Atheism, Agnosticism, and Bullshit: Part 3 – Agnosticism as Knowledge

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Atheism, Agnosticism, and Bullshit: Part 3 – Agnosticism as Knowledge

In both Part 1 and Part 2 of the previous essay “Atheism, Agnosticism, and Bullshit”, it was argued that so-called lack-of-belief atheism (or negative-atheism) and agnosticism are essentially synonymous; indeed, negative lack-of-belief atheism is really just agnosticism by another name (or is better described as something like ‘ignotheism’ for those who are genuinely ignorant of the question of God’s existence). Now, in response to the claim that lack-of-belief atheism and agnosticism are the same position, some atheists assert that the difference between atheism and agnosticism is that atheism allegedly deals with belief claims whereas agnosticism deals strictly with knowledge claims, thereby implying that a person could be an atheist and an agnostic at the same time without a contradiction necessarily arising. Such critics argue that rather than seeing agnosticism as resting at the mid-point between atheism and theism on the spectrum of theistic belief, agnosticism is actually best understood as resting in a separate category altogether, thus meaning that it does not overlap with atheism. Consider, for example, what Austin Cline, an ‘Agnosticism & Atheism Expert’ at the popular website ‘atheism.about.com’, says in his 7th of September 2016 online article “Atheist vs. Agnostic – What’s the Difference?”, which was accessed on the 28th of February 2017; Cline says the following:

[QUOTE] An atheist is anyone who doesn’t happen to believe in any gods, no matter what their reasons or how they approach the question of whether any gods exist. This is a very simple concept, but it’s also widely misunderstood. For that reason, there are a variety of ways to state this. Atheism is: the lack of belief in gods, the absence of belief in gods, disbelief in gods, not believing in gods.

An agnostic is anyone who doesn’t claim to know for that any gods exist or not, no matter what their reasons or how they approach the question of whether any gods exist.

There’s a simple test to tell if one is an agnostic or not. Do you think you know for sure if any gods exist? If so, then you’re not an agnostic. Do you think you know for sure that gods do not or even cannot exist? If so, then you’re not an agnostic. Everyone who can’t answer “yes” to one of those questions is a person who may or may not believe in one or more gods, but since they don’t also claim to know for sure they are agnostic — an agnostic theist or an agnostic atheist.

An agnostic atheist has two qualities: they don’t happen to believe in any gods and they don’t claim to know [f]or sure that no gods can or do exist. 

An agnostic theist has two qualities: they believe in the existence of at least one god and they don’t claim to know for sure that this god or gods definitely exist.

…many people have the mistaken impression that agnosticism and atheism are mutually exclusive. But why? There’s nothing about “I don’t know” which excludes “I don’t believe.” On the contrary, not only are they compatible but they frequently appear together because not knowing is frequently a reason for not believing. It’s often a very good idea to not accept some proposition is true unless you have enough evidence that would qualify as knowledge. [UNQUOTE, http://atheism.about.com/od/aboutagnosticism/a/Atheist-vs-Agnostic-Difference.htm%5D

And note that this attempt to differentiate atheism from agnosticism in the above manner stems from the fact that the word ‘gnostic’ pertains to the issue of knowledge and of having knowledge, and so an ‘a-gnostic’ is thus be someone who lacks knowledge about something.

Now, as Cline notes, what the above atheistic assertion claims is that when it comes to categorizing the various unbelieving positions that a person could hold, a person could thus join atheism and agnosticism together without contradiction or redundancy. Indeed, a person could thus be an agnostic-atheist; and this would mean—as per Cline—that the person does not happen to believe in any God or gods (hereafter just God) and he does not claim to know that there is no God. But here we run into a problem. Namely, if atheism—as Cline defines it—is just a lack of belief in God, then the term ‘agnostic-atheist’ actually is redundant and trivial. Why? Because to claim to know something necessarily includes having a positive belief about it. Indeed, knowledge is most often defined as a ‘justified true belief’ or a ‘warranted true belief’. Furthermore, even a more commonsensical and common understanding of what knowledge is, namely, a very well-evidenced belief, still includes a positive belief within it. After all, when a criminal is found guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, we believe that the criminal is guilty, but we consider such a belief to be knowledge because it is a very well supported belief; this is why, in common parlance, we rightly say that we know that the criminal is guilty of the crime in question. So the point is that knowledge necessarily includes a component of belief within it. But what this now means is the following: if a person lacks a belief in some proposition, then they necessarily do not know it. Consequently, if atheism is defined as just a lack-of-belief in the existence of God, then there is no point in claiming to also not know that God does not exist, because such a lack of knowledge is necessarily included and implied in the initial lack-of-belief; to lack a belief in something is to lack knowledge of it as well, so there is no reason to say the same thing twice. Indeed, the term ‘agnostic-atheist’ essentially means that you are saying “I have absolutely no positive belief of any type concerning the existence or non-existence of God (lack-of-belief atheism), and I have no justified true belief (knowledge) concerning the existence or non-existence of God either.” Well, obviously, for if you take the former position, then the latter one is automatically included in it, and thus there is no point in being redundant by calling one’s self an agnostic-atheist. And so, the whole push to somehow make lack-of-belief atheism and agnosticism distinct, and thus combinable, becomes yet another shell-game, for it is just a way of saying the same thing twice. Indeed, if atheism is defined as just a lack-of-belief, then agnostic-atheism is a redundant and unnecessary term.

Now, to see this whole problem from a different angle, consider that if the term ‘agnostic-atheist’ were useful or necessary, then the term ‘gnostic-atheist’ should also be useful and necessary. But far from being useful, the term ‘gnostic-atheist’ is incoherent. Indeed, for if atheism is defined as just a lack-of-belief, then no atheist could be a gnostic-atheist. Why? Because the term ‘gnostic’ means to have knowledge, which—as shown above—means to have a positive justified true belief about something (or a warranted true belief), not a lack of belief. But if atheism is just a lack-of-belief, then ‘gnostic-atheism’ is a contradiction, for it is claiming that someone both lacks a belief concerning God’s existence (atheism) while at the same time actually having a positive justified true belief (knowledge: ie – gnosticism) that God does not exist. But no one can lack a belief concerning the question of God’s existence while at the same time positively believing that God does not exist, for to have a positive belief that God does not exist means that you do not lack a belief concerning the question of God’s existence, but rather you positively deny that God exists. And so the term ‘gnostic-atheist’ essentially means that you are saying “I have absolutely no positive belief of any type concerning the existence or non-existence of God (lack-of-belief atheism), and yet I have a justified true positive belief (knowledge) that God does not exist.” Now, obviously, such a position is contradictory, and so it is indeed impossible for someone to be a gnostic-atheist so long as atheism is taken to be a mere lack of belief.

Therefore, when atheism is defined as a lack-of-belief, adding an agnostic or gnostic prefix to the term ‘atheism’ is either redundant or contradictory. Furthermore, note as well that even if the term ‘agnostic-atheism’ was not redundant, it is still just agnosticism by another name. Indeed, for given that the agnostic-atheist allegedly lacks a belief in God and also does not claim to know whether or not God exists, then such a person just is a person who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of God, and such a definition has traditionally been the definition of what an agnostic is, as numerous quotes in the previous essays in this series show. So even the attempt to combine atheism and agnosticism into the term ‘agnostic-atheist’ does nothing to remove the fact that such a position is merely another name for what many people—and many legitimate sources—already define as straight agnosticism.

And so, the long and short of it is this:  if atheism is defined as a lack-of-belief, then the attempt to make agnosticism into something that is distinct from atheism and that can be tacked on to the term ‘atheism’ simply does not work. After all, the term ‘agnosticism-atheism’ is redundant and is still synonymous with just plain old agnosticism, while the term ‘gnostic-atheism’ is contradictory. Thus, this particular attempt to escape the claim that lack-of-belief atheism is essentially just another term for agnosticism fails. Now, if atheism was defined in a positive manner—namely as a positive belief that God does not exist—then separating atheism into gnostic-atheism and agnostic-atheism would work, but whether or not this strategy would allow atheism to avoid the charge of just being another term for agnosticism is a topic for another essay.

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Anno Domini 2017 03 03

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Atheism, Agnosticism, and Bullshit: Part 2 – Martin’s Example

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Atheism, Agnosticism, and Bullshit: Part 2 – Martin’s Example

In the previous essay “Atheism, Agnosticism, and Bullshit”, it was argued that lack-of-belief atheism—also called negative-atheism—is really just agnosticism in disguise. Indeed, the two terms are essentially synonymous. And in that previous essay, it was specifically mentioned that atheist Michael Martin, via his own writings and through his own words, provides the very means to demonstrate why negative-atheism and agnosticism are essentially the same. And so this essay will examine Martin’s writing to see why this is the case.

Now, in his “General Introduction” to the 2006 Cambridge Companion to Atheism, Martin says the following about atheism:

[QUOTE] If you look up “atheism” in a dictionary, you will find it defined as the belief that there is no God. Certainly, many people understand “atheism” in this way. Yet this is not what the term means if one considers it from the point of view of its Greek roots. In Greek “a” means “without” or “not”, and “theos” means “god.” From this standpoint, an atheist is someone without belief in God; he or she need not be someone who believes that God does not exist. Still, there is a popular dictionary meaning of “atheism” according to which an atheist is not simply one who holds no belief in the existence of a God or gods but is one who believes that there is no God or gods. This dictionary use of the term should not be overlooked. To avoid confusion, let us call it positive atheism and let us call the type of atheism derived from the original Greek roots negative atheism. [UNQUOTE]

And now Martin, after agreeing that a negative-atheist is someone without a belief in God or gods (hereafter just God), then continues in the following vein concerning agnosticism:

[QUOTE] Agnosticism, the position of neither believing nor disbelieving that God exists, is often contrasted with atheism. However, this common opposition of agnosticism to atheism is misleading. Agnosticism and positive atheism are indeed incompatible: if atheism is true, agnosticism is false and conversely. But agnosticism is compatible with negative atheism in that agnosticism entails negative atheism. Since agnostics do not believe in God, they are by definition negative atheists. This is not to say that negative atheism entails agnosticism. A negative atheist might disbelieve in God but need not. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added]

So it is clear that Martin perceives the conflation between negative-atheism and agnosticism. And although Martin says that while agnosticism entails negative-atheism, negative-atheism does not necessarily entail agnosticism, it is hard to see why this is so. Martin does say that a negative-atheist might disbelieve in God but need not do so. Now it is hard to know exactly what Martin means, but if he means that a negative-atheist might be a person who is genuinely ignorant of the whole issue of God and thus does not actually disbelieve in the existence of God because the person does not even know what God is, then such a view is fair enough, and perhaps the term negative-atheist can be used in this way. However, in reality, not only would such a genuinely ignorant person be better labelled with the less-prejudicial and more accurate term of ‘ignotheist’ (or even ignorant-agnostic (both of which mean someone who is genuinely ignorant of theism and who thus, by necessity, neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of God), but, additionally, if the term negative-atheist (or lack-of-belief atheist) merely describes a person who is genuinely ignorant of the concept of God, then it is a term which is completely inapplicable to any self-described and self-aware adult atheist. And yet, it is precisely such people that use the term negative-atheist to describe themselves. So if the term ‘negative-atheist’ is meant to describe people who are truly ignorant of even the idea of God, then not only is it a poor term for this task, but it has almost no practical application given that nearly all the individuals who use the term as a self-label are well-aware of the question of God and his existence. Furthermore, Martin’s own words will later show that negative-atheism, as he defines it, cannot apply to individuals who are genuinely ignorant of God. And so, even if its potential applicability as a descriptive label of people who are genuinely ignorant of God that is the only reason why negative-atheism does not entail agnosticism, then, with the removal of that reason—a reason that can indeed be removed for all practical purposes given the way that the term negative-atheism is actually applied in our modern culture—it is thus the case that negative-atheism does indeed entail agnosticism and there is not real difference between the two. And this point can be shown in even more detail when we consider how Martin, once again in the same work, defines the two types of agnosticism. Here is Martin’s definition:

[QUOTE] Here I will explore what is at issue between positive atheism and agnosticism. An agnostic, one might suppose, is skeptical that good grounds exist [to disbelieve that God exists], whereas an atheist is not. However, this is not the only way the difference between these positions can be construed. An agnostic might think that there are good grounds for disbelieving that God exists but also believe that there are equally good grounds for believing that God exists. These opposing reasons would offset one another, leaving no overall positive reason to believe or disbelieve.

Let us call the view that there are no good reasons for believing that God exists and none for believing that God does not exist skeptical agnosticism and the view that there are equally good reasons for believing both theism and atheism that offset one another cancellation agnosticism.

Arguments that are intended to establish both negative and positive atheism refute both skeptical and cancellation agnosticism. Showing that negative atheism is justified undermines cancellation agnosticism, for it assumes that both atheism and theism have good grounds that cancel each other out, and negative atheism entails that there are no good grounds for theistic belief. Moreover, arguments showing that there are good grounds for the nonexistence of God undermine skeptical agnosticism since skeptical agnosticism assumes that there are no good grounds for either atheism or theism. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added]

Now the problem that arises from Martin’s aforementioned connection between agnosticism and negative-atheism is that Martin’s own reasoning essentially destroys any justification for the existence of what Martin calls negative-atheism.

Consider that Martin says that cancellation-agnosticism—which Martin defines as being the position that while there are good grounds for theistic belief, these grounds are cancelled out by equally good grounds for atheistic belief—can be undermined by negative-atheism, because negative-atheism allegedly shows that there are no good grounds for theistic belief. And yet the problem is that if negative lack-of-belief atheism undermines cancellation-agnosticism by removing the cancellation-agnostic’s good grounds for theistic belief, then the cancellation-agnostic (as per Martin’s definition) still has good grounds for atheistic belief, which means that the cancellation-agnostic becomes a positive-atheist rather than a negative one, for the atheist now has unimpeded good grounds for the positive belief that God does not exist. But if the cancellation-agnostic does not have good enough grounds to become a positive-atheist after hearing the negative-atheist’s arguments, then he is, also as per Martin’s definition, simply a skeptical-agnostic rather than a negative-atheist, for remember that Martin defines a skeptical-agnostic as a person who sees no good reasons for believing that God exists and no good reasons for believing that God does not exist.

But now the question becomes: where does negative lack-of-belief atheism fit in to all this? After all, as per Martin’s own definitions, it seems that negative-atheism, when pushed, simply collapses into either positive-atheism or skeptical-agnosticism, and thus there is no room to legitimately fit negative-atheism into the spectrum from positive-atheism to agnosticism. For again, if negative-atheism causes the cancellation-agnostic to lose his good grounds for believing in theism but to simultaneously maintain his good grounds for believing in atheism, then the cancellation-agnostic becomes a positive-atheist, even if only to a slight degree. And yet if negative-atheism causes the cancellation-agnostic to lose his good grounds for believing in theism, and if the cancellation-agnostic then also loses his good grounds for believing in atheism, or if his grounds for believing in atheism are not sufficient to justify belief in positive-atheism, then the cancellation-agnostic simply becomes a skeptical-agnostic, not a negative-atheist. In essence, there is nowhere for the negative lack-of-belief atheist to fit, for either 1) an unbeliever has good enough grounds for atheism to believe that atheism is, to a greater or lesser degree, more probable than not, and thus the unbeliever becomes a positive-atheist of a certain strength, or else 2) the unbeliever does not have good enough grounds to believe that atheism is true, and then the unbeliever becomes a skeptical-agnostic; what there is no room for is a negative-atheist who just lacks a belief in God, for such a lack-of-belief atheist just is a skeptical-agnostic. And so, in light of the above, and as per Martin’s own definitions, and at least if we are speaking of individuals who are aware of the idea of God, then it seems that there cannot be any coherent place for negative-atheism to fit along the spectrum of theistic belief unless it serves as nothing else than a different label for skeptical-agnosticism.

Additionally, if the negative-atheist tries to squeeze himself in somewhere between positive-atheism and skeptical-agnosticism by claiming that there are good enough grounds for atheism to not label oneself as an agnostic, and yet those grounds are not quite good enough to have a positive-belief in atheism, then note that such a claim is incoherent. After all, a positive-atheist’s degree of belief in the proposition that God does not exist can be quite weak, but it is nevertheless still a positive belief in a positive claim. Indeed, it is the positive belief that there are good enough grounds to lean away from agnosticism towards a type of tenuous atheism, but not good enough grounds for full-blown beyond-a-reasonable-doubt atheism. But again, a tenuous form of positive atheism is nevertheless still a positive claim that would need to be defended, and it is by no means a mere absence of belief. Thus, such a tenuous atheism cannot coherently be categorized as a lack-of-belief, for it is nothing of the kind. Rather, it is, as stated, a positive belief, albeit a very weak and hesitant one. And so again, such a tenuous and probabilistic atheism simply cannot be accurately described as lack-of-belief atheism, for it is actually a positive belief, and thus it falls under positive-atheism, even though the tenuous level of positive-atheism that the person possessed in this particular case would need to be made clear.

 

Negative-Atheism as No Good Grounds

Now, if the unbeliever tries to claim—as Michael Martin did in one of the quotations above—that negative-atheism is a position which entails that there are no good grounds for theistic belief, and thus that a negative-atheist should be understood as a person who holds that there are no good grounds for theistic belief, then a number of points can be noted in response to this idea.

