Friday, May 24, 2019

Contra Atheism [Pt. 4]

§ VII. Is God Real?

Consequently, atheism is only intelligible iff God is real; but if atheism is intelligible, then God is real, and atheism is necessarily false. This means that given atheism, atheism is logically possible but ontologically impossible. The assertion “God is not real” is proof that he is, in fact, real, and it implies that the atheist knows this to be true. This is so because he utilizes universal truths – e.g. the laws of identity, non-contradiction, excluded middle, deductive inference, etc – which he believes will lead him to objective truth – i.e. knowledge of things as they are apart from his subjective apprehension of them. If the atheist truly does not view the laws above mentioned as anything more than social constructs, then he can offer his opinion about theism, as well as his opinions on any other matter – including, in fact, his opinions concerning what reality is – but he cannot hope to come to know the truth about theism or atheism, or any other matter. Professing himself to be wise, he has become a fool.

§ VIII. Concluding Remarks

In his paper “Atheism,” philosopher Gordon H. Clark, in accord with the view expressed by the present author, wrote the following –
At first it may seem strange that knowledge of what God is more important than knowledge that God is. His essence or nature being more important than his existence may seem unusual. Existentialists insist that existence precedes essence. Nevertheless, competent Christians disagree for two reasons. First, we have seen that pantheists identify god with the universe. What is god? —the universe. The mere fact that they use the name god for the universe and thus assert that god "exists" is of no help to Christianity
The second reason for not being much interested in the existence of God is somewhat similar to the first. The idea existence is an idea without content. Stars exist—but this tells us nothing about the stars; mathematics exists—but this teaches us no mathematics; hallucinations also exist. The point is that a predicate, such as existence, that can be attached to everything indiscriminately tells us nothing about anything. A word, to mean something, must also not mean something. For example, if I say that some cats are black, the sentence has meaning only because some cats are white. If the adjective were attached to every possible subject—so all cats were black, all stars were black, and all politicians were black, as well as all the numbers in arithmetic, and God too—then the word black would have no meaning. It would not distinguish anything from something else. Since everything exists, exists is devoid of information. That is why the Catechism asks, What is God? Not, Does God exist?1
Clark understood that the question of God’s “existence” needed to be clarified in order to be understood and addressed. Once this is done, it is plain to see that atheists are not concerned with the “existence” of God but with his “reality.” This “reality” must be defined as well, but for the atheist there is no way of justifying a concept of such an objective “reality.” Apart from a non-empirical, disembodied, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, omnipresent mind, the universal truths requisite to cogent reasoning and speculation in the matters of metaphysics, epistemology, and even science do not “exist,” i.e. are not “real.” They are, instead, mere assertions whose truth value is uncritically accepted by the atheist in his complaints against Christianity.

In his attempt to identify God as unreal, the atheist turns to creation and imbues it with divinity. Not only does matter become the source of all power, all order, all modes of being, all knowledge, all history, whose ever evasive essence can only be known by a process of negative abstraction from reflection on physical things (i.e. the via negativa) – it becomes the teleological terminus of all of the atheist’s thinking and acting. Whereas Christianity loudly proclaims Soli Deo Gloria!, the atheist affirms Solam Materiam Gloria! And by so doing confirms that his lack of belief in other gods, including the one true God, does not indicate that he lacks belief in all gods. For the atheist, there is only one ontological entity greater than which none may be conceived; and that entity we all know as Matter.

1 “Atheism,” Trinity Foundation, http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/The%20Trinity%20Review%200032a%20Atheism.pdf, Accessed April 25, 2019.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Contra Atheism [Pt. 3]

by Hiram R. Diaz III


§ V. Disambiguating “Existence”

Having demonstrated that the popular definition of atheism as a lack of belief in gods is untenable, we may now return to the question of existence. As we mentioned earlier on, assertions like “x exists” are either tautologous or non-tautologous. If they are tautologous, they are asserting nothing more than the proposition “This logical subject of predication is this logical subject of predication” or “x is x.” If they are non-tautologous, they are signifying some undefined property by the word exists. Assuming that the atheist intends to communicate something non-contradictory when he denies the existence of God, we must seek to understand what he means by the term exists.

