

    indeed, lacking the impression of volition in reality, the atheist has one less thing to account for in making sense of the world. having that impression, sure, all the work is ahead of the theist.

    fact: if genuine doubt exists about the existence of god, then god is not a fact of the matter and god manifests in reality exactly like “nothing”.

    too, god-talk isn’t about god and cannot be and even fundamentalist theologians agree on that point.

    c.s. lewis … he wrote great fiction, but i think some are mistaken in thinking he ever wrote anything else.

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    1. A lot of asserting in your response with very little of anything to back it up. With that aside, do you have any arguments against the main argument in this passage made by C.S. Lewis? Based on your response you seem to be completely avoiding the issue.

      On a relevant side note, every one of your assertions is completely packed with metaphysical assumptions that are beyond obvious. For example, your claim that all one can do is make an inference to the best explanation is an assumed validity of epistemic induction while presupposing a generally deductive and comprehensive metaphysical naturalism.

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      1. i don’t make any presuppositions.

        it is a fact that transcendence puts god outside of the possibility of human knowledge. norm geisler (an other fundamentalist theologians) states this himself. what they will say is knowledge of god is possible via analogical reasoning; though that also requires knowledge of god is order to actually engage it.

        it is a fact that logic is a formal description of the way folks think and doesn’t tell us anything about the real world, doesn’t entail truth; this coming from logicians.

        doxastic involuntarism is a truism, so given this trifecta, all that remains is beliefs about god carrying warrant via entitlement, and that there’s no difference that makes a difference between an atheist and a theist and they both are reasoning identically when reasoning perfectly about the subject.

        and no, though c.s. lewis is a great fiction writer and a popular christian author, he’s no philosopher and carries no weight in epistemology except how to get it wrong … so, i don’t have any real interest in deconstruction.

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      2. Equivocal God-talk leaves us in total ignorance about God. At best, one can only feel, intuit, or sense God in some experiential way, but no human expressions can describe what it is that is being experienced … [As for univocal] Our understanding and expressions are finite, and God’s are infinite, and there is an infinite gulf between finite and infinite. As transcendent, God is not only beyond our limited understanding, but He is also beyond our finite expressions.

        (Norman Geisler, ‘Systematic Theology, Vol. 1’, Bethany House Publishers, 2002, pg. 615)

        … when we speak of God by using the word ‘God’, we do not understand what we mean, we have no concept of God; what governs our use of the word ‘God’ is not an understanding of what God is but the validity of a question about the world [Why anything at all?] … What goes for our rules for the use of ‘God’ does not go for the God we try to name with the word. (And a corollary of this, incidentally, is why a famous argument for the existence of God called the ontological argument does not work.)

        (Fr. Herbert McCabe, ‘God Matters’, Continuum, 2005, pg. 6)

        For if the existence of such a god were probable, then the proposition that he existed would be an empirical hypothesis. And in that case it would be possible to deduce from it, and other empirical hypotheses, certain experiential propositions which were not deducible from those other hypotheses alone. But in fact this is not possible. It is sometimes claimed, indeed, that the existence of a certain sort of regularity in nature constitutes sufficient evidence for the existence of a god. But if the sentence “God exists” entails to more than that certain types of phenomena occur in certain sequences, then to assert the existence of a god will be simply equivalent to asserting that there is the requisite regularity in nature; and no religious man would admit that this was all he intended to assert in asserting the existence of a god. He would say that in talking about God, he was talking about a transcendent being who might be known through certain empirical manifestations, but certainly could not be defined in terms of those manifestations. But in that case the term “god” is a metaphysical term. And if “god” is a metaphysical term, then it cannot be even probable that a god exists. For to say that “God exists” is to make a metaphysical utterance which cannot be either true or false. And by the same criterion, no sentence which purports to describe the nature of a transcendent god can possess any literal significance.

        (A. J. Ayer, ‘Language, Truth, And Logic’, Dover, Second Edition, 1952, pg. 117)

        To exist beyond the sphere of natural law means to exist beyond the scope of human knowledge; epistemological transcendence is a corollary of ‘supernaturalness’. If a god is a natural being, if his actions can be explained in terms of normal causal relationships, then he is a knowable creature. Conversely, if god can be known, he cannot be supernatural. Without mystery, without some element of the incomprehensible, a being cannot be supernatural – and to designate a being as supernatural is to imply that this being transcends human knowledge. Epistemological transcendence is perhaps the only common denominator among all usages of the term “god,” including those of Tillich, Robinson and other modern theologians. While some “theists” reject the notion of a supernatural being in a metaphysical sense, it seems that every self-proclaimed theist – regardless of his particular use of the term “god” – agrees that a god is mysterious, unfathomable or in someway beyond man’s comprehension. The idea of the “unknowable” is the universal element linking together the various concepts of god, which suggests that this is the most critical aspect of theistic belief. The belief in an unknowable being is the central tenet of theism, and it constitutes the major point of controversy between theism and critical atheism.

