The Intellectual Poverty of Modern Atheism

breaking-light-bulb-imageWhile it isn’t possible to address all the logical problems I find in modern atheism in a single post (or, perhaps, even in a single book), I’ll try my best to put it in a nutshell:

Every reason I’ve ever been given to reject the arguments for theism rests on one of two demonstrably false assumptions:

1. That nothing exists other than the physical, or

2. That there is no way of knowing anything except via the senses (including science, of course).

Now, let me expound on that just a bit:

Though I’m sure some will argue, this should be uncontroversial. Those who demand evidence for theism are, so far as I’ve experienced, never open to non-sensory evidence. And those who attack the Bible as being bad science generally aren’t willing to acknowledge that it wasn’t written as science in the first place.

But, rather than defend the idea that this is the basis of the modern atheist view (which seems rather obvious), I want to point out that it is these ideas, not theism, which are self-contradictory and unsupported.

The first view is properly called “metaphysical naturalism”, “physicalism”, or (more casually) “materialism”. To believe this, one has to believe that nihilism is true, that thoughts are never about anything, that there is no reason at all why science works, that you can’t trust your own logic, and that you (in terms of your own inner life and personality) don’t actually exist.

So I’ve argued in the linked posts (and I’m sure I will again).

Still, there is the second assumption (properly “epistemilogical naturalism” but often called “scientism”). This is the view that, while there might be more than the physical, we should only believe what we can test for scientifically.

The first thing we should note here is that many of the same problems arise. This idea would force us to reject the idea that we have minds, that our morals are rational, and that our thoughts are either about anything or base their choices in logic. It is also deeply problematic that the basis of science itself is rejected by this view. “Science alone”, if one follows the logic, means “not even science”.

The second thing is that this view also contradicts itself. After all, there is no sensory evidence for it. So, by its own standard, it should be rejected.

The only way that modern atheism can hope to escape the absurd conclusions mentioned here is if it could offer an attack on the arguments for theism that doesn’t rest on one of those two assumptions.

After years of encounters, I’ve come across no such thing. This leaves the arguments for theism on the table, with the attempted refutations having been shown to be circular reasoning.

50 responses to “The Intellectual Poverty of Modern Atheism

  • AtheistThink

    I don’t think modern atheism necessarily claims that there is nothing beyond the physical or that we should only believe what we can test. I think what it claims that while there may be something else, nobody has any evidence for it so it is irrelevant to the truth. The fact is that people can’t make claims about the metaphysical based on a 3000 year old book and expect to be taken seriously in the scientific community, but if that’s not what you’re going for then who cares.

    • David

      But a Christian could argue that the belief in God is based on logic more so than a 3000 year old book. For example, Plato and Aristotle, though not Christians, arrived at monotheism through reason alone despite living in a culture that was religiously polytheistic.

      • kcchief1

        But is Christianity willing to believe all roads lead to this monotheistic God ? As a Deist, I believe in a single creator , end of story. I don’t try to shape him into an exclusive religion to fit a belief system.

        • David

          I believe that. I can’t speak for all Christians or all churches, but that does seem to be a fairly standard belief in Christianity these days. Didn’t the new Pope recently say that atheists can go to heaven?

        • Arkenaten

          Oooh,Tsk Tsk… Dear Kenny….now rush off to the bathroom and wash you mouth out with soap! Unklee will be told of this…mark my words.

      • AtheistThink

        Yes but religions never stop at asserting that God exists in the metaphysical. If that was all that they claimed it would be unproveable. The fact is that even if there were a god, there is evidence against this god being a personal god and one who can pause the laws of nature at any time. These are the kind of metaphysical implications of religious belief in God leads to. A deist god would not assume these implications and thus would not be disprovable in the same sense.

    • Debilis

      Yes, the option you suggest here was position #2 in my original post. As the links were meant to show, I’ve already pointed out several serious problems with this view (that it is unsupported by evidence and contradicts it self being the main two).

      But, I’ve not appealed to a 3000 year-old book (or even a 2000 year-old book like the books of the New Testament). I’ve put forth several arguments that support theism without any reference at all to books. Attacking them has nothing to do with anything I’ve presented.

