f The Wittenberg Door: The Lazy Atheist?—Part 1

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Lazy Atheist?—Part 1

Penn Jillette, of the popular magic duo Penn and Teller, spent some time pontificating on the existence of God over at NPR’s site. By way of respose, I'd like to offer an observation:

Atheists Tend to be Intellectually Lazy When it Comes to Defending Their Atheism

I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond Atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do.

Penn Jillette

What a wonderful world it must be where you can simply make metaphysical proclamations without bothering to support them with any arguments. To be fair, Penn is not alone in this; this is typical of atheists—but is it justifiable?

Atheism assumes a naturalistic worldview—only material things exist. This is the point where we need to start asking questions.

Is the proposition that only material things exist itself material?

If so, where did they discover it? Under a microscope? Did they trip over the proposition in a parking lot?

If not, the game is over. (That is, of course, unless they’d like to try their hand at proving that material things produce non-material things.)

How about morality? Are moral laws merely human conventions?

They must be. Then by convention Nazi Germany can institute its final solution. The civilized world might not like it, but hey, who are they to judge?

By the way, if morals are culturally defined by the majority, then the moral reformer is by definition immoral. That means people like Martin Luther King should be spurned not praised.

How is science possible in an atheistic universe?

Science depends upon the regularity of the universe. We talk about the law of gravity, the laws of thermodynamics, ect., but how can there be such laws in a world were everything comes about by random chance? All they can do is describe what has happened in the past. They have no foundation for drawing conclusions about future events. Atheist philosopher David Hume’s Problem of Induction makes this very point.

It is impossible, therefore, that any arguments from experience can prove this resemblance of the past to the future; since all these arguments are founded on the supposition of that resemblance. Let the course of things be allowed hitherto ever so regular; that alone, without some new argument or inference, proves not that, for the future, it will continue so.

David Hume (1711 - 1776)

Does the Emperor Have Clothes?

What about love? Is there an intrinsic difference between love and hate? Or are they simply different chemical reactions in the brain? Is there a thing called beauty? Is it objective? Is there really a difference between a sunset and a pile of dung? Penn tells us of his enjoyment of both these things (love and beatify that is, not chemicals and dung). He also seems interested in the plight of his fellow man. I’m sure that Penn is sincere, and I don’t question his compassion.

But in a world where we are simply matter in motion, where survival of the fittest reigns, why ought we care about anyone else? Is there really a difference between feeding a starving child or strangling him? If so, how do you account for such distinctions in an atheistic universe?

These questions are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more could be raised, but these are a good start. It’s time for Penn and his ilk to stop ducking the debate with copouts like, “you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do.” Atheists are putting forth a worldview that is radically counter-intuitive—that doesn’t fit the facts. It’s time for them to step-up to the plate and take a shot; and they can start by answering the questions above.

Part 2

For any worldview to be viably considered, it must be able to make sense of reality. This, of course, would include Christianity. In part 2 I’ll make the case for Christianity by considering the aforementioned questions.

--The Catechizer



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