First, notice that if a negative-atheist is a person who holds that there are no good grounds for theistic belief then, by definition, such a person cannot be genuinely ignorant of the idea of God; after all, a person know believes that there are no good grounds for theistic belief needs to know what theism is and needs to know, and reject, the grounds for theism. And so if negative-atheism describes a person who claims that there are no good grounds for theistic belief, then it cannot be used as a label for a person who is genuinely ignorant of theism, which was—as we saw earlier—a potentially legitimate use of the term ‘negative-atheist’. But such use of the term is no longer possible if negative-atheism entails that there are no good grounds for theistic belief.

Second, merely claiming that there are no good grounds for theistic belief does not necessarily indicate what an individual’s position is on the spectrum of theistic belief. For example, a fideistic-theist could agree that there are no good grounds for theistic belief and yet believe in theism regardless; consequently, believing that there are no good grounds for theistic belief would not necessarily mean that a person is a negative-atheist, nor that a person would wish to be labeled as such. In fact, as I explain in my book Turning the Tables on Atheism, a person could hold that there are no good grounds for theistic belief and yet nevertheless still prefer to be labeled as a negative-theist rather than a negative-atheist. Furthermore, note that the skeptical-agnostic also holds that there are no good grounds for theistic belief, and yet the skeptical-agnostic is an agnostic, not a negative-atheist. So simply holding to the idea that there are no good grounds for theistic belief is insufficient grounds to label someone as a negative-atheist. And, as illustrated above, such a label might actually be quite inaccurate in certain cases.

Now, the third response to the idea that negative-atheism should be understood as the position that there are no good grounds from theistic belief is the more substantive one, for this response argues that defining negative-atheism in the above fashion still does nothing to alleviate the problem that negative-atheism is simply a different term for skeptical-agnosticism. After all, as mentioned, the skeptical-agnostic also holds that there are no good grounds for theistic belief, and so negative-atheism appears to be nothing more than skeptical-agnosticism in disguise. And again, if the negative-atheist not only claims that there are no good grounds for theistic belief, but he also claims that there are no good grounds for positive atheistic belief (and a negative-atheist could claim this), and thus the negative-atheist claims to neither believe nor disbelieve in God, then that is the very definition of a skeptical-agnostic! And so again, negative-atheism is still nothing more than skeptical-agnosticism. And yet if the negative-atheist thinks that there are no good grounds for theistic belief but there are good grounds for atheistic belief, at least to some degree or another, then, by the definitions provided above, such an individual is a positive-atheist, not a negative one. So again, there is no room for the idea of negative-atheism, for either an individual is a skeptical-agnostic, or he is a positive-atheist.

However, perhaps it could be argued that a negative-atheist is someone who holds that there are no good grounds for theistic belief, and yet, at the same time, the person is completely ignorant of the grounds for atheistic belief. Now, while the existence of a person who holds such a position is theoretically possible, in practice, such a potential reality is essentially irrelevant given the fact that anyone who examines the grounds for theism, and finds them wanting, will almost certainly encounter and/or contemplate some arguments and reasons for atheism while doing so; this means that, in practice, a person who holds that there are no good grounds for theistic belief will never really be completely ignorant of some of the grounds for atheistic belief. In fact, since a person who contemplates the grounds for belief in God’s existence would, at the same time, almost certainly come to consider at least some of the grounds for belief that God might not exist, this then means that after doing so, the person would necessarily adopt some kind of position about that latter claim; and so this means that after contemplating some of the grounds for atheism, the person would either 1) accept the grounds for atheistic belief and come to believe that God does not exist (positive-atheism), or 2) take the opposite view (theism), or 3) reject the grounds for atheism and adopt a position of uncertainty about God’s existence (agnosticism). However, this returns us to our earlier point, which is that a person who rejects the grounds for theism but accepts those for atheism is a positive-atheist, whereas a person who rejects both the grounds for theism and for atheism is a skeptical-agnostic; but again, there is no room for negative-atheism between the two unless negative-atheism is merely a synonym for skeptical-agnosticism!

Furthermore, note that even if, in the purely theoretical sense, it was possible for a person to hold that there were no good grounds for theistic belief while being genuinely ignorant of any of the grounds for atheism, this would still do nothing to negate the fact that negative-atheism is really just a form of agnosticism in disguise, and that it is best described as a type of agnosticism. After all, a person who holds that there are no good grounds for theistic belief, but is ignorant of the grounds for atheistic belief, would still be a person who neither believed nor disbelieved in the existence of God; but such a position is the very definition of agnosticism, as Martin and others—as well as many dictionaries—have pointed out (and see their quotes in both this essay and others for substantiation of this claim). At the very least, it is as much of an agnostic position as it is one of negative-atheism, and so, once again, a conflation between negative-atheism and agnosticism occurs. Additionally, it is highly questionable whether it is fair or even accurate to label a person who is ignorant of atheism as a negative-atheist; rather, and as mentioned earlier, a term like ‘ignorant-agnostic’ seems like a much more judicious, fair, and appropriate label for such a person. And so, even if there could be a person who is wholly ignorant of atheism while still holding that there are no good grounds for theistic belief, this would not negate the fact that negative-atheism would not be an appropriate label for such a person, and that such a person’s actual position would be a form of agnosticism, thus once again showing the tangled web that negative-atheism has with agnosticism.

Finally, note as well that if a person held that there are no good grounds for theistic belief, and yet that person was merely doubtful or skeptical of the “goodness” of the grounds for atheistic belief—meaning that he was doubtful of just how good the arguments for atheism were, but not that they were good arguments in general—then, once again, such a person is best thought of as either a skeptical-agnostic or a positive-atheist, but not as a negative-atheist. And why is this so? Because again, if the person is skeptical enough of the “goodness” of the grounds for atheistic belief that he does not believe, to any degree, that God does not exist, then the person is nothing more than a skeptical-agnostic (as per Martin’s own definition), for he holds that there are no good grounds for theistic belief and none for positive atheistic belief either. However, if such a person is skeptical of the “goodness” of the grounds for atheism, but nevertheless believes, to some positive degree, that God does not exist, then such an individual is a positive-atheist, not a negative one. Indeed, perhaps the best term for such a person is an indeterminate-atheist, or an unsure-atheist, given that he is unsure of how good the grounds are for his atheism, but he is still a positive-atheist nonetheless. And so even here, negative-atheism simply does not fit.

And so, the long and short of it is this: using atheist Michael Martin’s own words, we can see that the concept of negative-atheism either collapses into skeptical-agnosticism, or, at best, serves as an inappropriate and inaccurate label for certain positions which could theoretically exist, but which have few, if any, real-life instantiations. Indeed, Martin’s own writings show us that, in reality, negative lack-of-belief atheism is little more than agnosticism in disguise. Consequently, and as has been repeatedly stated, this fact thus further supports the idea that the modern unbeliever’s use of the label ‘negative-atheist’, or ‘lack-of-belief atheist’, is a bullshit maneuver, for while it is rhetorically useful for the unbeliever to use such a term given that it provides him with the burden-avoiding benefits of agnosticism while allowing him to label himself as an “atheist”, it is still a disingenuous maneuver regardless.

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Anno Domini 2017 03 02

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

 

Lack-of-Belief Atheism Has the First Burden of Proof: Part 2

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Lack-of-Belief Atheism Has the First Burden of Proof: Part 2

In the previous essay titled “Lack-of-Belief Atheism Has the First Burden of Proof”, it was pointed that if unbelievers wish to play the game of avoiding their part of the burden of proof by claiming that they merely lack a belief in God, thereby placing the full onus of proof on the theist given that the theist is making the positive claim that God or gods (hereafter just God) exist, then the theist can play a similar game by arguing that he just lacks a belief in the existence of people who genuinely lack a belief in God. Consequently, before any debate about God even starts, the unbeliever thus needs to prove the genuineness of his unbelief. Indeed, since certain forms of theism posit that the Suppression Hypothesis is true—and note that the Suppression Hypothesis posits that neurologically-typical unbelievers actually do believe in God but, for various psychological and/or moral reasons, they suppress that truth via various defensive mechanisms such as denial and suppression—then, in light of this plausible view, a theistic believer who is agnostic about the truth of the Suppression Hypothesis can thereby demand that any self-proclaimed unbeliever prove the genuineness of his unbelief before discussing the issue of God’s existence. And until and unless the unbeliever does so satisfactorily, there is indeed no point discussing the issue of God’s existence because it has not yet been established that any neurologically-typical person truly does deny the existence of God.

Now, in response to this ‘burden of proof’ tactic on the part of the theist, the atheist can try to reverse the situation and claim that he is unsure of the actual existence of sincere believers; indeed, the unbeliever can claim that perhaps believers are simply suppressing the truth concerning the non-existence of God, and so they must therefore prove the genuineness of their theistic belief before the unbeliever will accept it. And commentator ‘KR’, writing in response to the last essay on this topic, articulates this objection well when he says:

[QUOTE] Can you prove to me that you believe in God? You see, I have this theory that there are no actual theists. Deep down, all self-proclaimed believers sense that their interactions with this God is actually their own minds playing tricks on them and that the most parsimonious explanation for why God doesn’t seem to be doing much of anything is that He simply doesn’t exist. However, the thought of there being no afterlife and no prospect of seeing their departed loved ones on the other side is unbearable to them so they suppress this insight. Of course, there is also the threat of Hell and the risk of being ostracized by the other people who profess to believe. I find it interesting to watch deconversion stories on YouTube. No-one claims to have made a decision to give up their faith, in fact they all try desperately to hold on to it (i.e. suppression). Eventually, they just seem to accept at some point that they don’t believe – the suppression simply couldn’t be upheld anymore. Even the most devout (professed) believer can still have doubts – that’s just the cracks in their suppression starting to show. [UNQUOTE, https://reconquistainitiative.com/2017/01/31/lack-of-belief-atheism-has-the-first-burden-of-proof/%5D

And so, the unbeliever can indeed mount such a burden of proof objection against the believer’s own claim that the atheist has the first burden of proof. But is the above objection valid? Does it really negate the unbeliever’s burden of proof? These are questions that need to be answered, and they can be through a number of different responses.

Response 1 – The Unbeliever Still Has a Burden of Proof.

The first response to the above objection is to note that merely arguing that the theist has a burden of proof concerning the genuineness of his belief does nothing to negate the unbeliever’s burden of proof in this regard. Indeed, just because the unbeliever is engaging in a sort of tu quoque maneuver, this does nothing, in the end, to remove the burden of proof from him (so long as the burden of proof is construed as belonging to any person who makes a positive claim, whether that claim is implicit or overt). At best, all this objection shows is that both the believer and the unbeliever have a burden of proof to demonstrate that they hold their positions in a genuine and sincere sense. Now, would this mean that the believer and the unbeliever are at logger-heads, with neither one really at an advantage when it comes to the initial burden of proof? Perhaps, and perhaps this is an undesirable scenario, but the fact that it is again does nothing to remove the burden from the unbeliever in this case.

Response 2 – The Unbeliever’s Objection is Potentially Ad Hoc.

The second response to the aforementioned objection is to note that it appears to be ad hoc in nature, meaning that it has only been posited as a way to respond to the theist’s argument, and thus that it is simply a spur-of-the-moment opportunistic creation meant to protect the unbeliever from the theist’s argumentative attack; this is unlike the theist’s claim concerning the Suppression Hypothesis, given that the theist’s Suppression Hypothesis has a long history and was posited as a hypothesis well before the advent of modern psychology and well before the advent of modern lack-of-belief atheism. Thus, whereas the theist’s Suppression Hypothesis is a genuine idea grounded in ancient writings and thought of before there was a real need for it, the atheist’s version of the Suppression Hypothesis—as above—seems to have been created merely as a way to counter the theist’s own Suppression Hypothesis. And the reason that this fact is important is because an ‘ad hoc’ hypothesis is usually one which is not really believed by the person offering it, and thus it is not being offered in a genuine way; and so, in light of these facts, an ad hoc hypothesis is not a hypothesis that needs to be taken seriously when in a burden-of-proof debate because the person making the hypothesis does not really believe that it is the case.

However, although it can be argued that the unbeliever’s version of the Suppression Hypothesis is indeed ad hoc in some cases—or even most cases—the fact remains that there very well may be unbelievers who genuinely hold to some version of this Suppression Hypothesis concerning theistic believers, and so merely noting that the hypothesis is ad hoc in many cases is not sufficient to undermine the general challenge of this objection. Consequently, another response is still needed.

Response 3 – Lacking an Air of Reality.

Yet another response to the unbeliever’s own Suppression Hypothesis is to note that it lacks an ‘air of reality’. Now, an ‘air of reality’ is a legal term which holds that unless a defense has some type of evidentiary foundation or evidentiary basis, it cannot be offered to the court as a means of arguing for an accused person’s innocence. So, for example, if a person is accused of murder, the person’s lawyer cannot claim that perhaps aliens actually killed the deceased person rather than his client doing so, for the ‘alien defense’ has no evidentiary foundation to it and has thus been made out of whole cloth; and because of this, the court could legitimately discard this defense without even considering it. By contrast, if the person accused of murder had connections to the mob, then there would be an evidentiary basis for claiming that such a person had been framed for the murder which he was accused of committing, and thus the court would have to seriously consider this possibility. Now the reason that this idea of an ‘air of reality’ is important is because without it, a defense lawyer could simply mount countless ad hoc defenses as a way of trying to get his client off. Thus the ‘air of reality’ test helps to determine which ideas are merely possible in the logical sense and thus do not need to be taken seriously in reality, and which ideas are reasonably plausible and thus do need to be taken seriously in reality.

Now, the reason that the ‘air of reality’ test is important in the case of the Suppression Hypothesis is because whereas the hypothesis that unbeliever’s are suppressing the truth about God does have an evidentiary basis—as evidenced in the last essay on this topic—it is questionable whether the hypothesis that theistic believers are suppressing the truth about the non-existence of God actually has an evidentiary foundation. After all, it is possible to posit that believers are motivated to believe in God as a form of wish-fulfilment and that they suppress the truth about atheism, but is there any evidentiary basis for this claim? And until and unless there is—indeed, until and unless there is an air of reality to this claim—it does not need to be taken seriously.

Now, in response to this ‘air of reality’ challenge, an unbeliever might respond that theistic believers have indeed articulated the fact that they want theism to be true and that theism is a form of wish-fulfilment. But note that merely having this one fact is not enough to support the unbeliever’s Suppression Hypothesis, for the unbeliever’s Suppression Hypothesis is not just saying that theists believe on the basis of wish-fulfilment, but that they do not really belief in God at all. But these are two different things. A person could wish that God exists and yet still genuinely believe that He does. Thus, for the unbeliever’s version of the Suppression Hypothesis to have merit, the unbeliever needs to show some evidentiary basis for the idea that believers genuinely do not believe in God’s existence. For example, does the unbeliever have evidence that people who call themselves theistic believers in public actually admit to a lack of belief in God in private? Or does the unbeliever have evidence that the involuntary behavioral responses of theistic believers go against their verbal responses when they are asked about their belief in God? Now, although the answers to these questions are presently uncertain, I would posit, in fairness, that the unbeliever can indeed acquire such evidence, thereby meeting the air of reality test. And even if the unbeliever could not do so, let us, for the sake of argument, consider that he can. So, in light of the assumption that the ‘air of reality’ challenge can be met, what do we do then?

Response Four – Meeting the Burden of Proof.

If the unbeliever’s Suppression Hypothesis can overcome the issue of being ad hoc as well as answer the ‘air of reality’ test, then this leaves us back where we started, meaning that both the believer and the unbeliever have a burden of proof concerning proving the genuineness of their belief and unbelief respectively. But does that mean that both hypotheses are on equal footing? Not at all. Why? Because the very evidence which renders the idea that unbelievers suppress the truth about God’s existence plausible also makes it very easy to hold that actual theistic believers exist. For example, and as explained in the last essay on this topic, the fact that there is scientific evidence to show that human cognitive faculties are naturally wired for supernatural and theistic beliefs means that it is very easy to believe that theists genuinely believe that God exists, for doing so is entirely in line with the natural state of their cognitive faculties. By contrast, atheism seems to be strongly counter to mankind’s natural cognitive state, and so whereas it is easy to believe that there are such things as genuine believers, it is harder to believe that there are such things as genuine unbelievers. Thus, whereas this fact, combined with a believer’s testimony concerning the genuineness of his theistic belief, is sufficient to meet the burden of proof that he is a genuine believer, it is precisely the aforementioned fact which gives us the grounds to doubt the unbeliever’s testimony of his own unbelief; for in the theistic case, the scientific evidence of the naturalness of theism supports the theist’s testimonial claim, whereas it is in tension with the atheist’s testimonial claim.