As we begin, let us note that if by saying “There is no God” the atheist means “God cannot be empirically verified” or “There is no empirical being to which the term God properly applies” then he is confusing categories. As the London Baptist Confession of 1689, following the teaching of Scripture, states –
The Lord our God is…a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions.
The lack of empirical evidence for a being who is immaterial does not demonstrate that there is no such immaterial being. Some atheists will retort that immateriality is problematic, for it seems to allow us to affirm that there are other immaterial beings in addition to God. This, however, is neither a logical nor ontological problem. It is a problem for the materialist who believes that “existence” is synonymous with an empirically verifiable material instantiation of a given entity. But arguing against the idea that there is a God on such a basis is an exercise in fallacious, circular reasoning.

What does the atheist mean by the proposition “There is no God”? Given that he cannot say that a lack of empirical evidence regarding a non-empirical being is proof that there is no such being, we can only conclude that his proposition means “There is no non-fictional being to which the term God properly applies.” More to the point, the atheist’s belief is that God is not real. Unlike the unclear assertion that “God does not exist,” the proposition “God is not real” asserts that a particular logical subject [viz. God] is merely conceptual [i.e. is not real].” And while this is much clearer, it still suffers from a host of problems which we will now examine.

1. The Problem of Objectivity

The atheist’s belief that God is “not real” (i.e. does not “exist”) presupposes that there is a reality which he and theists can and do know. And given that he assumes he and theists know this reality, he is further assuming that reality is objective, i.e. that its constituent objects and attributes are what they are independently of his or the theist’s subjective apprehension of them. What is real, then, is that which corresponds to the collection of objects and attributes that are what they are independently of our subjective apprehension of them. For the atheist, God does not correspond to the collection of objects an attributes that are what they are independently of our subjective apprehension of them. Therefore, he believes that God is not real.

This reasoning is self-contradictory, for the act of scrutinizing any given entity is necessarily subjective. To put the matter clearly – One can only scrutinize a given entity by means of subjective apprehension. If one can only affirm as objectively real that which is what it is apart from one’s subjective apprehension of it, then one cannot affirm anything as real. This necessarily implies that the atheist cannot even affirm that there is an objective reality, for how could he verify that there is a collection of objects and attributes that are what they are apart from his subjective apprehension of them if he can only subjectively apprehend them?

The common reply to this is that the atheist can affirm certain entities as real by appealing to the testimony of others. However, this merely moves the problem backward by a step. For the atheist would still need to subjectively apprehend the testimony of others. He would not be obtaining knowledge about anything objective, therefore, by subjectively apprehending the testimony of others. And this introduces another problem.

2. The Problem of Other Minds

The problem of objectivity, as we have noted already, is not solved by appealing to the testimony of others. What’s more, appealing to the testimony of others presupposes that others have minds, and this is something that cannot be verified empirically either. One may attempt to sidestep this problem by asserting that the actions of other individuals necessarily signify that those individuals, like oneself, have a mind. But upon what basis? While some of the atheist’s physical activities may signify his correlative mental activities, this says nothing about the physical activities of others. How can the atheist know that the physical activities of others signify correlative mental activities? Upon what basis does the atheist believe that his own physical activities signify to others that he has a mind simultaneously performing correlative mental activities?

Given the problem of objectivity, he has no basis for believing that his actions signify to others at all. He believes that he knows his bodily activities correlate to his mental activities. And we may grant him that, for the sake of argument. But to extend this reality to others steps beyond what he claims to have empirical evidence for, namely the body-as-mind-signifier theory that undergirds his belief that one can observe the actions of another individual and soundly infer therefrom that he has a mind.

3. Other Problems of Induction

As atheism rejects the reality of an all knowing mind who is capable of revealing, and who has revealed, universal truths to men, it follows that universal affirmative and negative propositions are only approximately universal. Consequently, an atheist’s deductions from assumed universal propositions are always only approximately universal. Moreover, these approximations to universality are determined by the atheist himself who, by rejecting divine revelation, must determine the parameters of his inductions. These parameters, however, must also be determined by the atheist, leading to an infinite regress of such determinations, resulting with the atheist’s inability to justifiably assert any universal proposition to be or not be the case. The atheist, therefore, cannot claim to deductively prove any proposition he holds as true. Rather, his deductions are hypotheses given the inductive parameters he has arbitrarily established. The atheist is limited to inductive reasoning, in other words, which is even more of a problem for the following reasons.