        (George Smith, ‘Atheism: The Case Against God’, 1973)

        “Of these two conditions, the logician as such is concerned only with the first [validity]; the second, the determination of the truth or falsity of the premises, is the task of some special discipline or of common observation appropriate to the subject matter of the argument.”

        https://www.britannica.com/topic/formal-logic

        “When the conclusion of an argument is correctly deducible from its premises, the inference from the premises to the conclusion is said to be (deductively) valid, irrespective of whether the premises are true or false.”

        Ibid

        “The bottom line is that logic alone can tell us nothing new about the real world.”

        https://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/philosop/logic.htm

        “Traditionally logic was considered a normative description of the workings of an ideal mind.”

        http://www.filosoficas.unam.mx/~morado/RLH.htm

        “[The principles of logic] are non-contingent, in the sense that they do not depend on any particular accidental features of the world. Physics and the other empirical sciences investigate the way the world actually is.”

        http://philosophy.hku.hk/think/logic/whatislogic.php

        “The principles of logic … are derived using reasoning only, and their validity does not depend on any contingent features of the world.”

        Ibid

        “… the proof of the validity of these inferences depends upon the assumption of the truth of certain general statements concerning relatives.”

        http://www.peirce.org/writings/p41.html

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      3. Out of that list of quotes I am only going to focus on the Geisler reference since you seem to think that this helps your case in some way. Unfortunately for you I happen to have all 4 of these volumes to check the accuracy of the utilization. Your usage is less than commendable.

        You reference Geisler as saying,

        “Equivocal God-talk leaves us in total ignorance about God. At best, one can only feel, intuit, or sense God in some experiential way, but no human expressions can describe what it is that is being experienced … [As for univocal] Our understanding and expressions are finite, and God’s are infinite, and there is an infinite gulf between finite and infinite. As transcendent, God is not only beyond our limited understanding, but He is also beyond our finite expressions.” (Norman Geisler, ‘Systematic Theology, Vol. 1’, Bethany House Publishers, 2002, pg. 615)
        *End Quote

        However, your use of the ellipses negates important passages while also leaving out the entire context of what Geisler eventually argues in that chapter.

        Here is what you are using Geisler to say –

        “Equivocal God-talk leaves us in total ignorance about God. At best, one can only feel, intuit, or sense God in some experiential way, but no human expressions can describe what it is that is being experienced …”

        Here is what he actually says –

        “Equivocal God-talk leaves us in total ignorance about God. At best, one can only feel, intuit, or sense God in some experiential way, but no human expressions can describe what it is that is being experienced. Evangelical theology rejects this alternative for several reasons.

        First, it is self-defeating, since it affirms with human language about God that we cannot affirm anything about God. Religious mystics certainly write books about God. In brief, any attempt to express the equivocal view about God implies that some non-equivocal language about God is possible.

        Second, the Bible declares that God can be described in human language. Indeed, Scripture as a whole is an attempt to inform us about God to evoke a response from us. Even the colorful, figurative, and metaphorical language of the Bible implies a literal understanding beneath the nonliteral expressions, for one cannot even understand that a figure of speech (e.g., God has arms) is not literal unless he knows what is literally true (viz. that he is pure Spirit [John4:24]).

        Third, there is a continual and consistent tradition in orthodox theology from the earliest centuries to the present that assumes human language can express truth about the transcendent God. This is manifest in the great confessions, creeds, and councils of the Christian church. To say nothing of all the theological treatises of the great Fathers of the Church from the second century to the present.”

        *End Quote.

        And this is taken from his systematic theology, volume 1, pg. 138.

        Geisler goes on to discuss the issues of “God-talk” regarding the debates between Scotus’s theory of univocity and the Thomistic defense of analogous predication.

        So your utilization of this passage is incorrect and bordering on dishonest. I do not have time, however, to go through ever other passage you referenced in order to make sure you used them correctly.

        Finally, and once again, the passage taken from Lewis is not concerning the issue of speaking about God as you want to insist, but the relationship of meaning with reality. Until you can come to grips with that, there is not really any further to go in the discussion.