Furthermore, the fact that atheism may be linked to neurologically-atypical conditions such as autism, whereas the theist is generally seen as neurologically-typical, again means that it is much easier to accept that belief in God is both genuine and a product of neurologically-typical cognitive faculties. And so again, whereas the fact of the neurological-typicality of the believer, combined with his testimony of his genuine belief, is enough to support the genuineness of the believer’s belief, the fact that atheism may be linked to autism thus undermines the atheist’s own testimony of his unbelief, for that very unbelief may be largely due to the atheist’s neurologically-atypical cognitive faculties. And so, the point here is that certain facts that are reasonable to believe about belief in God—namely, that it is natural, that humans are even wired for such belief, and that believers are generally neurologically-typical—means that when a believer offers testimony of the genuineness of his belief in God, that testimony, combined with the facts just mentioned, would be sufficient to convince a reasonable person (in the legal sense) of the genuineness of the believer’s theist belief. By contrast, certain points that are reasonable to believe about non-belief in God—namely, the such unbelief goes against our natural human mental wiring and that such unbelief may even have a causal link to neurologically-atypical cognitive faculties—means that an unbeliever’s testimony for the genuineness of his unbelief (at least as a neurologically-typical individual) is not sufficient to meet his burden of proof. And so the unbeliever must present more evidence—evidence that is greater than his mere testimony—to convince a reasonable person that his unbelief is not due to cognitive issues like autism and/or that it is genuine.

And so, the long and short of it is this: even if the unbeliever’s own version of the Suppression Hypothesis is a legitimate challenge which the believer must meet, the fact is that the believer can meet this challenge relatively easily, whereas it is much harder for the unbeliever to meet the burden required by the theistic’s Suppression Thesis. Thus, the challenge of the Suppression Thesis remains a problem for the unbeliever, and it is a problem that he cannot overcome by the mere testimony of the genuineness of his unbelief. And so, at the end of the day, the unbeliever not only has a burden of proof to prove the genuineness of his unbelief, but it is still the first burden of proof that must be addressed in the debate over God’s existence. And theists should not let unbelievers forget this fact.

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Anno Domini 2017 02 18

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

The Plausibility of the Suppression Hypothesis (Or, Why It is Reasonable to Believe that Culpable Unbelief is Just Rebellion Against God)

NOTE:  So this post contains the ‘big project’ that I was working on. In essence, it is the additional portion of the “Lack-of-Belief Atheism Has the First Burden of Proof” essay where I stated that there is evidence to render plausible the idea that unbelievers actually do believe in God’s existence but merely suppress that belief for moral and/or psychological reasons (or, in other words, the Suppression Hypothesis).

Now, this 12,000 word essay is not for the faint of heart–once I got started, I could not stop–but for anyone who is interested in the Suppression Hypothesis, I think that this essay marshals one of the best cases that the Suppression Hypothesis is a very plausible and reasonable to believe in.

So, here it is:

Additional Note on the ‘Suppression Hypothesis’: Evidence Supporting the Claim that it is Plausible to Contend that Atheists Might Actually Believe in God and yet Suppress that Belief.

In this essay, it was claimed that there are certain points which do indeed render plausible the idea that self-professed unbelievers with properly functioning cognitive faculties actually do believe in God’s existence but that they are suppressing that belief for moral and/or psychological reasons. Now, in speaking of this so-called ‘Suppression Hypothesis’, it must be clear that, as stated, only unbelievers who are neurologically typical are being addressed. After all, atheism may, in large part, be caused by cognitive faculties which are not functioning properly or typically; for example, there is evidence to suggest that atheism is linked to autism given that high-functioning autistic people are more likely to be unbelievers than believers (see “Religious Belief Systems of Persons with High Functioning Autism” by Catherine Caldwell-Harris, Caitlin Fox Murphy, Tessa Velazquez, and Patrick McNamara for details (http://csjarchive.cogsci.rpi.edu/proceedings/2011/papers/0782/paper0782.pdf) as well as “Mentalizing Deficits Constrain Belief in a Personal God” by Ara Norenzayan, Will M. Gervais, and Kali H. Trzesniewski (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0036880)). And so, for such individuals, the Suppression Hypothesis would not necessarily apply, although it still might. Nevertheless, when speaking of the Suppression Hypothesis in this work, such people, given their atypical cognitive faculties, are not taken to be suppressing the truth for moral and/or psychological reasons as is claimed to be the case with neurologically typical individuals.

At the same time, note that much of the evidence presented below is actually rather weak, and this is due in large part to the lack of detailed research that has been done into the causes of unbelief. Nevertheless, since the only goal of the points below is to show that the Suppression Hypothesis is plausible, non-ad-hoc, and that it has an ‘air-of-reality’ to it—a legal term meaning that the hypothesis is based on some type of evidentiary foundation—then the points below are more than sufficient to establish that claim, even though they are not sufficient to establish the Suppression Hypothesis outright.

Now, with all this said, let us look at the various points that support the hypothesis under consideration.

Point One: Mechanism and Motive

The first point to note about the Suppression Hypothesis concerns the general fact that the psychological mechanisms by which an unbeliever would go about suppressing belief in God are well-known. Consider, for example, the psychological defensive mechanisms of denial, repression, and suppression—defensive mechanisms for which a great deal of psychological research can be found. And Kendra Cherry—in a 3rd of October 2016 updated article titled “18 Common Defense Mechanisms Used for Anxiety”, which was written for the website ‘verywell.com’—provides a good lay-man’s summary of the aforementioned defensive mechanisms when she writes the following:

[QUOTE] Denial is probably one of the best-known defense mechanisms, used often to describe situations in which people seem unable to face reality or admit an obvious truth (i.e. “He’s in denial.”). Denial is an outright refusal to admit or recognize that something has occurred or is currently occurring. …Denial functions to protect the ego from things that the individual cannot cope with. While this may save us from anxiety or pain, denial also requires a substantial investment of energy. Because of this, other defenses are also used to keep these unacceptable feelings from consciousness. In many cases, there might be overwhelming evidence that something is true, yet the person will continue to deny its existence or truth because it is too uncomfortable to face.

Repression is another well-known defense mechanism. Repression acts to keep information out of conscious awareness. However, these memories don’t just disappear; they continue to influence our behavior. For example, a person who has repressed memories of abuse suffered as a child may later have difficulty forming relationships. Sometimes we do this consciously by forcing the unwanted information out of our awareness, which is known as suppression. In most cases, however, this removal of anxiety-provoking memories from our awareness is believed to occur unconsciously. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, https://www.verywell.com/defense-mechanisms-2795960%5D

So, such psychological defensive mechanisms as denial, repression, and suppression would clearly provide a means by which an unbeliever could suppress the truth about God overtly while ultimately knowing that God exists. And in light of some of the soon-to-be articulated findings which show that the behavioral reactions of unbelievers betray their verbal claims, it is very interesting to note that, as mentioned above, one trait of repression is that repressed memories still influence a person’s behavior whether they want them to or not.

Now, the above points provide us with some plausible psychological mechanisms by which an unbeliever could suppress belief in the divine, but there are also plausible motives that exist which could drive the use of these defensive mechanisms. For example—and as will be seen below—some atheists do not want God to exist; they desire that he does not exist. Thus, wish-fulfillment could serve as a plausible driver of God denial. Additionally, the desire to be morally free and without guilt could also drive a desire to deny the existence of a God who imposes moral rules on humanity. Also, anger or wrath at God—anger stemming from a variety of reasons, such as pride or viewing God as being responsible for a traumatic event, etc.—could motivate a sort of emotional atheism, where a person, for psychological reasons, eventually comes to deny God’s existence rather than maintaining the psychologically tiring stance of being constantly angry at God; in some ways, this is like a child who is angry at his father and who thus rebelliously walks around the house acting as if his father did not exist, but knowing all the while that he does. And so anger at God is another plausible motivator for suppression of belief in God. Next, fear of the supernatural and divine punishment could plausibly drive unbelievers to deny that such supernatural entities and divine punishment exist; indeed, if a supernatural realm of angels, demons, and gods exist, it would not be surprising if a small subset of the human population was simply too fearful to accept this reality and thus suppressed the truth of it in order to defend their psyches from a reality that they simply could not psychologically handle. In some ways, this would be like what psychologists and military personnel used to call “Hysterical Blindness”, where the horrors of war caused some men to become “blind” as a psychological defensive mechanism even though there was nothing physically wrong with their vision. So fear, wish-fulfillment, anger, and moral freedom could all be plausible motivators for individuals with properly functioning cognitive faculties to become unbelievers and suppress the truth about the divine. At the same time, narcissism is another potential psychological driver which could motivate an overt atheism with a suppressed theism underneath. Indeed, for a narcissist, the existence of a being infinitely more powerful, more intelligent, more skilled, and worthy of worship—with the narcissist being little more a babe compared to this being—would be a hard fact to bear, and thus it is quite plausible that the narcissist would suppress any knowledge that such a being exists in order to protect his narcissistic self-image from harm; furthermore, the narcissist would even have a secondary psychological bonus in embracing atheism given that the unbelieving narcissist could then believe himself more “rational” and “intelligent” than the vast majority of “religious rubes”, while also believing himself to be among the smartest beings in the known universe. Such an ego boost would no doubt be very attractive to such an individual. (In fact, as an interesting side-note, it would be fascinating to study whether the rise of atheism amongst younger people is linked and/or caused by the fact that today’s youth are significantly more narcissistic than past generations. For details, see Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell’s book The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in an Age of Entitlement, or, for a brief summary, note Twenge’s 8th of May 2009 article in Psychology Today titled “Is There an Epidemic of Narcissism Today? Meet the most narcissistic generation ever” (http://web.archive.org/web/20170202083243/https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-narcissism-epidemic/200905/is-there-epidemic-narcissism-today) as well as her 12th of August 2013 Psychology Today article titled “How Dare You Say Narcissism is Increasing? All of the evidence that’s fit to print” (http://web.archive.org/web/20160925192150/https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-narcissism-epidemic/201308/how-dare-you-say-narcissism-is-increasing)).

And so, as the first point, and as a primer for the points to come, it is important to note that not only do clear psychological mechanisms exist to account for how unbelievers could suppress the truth about God, but there are also plausible reasons for why unbelievers might do so.

Point Two – The Desire to Avoid God:

The second point—which is linked to the first—stems from the fact that certain unbelievers have admitted that they do indeed have a desire to deny the existence of God. For example, in a rather famous quote, unbeliever and philosopher Thomas Nagel, on pages 130 and 131 in his book The Last Word, stated the following:

[QUOTE] In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehood. I am talking about something much deeper — namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that… My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added]

Or consider this quote from Aldous Huxley, which comes from his book Ends and Means: An Inquiry into the Nature of Ideals and into the Methods Employed for Their Realization:

[QUOTE] For myself as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, https://archive.org/stream/endsandmeans035237mbp/endsandmeans035237mbp_djvu.txt%5D

And consider also this quote from Huxley from the same work:

[QUOTE] Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know. It is our will that decides how and upon what subjects we shall use our intelligence. Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do so because, for one reason or another, it suits their books that the world should be meaningless. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added]

Thus, the point here is to show that some unbelievers admit that they possess a desire to deny that God exists. They dislike the idea of God, and so might be motivated to deny His existence regardless of what the evidence shows. Note as well that in the first Huxley quote, Huxley admits that his reason for embracing a philosophy of meaninglessness—a philosophy which God’s existence would obviously interfere with—stems, in part, from Huxley’s desire to be sexually free, which is in large part the reason that Romans 1 states that unbelievers deny God. And so the congruity between that statement and Romans 1 is interesting.

Finally, consider atheist Luke Muehlhauser, author of the once quite popular ‘commonsenseatheism.com’ website. In a 31st of May 2009 blog post titled “Atheist Philosophers Don’t Want God to Exist”—which was accessed on the 5th of February 2017—Muehlhauser writes the following:

[QUOTE] Theists often claim that atheists reject God because they don’t want him to exist. Of course, this is no argument for God. And, however many atheists are biased by their hope that God doesn’t exist, there are far more believers who are biased by their hope that God does exist. But I think theists are right. There are many atheists who reject God because they don’t want him to exist. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added]

Muehlhauser then tries to support his above claim by drawing a parallel between this topic and the fact that many unbelievers argue for moral realism because they want moral realism to be true even though—in Muehlhauser’s view—the arguments for moral realism are as bad as those for theism. Thus, Muehlhauser concludes his post as follows:

[QUOTE] My point is that many atheists reject bad theistic arguments, but deploy similarly flawed arguments to defend their own brand of moral realism. I think this might be because they hope God doesn’t exist, but they also hope moral values do exist. It’s clear to most of us why we’d like moral values to exist. But why do atheists hope that God does not exist? Here are some possible reasons:

–        Religion is typically against moral and intellectual progress, since “the whole truth” was supposedly revealed many centuries ago.

–        The idea of a cosmic dictator who convicts you of thoughtcrime is distasteful.

–        Atheists want to be free to do what they like, without observing a long list of arbitrary commands from a big powerful guy in the sky.

–        If God exists, it seems he must be unfathomably malicious, considering all the pointless suffering he inflicts upon or allows in humans and other animals. [UNQUOTE, http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=995%5D

So here is an atheist who argues that, in his opinion, numerous unbelievers do not want God to exist; and Muehlhauser also admits that unbelievers could have the aforementioned motives as a cause of their desire for atheism to be true (and it is interesting to note that some of the motives which Muehlhauser mentions are very similar to the motives noted in Point One).

Point Three – Unbelievers Believe in God:

The third point to note comes from the interesting fact that a non-negligible chunk of self-described atheists and agnostics, when surveyed, admit to believing that God exists, a fact which would be in line with the hypothesis that atheists know that God exists and yet outwardly deny that that is the case.

So, in a 24th of June 2008 New York Times article by Neela Banerjee titled “Survey Shows US Religious Tolerance”—which was accessed on the 31st of January 2017—Banerjee summarized the results from the ‘US Religious Landscape Survey’ by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and found that “…70 percent of the unaffiliated said they believed in God, including one of every five people [21%] who identified themselves as atheist and more than half of those who identified as agnostic.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/24/us/24religion.html?_r=1&ref=us&oref=slogin). And when broken down, the data for that report, taken in 2007, showed that 8% of atheists and 17% of agnostics said they were absolutely certain that God or a Universal Spirits existed, 7% of atheists and 23% of agnostics were fairly certain that such a being existed, and 6% of atheists and 15% of agnostics were not at all or not too certain that God or a Universal Spirit existed (see the chart “Declining Share of Americans Express Absolutely Certain Belief in God” in the “Belief in God” section of chapter one of the November 3, 2015 Pew Research Center report titled US Public Becoming Less Religious, which was accessed on the 3rd of February 2017 (http://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/chapter-1-importance-of-religion-and-religious-beliefs/))

But these interesting results do not end there, for in a 9th of October 2012 Pew Research Center document titled “‘Nones’ on the Rise / Religion and the Unaffiliated”, and in the section titled “Belief in God”—which was accessed on the 31st of January 2017— it was found that:

[QUOTE] … religiously unaffiliated are less likely than the general public as a whole to believe in God. However, there are stark differences in this regard between the unaffiliated who identify themselves as atheist or agnostic and those who describe their religion as “nothing in particular.” Among the “nothing in particulars,” about eight-in-ten (81%) say they believe in God or a universal spirit – and a plurality of those who believe in God say they are “absolutely certain” about this belief. In addition, about four-in-ten atheists and agnostics (including 14% of atheists and 56% of agnostics) say they believe in God or a universal spirit. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added]

And when the results were broken down, of the 38% of atheists and agnostics who had a belief in God or a Universal Spirit, 9% were absolutely certain that God or a Universal Spirit exists, 15% were fairly certain of it, and 14% were not too certain or not at all certain that God or a Universal Spirit exists (http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise-religion/).

And finally, a 2015 Pew Research Center report showed that 8% of atheists and 45% of agnostics had some type of belief that God or a Universal Spirit existed. And when broken down, the data for that report, taken in 2014, showed that 2% of atheists and 7% of agnostics said they were absolutely certain that God or a Universal Spirits existed, 3% of atheists and 20% of agnostics were fairly certain that God or a Universal Spirit existed, and 2% of atheists and 18% of agnostics were not at all or not too certain that God or a Universal Spirit existed (see the chart “Declining Share of Americas Express Absolutely Certain Belief in God” in the “Belief in God” section of chapter one of the November 3, 2015 Pew Research Center report titled US Public Becoming Less Religious, which was accessed on the 3rd of February 2017 (http://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/chapter-1-importance-of-religion-and-religious-beliefs/))

Now, although there could be other factors that cause such unbelievers to claim that they actually believe in God and/or a Universal Spirit, and although further research would need to be done into this matter, the fact remains that a good portion of self-described unbelievers actually do admit to believing in God and/or a Universal Spirit. And the fact that these results repeat over the years also shows that this is not merely a one-time anomaly. Thus, these results are both consistent with and even supportive of the hypothesis that unbelievers actually do believe in God even though they normally would not admit that this is the case.