      I should probably interject that I have no idea why you think the scientific community are the key judges. Much as I love science myself, this is a philosophical question.

      Last, but definitely not least, best wishes to you.

  • sybaritica

    The present limits of science, or human intellectual difficulties in comprehending the Universe do not justify embracing silly fairy tales.

    • Arkenaten

      Lol…oh boy, are you going to get crapped on when Dubido comes back from shopping….I await his response to your comment with a dictionary , thesaurus, coffee and an aspirin. 😉

    • stevenkopp

      nice argument: “my position may be self-contradictory but I’ll call your position a mean name” My world is shattered.

    • Debilis


      I’ve said nothing here about the present limits of science. I was speaking about those things that science cannot study without contradicting the very definition of science.

      It’s also noteworthy that this is a bifucation fallacy (false dichotomy). What reason do we have, after all, to think that “we don’t know what’s out there” and “silly fairy tales” are the only two possible answers to this question?

      This omits my position, of course. But, more importantly, doesn’t actually deal with any of the arguments I put forth.

      But, I should resist the temptation to elaborate further here, this comment is quite long enough.

      • Arkenaten

        ”Every reason I’ve ever been given to reject the arguments for theism rests on one of two demonstrably false assumptions:”

        But YOUR version of theism involves, Jesus, and we can reject that and all its divine claims in one fell swoop.
        And yes, your christian claims can be shown to be demonstrably false.
        So where does that leave your theism?
        Lol…up s*** creek, my friend, with only faith and no paddle.
        Nice try, but sorry…you Failed.

        • Debilis

          Actually, this doesn’t follow.

          Assuming for a moment that it could be demonstrated that the claims of Jesus Christ could be refuted, that doesn’t refute theism. All that would show is that it is actually a different kind of theism, other than Christianity, which is the truth. Atheism would still be shown to be false.

          Of course, I’ve never seen any good reason to reject the claims of Christianity. But, the point for now is that, if this is your position, you should be a theist.

          That is, if you agree that atheists have no good counter to my support of theism, but only to Christianity, then you are agreeing that one shouldn’t be an atheist.

          If that is the case, I’ll be happy to discuss which form of theism is most reasonable with you. But, first, let’s take a moment to point out that atheism has already been moved off the table of reasonable options.

          And, setting aside our disagreements, I do hope things are well with you.

        • Arkenaten

          Things are always well with me…I don’t suffer from psychosis, although reading all your bullshit replies I believe I may become a candidate one day I’f I am not careful.

          ”Of course, I’ve never seen any good reason to reject the claims of Christianity.”

          1.Please explain in an irrefutable fashion, without resorting to any sort of semantics, metaphysics,philosophy and in a manner that would convince the most ardent skeptic how the description of Yashu’a walking on water could possibly be based on fact.
          Then demonstrate this in a scientific fashion involving a human subject.

          2.If the bible is to be believed and Christianity to be trusted explain why the church and those responsible for compiling the bible felt compelled to lie regarding so much of the text.
          Example. The nativity, Nazareth, the census,and the zombie apocalypse to name but three.

          Any attempt to obfuscate using anything but a straight froward
          explanation that a child would understand will be considered a Fail.
          Are we clear?

      • Debilis

        Much as I’d appreciate more courtesy, I am genuinely glad that you are well.

        But, moving into the discussion.

        I’ll offer my reasons for believing Christianity (and the reason why your demands here are arbitrary) at some point, I’m sure. But not before we’ve addressed what I’ve already said.

        That is, you’ve completely ignored my central point, which is that you haven’t remotely defended atheism. As such, you are implicitly agreeing that atheism is not a reasonable position, and that the only real discussion is between various forms of theism.

        But, if you like the simple as much as you seem to, you should love my argument against atheism here. I’ve been claiming the childishly simple position that we should trust our experiences until we have a good reason not to.

        It is the atheist that doesn’t want to start with basic, simple experience. He wants to start with the (demonstrably false) metaphysical position that only certain types of experience are allowed–with a long list of inexplicable exceptions and the admission that this makes most of his daily life irrational.