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      4. i’m not talking about lewis. once you come to grips with that, then you can take my statements about god-talk for what they are. and what they are is saying there’s no grounding god-talk and atheism is justified.

        geisler agrees to the analysis of god-talk as i presented; that’s irrespective of whether or not he holds the view himself. and having those volumes, you know he champions analogic knowledge.

        in order for that to work, you must know what god is, which defeats his purpose.

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      5. “I’m not talking about Lewis. Once you come to grips with that, then you can take my statements about god-talk for what they are.”

        First of all, I have already pointed out the fact that I am well aware that you are not addressing Lewis, hence, the continual reminder to stay on topic. You seem to be uninterested in doing this, obviously.

        Geisler does not agree with your analysis at all, which is demonstrated in the appropriate referencing of the text you completely took out of context in order to make an author seem to agree with you when in fact they do not.

        Feel free to continue debating whoever it is you think you are debating, but it isn’t Lewis (despite your continued assertions about his alleged argumentative weaknesses), and is definitely isn’t me.

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      6. oiy vey!

        if you know i don’t give a rip about lewis, then stop trying to interpret what i mean by god-talk as relating to lewis!

        geisler agree with how i’m talking, not that he agrees with what i’m saying! SMH

        my issue is with lewis comment that atheism is too simple. atheism is justified, and simplicity hasn’t a thing to do with anything, and that there is meaning is again simply the fact that human beings create meaning.

        there’s nothing to debate!

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      7. If you reduce theism to bare transcendence then you might have a point, but you conveniently ignore divine immanence. God transcends the created order in the sense that He cannot be categorized in a genus with other finite discrete things, but this does not mean that God is not continually immanent throughout the created order. This is the primary error you seem to be making in your limited focus on transcendence.

        Finally, you continue to ignore the very simple point Lewis is making in this passage. Complaining about what you don’t like about him should not be mistaken for a refutation or anything that might be taken seriously as a rebuttal.

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      8. i didn’t ignore anything. read the ayer quote. you simply keep leveeing fallacy fallacies.

        a universe with god is identical to a universe without god because the only difference is that one either declares universes require deity and another doesn’t.

        the damming thing for theists is that god manifests identically in both universes, and so then, has more in common with nothing than something. so even if god exists, it’s the same as if he doesn’t.

        that’s forgiving the fact that “god” is a word without any inherent meaning. so with your purported problem of imminence, it’s not the atheist’s problem.

        for instance, god takes meaning causally. “god is the creator of the universe” or “god is the reason there is life” or “god is the maker of cute puppies”.

        in that case, “god” is a variable, like “x”. so when we say “god created”, we’re only saying the same thing as “x created”. that begs the question, what is “x”, what is “god”, what is “it”.

        so again as ayer suggests, god cannot stand to be a proposition from which only some others are only possible, because imminence implies synonymity!

        a serious refutation of zeno’s paradox of motion is getting up and walking out of the room, and c.s. lewis’ arguments are of the same cloth.

        what’s interesting is you actually have no counter arguments to my objections except to say “nugh ugh! you’re wrong”.

        my comments, seemingly foreign to you, are part and parcel, philosophical epistemology … your unfamiliarity with it may be why you and others find lewis credible.

        change textbooks.

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      9. In addition to what I have already said, it is worth noting that you are focusing on “God-talk” which is not what Lewis is even worried about in this passage. He is talking about the relationship of meaning to reality. Atheism negates the reality of telos from the cosmos, but if this were to be true on the atheistic understanding of the cosmos, nature, and human relation to both we would not ever come realize that there were no telos. Moreover, to speak is to engage in an intrinsically teleological act, that is, communication is infused with purpose to communicate something meaningful. All of this is a separate issue with regard to transcendence, immanence, analogical or univocal language, and other issues of “God-talk.”

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      10. human beings create meaning. saying that there’s no ultimate point to reality doesn’t equate to any idea that life has no meaning; a point which craig gives to kagan in open debate.

        when i use the term god-talk, it means “all ideas concerning the concept”.

        that includes the existence thereof.

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  2. I have just discovered this blog and invite you to discover mine (blindfaithblindfolly.wordpress.com). My most recent post, No. 683 (“We Pollute the Planet. God Makes the Earth Quake”) I do not expect to demolish your faith. But Aquinas, Feser and your erudite self can never explain, let alone justify the lethal destruction due to the recurring phenomena of volcanoes and earthquakes, over which not only we but “God” have no control.

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    1. Frank,

      I thank you for an invitation to interact with your material, and I appreciate that you did so in a way that seems as serious as it is charitable.

      I would of course disagree with your assessment of an inability to explain natural disasters. This might be a good question to analyze in an article.

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