Point Four – Discrepancies Between Words and Behaviors:

The fourth interesting point to note is that when discussing the issue of God, the bodily reaction of unbelievers seems not to match what they are verbally saying. Indeed, in a report titled “Atheists Become Emotionally Aroused When Daring God to Do Terrible Things”, the researchers summarized their results as follows:

[QUOTE] We examined whether atheists exhibit evidence of emotional arousal when they dare God to cause harm to themselves and their intimates. In Study 1, the participants (16 atheists, 13 religious individuals) read aloud 36 statements of three different types: God, offensive, and neutral. In Study 2 (N = 19 atheists), 10 new stimulus statements were included in which atheists wished for negative events to occur. The atheists did not think the God statements were as unpleasant as the religious participants did in their verbal reports. However, the skin conductance level showed that asking God to do awful things was equally stressful to atheists as it was to religious people and that atheists were more affected by God statements than by wish or offensive statements. The results imply that atheists’ attitudes toward God are ambivalent in that their explicit beliefs conflict with their affective response. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, see “Atheists Become Emotionally Aroused When Daring God to Do Terrible Things” by Marjaana Lindeman, Bethany Heywood, Tapani Riekki, and Tommi Makkonen, in The International Journal For The Psychology Of Religion Vol. 24 , Iss. 2, 2014, and which was accessed on the 2nd of February 2017, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10508619.2013.771991 https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Marjaana_Lindeman/publication/271670348_Atheists_Become_Emotionally_Aroused_When_Daring_God_to_Do_Terrible_Things/links/54d5bf100cf2970e4e6576b8/Atheists-Become-Emotionally-Aroused-When-Daring-God-to-Do-Terrible-Things.pdf?origin=publication_detail%5D

Now, although such experiments always need to be taken with a grain of salt, and though such a result is not clear evidence of the hypothesis that unbelievers actually do believe in God but suppress that belief—and indeed, the researchers mention that such a conclusion cannot be established on the basis of their experiment—the results are nevertheless suggestive of this hypothesis and so it is a very interesting result in light of the Suppression Hypothesis; and this is especially the case when it is remembered that repressed memories may still manifest themselves in a person’s behavioral response to a certain situation, which could be what is occurring in the above situation with the atheists from this study.

Point Five – God Stresses Unbelievers:

Just like the study above, another study noted that thinking about God relieved stress for believers but caused stress for unbelievers. Indeed, in a 5th of August 2010 article titled “Thinking About God Calms Believers, Stresses Atheists”, on the ‘livescience.com’ website—and which was accessed on the 3rd of February 2017—article author Rick Nauert states the following:

[QUOTE] Researchers have determined that thinking about God can help relieve anxiety associated with making mistakes. However, the finding only holds for people who believe in a God.

The researchers measured brain waves for a particular kind of distress response while participants made mistakes on a test.

The results showed that when people were primed to think about religion and God, either consciously or unconsciously, brain activity decreases in areas consistent with the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The ACC is associated with a number of things, including regulating bodily states of arousal and alerting us when things are going wrong.

Interestingly, atheists reacted differently. When they were unconsciously primed with God-related ideas, their ACC increased its activity. The researchers suggest that for religious people, thinking about God may provide a way of ordering the world and explaining apparently random events and thus reduce their feelings of distress.

In contrast, for atheists, thoughts of God may contradict the meaning systems they embrace and thus cause them more distress.

Atheists shouldn’t despair, though. “We think this can occur with any meaning system that provides structure and helps people understand their world.” Maybe atheists would do better if they were primed to think about their own beliefs, he says. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, http://www.livescience.com/8434-thinking-god-calms-believers-stresses-atheists.html%5D

Now, this study does not seem to provide much support for the Suppression Hypothesis, and the researchers even admit that there could be relatively benign reasons that account for their result among their atheist sample. However, when these results are considered in light of a parallel situation, the importance of the above result becomes a bit more apparent. And what this parallel situation is, is the following: note that I do not, for example, believe in Santa Claus or Allah, and so I have no stress—at least none that I experience—when I am told that Santa Claus knows that I have been bad and that I will receive no presents from him for Christmas. And the same lack of stress exists when I am told that Allah will punish me for not being a Muslim. Thus, in these circumstances, I experience no stress. Atheists, however, do experience distress at the thought of God; and yet, since it is so often said that for atheists, God is no more real than Santa Claus, then one would expect atheists not to experience any distress at the idea of God. So it is interesting that they do indeed experience such distress. Now, in fairness, even this analogical argument suffers from its own weaknesses, but the fact remains that the idea that atheists suffer distress at the thought of God is not only a finding which deserves further research, but it is also a finding that it quite consistent and even expected by the Suppression Hypothesis.

Point Six – God Angers Unbelievers:

Another fascinating study which is relevant to the Suppression Hypothesis deals with the anger that certain unbelievers feel towards God. Indeed, in an essay titled “Anger Toward God: A New Frontier in Forgiveness Research”—an essay which forms chapter six of the 2005 Routledge book Handbook of Forgiveness, edited by Everett L. Worthington, Jr.— authors Julie Juola Exline and Alyce Martin note the following:

[QUOTE] We are particularly interested in the issue of whether anger toward God might lead to decreased belief in God’s existence. Our interest was piqued by an early study of anger toward God among undergraduates (Exline et al., 1999), which revealed a counterintuitive finding: Those who reported no belief in God reported more grudges toward God than believers. At first glance, this finding seemed to reflect an error. How could people be angry with God if they did not believe in God? Reanalysis of a second dataset (Exline, Fisher, Rose, & Kampani, 2004; Kampani & Exline, 2002) revealed similar patterns: Those who endorsed their religious beliefs as “atheist/agnostic” or “none/unsure” reported more anger toward God than those who reported a religious affiliation. Further analyses identified a group of conflicted believers (or slipping believers), all of whom had previously believed that God exists (or might exist) but no longer believed at the time of the study. When compared with believers, these individuals reported more anger toward God. These findings raised the question of whether anger might actually affect belief in God’s existence, an idea in line with Novotni and Petersen’s (2001) clinical descriptions of emotional atheism.

Studies of traumatic events suggest a possible link between suffering, anger toward God, and doubts about God’s existence. … Our survey research with undergraduates has focused directly on the association between anger at God and self-reported drops in belief (Exline et al., 2004). In the wake of a negative life event, anger towards God predicted decreased belief in God’s existence. Furthermore, when we looked only at those who showed some drop in belief, belief was least likely to recover for those who reported that they were angry toward God and had chosen to turn away from God. In addition, an open-ended question revealed that 9% of those who had resolved negative feelings stated that they had done so be deciding not to believe in God (Exline, 2002a). Because these data were based on retrospective reports rather than longitudinal analysis, they should be interpreted with caution. Yet they raise the possibility that anger towards God—and subsequent decisions to withdraw—may lead to reduced belief in God’s existence. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added]

So, from this research, not only does it appear that anger is a motivator for atheism, but certain unbelievers admitted that they resolved their anger at God by deciding not to believe in God, a fact which is consistent with the Suppression Hypothesis and would be expected by it. It is also interesting that those people who were angry at God were the least likely to recover their belief in God in the future.

Now, in addition to the above, the researchers, in the same essay, also noted a fascinating point about the link between anger at God and a sense of narcissistic entitlement, the later of which was another possible motivator that was considered for the Suppression Hypothesis. Here is the relevant quote:

[QUOTE] Anger toward God may be especially characteristic of a specific group of individuals: those with an inflated, narcissistic sense of entitlement. High-entitlement persons believe that they merit special treatment, and they are highly invested in collecting on the debts they believe others owe them (e.g. Campbell, Bonacci, Shelton, Exline & Bushman, 2004; Emmons, 1987). Because of its link with narcissism, entitlement also implies a desire to “save face” and a reluctance to compromise personal pride. … In a recent study focused on anger toward God, entitlement predicted greater negative emotion toward God and more negative attributions about God’s intentions; it decreased belief in God when negative emotions did occur (Exline & Bushman, 2004). High-entitlement individuals were especially sensitive to the issue of being repaid. If they believe that God had repaid them (even partially) for their suffering, they tended to report a positive impact of the event on their bond with God. If they did not feel repaid, they tended to report a negative impact. Being repaid was less crucial for those scoring lower on entitlement. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added]

So not only does anger appear to motivate unbelief in certain individuals, but it is also made worse by a feeling of entitlement. And as was noted in Point One, a feeling of entitlement is on the rise with the modern generation, thus showing a possible reason for the rise of atheism in our present age in the West.

Finally, note that the researchers’ findings were also supported by more recent research that they did. For example, Dr. Sanjay Gupta—in a 1st of January 2011 ‘CNN.com’ article titled “Anger at God common, even among atheists”—reports on Exline’s new findings in the field of anger and atheism. Gupta writes:

[QUOTE] …people get angry at God all the time, especially about everyday disappointments, finds a new set of studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. It’s not just religious folks, either. People unaffiliated with organized religion, atheists and agnostics also report anger toward God either in the past, or anger focused on a hypothetical image – that is, what they imagined God might be like – said lead study author Julie Exline, Case Western Reserve University psychologist. In studies on college students, atheists and agnostics reported more anger at God during their lifetimes than believers. A separate study also found this pattern among bereaved individuals.And younger people tend to be angrier at God than older people, Exline said. She says some of the reasons she’s seen people the angriest at God include rejection from preferred colleges and sports injuries preventing high schoolers from competing. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/01/anger-at-god-common-even-among-atheists/%5D

So it truly is fascinating to note that unbelievers are more angry at God than believers are, thus showing that anger—and especially anger coupled with narcissism—may indeed be a powerful motivator for something like ‘emotional atheism’ and the Suppression Hypothesis.

Point Seven – Death and the Unconscious Move Towards Religion:

Yet another study needs to be looked at, this one dealing with unbelievers’ subconscious reaction to thinking about religion and death. Indeed, in a 2nd of April 2012 article titled “Death anxiety increases atheists’ unconscious belief in God”, which was accessed on the 3rd of February 2017, the website ‘Science Daily’ reports the following:

[QUOTE]  New University of Otago research suggests that when non-religious people think about their own death they become more consciously skeptical about religion, but unconsciously grow more receptive to religious belief.

In three studies, which involved 265 university students in total, religious and nonreligious participants were randomly assigned to “death priming” and control groups. Priming involved asking participants to write about their own death or, in the control condition, about watching TV. In the first study, researchers found that death-primed religious participants consciously reported greater belief in religious entities than similar participants who had not been death-primed. Non-religious participants who had been primed showed the opposite effect: they reported greater disbelief than their fellow non-religious participants in the control condition. Study co-author Associate Professor Jamin Halberstadt says these results fit with the theory that fear of death prompts people to defend their own worldview, regardless of whether it is a religious or non-religious one. “However, when we studied people’s unconscious beliefs in the two later experiments, a different picture emerged. While death-priming made religious participants more certain about the reality of religious entities, non-religious participants showed less confidence in their disbelief,” Associate Professor Halberstadt says. The techniques used to study unconscious beliefs include measuring the speed with which participants can affirm or deny the existence of God and other religious entities. After being primed by thoughts of death, religious participants were faster to press a button to affirm God’s existence, but non-religious participants were slower to press a button denying God’s existence. “These findings may help solve part of the puzzle of why religion is such a persistent and pervasive feature of society. Fear of death is a near-universal human experience and religious beliefs are suspected to play an important psychological role in warding off this anxiety. As we now show, these beliefs operate at both a conscious and unconscious level, allowing even avowed atheists to unconsciously take advantage of them.” [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402094322.htm%5D

Now, on the one hand, this study is obviously compatible with the often-heard idea that religious belief is borne out of a fear of death and that religious belief is thus a form of coping mechanism to deal with the anxiety caused by death. But, on the other hand, these findings are also supportive of the hypothesis that unbelievers suppress the religious beliefs that they actually do possess by overtly denying them and yet subconsciously being open to them; a sort of overt and vehement denial coupled with a behavioral response which betrays what they are saying they believe, just as was the case in the earlier studies where unbelievers had unconscious behavioral reactions which appeared to be at odds with their verbal statements. In fact, this study is consistent with both the aforementioned hypotheses being true at the same time, for it is possible that religious belief is motivated by a fear of death and that the Suppression Hypothesis is also true. Either way, the critical point here is that, once again, when it comes to the issue of God, there appears to be a disconnect between what the unbelievers are saying, and how their body is responding, which is the very result that would be expected if unbelievers were using the defensive mechanisms of denial and suppression in order to continually suppress a belief in God that they actually do have deep within their being.

Point Eight – Atheists Do Not Exist:

Another point to note in reference to the Suppression Hypothesis concerns the rather bold claim that atheists might not even exist. Seriously! For in the 7th of July 2014 article “Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke”,  which was accessed on the 3rd of February 2017, and which was on the ‘Science 2.0’ website, article author Nury Vittachi writes the following:

[QUOTE]  While militant atheists like Richard Dawkins may be convinced God doesn’t exist, God, if he is around, may be amused to find that atheists might not exist. Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged. While this idea may seem outlandish—after all, it seems easy to decide not to believe in God—evidence from several disciplines indicates that what you actually believe is not a decision you make for yourself. Your fundamental beliefs are decided by much deeper levels of consciousness, and some may well be more or less set in stone. This line of thought has led to some scientists claiming that “atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think,” says Graham Lawton, an avowed atheist himself, writing in the New Scientist. “They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.” This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since we are born believers, not atheists, scientists say. Humans are pattern-seekers from birth, with a belief in karma, or cosmic justice, as our default setting. “A slew of cognitive traits predisposes us to faith,” writes Pascal Boyer in Nature, the science journal, adding that people “are only aware of some of their religious ideas”.

“From childhood, people form enduring, stable and important relationships with fictional characters, imaginary friends, deceased relatives, unseen heroes and fantasized mates,” says Boyer of Washington University, himself an atheist. This feeling of having an awareness of another consciousness might simply be the way our natural operating system works. These findings may go a long way to explaining a series of puzzles in recent social science studies. In the United States, 38% of people who identified themselves as atheist or agnostic went on to claim to believe in a God or a Higher Power (Pew Forum, “Religion and the Unaffiliated”, 2012). While the UK is often defined as an irreligious place, a recent survey by Theos, a think tank, found that very few people—only 13 per cent of adults—agreed with the statement “humans are purely material beings with no spiritual element”. For the vast majority of us, unseen realities are very present. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, http://www.science20.com/writer_on_the_edge/blog/scientists_discover_that_atheists_might_not_exist_and_thats_not_a_joke-139982%5D

And supporting the idea that human beings are hard-wired for religious belief, the writings of psychologist Justin Barrett can also be considered. Indeed, Barrett, in such works as Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Belief and Why Would Anyone Believe in God? forcefully argues that children enter the world with a powerful and preinstalled propensity for religious and supernatural-types beliefs, including belief in deities, all of which are based on a child’s cognitive make-up. Thus, children, and by extension human beings in general, are, in some way, naturally wired to lean towards belief in deities and supernatural entities as they develop. Consequently, these points again help to support the idea that religious and even theistic belief is natural, hard to eradicate, and even sub-conscious.

So, the idea that atheism is “impossible” due to the normal cognitive make-up of a human being helps to support the idea that if a neurologically-typical individual does not believe in God, then this disbelieve will be, in an important sense, false, and will be more of a suppression of his natural and ‘impossible-to-eradicate’ theistic belief than outright and complete disbelieve. Now, such a result may not hold for people who have malfunctioning or non-typical cognitive faculties—such as those unbelievers with high-functioning autism—but it would do so for the neurologically typical. And so, such results once again provide some support for the truth of the Suppression Hypothesis.

Point Nine – OK with Deism, Not OK with Theism:

Throughout this author’s experience debating with a great number of unbelievers, one of the most striking things that has been noted is that many unbelievers do not have a personal or emotional problem with deism—the view that a God-like being exists but does not interact with the universe or with humanity—whereas such unbelievers do indeed have a major problem with theism. And, in the context of the Suppression Hypothesis, the reason that this fact is so interesting is because the main difference between a deistic God and a theistic one is that the theistic God is concerned with human affairs and moral behaviors, whereas the deistic God is not. And if, as the Suppression Hypothesis claims, unbelievers suppress their knowledge of God due, at least in part, for moral reasons—such as for moral liberation—then it would be expected that unbelievers would have a great deal of problems with a theistic God, but be quite comfortable with the existence of a deistic one. And, as stated, that is what this author has often found. But don’t just take my word for it, consider Richard Dawkins. Dawkins, in chapter two of his book The God Delusion, in the section on “Monotheism”, writes the following:

[QUOTE] Compared with the Old Testament’s psychotic delinquent, the deist God of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment is an altogether grander being: worthy of his cosmic creation, loftily unconcerned with human affairs, sublimely aloof from our private thoughts and hopes, caring nothing for our messy sins or mumbled contritions. The deist God is a physicist to end all physics, the alpha and omega of mathematicians, the apotheosis of designers; a hyper-engineer who set up the laws and constants of the universe, fine-tuned them with exquisite precision and foreknowledge, detonated what we would now call the hot big bang, retired and was never heard from again. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added]

One almost gets the impression that Dawkins is excited about this deistic God, whereas he definitely hates the theistic one! But, more importantly, when it comes to deism, note what Dawkins focuses on: namely, the fact that, unlike a theistic God, this particular deistic God leaves humans, and their sins, alone.

