Not Everyone Believes

This ridiculous proposal – that everyone, somehow, deep down, believes in god – came from a commentator on the previous posts who then linked to his blog on the topic to try and show that this was the case. OK, you want traffic, I like arguments. Let’s trade.

Here’s the blog: http://pastorjamesmiller.com/2013/06/27/everyone-believes/

Here’s me tearing it a new arsehole:

One of the things that fascinates me about modern defenders of the Christian faith is how casually they begin in the wrong place. They start with the assumption that their listeners are objective and analytical and can be persuaded by facts. I doubt this is true.

Well, it depends whom you’re trying to convince. Members of other religions are unlikely to be convinced by such arguments but the atheists who are also sceptics – like myself – are open to being persuaded by logic, reason and, most importantly, evidence. You doubt it is true we can be convinced by such, I doubt you have anything of that ilk to convince us with.

Then they assume their role is one of defense attorney who presents a reliable case sufficient to free God from the atheist’s accusations. I know this isn’t true. The Bible starts in a completely different place, saying we are “without excuse” for not believing (Romans 1:20). The atheist needs a defense attorney.

Here I’m going to pull a shocker and actually agree with the Pastor. The Christian IS in the position of the prosecution and the burden of proof is on them. Innocent until proven guilty (the prosecutor must show beyond any and all reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty) mirrors directly with non-existent until proven existent (the theist must show beyond any and all reasonable doubt that their god exists).

For the atheists all we have to do is show that there is enough reason to doubt what the theist is proposing. If they show up to court without any evidence, the case is going to be dismissed. So this is – as analogies go – a pretty good one.

And what’s most surprising about this to me is that the guy who says he doesn’t believe in God has already shown that he depends upon a world in which God does exist in three ways.

Nonsense.

First, when one says, “God does not exist,” that person is assuming that the purpose of communication is to tell the truth.

No, it’s to communicate ideas. The purpose of communication also includes lying, creating fiction, giving instructions, etc etc. Also, by and large, when an atheist says god does not exist, it is shorthand for: “There is absolutely no evidence for a god, no reason to believe in one and everything we do see suggests other, better explanations. So I don’t believe in a god.” That’s just a bit of a mouthful to squeeze into a Twitter conversation.

But this moral undergirding is suspicious. If God doesn’t exist, morality is at best a mistaken byproduct of blind evolution. So long as survival of the fittest is the only goal, there’s really no objective moral obligation. I can tell the truth if I want and not if I don’t. But when we say, “God does not exist,” we’re assuming that communication in general rests on a real obligation to tell the truth, which is a moral claim.

I think the problem here is a lack of understanding of what ‘the fittest’ means or the implications of ‘the selfish gene’ and group selection. There is positive survival utility to cooperation in a social species and that survival utility supports behaviours and instincts – like honesty, like guilt – that reinforce that societal benefit. Evolutionary psychology provides a basis for the only things that really begin to approach – even remotely – objective morality.

  • Altruism good.
  • Selfishness bad.

We humans complicate matters by developing other, less objective, more subjective moral systems and superimposing them over our instinctual base. Your religion being one of them.

Second, when you say, “God does not exist,” you are assuming that the thoughts in your head accurately reflect the world around you. You really think that in the universe, there is not a God, and that your perception of that world is accurate. But there’s a problem. In a godless universe, everything is simply matter. Everything is made up of colliding particles. Our brains in our heads are just a collection of particles that have come to function in certain ways. But there’s nothing objective that obligates the particles in our heads to give us an accurate picture of the real world (this is sort of the red pill here).

It is not an assumption that our senses provide an accurate picture but one shown to be true to ourselves and to others for… well, all of human existence. Science works no matter what you belief. Delusion doesn’t alter reality. If I throw a ball, someone else can catch it. In short, we have damn good reason to think that our perception of the world is at least reasonably accurate and in science we hone that through repeat experiment, peer review and practical applications (which wouldn’t work if our perception wasn’t correct). Misleading perceptions have obvious problems when it comes to survival,.

Third, when you say “God does not exist,” you are trusting that communication actually works. You are trusting that the ideas in one person’s head can be translated into language, perceived consistently, and received accurately… …Again, a material universe with no guiding conscience would not necessitate that words have meaning or that language is effective. These things require something more purposeful than the blind movements of particles.

Humans. Intentional agents with volition.

So when someone says “I don’t believe in God,” they are trusting that we are bound by the objective moral obligation to tell the truth, that our brains are bound to purposefully reveal accurate information, and that communication can be infused with objective meaning, none of which should necessarily exist in a godless universe. That person is acting like God is there at exactly the moment she says he isn’t. So ironically, the person who says “God does not exist” is actually proving that God does.

So, as shown above. No, this isn’t correct. You have really just engaged in a rather long-winded redefinition fallacy based around a peculiar notion of what ‘truth’ means.

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