a. Inductive Reasoning Implies Knowledge of at Least One Universal – This universal is what we may call the axiom of induction. It is the necessary presupposition that property sharing entities constitute a class. This axiom lies at the foundation of all induction, but it cannot be established by induction without the atheist already employing it. The axiom is a true proposition, and this is a problem for the atheist. For to whom does the truth belong? Whose mind is the source of this proposition? It cannot be the atheist, for the atheist is limited in what he knows, as well as in how he can possibly come to know what he knows, and the axiom of induction is a true universal proposition that cannot be established by means of induction.

b. Induction is Secondary to Deduction from the Axiom of Induction – Given that induction presupposes the axiom of induction, it follows that every induction proceeds upon the basis of a prior necessary deduction from the axiom of induction. The set of particulars from which the atheist desires to draw conclusions is generated by a deduction from the axiom of induction, namely –
All property sharing entities constitute a set.
A, B, C...n+1 are property sharing entities
Therefore, A, B, C...n+1 constitute a set.
The deduction of a set from the axiom of induction, therefore, precedes all induction. This elementary observation has profound implications, for it necessarily implies that the laws of inference precede induction and cannot be justified by an appeal to inductive arguments, for every induction follows from the deduction of sets from the axiom of deduction.

c. Deductive Set Generation Implies the Priority of the Laws of Logic & Deductive Inference – It is not problematic for the atheist merely that an axiom precedes the atheist’s attempt to draw inductive inferences, nor is it problematic for the atheist merely that a necessary deduction precedes his inductive reasoning. What is even more problematic for the atheist here is the fact that set generation depends upon the laws of logic – viz. the law of identity, the law of non-contradiction, and the law of the excluded middle – as well as the rules of inference. The laws identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle, as well as the rules by which we may know if our deductively drawn conclusions are valid or invalid are propositions that precede the minds of all men. To whom, therefore, do these ideas belong?

§ VI. Does the Atheist Have Justification for his Belief?

Now that we have cleared away the brush from the atheist’s ambiguous language, we may ask –
Does the atheist have justification for asserting that God is not real?
No, he does not. This is so for the reasons we have established above, which we will now summarize very briefly.
1. Atheists do not, and cannot, have access to objective reality if they are confined to empirico-inductive reasoning. Because they cannot, and do not, have access to objective reality, they have no basis for believing that there is a collection of objects and attributes that are what they are apart from his subjective apprehension of them. 
2. Atheists cannot verify that there is an objective reality, moreover, by appealing to the testimony of others. Because he has no access to objective reality, he can only subjectively apprehend the testimony of others. He also cannot justify his belief that these other minds are themselves objectively real, since he is not identical to them. He presupposes that his bodily activity correlates to his mental activity, with the body serving as a signifying mechanism to himself and others, but he cannot say that the same is true of others. Thus, even an appeal to the physical activities of others does not prove that they have minds like his own. He is, in the final analysis, confined to his subjectivity. 
3. Inductive reasoning proceeds upon the basis of (a.) the axiom of induction, (b.) the deductive generation of sets, (c.) the laws of identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle, and (d.) the laws of deductive inference. The axiom of induction, the deductive generation of sets – i.e. the discursive application of the laws of identity, non-contradiction, excluded middle, and deductive inference – are all immaterial content. Prior to induction, therefore, there are propositions that can be understood by finite minds, but which cannot be generated by finite minds.
In summation, the atheist’s belief that “God is not real” is one that he can only make by first presupposing that there is a mind that possesses and has generated universal truths apart from which man’s thinking cannot even get off of the ground. The atheist is not only unable to assert that God is not real, he is unable to assert that there is such a thing as reality at all.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Contra Atheism [Pt. 2]