But Dawkins is not the only one who holds such a view. For example, the author of the ‘Atheism and the City’ website, in a 19th of October 2013 blog post titled “A Few Thoughts on Deism”—which was access on the 2nd of February 2017—writes the following:

[QUOTE] I’ve been reading up on deism recently over on the site deism.com. … One can certainly be an intelligent, rational thinker and be a deist. In fact, I think of all the people who believe in god, deists are the most rational. The furthest I could ever be pushed towards the direction of theism, is deism. Given what I know, I don’t think I could ever be a theist. But it is possible that I could be a deist. It’s also possible that I could live comfortably as an atheist in a world filled with deists. I wouldn’t even have a big problem myself with the idea of deism being true. A deistic god is a god who let’s you grow and learn on your own. It doesn’t command you or forbid you to do anything. It’s not concerned with micromanaging every aspect of your life. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, http://www.atheismandthecity.com/2013/10/a-few-thoughts-on-deism.html%5D

Again, notice that the atheist author admits that he would not have a problem with deism if it were true, and the reason for that is because, as the author says, a deistic God does not command or forbid anything. And just to point out the difference in this author’s attitude between deism and a more robust religious view, in a 13th of October 2015 post titled “An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism (Chapter 3 Getting Medieval)”, the author, in the first paragraph of his post, admits that there’s “…something about serious Catholics that I really don’t lie” and that he has “…always hated Catholicism” (http://www.atheismandthecity.com/2015/10/an-atheist-reviews-last-superstition.html). So the difference in attitude between his views concerning a robust religious view—one with moral obligations—and deism is striking (although it must also be noted that the author might have a specific hatred towards Catholicism that he does not possess for other robust religions).

And so, in the end, it is both an interesting and a telling point that certain unbelievers are quite fine with deism, but have serious problems with theism, for again, such a result would be quite expected if unbelievers were suppressing the truth of God’s existence in unrighteousness.

Point Ten – Unbelievers are Politically Liberal:

Connected to the idea that morality—or rather freedom from morality—is a main motivator for unbelief, it is also interesting to note the strong correlation between atheism and political viewpoints which could be classified as socially, and hence morally, liberal. For example, as was reported in Point 3 of the Pew Research Center’s June 1st, 2016 web-article “10 Facts About Atheists”—which was accessed on the 1st of August 2016—only one-in-ten of self-identified US atheists count themselves as conservative while about two-thirds of atheists identify as Democrats or lean in that direction; and a majority of atheists, at 56%, call themselves political liberals. Additionally, the same web-article notes that 92% of atheists favor same-sex marriage and 87% support legal abortion (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/06/01/10-facts-about-atheists/). And even atheists themselves, such as Austin Cline in his ‘atheism.about.com’ article “Atheists & Agnostics in America Tend to be Politically Liberal”, accessed on the 1st of August 2016, admit that there is good statistical evidence that atheists and agnostics have strong liberal tendencies (http://atheism.about.com/od/Atheist-Agnostic-Belief-Survey/a/Atheists-Agnostics-America-Politically-Liberal.htm). In fact, Cline, in the same article, notes that a 2005 Harris Interactive poll of US adults showed that atheists and agnostics routinely held much more permissive attitudes about social issues when compared to the general population, let alone when compared to religious conservatives. For example, at the time of the poll, 90% of atheists and agnostics said they supported abortion rights while only 63% of the general population did; and while 63% of the general population supported abstinence from sex before marriage, only 31% of atheists and agnostics did.

So even in politics there seems to be a solid correlation between atheism and certain positive beliefs which are generally opposed to traditional morality. Now, while it is difficult to know if the liberal morality came first, and then the atheism, or if the atheism led to a more liberal morality, it is nevertheless telling that what would be considered traditional moral positions are rejected by so many atheists, even though atheism—as many atheists themselves claim—is allegedly nothing more than just a lack-of-belief about God. Indeed, it is interesting that the traditional moral viewpoint is rejected by such a wide margin of atheists, even though there is technically nothing that would necessitate that this be the case given that atheism is allegedly nothing more than a lack-of-belief about God’s existence (unless, of course, atheism is, in practice, much more than just a lack-of-belief). And yet, such a rejection of traditional morality would be fully expected if atheists, as per the Suppression Hypothesis, were rejecting belief in God and religion for moral reasons rather than evidentiary ones; by contrast, if atheists were, on average, more morally traditional than conservative religious believers, then this would be entirely shocking and unexpected given the Suppression Hypothesis. And so, while further study could be pursued to determine whether atheism leads to moral liberalism or vis versa (or neither), the fact that atheists are so liberal in their social and moral positions is something that is not at all surprising given the hypothesis that atheists reject God for moral reasons.

And a final point that is particularly interesting is to note is that homosexual, bisexual, and transgender individuals are much more likely to identify as atheists than the populace at large. Indeed, in Chapter 6 of the 13th of June 2013 Pew Research Center report titled “A Survey of LGBT Americans”—which was accessed on the 8th of February 2017—the report’s author notes that 48% of homosexual, bisexual, and transgender Americans describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or having no religious affiliation, compared to only 20% of the general population; indeed, 17% of this demographic count themselves as atheist or agnostics compared to only 6% of the general population (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2013/06/SDT_LGBT-Americans_06-2013.pdf). At the same time, the report also notes that homosexual, bisexual, and transgender individuals who do have a religious affiliation generally attend worship services less frequently and attach less important to religion in their lives when compared to those in the general public who are religiously affiliated. Now, many homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgenders say they feel unwelcome in religious communities, and that could account for the high rate of unbelief amongst this demographic when compared to the general population. However, it is also fascinating to note that the Suppression Hypothesis appears to specifically mention engaging in homosexual acts as being one of the main indicators and/or driving factors for the suppression of belief in God (Romans 1:24-28). And since there is no necessary connection between being a homosexual, bisexual, or transgender and a lack of belief in God, then, in the context of the Suppression Hypothesis, it is very interesting that individuals who fit into this demographic are substantially less religious than the general population. At the very least, further study in this area is warranted.

Point Eleven – Unbelievers in Their Own Words:

Another interesting point in support of the Suppression Hypothesis is that some unbelievers themselves admit critical aspects of that hypothesis. For example, unbeliever Dianna Narciso, in her essay “The Honesty of Atheism”, which is found in the 2007 book Everything You Know About God is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion (edited by Russ Kirk), writes the following:

[QUOTE] In a 2003 Harris Poll, four percent of those calling themselves atheist/agnostic claimed to be absolutely certain there is a god. I have conversed with a few former “Christians in rebellion.” They claimed they knew all along that God existed, but they were either angry with him or just didn’t want to live by his rules, so refused to worship him. They called this “atheism” once they returned to the flock. (This attitude would explain why so many people claim atheists know God exists and are only angry at him or want to lead licentious lives, as people often project their own failings onto others.) Whether or not that unexpected four percent in the Harris poll was due to rebellious believers, functionally neurotic atheists, people using a strange definition of agnosticism, or people accidentally giving the wrong answer, we’ll never know. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added]

Now the above evidence that “atheists” knew that God existed is admittedly weak given the number of problems with it, such as that it is hearsay, likely comes from a small self-selected sample, and so on. Nevertheless, the fact is that Narciso—who has no known motive to lie in this case—has indeed had personal experience with certain individuals who had claimed to be atheists while still internally believing in God; this, therefore, is still some evidence in support of Suppression Hypothesis. And even if, as Narciso says, these were just “Christians in rebellion”, the point is that they were individuals who overtly identified themselves as atheists but who still knew that God existed, which is precisely what the Suppression Hypothesis claims occurs with people who have properly functioning cognitive faculties.

But such self-admittances do not end there, for there are other unbelievers who admit to parts of the Suppression Hypothesis, such as that they reject belief in God due to moral reasons. For example, in response to a 9th of October 2015 blog post by Edward Feser titled “Walter Mitty atheism” on the ‘edwardfeser.blogspot.com’ website, commentator Eric MacDonald—a former New Atheist and former Anglican priest—made the following comment at 5:21 pm on the 10th of October 2015:

[QUOTE] Professor Feser (or Ed, if I may?) Thank you so much for your warm welcome. As you say, there are still points of disagreement between us, but one thing that we do not disagree about is the sloppiness of the New Atheism, a sloppiness that I once illustrated in some of my own dismissive language about religion. (I have in fact taken down all my posts, except a few that were published within the last year or so. I have saved them as an archive, and reading them I often find myself very ashamed of my haste to judgement on occasion, and my simple lack of judgement in others!) Of course, I never accepted the scientistic approach to epistemological issues, and that was undoubtedly the breaking point for me, the fact that the New Atheists are so hopeless at doing philosophy, even though they put on airs of such authority when they try. My atheism (which is modulating quite quickly into something else) was a response of anger towards what I still think of as the rather unyielding absolutism of much Christian morality. This is where our differences would become significantly more strained, though I hope that we could discuss them (should the occasion arise) in a spirit of charity and reason. But it is very nice to be welcomed so warmly to your pages! Peace, Eric [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/10/walter-mitty-atheism.html?showComment=1444522901815#c8363022695571021002%5D

So here we see an individual’s atheism being motivated by anger towards the Christian moral code, which is something that the Suppression Hypothesis would predict. And similar to this last comment, note that in the comments section of the ‘dangerousidea.blogspot.com’ website, in response to a 10th of September 2015 blog post titled “10 Questions for Materialist Atheists”, commentator John Moore wrote the following in a comment (the first one) that he made on the 10th of September 2015 at 7:07 pm:

[QUOTE] I don’t have any logically persuasive argument about God’s existence or non-existence. I refuse to believe in God as a kind of rebellion against religious authority. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=10584495&postID=7969756093933420205&bpli=1%5D

So here is the Suppression Hypothesis clearly articulated: a refusal to believe in God due to a rebellion against the very religious authority that ultimately traces back to God.

But again, there is more. For example, in Chapter 5 of the 2013 Ignatius Press edition of his book Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism, author and psychologist Paul C. Vitz—who, in his book, has his own theory about atheism being linked to having a defective father and having poor parental attachment—recounts how his own former atheism was largely caused by 1) the social pressure to fit in to with the secular academic psychologist community, and 2) a personal infatuation with being an autonomous self, and 3) a desire to have personal convenience and not have to engage in the hard task of being a serious believer. And on his ‘Mail Online’ blog, in a 27th of July 2015 post titled “Groan. An Atheist writes…”—accessed on the 8th of February 2017—former atheist Peter Hitchens admits that hedonism and a desire to behave any way that he wanted was one of his motives for embracing atheism (http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2015/07/groan-an-atheist-writes.html).

Finally, note that in a 6th of June 2013 article for The Atlantic titled “Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity”—accessed on the 9th of February 2017—the article’s author Larry Alex Taunton reports on the results of a study he helped to conduct where a nationwide campaign was launched to interview college students from atheist groups in order to allow them to freely and without judgement tell the interviewers of their journey to unbelief. And the findings were very interesting. In particular, consider the following:

[QUOTE] With few exceptions, students would begin by telling us that they had become atheists for exclusively rational reasons. But as we listened it became clear that, for most, this was a deeply emotional transition as well. This phenomenon was most powerfully exhibited in Meredith. She explained in detail how her study of anthropology had led her to atheism. When the conversation turned to her family, however, she spoke of an emotionally abusive father:

“It was when he died that I became an atheist,” she said.

I could see no obvious connection between her father’s death and her unbelief. Was it because she loved her abusive father — abused children often do love their parents — and she was angry with God for his death? “No,” Meredith explained. “I was terrified by the thought that he could still be alive somewhere.”

Rebecca, now a student at Clark University in Boston, bore similar childhood scars. When the state intervened and removed her from her home (her mother had attempted suicide), Rebecca prayed that God would let her return to her family. “He didn’t answer,” she said. “So I figured he must not be real.” After a moment’s reflection, she appended her remarks: “Either that, or maybe he is [real] and he’s just trying to teach me something.” [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/listening-to-young-atheists-lessons-for-a-stronger-christianity/276584/?single_page=true%5D

And these particular answers are especially fascinating in light of the point made earlier that psychologist Paul C. Vitz argues that atheism grows out of problems with a defective father and issues of parental attachment and caring. Either way though, the point is that very often, when you dig deeply enough, it is possible to find individuals who admit that they either knew that God existed even as they called themselves atheists, or, at the very least, they admit that issues of morality and personal freedom were critical motivators for their unbelief. And all of this is consistent with, and points to, the Suppression Hypothesis.

Point Twelve – The Age of Conversion:

Given that the Suppression Hypothesis claims that unbelievers with properly functioning cognitive faculties reject belief in God primarily for moral and/or psychological reasons—in essence, they rebel against God and His commands—it is thus also relevant to note that the testimonial evidence from numerous unbelievers suggests that they became unbelievers in their teenage years. For example, in the previously mentioned 6th of June 2013 article for The Atlantic titled “Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity”, the article’s author Larry Alex Taunton also notes the following:

[QUOTE] One participant told us that she considered herself to be an atheist by the age of eight while another said that it was during his sophomore year of college that he de-converted, but these were the outliers. For most, the high school years were the time when they embraced unbelief. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/listening-to-young-atheists-lessons-for-a-stronger-christianity/276584/?single_page=true%5D

Next, note that atheist Jerry Coyne, author of the popular blog ‘Why Evolution is True’, became an atheist at the age of seventeen while listening to a Beatles album and having a brief “experience” that can almost be described as mystical (see page 2 of the Chicago Tribune’s 20th of January 2008 article titled “The New Theology” by Jeremy Manier (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-01-20/features/0801120310_1_atheists-till-evolution/2)). And in the same article, it notes that Richard Dawkins became an atheist at the age of fifteen. And speaking of Dawkins, in a Telegraph article written on the 9th of August 2013 dealing with Dawkins, and titled “Come in, Agent Dawkins, your job is done”, the article’s author Matthew Norman admits that he became a devout atheist at the age of nine (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10233530/Come-in-Agent-Dawkins-your-job-is-done.html). Additionally, note that Christopher Hitchens, in an interview with ‘CBC.ca’, admitted that his move towards resisting religion began around the age of nine and also that he was more of an anti-theist than an atheist, which meant that Hitchens did not just not believe in God, but that he was relieved that there was no evidence for God (see the ‘cbc.ca’ article, written by Andre Mayer on the 14th of May 2007, titled “Nothing sacred: Journalist and provocateur Christopher Hitchens picks a fight with God” (https://web.archive.org/web/20070516100646/http://www.cbc.ca/arts/books/nothing_sacred.html)). And many more such teenage ‘de-conversion’ stories could be found. Furthermore, in addition to embracing unbelief in the teenage years, there are also numerous stories of former believers embracing unbelief within the first few years of college or university.

So what is the point of noting that many unbelievers seem to become unbelievers in their younger years? Well, first, it is meant to point out the obvious: namely, that a child of nine years old, or even a first-year college student, is not exactly well-versed in all the arguments for and against the existence of God, and so while an embrace of atheism that occurs in the teenage years is not necessarily irrational, it is without a doubt not wholly rational either given the person’s full lack of knowledge concerning the very issue under consideration. Furthermore, individuals in their mentally formative years are only beginning to form the ability to reason abstractly and to think inferentially, so their ability, at that age, to properly process all the rational arguments for and against something like the existence of God is merely in its infancy. But this point is obvious to anyone who has been around children and teens.

The more important reason for pointing out that a great deal of atheism seems to come about in a person’s younger years stems from the fact that that is the time when a person is most likely to rebel against authority. For example, in a Psychology Today article posted on the 6th of December 2009 titled “Rebel with a Cause: Rebellion in Adolescence”, the article’s author Carl E. Pickhardt, Ph.D. points out that there are two types of rebellion: rebellion against socially fitting in and rebellion against adult authority, with the young person asserting their individuality and independence from the norms of authority; Pickhardt also notes that this rebelliousness can last, in different forms, from the age of nine to the age of twenty-three (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/surviving-your-childs-adolescence/200912/rebel-cause-rebellion-in-adolescence). And yet since the Suppression Hypothesis argues that unbelief is, at least in part, a sort of rebelliousness against the commands and edicts of God, then the correlation between the age at which many people become unbelievers and the fact that these ages are the main ages of rebelliousness is a telling fact that it is not at all surprising given the Suppression Hypothesis.

Also note another interesting correlation the appears to support the Suppression Hypothesis: namely, the correlation between an emotional-and-less-than-rational-brain and the age during which many individuals embrace unbelief. Indeed, on the ‘BBC.co.uk’ site, in the ‘Science: Human Body and Mind’ Section, a 17th of September 2014 article titled “Teenage emotions: Teenage rebellion” notes the following:

[QUOTE] There is one other reason why teenagers might rebel. Scientists have used advanced scanning methods to study the changes that occur in the adolescent brain. Much to their surprise, they have discovered that the brain continues to develop and grow well into the teenage years. This might explain a teenager’s risk-taking behaviour. It has emerged that the emotional region of the brain develops to maturity ahead of the part of the brain that controls rational thought. In other words, teenagers have well-developed emotions and feelings but have still not acquired the ability to think things through. When they act impulsively, and do the kind of dangerous things an adult would avoid, their brain’s late development might be to blame. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/articles/emotions/teenagers/rebellion.shtml%5D

So again, it is a very interested and telling correlation that many individuals embrace atheism at a time when they are borne to rebellion against authority and when their brains are more emotional then rational, a fact which is, once again, entirely expected on the Suppression Hypothesis, but is rather surprising on the ‘atheist-as-just-a-rational-evidence-seeking-individual’ position.