        That is the useless complication. Any child can see that not everything we know (consciousness, morality, free will, logic) is physical. It is the atheist’s attempts to explain away these simple facts that is the philosophical obfuscation.

        So, when we’ve seen why this is the case, the arguments that Christianity is more reasonable than other versions of theism can be made as simple or as complex as one cares to make it.

        And I’ll try my best to stick to the simplest of them for you.

        • Arkenaten

          I can’t even be bothered to reason this. Just by its length I already know you are bullshitting.
          You really are enough to try a saint.

        • Arkenaten

          You see, psychosis setting in. “….read this”.

        • Debilis

          You know that something is untrue by how long it is? It’s hard to imagine a less rational statement than that.

          But, to give it to you in short form:

          1. You’ve completely ignored the reasons why atheism is false. Nothing you’ve said refutes that.

          2. That being the case, theism is true. The only question is whether or not the correct form of theism is Christianity.

          3. Do you agree to this? If so, I’ll discuss Christianity with you. But, if not, I won’t.

          I do hope that was simple enough. But let me know, I’ll see if I can make it easier to read for you.

        • Debilis

          Do you agree that materialism is indefensible, and we should move on to which version of theism is true?

          If so, great! I’ll discuss Christianity with you.

          If not, you’ll need to give some kind of defense for materialism.

          (And, yes, all this was written in the comment you didn’t read.)

        • Arkenaten

          You are doing it again.
          Semantics and waffle. You really are a waste of time.
          Tell me, do yu have any children?

        • Arkenaten

          I tell you what, rather than waste any more time with your drivel, why not pop over to the Ark’s spot and answer the question posed in this post.

          Maybe you can use your massive insight to explain this vexing question to my readers.
          You will have a ball…I guarantee it.
          Til then, au revoir?

        • Debilis

          I asked you a very simple question, (as you have made it clear that you reject anything complex wholesale). It really seems that you should be able to give me a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.

          The fact that you are unable or unwilling to do this is the semantics and waffle. All I want is a “yes” or “no”.

          Is materialism defensible?

        • Arkenaten

          Is Christianity irrefutable, Yes or No?

        • Debilis

          So, you don’t have an answer to my question then?

          I’ve already said I’d be happy to answer all of your questions about Christianity as soon as we settle the issue of materialism.

          So, do so, and I’ll address that.

        • Arkenaten

          Ah…but I asked you first…a long time ago, and if you love your faith so much you should be jumping up and down at the chance to demonstrate its veracity.
          Come on, be a sport?

        • Debilis

          I asked you first? That is really the basis of your logical approach to the topic?

          Fine. If this is the level we’re operating on: “Yes.”

          Now, please answer my question.

        • Arkenaten

          Yes is hardly a full answer. Come on! You have to explain it, too.
          Give me three examples that it is irrefutable and include Walking in water.

        • Debilis

          After all this complaining that my answers are too long, this is your response?

          Step one in the explanation is that materialism is indefensible.

          Do we agree so far?

        • Arkenaten

          I don’t know, should I agree?

        • Debilis

          Of course you should. You’ve been given the reasons why disagreeing breaks down into logical contradiction. It’s been pointed out that there’s no evidence at all in support of the idea. And, if you’ve read what’s above, you’d know why disagreeing contradicts the evidence we do have.

          So, do you agree with the (now obvious) fact that materialism is indefensible?

          If so, I’ll move on to the next step in explaining why Christianity is true.

        • Arkenaten

          Oh, and don’t forget, that first up I would like an explanation on Walking on Water. No semantics just a simple straightforward explanation that a 5 year old would understand, please?
          After that you can wander as far and wide as your heart desires.on your explanation.
          So…Walking on Water., off you go.

        • Debilis

          Getting there.

          Keep reading.

        • Arkenaten

          Hanging on tenterhooks….

        • Debilis


          So, if materialism is out, this leaves us with Platonism and theism.

          Both of these positions accept Ockham’s Razor. However, Platonism, with its infinite numbers of forms, is far less parsimonious than theism.