by Hiram R. Diaz III



§ III. The Logical Problem

Thus far we have taken for granted that the assertion “God exists” is one that may be meaningfully denied. However, is this the case? What does it mean to affirm that God exists? Logically speaking the word “is” functions as the copula connecting the subject term of a proposition to its attendant predicate term, as the following diagram demonstrates –
The assertion “God exists,” then, expresses either one of the following propositions –
1. A particular logical subject of predication [viz. God] has the property of being a logical subject of predication. 
2. A particular logical subject of predication [viz. God] has the property of x [i.e. an undefined property signified by the word exists].
Whereas proposition 2. may be translated into a non-tautologous proposition (e.g. “God exists” = “God is an extra-conceptual being with all of the attributes classically and biblically ascribed to him”), proposition 1. is a tautology that is true of any given logical subject of predication. More concisely, if the assertion “God exists” is not idiomatic shorthand for a lengthier proposition in which attributes are predicated of God (e.g. “God is a non-fictional/extraconceptual being”), then it is akin to asserting x is x. This being the case, it follows that unless the atheist defines his terminology, explaining what he means when he says “God does not exist,” his assertion is at best ambiguous. And at worst, it is self-contradictory, for the assertion “God does not exist” would then be logically identical to the proposition “This logical subject of predication [viz. God] has the property of not being a logical subject of predication [i.e. “not existing”].” This is not a return to Anselm’s Ontological Argument, but a simple recognition of a logical problem facing the atheist. If “being” cannot be divorced from “being the logical subject of predication,” and it cannot, then one cannot rationally deny the “existence” of any logical subject once it has been verbally, or by some other means of communication, identified as a logical subject.

§ IV. Who or What are Rightly Called Atheists?

Before examining the meaning of the assertion “God does not exist,” we must first do away with the popular level definition of atheism as the lack of belief in gods by subjecting it to scrutiny. Below we will look at some, but not all, of the problems that the popular definition of atheism entails.

1. The Problem of Non-conscious Beings

If atheism is the lack of beliefs in gods, then any thing (being) lacking consciousness is, therefore, an atheist. Observe –
a. Non-conscious beings lack every kind of belief. 
b. Belief in gods is a kind of belief. 
c. Therefore, non-conscious beings lack belief in gods.
Applying the law of transitivity, we have the following –
a. If atheists are beings which lack belief in gods, 
b. and non-conscious beings lack belief in gods, 
c. then non-conscious beings are atheists.
This is not what the atheist intends to communicate, but it is what follows from his definition of atheism as the lack of belief in gods. In order to avoid this, the atheist must clarify what he means when defines atheism as the lack of belief in gods.

2. The Problem of Unconscious Beings

The atheist will, perhaps, clarify what he means by stating that atheism is the lack of belief in gods found among personal beings with the capacity for consciousness, but this is only a little bit better. Consider –
1. Atheism is the lack of belief in gods found among consciousness-capable beings. 
2. Consciousness-capable beings are categorizable as either conscious or unconscious. 
3. Therefore, atheism is the lack of belief in gods found among conscious or unconscious consciousness-capable beings.
What is more, assuming for the sake of argument that it is possible for a person to become absolutely unconscious in the cases of sleep, medically induced comas, accidentally induced comas, and so on (an assumption which it seems atheists generally hold), the popular definition of atheism inexorably results in the absurdity of affirming that unconscious theists become atheists by means of their being rendered unconscious. Thus, in the case of sleeping theists it would be valid to argue the following –
1. Those who are unconscious lack all kinds of beliefs. 
2. Sleeping theists are part of those who are unconscious. 
3. Therefore, sleeping theists lack all kinds of beliefs. 
4. If one lacks all kinds of beliefs, then one lacks a belief in gods. 
5. Sleeping theists lack all kinds of beliefs. 
6. Therefore, sleeping theists lack belief in gods. 
7. All consciousness-capable being who lack belief in gods are atheists. 
8. Sleeping theists are consciousness-capable beings who lack belief in gods. 
9. Therefore, sleeping theists are atheists.
This is an absurd conclusion, but one that follows from the definition of atheism as a lack of belief in gods.

3. The Problem of Conscious Beings

What we have examined above is not a straw man of what the atheist believes, but is an examination of the logical conclusions we may derive from the atheist’s definition of atheism. We have done this in order to demonstrate that the definition given by the atheist is deficient because it would apply to a broader category of beings than that category to which the atheist intends to apply it, effectively resulting in identifying all beings as atheists. And even when qualified, the definition fails because it is still too broad, including even theists as atheists.