 

Point Thirteen – Unbelievers Would Not Accept God Even if True:

In addition to the fact that certain of unbelievers admit to some aspect of the Suppression Hypothesis, there is also anecdotal evidence which points to the fact that for certain unbelievers, even if they had evidence that proved the truth of theism—or more specifically Christian theism—they nevertheless would not submit to such a deity. For example, on his blog ‘WinteryKinght.com’, in a 13th of May 2009 blog post titled “Interview with the Atheist, Part 2: The Answers”—accessed on the 8th of February 2017—Wintery Knight, who is the blog author and a Christian, posted the answers to an informal, and admittedly unscientific, survey which he did with ten atheists, agnostics, and Unitarians. Some of the questions and answers were very interesting, but the main one to focus on is the following:

[QUOTE] Question 12: Would you follow (and how would you follow) Jesus at the point where it became clear to you that Christianity was true? (NO: 7) (YES: 2)

[1] I have no idea

[2] I would not follow. My own goals are all that I have, and all that I would continue to have in that unlikely situation. I would not yield my autonomy to anyone no matter what their authority to command me

[3] I would not follow, because God doesn’t want humans to act any particular way, and he doesn’t care what we do

[4] I would not follow. Head is spinning. Would go to physician to find out if hallucinating.

[5] If I found there was no trickery? I’d have to change my mind wouldn’t I! Not really likely though is it?

[6] I would keep doing what I am doing now, acting morally. That’s what all religions want anyway. (In response to my triumphant scribbling, he realized he had fallen into a trap and changed his answer to the right answer) Oh, wait. I would try to try to find out what Jesus wanted and then try to do that.

[7] I hope I would be courageous enough to dedicate my life to rebellion against God.

[8] I would not have to change anything unless forced to and all that would change is my actions not my values.  I would certainly balk at someone trying to force me to change my behavior as would you if you were at the mercy of a moral objectivist who felt that all moral goodness is codified in the Koran.

[9] He would have to convince me that what he wants for me is what I want for me. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, https://winteryknight.com/2009/05/13/interview-with-the-atheist-part-2-the-answers/%5D

And note that the results that Wintery Knight obtained are not unique. For example, on the ‘Well Spent Journey’ blog, the author Matt, in an 18th of March 2013 post titled “Atheist Survey Results (n=23)”—accessed on the 8th of February 2017—posted the results of his own unscientific survey with twenty-three self-reported unbelievers. And once again, the results are very interesting, for consider this question and the answers to it:

[QUOTE] 12. How would you begin to follow Jesus if it became clear to you that Christianity was true?

– Would follow (5)

– Wouldn’t follow (6)

– Might follow the teachings of Jesus, but that isn’t Christianity (2)

– It would depend on how this truth was revealed (3)

– Christianity can’t be true (3)

– No answer given (4)

[In the comments, Matt also posted these further responses to the above question]

– I don’t think that’s possible.

– This would depend on the manner in which such became known to me and what version of Christianity it was.

– Well, it depends. If I “learned that Christianity was true”, odds are I wouldn’t follow Jesus. I’d need some answers first.

– I don’t really know on this one.

– I’d probably talk to some of my friends I’ve met at uni who are quite religious and ask them. I know a couple who would be very supportive, and one who i know full well thinks in similar ways to me and would be able to talk me through things in a way i could resonate with. The hardest adjustment? praying. It seems weird, creepy and strange to me and i’d feel ridiculous doing it considering to me it seems like talking to yourself.

– I would give away my possessions to any who asked for them. I would then attempt to understand how the bible came to be so corrupted and to try to find the reality of Jesus’ teachings. Although for it to become clear to me that Christianity was true I would have to know that reality first and it be confirmed by some neutral party. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, https://wellspentjourney.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/atheist-survey-results-n23/%5D

Now again, these are entirely unscientific surveys, and so they are subject to a number of objections, but the results are interesting nonetheless, especially given that the majority of the respondents either dodged the question or admitted that even if the evidence for Christian theism was such that they were convinced that it was true, they would nevertheless still not follow it. In fact, certain respondents admitted that they would continue—or at least try to continue—to rebel against God and His moral commands, which is exactly what the Suppression Hypothesis claims is the motivator for God-denial. Now, admittedly, these unbelievers did not confess that they actually did believe in God, but through their admittance that they would not follow Christianity even if it was proven true to their satisfaction, these unbelievers have shown that their unbelief is motivated by more than simply evidentiary reasons; indeed, there is a strong psychological and moral component to their rejection of God, and this is, in large part, what the Suppression Hypothesis predicts, but it is not what the ‘follow-the-evidence-wherever-it-leads-rational-atheist’ hypothesis predicts. And so, the fact that some unbelievers, as noted above, admit that they would rebel against God even if they believed He existed, shows that their unbelief is motivated by more than mere evidentiary considerations, and it also renders quite plausible the idea that such unbelievers might suppress the reality that God does indeed exist as a way of shielding themselves from what they consider to be an unpleasant and undesirable fact.

  

Bonus – The Evidence from the Bible: 

The final point to consider in support of the Suppression Hypothesis comes from the Bible itself, which plausibly states that unbelievers do just that in Romans 1. Now, for a believer, such scriptural evidence will be powerful. For an unbeliever, such evidence will be extremely weak, and the reasons for the unbeliever’s dismissal of this evidence are understood. Nevertheless, even if considered weak, the Biblical evidence cannot be outright dismissed. Why? Because even if looked at as a non-inspired book, the Bible contains a great deal of wisdom and human experience in it. Furthermore, the Apostle Paul, as evidenced from his writings, was no moron. And so, given all this, the Bible, as a book containing claims about human nature and human experience cannot be entirely dismissed. And so the Biblical claim that unbelievers suppress the truth about God is a point of support for that hypothesis, even if it is only slight support.

Illumination of Other Interesting Points

Having presented a number of points in favor of the plausibility of the Suppression Hypothesis, it should also be noted that the Suppression Hypothesis can also help to illuminate certain other points that both this author and others have noticed about many unbelievers. For example, on his blog ‘edwardfeser.blogspot.com’, and in a 12th of July 2014 post titled “Clarke on the stock caricature of First Cause arguments”, blog author Edward Feser notes that certain unbelievers routinely straw-man the cosmological argument for God’s existence, and he also notes the fact their straw-manning was even noted back in the 1970s by other philosophers. Additionally, in this author’s experience, it has been noted that when discussing the issue of God or Christianity, unbelievers often employ a double-standard concerning how they use skepticism (a sort of selective hyper-skepticism); they also give great weigh to objections which are demonstrably weak, and which, in any other context, would be considered weak (one has only to look at Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion for a number of examples of this). Now, the reason that this is interesting, and the reason it is worth pointing out, is because many unbelievers are otherwise intelligent people, but when it comes to the issue of God, their clear thinking and sound reasoning often appears to go sideways—although no doubt many unbelievers would accuse theists of the same thing. However, the point is that if you apply the Suppression Hypothesis to this overall phenomenon, then the reason for this discrepancy between an unbeliever’s good reasoning about secular matters and bad reasoning about God-related issues becomes clearer, for the Suppression Hypothesis tells you that the unbeliever is not being rational about his unbelief, but rather he is rationalizing it, thus meaning that he is looking for any excuse to support his God-denying position. And so, when looked at through the lens of the Suppression Hypothesis, many otherwise hard to understand points about the behavior of unbelievers become illuminated.

 

The Predictions of the Suppression Hypothesis

Now, in the end, the atheist can reverse all these points and argue that it is actually the religious believer who is motivated by fear, wish-fulfillment, and so on. In fact, the atheist often does argue this. And perhaps both atheist and theist alike are motivated by psychological drivers to believe what they believe. Nevertheless, whether atheists suppress the truth about God’s existence is ultimately an empirical question and it is one that should be tested more thoroughly in the future. At present, however, the evidence that we do have—as articulated above—is sufficient to achieve the aim of this essay: which is to show that the Suppression Hypothesis is plausible, non-ad-hoc, and has an air-of-reality to it, meaning that it has some evidentiary base. And this is, in the end, all that is required to put the burden onto the atheist concerning his need to prove that he—if he is a person with properly-functioning cognitive faculties—genuinely does not believe in God.

However, as a final point, it can be added that it is hoped that additional research into the Suppression Hypothesis will be done. And to that end, a few predictions can be made concerning what results should be expected if the Suppression Hypothesis is true. Thus, in the future, if the research is done, and if these predictions bear fruit, then we can be even more confident that the Suppression Hypothesis is actually what is occurring with unbelievers. So here are some predictions which should be expected if the Suppression Hypothesis is true:

Prediction 1: If the Suppression Hypothesis is true, then it would be expected that research would determine that the unbelief of the large majority of unbelievers with properly functioning cognitive faculties (essentially, neurologically-typical people who are unbelievers) is ultimately and primarily traceable back to some type of psychological, moral, and/or emotional reason for their unbelief.

Prediction 2: If the Suppression Hypothesis is true, then it would be expected that for the large majority of unbelievers who are not primarily motivated in their unbelief by psychological, moral, and/or emotional reasons—essentially, for wholly “rational” unbelievers—it will be shown that these unbelievers will be neurologically-atypical, and thus they will have some type of mental dysfunction, such as high-functioning autism or a narcissistic disorder.

Prediction 3: If the Suppression Hypothesis is true, then it would be expected that the large majority of unbelievers who are neurologically-typical but who also hold their unbelief for rational reasons will become believers at some point in their adult life.

Prediction 4: If the Suppression Hypothesis is true, then it would be expected that the large majority of neurologically-typical unbelievers become unbelievers during the time when their brain is not fully developed, is more emotional than rational, and when their personality is in a rebellious stage, thus meaning from approximately ten to twenty years of age; by contrast, most unbelievers who return to theistic belief would be expected to do so as mature adults who are better able to deal with their emotions and think rationally, thus meaning from approximately twenty-five years and above.

Prediction 5: If the Suppression Hypothesis is true, then it would be expected that when tested, the instinctive behavioral and bodily reactions of neurologically-typical unbelievers would be the opposite of what would be expected given their self-professed unbelief; thus, their bodies would react the same as the bodies of theistic believers would even though their verbal responses would be the opposite of how believers would reply to questions.

Prediction 6: If the Suppression Hypothesis is true, then it would be expected that a large majority of very recently converted neurologically-typical atheists would fail a polygraph exam if said polygraph exam tested the genuineness of their unbelief; in essence, in people who had recently become atheists, and thus verbally claimed to be atheists, the suppression of the truth of the existence of God would still be close enough to their conscious thought that they would fail a polygraph exam. And so while claiming to be atheists, a polygraph would show that they were lying about their unbelief.

Prediction 7: If the Suppression Hypothesis is true, then it would be expected that a large majority of neurologically-typical atheists, if properly surveyed, would show no emotional, moral, and/or psychological problem with deism being true, but they would show a major problem in all those areas with theism being true.

Prediction 8: If the Suppression Hypothesis is true, then it would be expected that at least some neurologically-typical unbelievers, whether in interviews or in surveys, would admit to actually believing that God exists even while overtly claiming to be atheists; in essence, they would admit to simply rebelling against God.

Prediction 9: Given the moral component of the Suppression Hypothesis, then if the Suppression Hypothesis is true, then it would be expected that individuals raised in highly liberal households would be more expected to be unbelievers, but also that neurologically-typical individuals who believed in God, but had adopted liberal social and moral values, would be more prone to unbelief; essentially, the embrace of non-traditional moral rules and values would be strongly correlated, and even causally-linked, to unbelief. Additionally, it would be expected that the few morally-traditional unbelievers that exist would look at theism much more favorably, and even desire theism to be true, then their unbelieving liberal counterparts, who would not wish for theism to be true and who would have disdain for theism.

Prediction 10: If the Suppression Hypothesis is true, then it would be expected that the large majority of neurologically-typical unbelievers, when asked, would either evade answering, or would answer negatively, to the question of if they would follow the moral commands and instructions of a theistic God—such as the Christian God—if that God’s existence was proven to their satisfaction.

Prediction 11: If the Suppression Hypothesis is true, then it would be expected that for the large majority of neurologically-typical unbelievers, when asked to think about God, the centers of their brain associated with dislike and disgust and fear would be activated to approximately the same degree as it would be for something else which the unbelievers knew existed but which they also disliked and feared; in essence, brain scans should show that the emotional elements of the brain are as active in neurologically-typical unbelievers when they think about God as the rational parts of their brain are.

Prediction 12: If the Suppression Hypothesis is true, then it would be expected that even the unbelievers who fit the category of neurologically-typical would nevertheless still possess higher amounts of autistic and narcissistic traits.

Prediction 13: If the Suppression Hypothesis is true, then it would be expected that for neurologically-typical unbelievers, the main moral complaint against theistic commands while revolve directly around those moral commands restricting hedonistic pursuits such as drug use or alcohol, but especially concerning sexual restrictions.

Now perhaps further predictions can be made concerning the Suppression Hypothesis, but these will suffice at present. And one can only hope that further research will be done to determine whether the evidence supports the Suppression Hypothesis or not.

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Anno Domini 2017 02 11

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Everyone Has a Burden of Proof

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Everyone Has a Burden of Proof

One of the reasons why this author calls ‘bullshit’ at the atheist’s attempt to avoid the burden of proof through his ‘lack-of-belief’ maneuver, is because, in the end, both believers and unbelievers alike have a burden of proof. In fact, no one who has genuinely contemplated the question of God’s existence can avoid the burden of proof. But how could this be given that it is normally understood that the person making the positive claim has the burden of proof for it, and since it is normally the theist who is understood as making the positive claim that God or gods (hereafter just God) exist, then the theist has the burden of proof (although some atheists also make the positive claim that God does not exist, and thus they accept the burden of proof for this claim). Well, the reason that every self-aware person has a burden of proof concerning the God-question is because when the right question is asked concerning God and His existence, then it can be seen that everyone—atheist, agnostic, and theist alike—has a burden of proof concerning this matter that they must meet. Now, before we get to what the ‘right question’ is, a few analogies are in order to set the stage for this discussion.

Imagine, for example, that you are working as a Detective (something that this author personally did) on, say, a sexual assault case. Furthermore, based on the initial complaint, you have a main suspect that you are looking at. Now, in such a situation, what most people think a Detective is trying to do is answer the question: “Did the suspect commit the sexual assault against the complainant?” But while this question is a good form of short-hand for the real question that the Detective is asking himself, it is not actually the real question itself. The real question is more along the following lines: “Given all the facts, evidences, reasons, and arguments gleaned and assessed after a thorough investigation, what is the best and most rational position for a reasonable person to hold—where ‘reasonable person’ is used in the objective, legal sense—concerning the claim that the main suspect sexually assaulted the victim?” Now, when looked at in this manner, note that whatever position the Detective takes, that position is a positive claim which would thereby have a burden of proof. For example, if the Detective holds that the evidence points to the suspect being guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then this position has a burden of proof. If the Detective holds that the evidence points to the suspect being guilty, but the evidence is weak and the Detective’s belief in the suspect’s guilt barely crosses the threshold of being a ‘reasonable belief’—in the legal sense—then this position also has a burden of proof. If the Detective holds that there is actually strong evidence to show that the suspect positively did not commit the sexual assault, then this position has a burden of proof. If the Detective holds that the evidence leans towards the suspect being innocent, but the evidence for this is weak and the Detective only holds this view very tentatively, then such a position still has a burden of proof. Additionally, if the Detective holds that the evidence is ambiguous, or is equally strong in both directions, and thus the Detective holds that the best position in this case is to neither believe (affirm) nor disbelieve (deny) that the main suspect committed the sexual assault, then he still has a burden of proof for this claim. So, in essence, if the Detective is a ‘believer’ (weak or strong) in the suspect’s guilt, or if he is “agnostic” about the suspect’s guilt—thereby neither affirming or denying it—or if he is a “disbeliever” (weak or strong) in the suspect’s guilt, all these positions have a burden of proof. And if the Detective claims to ‘lack a belief’ about which position is the most rational one to hold in this case, then not only is he being disingenuous—for he would naturally and unavoidably come to a hold one of the aforementioned positions after examining the evidence—but he would also be considered incompetent and would be removed from the case!