          So (if one understand’s Ockham’s Razor) that leaves us with theism.

          This is not yet Christianity, of course. Just theism. We’ll have to get into which kind of theism next.

          But, are we agreed so far, theism is more reasonable than Platonism?

        • Arkenaten

          What! Where is the explanation about Walking on Water.
          Are you going off on a bloody tangent again? Sheesh.

        • Arkenaten

          I am NOT interested in platonism, Ockhams razor or any of the S***. Explain how your god man walked on water.

        • Debilis

          If you don’t understand Ockham’s Razor and all the other list of things I’ve got to get through, you aren’t going to know the answer to that question.

          This is the difference between the intellectual and the ignorant person, really: whether or not your curiosity lasts long enough to get through the whole explanation.

        • Arkenaten

          LOL….okay, I’ll just skip over the boring bits until I see “and this is the scientific reason Jesus could walk on water.”
          Sorry to interrupt, I was unaware it played havoc with your intellectual focus. Do carry on…Oh, and I most certainly do understand Ockhams Razor, which must be a point in my non intellectual favour, right?

        • Debilis

          You’re certainly allowed your personal opinions. And, if you lack the intellectual stamina to follow the argument, I have neither the ability nor the desire to force you.

          But, I should point out that you’ve already agreed to theism. If you agree that at least one god exists, why do you find it impossible that something like walking on water could occur?

        • Arkenaten

          Well, I won’t say I lack the intellectual stamina, I just struggle with all the big words. Couldn’t you restrict such verbose technical terms t say, one or two a paragraph?
          Yes I did agree to theism, didn’t I? I wonder why?
          But if you could skip right o the Walking on Water part first it would be a real help, then afterwards you could cover all the other points. That sounds fair to me, how about you?
          So, how did Jesus walk on water?
          Please…continue sil vous plait….

        • Debilis

          I’ll do my best to keep my words short.
          Do your best to set aside the impatience and follow the steps of the logic.

          That said, if you agree to theism, what’s your problem with someone walking on water? If a god, any god, exists, surely something like this is possible.

          It’s possible now. If one could generate a force to increase the hydrogen-bonding rate of water (sorry for the big words, it just means it sticks together), walking on water would be possible.

          Now, if there were something outside the universe, with enough power to create a universe, and enough intelligence and dexterity to fine-tune a universe, what on earth is so impossible about adding a little energy to a little bit of water?

        • Arkenaten

          Oh, I am aware of hydrogen bonding rate, I did this at college. Quite fascinating.
          Is this what you are saying your man god did ?

        • Debilis

          Oh, good. It really is hard to know what words you are or aren’t going to know.

          But, I’m saying that this is my best guess as to what God (not Jesus) did in that moment.

          Is there any reason to think that this is impossible?

        • Arkenaten

          I thought your god was Jesus?

        • Debilis

          If you want me to answer that, I’ll have to use a lot of big words to explain something that isn’t directly relevant to the water-walking point.

          But, I take it that you know of no reason why this should be impossible.

          Unless you do so, I’ll assume that you aren’t willing to claim that materialism is defensible.

          But, this being the case, I’m not sure what the disagreement is.

        • Arkenaten

          Once again you are beginning to ramble.
          Demonstrate how the account in the bible of your man god walking on water was possible.

          if you are unable to do this then everything you are espousing is drivel.
          Are we clear?
          Use big words but make sure your explanation is scientific.Just make it as succinct as possible.
          Use philosophy and I’ll not bother to read it.
          Understand? Super…Off you go.

        • Debilis

          I already did that.

          Really, it’s not out of the question that humans will be able to do that trick of walking on water one day. What is your problem with the idea that an omnipotent God could do it?

          But there’s also this:

          “If you are unable to do this then everything you are espousing is drivel.”

          But this is just silly. The entirety of theism does not hang on my being able to prove anything about walking on water. Where on earth did you get that idea?

  • The intellectual poverty of modern atheism | Random thoughts

    […] manages to convince his followers that he has made a sound against the claims of atheism. In this post, where, they have a long discussion with our friend the Ark, he sets out to tell his readers that […]

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