Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Irrationality of Atheism and Agnosticism?

These days it seems to be en vogue to consider one's self an atheist or an agnostic. Many of those who latch on to one of these two titles claim that they do so because belief in God is irrational. I have already written defending the rationality for theism (see Aquinas' Five Proofs blog), so that is not my intent here. Rather, there is a looming question that I have for these folks regarding their chosen worldviews. Are atheism or agnosticism even rational positions to hold?

Before it can be evaluated whether or not either of these is itself rational, it is necessary to define what I mean when I use these terms. When I refer to an atheist, I am referring to one who believes that God does not exist. Regarding agnostics, I am going to make a distinction at the onset. Some agnostics claim that we can't know anything about God, including whether or not He exists. I will hereafter refer to these as "hard agnostics." Others claim that there is not enough evidence to come to a conclusion on the question of God's existence. These I will hereafter refer to as "soft agnostics." Now that I have defined my terms, it's time to evaluate each of these positions.

Is it logical to call one's self an atheist? I actually think that this is the most unreasonable worldview that any person can hold. In fact, I will jump out on a limb and assert that most people who call themselves atheists actually mean that they believe one of the forms of agnosticism. Why? In order to say that God does not exist, a person would basically have to be omniscient. First, they would have to have searched "every corner" of the universe and found that "God was not there." Now, if that were not enough, they would not only have to search every place, but before they left each place they would have to set up surveillance, just in case that wily God was pulling a fast one them and following behind the whole time. Now, even if this were done, and the cameras were all monitored and God was not anywhere found at any moment, even this would not be enough to prove that God does not exist. All it would prove is that a corporeal God does not exist. And even that couldn't really be proved because you would have to assume that none of the corporeal things that are seen could be God being discreet. Of course this borders on the ridiculous, but that is exactly the point. An atheist has to beg the question and "know" that a non-corporeal God does not exist while searching/monitoring every inch of the universe in order to prove such a thing. Though I believe that this insight absolutely destroys an atheistic position, I would like to make two other points here that really have no additional weight but are issues that I constantly see brought up. (1) Evolution: Even if macro-evolutionary theory as presented in Darwin's Descent of Man were true, it does not prove that God does not exist, it only invalidates the biblical creation story (of course, I do reject that Darwin was correct, but that is a separate debate altogether that I do not wish to engage here). (2) Even if one could show that the traditional proofs for God were invalid (again a conclusion I reject, but I have another blog where they can be challenged), this would not prove that God does not exist; only that the proofs were inconclusive. That about covers atheism. Will there be any atheists left?

Next, I would like to cover hard-agnosticism. Remember that hard-agnosticism claims that one cannot know anything about God, including whether he exists. Is this a reasonable position to hold? Again, I think this suffers a death similar to that of atheism. However, before I address why I would like to make a disclaimer. The reason that I made the distinction between hard and soft agnosticism was so as to avoid setting up a straw man. Most agnostics probably won't toe a line this hard, but some do so I saw it reasonable to mention it. That being said let me show why this position dies a quick death. Like atheism, it proves too much. Just look at the claim. "We can't know anything about God..." This is what we call a self-defeating statement. It is a claim to know something about God, namely that you can't know anything about God. Again, if you knew that you couldn't know anything about God you would have to know something about what he is like to realize that your knowledge couldn't even approach Him. It is completely irrational, much like if I typed: "I cannot type a word in English." The hard agnostic stultifies himself.

Finally, I would like to look at soft-agnosticism. Now, it is probably the case that most people who lack a belief in God are of this variety in regards to their worldview. I admit that of all the positions, it would clearly be the most reasonable to hold. But is it really rational? I was one of these until I was twenty-one. I would bet that most people who hold this position were much like me too. They would make the claim that there is not enough evidence without ever really having looked at the evidence that has been offered. It was not until I was offered evidence (I first was shown evidence of fulfilled prophecy) that I actually took to evaluate any. Now, here I am five years later after reviewing all of the evidence that I could get my hands on and have been completely convinced that the Judeo-Christian God does exist. I would like to make it clear that I am not convinced simply because of a personal encounter, a good feeling, or desired results. No, the evidence that convinced me is philosophical, historical, and scientific. That is enough about me, this post wasn't purposed to be a life story, only to show that I understand the claims made by each position.

I would like to hear any rebuttals (if there even are any) to my claim that atheism and hard agnosticism are completely ridiculous beliefs to hold. For those of you who may be soft-agnostics, I have a question for each of you. What kind of evidence would you require in order to believe in God?

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