Note as well that if, say, two Detectives were investigating the aforementioned crime, and the first Detective came to hold the view that the main suspect was guilty, but the second one merely ‘lacked a belief’ in the main suspect’s guilt, the second Detective would still have a burden of proof for his lack of belief. Why? Because that ‘lack of belief’ specifically in the suspect’s guilt would stem from a positive belief concerning which position was the most rational one to hold in this case. So, for example, does the second Detective ‘lack a belief’ in the suspect’s guilt because he finds the evidence uncertain, and thus he cannot form a positive belief that the suspect is guilty? Or does the second Detective lack a belief in the suspect’s guilt because he positively believes that the suspect is actually innocent and has been framed? Either way, the second Detective, though technically lacking a belief in the suspect’s guilt, will nevertheless still possess a burden-bearing positive belief concerning the real question under consideration, which is, once again, the following: “Given all the facts, evidences, reasons, and arguments gleaned and assessed after a thorough investigation, what is the best and most rational position for a reasonable person to hold—where ‘reasonable person’ is used in the objective, legal sense—concerning the claim that the main suspect sexually assaulted the victim.” And lest it is thought that the ‘lack of belief’ Detective does not have a burden of proof in this case, this author can state—from personal experience—that if both of the aforementioned Detectives approached their supervisor and told the supervisor of their views, the supervisor would demand that both Detectives justify their positions and meet their respect burdens of proof; what the supervisor would not do is claim that the ‘lack of belief’ Detective need not say anything simply because he allegedly lacks a belief in the suspect’s guilt. And again, the reason for this is because, in the real world, both Detectives are answering the real question—namely, the question above—in a positive burden-bearing way, regardless of the fact that one of the Detectives might ‘lack a belief’ specifically in the suspect’s guilt.

Now, with the above in mind, consider another quick analogy. Think about the existence of aliens. Again, commonly, when it comes to this issue, the question that most people think is being asked is: “Do aliens exist?” But that is not the real question. Rather, once again, the real question is the following: “Given all the facts, evidences, reasons, and arguments gleaned and assessed after a thorough investigation, what is the best and most rational position for a reasonable person to hold—where ‘reasonable person’ is used in the objective, legal sense—concerning the existence of aliens?” And so again, note that if a person claims that the most rational position to hold about the existence of aliens is to believe that they exist, or to be agnostic about their existence, or to disbelieve in their existence, every one of these positions is a positive answer to the question under consideration, and thus every one of these positions has a burden of proof. And so again, ‘lacking a belief’ about the existence of aliens is all well and good, but that lack of belief does nothing to avoid the burden of proof for a self-aware person because the self-aware person will nevertheless still have a positive burden-bearing position concerning the real question under consideration. And this is why every self-aware individual would have a burden of proof in this case.

Finally, also realize that what is being described above is exactly the same thing that happens in a criminal trial. Most people think that a jury is meant to determine whether a person is guilty of the crime that he has been accused of committing, and, in common parlance, this is true. But, at a more fundamental level, the real question that a jury is answering is the same one articulated above: namely, given all the evidence and arguments, what is the best and most rational position for a reasonable person to hold concerning the question of the suspect’s guilt. And if the jury determines that the most rational position to hold is that the suspect is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then that, in turn, overcomes the presumption of innocence by tacitly answering the more common but imprecise question of whether the suspect should be considered guilty or not.

And so, by now, the connection to the question of God’s existence should be obvious. Most people, when they debate God’s existence, ask the question: “Does God exist?” But again, that is the wrong question. The right question is: “Given all the facts, evidences, reasons, and arguments gleaned and assessed after a thorough investigation, what is the best and most rational position for a reasonable person to hold—where ‘reasonable person’ is used in the objective, legal sense—concerning the question of God’s existence?” And when asked in this way, it can once again be seen that essentially everyone—atheist, agnostic, and theist alike—has a burden of proof concerning this question. Also note that having a positive position concerning this question does not need to be done verbally or overtly; after all, the mere fact of being an atheist or a theist or an agnostic is a tacit answer to this question, and it is an answer which thus has a burden of proof. And again, lacking a belief concerning God’s existence does nothing to avoid the burden of proof that stems from the right question under consideration, for every self-aware person who has genuinely contemplated the question of God’s existence gives a positive answer to that question, and thus has a burden of proof to meet concerning it.

Finally, note that the reason that it is contended that questions like “Did the suspect commit the sexual assault?” or “Does God exist?” are ultimately the wrong questions to ask is due to two reasons.

First, such questions are clear ‘true or false’ questions, and yet given the power of skepticism, it is beyond human ability to answer such questions in a certain or complete sense. This is why, for example, the highest standard in a court of law is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’, not ‘beyond any doubt’, for the latter standard is unachievable in nearly all cases given the human condition. And this is why the court, in a criminal trial, does not ask a juror to determine whether something is categorically true or not, but rather whether it is true beyond a reasonable doubt, which is another way of saying whether a reasonable person, based on the evidence and arguments, can believe something to be the case without having a reasonable doubt about that belief. Now such a belief would be a very strong and nearly certain belief, but it would not be an absolutely certain one. And so this is one of the reasons why, in these cases, the right question concerns what is the most rational position for a reasonable person to hold in light of the evidence and arguments, not whether something is absolutely true or not.

Now, the second reason why questions like “Does God exist?” are the wrong questions to ask—although they are perfectly fine ‘short-hand’ questions—stems from the fact that sometimes, the most rational position to hold is, in fact, a false position. For example, say that a person was murdered by an expert assassin who made the murder look like a suicide; furthermore, say that there was absolutely no evidence that showed that the person’s death was anything but a suicide—the person was already suicidal, had a history of suicide attempts, etc. Now, in such a case, the most rational position to hold concerning this matter would be that the person committed suicide, even though this position is false. Nevertheless, everyone would be rational to hold this false position for there would be no way to know that it is false (barring a confession by the assassin). Furthermore, given the human condition, and thus given the impossibility of knowing the absolutely true answer to this question (see the first point above), then, for all intents and purposes, the real question that we are interested in is what the most rational position for a reasonable person to hold is concerning this matter, not what is absolutely true concerning it; indeed, for while we know that the latter question is ultimately unanswerable, we also know that the former question is readily answerable, and so the focus, in real life, is on the former question not the latter one. Indeed, in real life, while truth is sought after, and while what is true and what is the most rational position to hold are often synonymous, sometimes they are not, and since we cannot, with certainty, state what is absolutely true, the fact is that in reality (like in a court of law), what we strive for are rational positions, not absolutely true ones. And so again, this is why, in the end, the right question to ask concerns what it is the most rational position to hold about a certain matter, not necessarily what is true or false about that matter. And because making any claim about what is the most rational position to hold about a certain matter—such as the matter of God’s existence—is to make a positive claim about it, then this is why, in the end, everyone has a burden of proof in such a case.

And so, the long and short of it is this: when the right question is asked concerning the issue of God’s existence, it soon becomes clear that no one can avoid the burden of proof concerning their answer to that question. And that is why, in reality, everyone—atheist, agnostic, and theist alike—has a burden of proof concerning the God-question.

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Anno Domini 2017 02 02

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

 

Lack-of-Belief Atheism Has the First Burden of Proof

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents… 

Lack-of-Belief Atheism Has the First Burden of Proof

Calling oneself a lack-of-belief atheist is just a bullshit maneuver meant to either avoid the burden of proof for the positive position of atheistic-naturalism or to avoid being called an agnostic coward. This has been a main contention so far in this essay series. And because lack-of-belief atheism, for many unbelievers, is indeed little more than a shell-game used for ulterior motives, the fact is that such unbelievers, for the sake of intellectual honesty, should cease their use of this label. And yet there is little doubt that they will not do so; indeed, it is almost certain that whatever pleas are made here will not convince many unbelievers to stop using the idea of lack-of-belief atheism. So instead of pleading with unbelievers in this respect, this essay will show unbelievers that two can play at the ‘lack-of-belief’ game, for if unbelievers want to employ the ‘lack of belief’ concept in their favor, then so too can theists. After all, as the saying goes, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; and so, the theist can use the lack-of-belief shtick too, and he can do so in a way that is much more detrimental to unbelievers than those unbelievers might realize.

So how can God-believers use the idea of a lack-of-belief to their advantage? Namely, by lacking a belief in the existence of lack-of-belief atheists!

Now, at first glance, this idea might sound ridiculous, but it is not. In essence, how this concept arises is that after reading the beginning of the first chapter of Romans, a very plausible interpretation of that section of scripture is that all people actually believe in the existence of God, but that they suppress this belief due to immortality and unrighteousness. As such, on this view, there would be no such thing as a self-aware and self-described lack-of-belief atheist, for any self-aware properly-functioning person sufficiently old enough to describe themselves with a specific label would be old enough to know God; consequently, they would either overtly believe in God’s existence or they would be suppressing that belief, but they would all still believe in God. Thus, on this view, every cognitively-sound person of reasoning age, deep-down, believes that God exists. This does not, of course, mean that there will not be people who verbally claim not to believe in God, but rather that no one actually fails to have a belief in God in their heart. In some ways, on this view, the atheist is like the parent of an evil adult child who nevertheless overtly claims that their child is innocent of the horrible wrong-doings that the child has been accused of committing, and yet the parent knows deep-down that their son or daughter is indeed wicked, and the parent’s behavior testifies to this suppressed knowledge; it’s like the mother who categorically denies that her son is a thief even as she hides all her valuables before the son comes to visit.

So, the view is that there is no such thing as an actual self-aware and properly-functioning lack-of-belief atheist given that all people believe in God, even though some people suppress that belief and overtly deny it while others do not. Now, it is not being said that this view is true, but just that it is possible, and even plausible given humanity’s ability to deceive and delude itself (a point which the unbeliever cannot disagree with given that he thinks the vast majority of humanity is deluded by religion). In fact, there are a number of pieces of evidence which support the claim that it is plausible to hold that atheists actually do believe in God but are simply suppressing the truth, and those pieces of evidence can be found at the end of this essay.

Now, since the aforementioned view is plausible—and even if it was not, this argument could still go forward—this means that the believer can  adopt a lack-of-belief position about the actual existence of lack-of-belief atheists. This does not mean that the believer outright denies the existence of lack-of-belief atheists, nor that he believes the aforementioned Biblical claim to be true, but rather that he simply neither affirms nor denies the genuine existence of lack-of-belief atheists. And so here is the first atheist irony: because lack-of-belief atheists have routinely told believers that whoever makes the positive claim has the burden of proof, then, in this case, the lack-of-belief atheist, by the very fact that he claims to be a genuine lack-of-belief atheist, has the burden of proof for his claim. Indeed, it is the lack-of-belief atheist who is positively claiming to be a genuine lack-of-belief atheist by the very fact that he is saying that he is one, and so the burden of proof falls on him to prove his claim. And note immediately that the lack-of-belief atheist’s personal incredulity at being asked to prove the genuineness of his position does nothing to remove his burden of proof; after all, a God-believer might be personally incredulous that someone might doubt the existence of God, but the atheist would not allow that fact to thereby remove the burden of proof from the God-believer to show that God exists. So the lack-of-belief atheist cannot employ a double-standard or engage in special pleading just because the burden of proof is suddenly on him when it comes to this particular topic; therefore, the lack-of-belief atheist does indeed have the burden of proof for showing that he genuinely lacks a belief in God.

Now the unbeliever might laugh at this situation and simply retort that he is indeed a genuine lack-of-belief atheist and that his word is sufficient evidence for this claim. But here is the second atheist irony: atheists routinely tell believers that testimony, even testimony of internal states, is not sufficient to establish a specific claim, and that hard, objective, scientific evidence is required before believing an assertion. Can the believer thus be faulted for employing the atheist’s own standard against him? Thus, the believer can argue that the unbeliever’s personal assurances of his genuine lack-of-belief are insufficient to establish this claim and that more scientific evidence is needed. Yet the atheist might scoff at this request and claim that such scientific evidence is not obtainable. But here, the atheist is mistaken. After all, lie detector tests, interviews with psychologists, and psychological examinations are all different types of tests which could provide more objective evidence of the atheist’s genuine unbelief. Furthermore, research into the unbeliever’s past could be conducted to ensure that there are no underlying events which might, for example, have caused the unbeliever to overtly deny God’s existence but secretly just be mad at Him. Even hypnosis could potentially be used to investigate the unbeliever’s true state of mind. In essence, there exist a number of ways in which objective testing could be done in this matter. Now the unbeliever might complain that such testing is prohibitively expensive or hard to get, but that is not the believer’s problem. After all, he who makes the claim has the job of backing it up, or so the atheist routinely says when the claim is in his favor. And so, until and unless the atheist provides the believer with hard, objective, scientific evidence of his genuine unbelief, the believer is rational to hold a lack-of-belief concerning the actual existence of genuine lack-of-belief atheists.

And yet, an even further problem arises, and that is the problem that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Indeed, in the third great atheist irony, the fact is that the believer could claim that the existence of genuine lack-of-belief atheists is, to him, an extraordinary claim. After all, what counts as an extraordinary claim is largely subjective, and so the believer could assert that the claim that genuine lack-of-belief atheists exist is extraordinary to him, and so demand extraordinary evidence for that claim. This means that the believer could not only demand some of the aforementioned “hard” evidence before believing the atheist’s claim about being a genuine unbeliever, but actually demand all of that evidence before believing the atheist’s claim.

Note as well that this whole line of reasoning also applies to those unbelievers who actually do call themselves agnostics and atheistic-naturalists (philosophical-naturalists). Indeed, since the whole spectrum of unbelievers—atheistic-naturalists, lack-of-belief atheists, and agnostics—claim to not have a belief that God exists, and since this is the very issue under dispute, then this particular burden of proof claim applies to all these unbelievers.

Finally, note what this whole argument means for the order of the burden of proof. Because people do not debate something upon which they agree, then, if all people actually do believe in God, then there is no debate to be had about whether or not God exists. And so, what this means is that the debate over the actual existence of people who lack a belief in God needs to take place before any debate over God’s existence. Indeed, until and unless it is shown that there actually are such things as genuine lack-of-belief atheists, then there is no debate to be had over whether or not God exists, for we do not even know if anyone disagrees with that claim. And so, in the fourth great atheist irony, it is actually unbelievers of all stripes, not believers, who have the first burden of proof when it comes to the debate over God and His existence.

And so, the long and short of it is this:  unbelievers might scoff at the claim that they have a burden of proof to show the genuineness of their unbelief, but their scorn is immaterial to the fact that the above argument concerning the unbeliever’s burden of proof is not only correct, but it uses the very same principles and ideas that unbelievers do when arguing against theists. As such, unbelievers cannot escape the logic of the argument presented above without engaging in an egregious double-standard. They thus have the first burden of proof in the debate over God. And so, if unbelievers want to play the lack-of-belief game, then they should watch out, for the theist can play that game as well, and the results for the unbeliever will be much more rhetorically damaging than they ever thought they could be.

Additional Note: Evidence Supporting the Claim that it is Plausible to Contend that Atheists Might Actually Believe in God and yet Suppress that Belief.

COMING SHORTLY.

 

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Anno Domini 2017 01 31

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Lack-of-Belief Atheism and a Rule of Thumb

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Lack-of-Belief Atheism and a Rule of Thumb

In the essay “Introducing Bullshit-Atheism”, it was argued that, for the sake of intellectual honesty, atheism needs to be divided into two new forms: namely bullshit-atheism and honest-atheism. It was also pointed out that the term bullshit-atheism is meant to be, at least in part, a rhetorical device which can undermine the atheist’s own rhetorical strategy of using so-called lack-of-belief atheism as a way to avoid the burden of proof for his disbelief. And now, in this particular essay, a rule-of-thumb concerning bullshit-atheist shall be offered to the theist, and this rule-of-thumb is one which every God-believer should consider using when dealing with a self-described lack-of-belief atheist.

In essence, given the sometimes disingenuous nature of the atheist’s self-described lack-of-belief, each and every God-believer needs to ensure that they are never hoodwinked by an unbeliever’s use of the generic term ‘atheism’. Indeed, since many modern atheists hold a multitude of God-related positive beliefs as well as a number of positive beliefs which directly oppose certain types of theism, and yet they conceal this fact behind their so-called lack-of-belief, then, in light of this fact, and as a good and reasonable rule-of-thumb, what every theist should do is assume that each and every atheist interlocutor that he interacts with is actually more of an atheistic-naturalist with positive atheistic beliefs rather than not, and then the theist needs to maintain this presupposition until and unless it is clearly demonstrated not to be the case. Indeed, upon hearing the word ‘atheist’, the God-believer should assume that who he is dealing with is actually someone akin to a philosophical-naturalist or materialist, and only after being provided good evidence to the contrary should the theist drop this assumption.

In practice, what this rule-of-thumb means is that in any potential debate-like interaction with an unbeliever, the theist should immediately seek to determine what the unbeliever’s unbelief really entails. Indeed, before any substantive engagement with an atheist occurs, and in order to prevent the atheist from shifting from honest-atheism to bullshit-atheism for rhetorical purposes, the theist should readily press the atheist to explain what he believes until it is clear just what that particular unbeliever’s beliefs about God actually are (and, of course, the atheist can and should do the same with the theist). Additionally, if the unbeliever’s atheism is exposed as honest-atheism rather than bullshit-atheism, which it most usually will be—unless the atheist just breaks-down and admits that he is really more of a straight agnostic than an atheist—then the theist should not let the atheist get away with avoiding the burden of proof that his honest-atheism requires him to meet.

Now, for the atheist’s role in this whole issue, it is proposed that each self-aware and self-described atheist seriously consider the following: 1) whether they genuinely hold an actual lack of belief about God’s existence in their day-to-day lives, and whether they should thus be labeling themselves as agnostics rather than atheists, or 2) if they really do hold to something more like atheistic-naturalism as their main point of view, and if they should thus be up-front about this positive position and not shy away from it, even when it means shouldering a share of the burden of proof. In essence, if an atheist really holds to honest-atheism rather than bullshit-atheism, then such an atheist should simply admit that his atheism is chock-full of burden-bearing positive beliefs and then defend those beliefs to the greatest extent possible rather than playing the shell-game that is bullshit-atheism.

