One more post before I head out to snowmobile for the weekend.
Atheist Contradictions is a category I have for noting those claims by atheists that are inherently or obviously contradictory. In this case I am dealing with a post over at A-Unicornist (I am really not picking on Mike here – we have just had a few exchanges recently so I notice what he writes more) dealing with his loss of faith. Now I don’t know Mike personally so I can only deal with what he writes about himself, and quite frankly his personal experiences are his own (just as mine are); but he writes something here that I think from a logical perspective is inherently contradictory, so I wanted to deal with that.
In his post ‘Kickin’ it Old School’ he writes:
It’s strange now, because when I saw the genre label “Christian” on Jar of Clay’s [A Christian group he once listened to] MySpace page, I almost felt sorry for them. To be steeped in such ignorance, to believe in such vacuous myths – and worst of all, to have their very identities defined by them. I would never try to lure someone to atheism by promising them happiness – blissful ignorance and appeals to baser emotions are the calling cards of religious faith. Nonetheless, I’m far happier as an atheist than I ever was as a Christian. I have a thirst for knowledge and a love of science that only now can I see was hopelessly impaired when I had the “God goggles” on. My sense of morality and personal responsibility has deepened, my life has become more meaningful, and I’m far more appreciative of the short time I have here.
Most of all though, I feel intellectually liberated. I had spent a tremendous amount of energy conjuring up rationalizations to defend my faith, even from my own doubts. But I now know that no idea is sacred. The walls of knowledge we have exist only to be torn down and rebuilt over and over again. We simply cannot know anything of absolute truth – it’s beyond our capacity as human beings. I, for one, take that as a good thing. It’s not scary to admit you don’t have it all figured out – that’s how you start growing.
Did you catch the contradiction there? In saying, “We simply cannot know anything of absolute truth – it’s beyond our capacity as human beings. I, for one, take that as a good thing.” Mike is making an absolute truth claim – a direct contradiction to the claim that we cannot make know anything of absolute truth. At best he can claim our intellectual capabilities are much less capable than Christians suppose, but that is hardly ‘liberating’ intellectually.
But that is a rather simple and obvious philosophical flaw with his thinking. What I find more interesting is his expression of ‘feeling sorry’ for believers because of their presumed ignorance. Now given he doesn’t think we can actually know any truths with certainty, I am not sure what it is he thinks they are ignorant of. But beside the overt condescension of the statement Mike is actually making another logically incongruous statement; that believing the claims of Christianity are worthy of pity.
This is incongruous at the first because he has no basis for claiming that any belief is necessarily better or worse to have given his claim that we are unable to certainly establish the truth of any claim.
But I will go farther than that. Suppose that what Mike suspects (but cannot in his own words know) about the universe is true – that we exist not as the result of intent and design, but that we are here as the result of incidental events and processes. If that is the case, then what we believe about the origin of the universe is somewhat irrelevant. The result of Mike beliefs and the beliefs of Christians are ultimately exactly the same – they die and what they believed during life made no difference to their future state. Even if we assume as Mike does (though he cannot know for certain) that knowledge inevitably progresses then this simply means that our current scientific knowledge will appear to future generations as ignorant and ‘mythical’ as Christian beliefs do to Mike. On this score he is no more ‘fulfilled’ intellectually than a tribal shaman.
If we fully adopt the materialist paradigm then it is even unlikely that we actually choose what we believe because our brain merely acts according to inherent electro-chemical processes and environmental inputs, of which both religious and a-religious beliefs are merely a by-product. The concept of self and will are illusory, and Mike is as duped as the most ardent fundamentalist.
As well, given that materialistically there is no objective measure of good by which to evaluate ones choices then there is really no basis to state whether it is better to believe an illusion or believe that one cannot know the truth – because ‘better’ is a mere preference in this case. Indeed there may be benefits to such illusions, and so from a purely pragmatic perspective it may actually be ‘better’ to believe illusions. There is no law or command anywhere to say that we must always believe truth, much less provisional truth. In short, no basis to say which position is more to be pitied.
Of course as a Christian I believe not only that real truth exists but that we can know it sufficiently to act on it. I believe this in part because believing so is inherently logically consistent – as well as being consistent with the idea that some ideas are ‘better’ than others to accept. I don’t feel sorry for atheists because unlike Mike I think they are capable of making real choices based on the evidence provided, and they have done so – I don’t see them as deluded or pitiful, just wrong.
But of course that statement may be too logical for some.