The atheist may attempt to further qualify his definition by stating that he is only referring to conscious consciousness-capable beings who lack a belief in gods. This is better, but it is still problematic. For the sake of argument, we may grant that there exists a person whose mind is completely devoid of any ideas about God. Now let us say that this individual lives 37 years of his life without ever thinking about God, gods, cultures and individuals besides himself having or lacking belief in gods, or even his own lack of belief in gods. He is conscious of every other fact of the world capable of being known by him, as well as of his own mental life. He lacks consciousness of only one thing, viz. his lack of belief in gods. Suppose that this remains the case until he one day is presented with the Gospel of Christ and reflects on his mental activity and concludes that he lacks, and has always lacked, a belief in gods. Has he always been an atheist? Or has he just become an atheist? If he has always been an atheist, then it follows that those who are in an analogous situation, epistemologically speaking, are likewise atheists. This would include individuals who are cognitively undeveloped (e.g. unborn children), cognitively underdeveloped (e.g. mentally challenged persons), or who have become cognitively impaired by natural or accidental means over time (e.g. individuals with degenerative brain disease, or individuals who have experienced brain trauma).

The problem here should be evident to the attentive reader. In a word, it is this –
If a conscious individual lacks consciousness of his current lack of belief in gods, then he is no different than a person who lacks the cognitive ability to become aware of his lack of belief in gods. Consequently, there is a difference between those whose reasoning has led them to lack a belief in gods, or whose reasoning has confirmed their lack of a belief in gods as true, and those who lack the cognitive ability to rationally evaluate the arguments of theists, reject them as fallacious or unsound, and thereupon come to lack a belief in gods, etc.
To put the matter succinctly: It is simply not the case that atheism is the lack of belief in gods, for there is a clear difference between the conscious consciousness-capable individual who lacks a belief in gods due to some cognitive impairment and the individual who lacks a belief in gods as a consequence of the use of his normally functioning cognitive faculties.

4. The Problem(s) Facing the Atheist

Thus, in attempting to work around having to make a positive assertion about God’s existence the atheist has cast a wide enough net to include nearly anyone and anything that absolutely lacks consciousness for the entirety of its life (e.g. persons) or the entirety of its endurance1 (e.g. physical objects), as well as persons lacks consciousness either temporarily or for the entirety of their lives. He has, moreover, moved from asserting something objective about God or gods (e.g. There are no gods) to asserting something subjective about himself (viz. “I lack a belief in gods”). The former has monumental implications for all of human history and society, while the latter is merely a report about the psychology of one individual who does not desire to state what he does believe. As we have shown above, the atheist is not one who merely lacks a belief in gods, but one who has received, evaluated, and rejected information about gods and has, by rational means, rejected those arguments as fallacious or unsound.

Once this is reckoned with, it must further be acknowledged that disbelief in a given proposition (e.g. God exists) is necessarily dependent upon a prior commitment to an unstated epistemology which axiomatically defines what is or is not proper evidence regarding the truth of a given proposition, and scrutinizes theistic arguments on that basis. Stated more broadly,
P is dubious iff it meets some prior condition of dubiousness. The prior condition of dubiousness, moreover, is either be heuristic or indubitable. If heuristic, then P is heuristically or theoretically, but not actually, dubious. However, if indubitable then P is actually dubious. Given that the skeptic believes P to be actually dubious, then it follows that he likewise believes his prior condition of dubiousness to be indubitable.
What this means is that the atheist’s disbelief is the necessary consequence of his prior commitment to certain unstated positive beliefs. His disbelief is actively reached by means of his use of reason, it is not merely the lack of belief in gods. Rather, the atheist’s lack of belief in gods is the consequence of his rational criticism of theistic arguments, rational criticism which is dependent upon his prior positive and indubitable beliefs. The atheist believes that gods do not exist.

Additionally, the atheist faces the problem that all empirico-inductivists face – the problem of hasty generalization. Given the problem of induction, it follows that the atheist cannot appeal to his examination of his mental states to demonstrate that he lacks belief in gods. The parameters in which he is to perform such an induction remaining undefined and fluid, moreover, he cannot say he is either more or less certain that he is one who lacks belief in gods. This means that the atheist may speculate that he is one who lacks belief in gods, but he does not know this to be true, nor can he know it. Rather, he has assumed as indubitable inductive parameters which may heuristically “prove” that he is one who lacks belief in gods. If he truly does lack belief in gods, this cannot be known to him by means of his own empirico-inductive reasoning.



1 This should be understood in the ontological sense.