However, in saying the above, it is realized that many self-described atheists do appreciate the difference between bullshit-atheism and honest-atheism, and these atheists, to their credit, do indeed make it clear that their atheism is not merely a lack of belief but is actually a positive point-of-view full of burden-bearing beliefs. Such atheists, furthermore, accept that they have a burden of proof for their position. And so again, such atheists are to be commended for their honesty. However, at the same time, the fact is that other atheists—as learned from experience—either do not or will not appreciate the need to make a clear and overt distinction between bullshit-atheism and honest-atheism, nor will they wish to make this distinction widely known given the burden of proof requirement which doing so will suddenly place on them. And so, regardless of what is said here, many atheists will continue claiming that their atheism is nothing more than a mere burden-less lack-of-belief concerning the existence of God even though, in reality, it is likely much more than that. Furthermore, such atheists will continue labeling themselves as atheists rather than adopting the term agnosticism for their point-of-view. And this is why, in the end, a rhetorical tool like the label ‘bullshit-atheism’ is needed, and it is precisely why that label should be used.

And so, the long and short of it is this: given that many atheists are not more upfront with the types of positive burden-bearing beliefs their point-of-view actually entails, theists, by extension, thus need to be wary of any self-described lack-of-belief atheist. Consequently, until and unless shown otherwise through robust questioning, the theist should assume that any atheistic unbeliever that the theist is speaking with, is more of an atheistic-naturalist than a mere lack-of-belief atheist; and by following this simple rule-of-thumb, the theist will ensure that he is not readily fooled by the all-too-often used con-game that is bullshit-atheism.

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Anno Domini 2017 01 22

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Introducing ‘Bullshit-Atheism’

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Introducing ‘Bullshit-Atheism’

Over the past number of essays, it has been contented, and arguably demonstrated, that it is reasonable to believe that many self-described and self-aware atheists who label themselves as lack-of-belief atheists are intellectual bullshitters. At the same time, having had a solid amount of experience dealing with such atheists, it is evident that they will continue to employ the idea that their atheism is just a burden-less lack-of-belief regardless of how inappropriate this self-label actually is. In fact, the strategy that they will most likely employ is rather predictable: namely, when in a discussion concerning a topic unrelated to God’s existence, or when in a discussion with other unbelievers, such lack-of-belief atheists will expose themselves as being much more like atheistic-naturalists (philosophical naturalists) than individuals who merely lack a belief in God’s existence; but then, the moment that such atheists enter into a debate with a theist, such atheists will immediately revert back to claiming that their unbelief is merely a lack-of-belief in God’s existence, and that the whole burden of proof is on the God-believer. And so, given the existence and use of this rhetorical strategy by the lack-of-belief atheist, what is the God-believer to do?

Well, the first tactic that the theist can use to counter the atheist is for the God-believer to use his own rhetorical trick against the atheist, which is precisely why it is proposed that the term ‘atheism’ once again be split; indeed, just as modern atheists split atheism into a positive and a negative lack-of-belief form because they believed that doing so was necessary to properly reflect the full scope of what atheism entailed—and because doing so gave atheists a rhetorical advantage over the theist—I too believe that the disconnect between the type of atheism that is deployed during a debate with a theist and the type of atheism that is lived in daily life by atheists themselves shows us that atheism, for the sake of intellectual honesty, and for the sake of a good rhetorical jab to the atheist’s face, needs to once again be divided into two different forms. Namely, atheism needs to be split, on the one hand, into ‘bullshit-atheism’ (or, for the less salty among us, into something like ‘debate-atheism’ or even ‘rhetorical-atheism’) and, on the other hand, into ‘honest-atheism’ (or something like ‘worldview-atheism’, or even ‘living-atheism’). And so, whereas bullshit-atheism covers the type of questionable and disingenuous atheism that many unbelievers allege that they possess whenever they are in a debate with a theist, note that honest-atheism not only entails positive-atheism but it also includes the numerous other positive beliefs which most atheists hold and which show them to be closer to atheistic-naturalists than mere atheists. Consequently, the terms ‘bullshit-atheism’ and ‘honest-atheism’ clearly allude to the fact that atheists are all-too-often insincere in how they present themselves to the outside world, which is precisely the rhetorical effect that these new terms seek to achieve.

Now, it is appreciated that honest-atheism appears to be little more than what many people would call ‘philosophical-naturalism’, or ‘materialism’, or even ‘atheistic-naturalism’, and so an objection could be raised as to why we require the creation of a term like honest-atheism when other terms already exist to describe such a position. But the answer to this objection is obvious. The term ‘honest-atheism’, while mirroring atheistic-naturalism and thus describing an actual position that many atheists hold, is also meant to have a rhetorical effect on the conversation by implying that there is such a thing as ‘dishonest-atheism’, which there indeed is, and it is called bullshit-atheism. Thus, it is immaterial that, philosophically, honest-atheism is very close in meaning to atheistic-naturalism, for the purpose of the term honest-atheism is to contain truth within a rhetorical package, which is precisely why the terms honest-atheism and bullshit-atheism need to exist and be used.

And so, the long and short of it is this: in order to reflect reality as it presently is on the ground rather than as atheists want it to be, and in order to give the God-believer a powerful rhetorical weapon, the theist can thus begin using the terms bullshit-atheism and honest-atheism as means to counter the lack-of-belief atheist’s own rhetorical BS.

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Anno Domini 2017 01 21

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

 

Atheism’s BS Trilemma

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Atheism’s BS Trilemma

In the essay “The Positive Burden-Bearing Beliefs of Lack-of-Belief Atheists”, it was noted that many atheists, while overtly claiming to merely lack a belief about God’s existence, actually hold to a number of positive beliefs which are indirectly yet intimately related to the question of God’s existence (meaning both God and gods). For example, most atheists hold that God’s non-existence is more probable than not, that no one created the universe or sustains it in existence, that matter exists, that the universe was not designed, that life ultimately came naturally from non-life without guidance, that the evolutionary process was wholly random and without interference from divine beings, that consciousness ultimately arose from non-consciousness naturalistically, that a soul does not exist, that God-given moral commands and duties do not exist, and so on. Additionally, many atheists claim that there is no evidence for God’s existence nor any good arguments for his existence either. But if this is the case, and if the atheist does hold to such positive beliefs as the ones mentioned above, then it soon becomes clear that such an atheist is not some mere negative-atheist who lacks a belief in God’s existence in some literal or straightforward sense, but rather the atheist is an unbeliever who holds a number of beliefs which have a burden of proof and which he must thereby justify and defend.

But now note that if the unbeliever, suddenly realizing that his positive endorsement of many of the aforementioned naturalistic claims thereby puts a burden of proof on his shoulders, thus started to back-track his affirmative endorsement of those claims, then such a move would create some serious concerns for the unbeliever. Indeed, for if an unbeliever who previously affirmed the aforementioned naturalistic claims suddenly repudiated them, and thus began to state that now he neither believed nor disbelieved that anyone created and/or caused the universe, and/or he claimed to neither believe nor disbelieve that there was any evidence of God’s existence in nature, and/or that God was involved in the evolutionary process, and so on and so forth, then such a retreating move to neither believing nor disbelieving any of the aforementioned naturalistic claims would indeed generate two potential issues for such an unbeliever.

First, the aforementioned withdrawal from the various naturalistic claims mentioned above would strongly suggest that such an unbeliever was really more of an agnostic than a genuine atheist, at least when dealing with the deities that most modern theists believe in. But why this is so?

Well, as many atheists themselves admit, if a person neither positively believed nor disbelieved in the existence of God, and thus held a position of equal uncertainty and doubt about that issue, that person would be viewed as an agnostic by most people, not as an actual atheist. And both atheists and others admit that to move from the agnostic position towards atheism, the person would need to positively affirm, at least to some degree, that it is more probable than not that no God exists. For example, in his book The God Delusion, in the section titled “The Poverty of Agnosticism”, arch-unbeliever Richard Dawkins provides us with a seven-point scale for theistic belief with pure agnosticism in the middle of the scale and with an increasingly more probable belief in either God’s existence or non-existence forming opposite ends of the scale; and so Dawkins, at least, thinks that to be an atheist in a real world sense, an unbeliever would need to believe that God’s non-existence is much more probable than not. And Robert M. Martin, in his 2002 3rd Edition of The Philosopher’s Dictionary defines atheism, theism, and agnosticism as follows: “Atheists believe that God doesn’t exist. … Atheism is contrasted with its opposite, theism, the view that God does exist, and also with agnosticism, the view that there isn’t any good reason to believe either that God exists or that He doesn’t.” Thus, for Martin, like Dawkins, to move from agnosticism to either atheism or theism requires good reasons to do so, and the existence of such reasons would allow a person to claim that God’s existence is either more probable or less probable than not depending on the direction that the person moved in. So for Martin and Dawkins, and other atheists who agree with them, to be a real-world atheist is to view God’s existence as at least somewhat less probable than not.

But now, with all of the above in mind, note that if the unbeliever is a broad atheist who positively disbelieves, whether tentatively or with certainty, that no God of any type exists, then, by necessary extension, such a person would, for example, also need to positively disbelieve, whether tentatively or with certainty, that no personal being created or sustains the universe—where ‘the universe’ means all of physical reality—for any being capable of doing so would easily be classified as at least a lower-case god. Thus, to positively and broadly affirm, at least to some probable degree, that no Gods exists is to implicitly and simultaneously affirm that no personal being created or sustains the universe. And so, the point of all this is to show that it is indeed the case that if a person claims to neither believe nor disbelieve the assertion that a personal being created the universe and sustains it in existence, then this means that the person cannot be a broad atheist who believes that the non-existence of all Gods is more likely than not, for to do so he could not be agnostic about the existence of a possible creator and sustainer of the universe. Consequently, this shows that the more agnostic a person is on the God-related questions and issues mentioned earlier, then the more agnostic-like the person appears to be in general. And just think of this in a common-sense manner: if a person told you that 1) he neither believed nor disbelieved that Gods exist, and 2) he neither believed nor disbelieved that a personal being created and sustains the universe, and 3) he neither believed nor disbelieved that a personal supernatural being created life, guided evolution, created consciousness, left evidence of his existence in nature, and so on, you would rightly come to see such a person as much more agnostic-like than atheist-like. Such a person might indeed be an atheist about certain deities, but it would be reasonable to hold that such a person, generally-speaking, would best be described as an agnostic, or at least as someone who was mainly an agnostic, rather than describing the person as a tentative or certain atheist in the broad sense. And so again, if an unbeliever back-tracks into agnosticism concerning all the relevant God-related questions, then such an unbeliever, by extension, gives others good grounds to see him as more of an agnostic than an atheist.

So the above issue is the first one to note if you find that an unbeliever is back-tracking from making any kind of positive claim concerning the various God-related questions and topics that are normally and naturally associated with atheism. But now the second issue is that if the aforementioned back-tracking unbeliever does indeed appear more agnostic than atheistic concerning all the God-related questions, and yet that unbeliever refused to countenance the fact that his views, to others, would suggest agnosticism much more strongly than atheism, and if the unbeliever continued to insist that his views were nevertheless still atheistic in nature—as many lack-of-belief atheists do—then such a stance would readily and reasonably make an outside observer come to believe that such an unbeliever disingenuously wished to make use of the intellectual and burden-free benefits of an agnostic-like position while still being able to rhetorically label himself as an atheist. Indeed, such a move would make the unbeliever’s intellectual integrity and motives suspect, and quite rightly so.

And so, the long and short of it is this:  whether he wants to be or not, the self-described atheistic unbeliever is stuck in a bit of a trilemma. First, if the unbeliever waters down his views to the point where he makes no real positive or committed claims about any God-related questions, then this strongly indicates that such an unbeliever really would be more appropriately regarded as an agnostic rather than as an atheist, regardless of what the unbeliever’s self-label is. However, if the unbeliever does answer certain God-related questions positively, then his atheism is indirectly shown to not merely be a lack-of-belief, but rather it is an actual positive point-of-view which denies the existence of certain types of gods—usually the most popular ones—and this means that the atheist has a burden of proof which he must meet and cannot avoid. And finally, if the unbeliever makes no real positive claims about any God-related questions and is thus rightly seen as an agnostic rather than an atheist, but if such an unbeliever nevertheless adamantly maintains and proclaims that he is an atheist regardless of the fact that he holds to a position which everyone else sees as more agnostic than atheist, then this situation creates the grounds to make it reasonable to suspect that such an unbeliever is simply trying to bullshit the rest of us into accepting the rhetorical maneuvers which are most advantageous to him, and this is something that we need not do. And so, for the self-described atheist who wants to be called an atheist but who nevertheless wants to avoid the burden of proof, the choices are grim: either he admits he is actually best classified as an agnostic, not an atheist, or he admits he is an atheist but then shoulders his share of the burden of proof, or he gets called out as a mere rhetorical bullshitter who is trying to have his atheistic cake and eat it too.

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Anno Domini 2017 01 20

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

The Positive Burden-Bearing Beliefs of Lack-of-Belief Atheists

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

The Positive Burden-Bearing Beliefs of Lack-of-Belief Atheists

Over the past few essays devoted to the topic of negative lack-of-belief atheism being bullshit—in the philosophical sense—a number of arguments were presented in order to show that it is reasonable to believe that lack-of-belief atheism is indeed a shell-game meant to rhetorically shield atheists from bearing their share of the burden of proof for their unbelief. Yet even with those previous arguments already articulated, the truth is that this whole matter gets even worse for the lack-of-belief atheist given the fact that when pressed, most atheists, even while claiming to merely lack a belief concerning the existence of God or gods (hereafter just God), will simultaneously admit that they hold a number of other positive beliefs about the God-question which, whether they realize it or not, actually undermine their own self-proclaimed negative-atheism. In fact, in many cases, these other positive beliefs tangentially demonstrate that the unbeliever’s atheism is much more than a mere lack of belief. And to understand how this is the case, let us examine some of these other beliefs.

First, in terms of the positive beliefs that many modern atheists would endorse, we can reasonably claim—based both on personal experience interacting with atheists and from the testimony of atheists themselves—that many modern atheists would hold the affirmative belief that it is more probable than not, even if only slightly more probable than not, that no God exists. For example, arch-unbeliever Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion, in the section titled “The Poverty of Agnosticism”—page 51 of the 2006 hard-copy edition—admit that he is almost certain that no God exists; so Dawkins himself holds to the positive belief that it is much more probable than not that no God exists. But, as stated, note that this is a positive claim that needs defending rather than being a mere lack of belief about the existence of God; indeed, such an atheist as Dawkins does not believe that God’s existence is essentially unknowable or that it is as likely as not, nor does such an atheist literally lack a belief about the God-question, but rather, such an atheist is making the positive claim that God’s existence is less likely than not, and as such, such an atheist owes us some reasons for why he makes this positive claim. After all, if I said that I believed that the theory of evolution, for example, was more likely false than true, every proponent of evolution would demand that I substantiate that claim with arguments and reasons for it, and they would no doubt insist that that was a positive claim which bore a burden of proof; they would not let me get away with just saying that I ‘lacked a belief’ in the theory of evolution, but rather they would rightly demand justification for my claim that evolution is more likely false than factual. But the same holds true for the claim that God’s non-existence is more probable than not, and so such a claim needs to be positively justified. Therefore, if the atheist holds to such a claim, then he is indeed an atheist who is making a positive claim and he thus has a burden of proof that he must meet. And yet note that if the atheist does not hold such a belief, and if he thus claims no positive belief concerning the probability of God’s existence or non-existence, or if he claims to believe that God’s existence and non-existence are roughly of equal probability, then such an atheist is much more of an agnostic than an outright atheist, and so he should stop calling himself an atheist to begin with.

Now, in addition to believing that God’s non-existence is more probable than not, in my experience, many modern atheists also hold other positive beliefs that are unavoidably linked to the God-question, and yet these are the very beliefs which also undermine the atheist’s claim to hold to a mere lack-of-belief style of atheism. For instance, the often repeated atheist mantra that ‘there are no good arguments for God’s existence’, or that ‘there is no evidence for God’s existence’, are cases in point of this phenomenon. Why? Because the positive claim that there is no evidence for God is directly contrary to, for example, the Christian idea that God did provide universally-visible evidence of His existence to all men and that the entire creation is itself universally manifest evidence for the existence of a Creator deity (and please see Romans 1:19-21 and Points 27 to 38 of the newest Catechism of the Catholic Church for detailed articulation of this claim). So the point to understand is that in positively asserting that there is no evidence for God’s existence, the atheist is taking a de facto positive position against certain theistic worldviews, such as certain forms of Christian theism. And this, in turn, means that the atheist, at least in some cases, does not merely lack a belief about the truth of theism, but he implicitly holds the positive belief that certain forms of theism are false.

To understand this idea more deeply, consider this analogy. Imagine, for a moment, two Detectives at the scene of a fatality. The first Detective, examining the scene, expresses his positive endorsement of the hypothesis that the fatality is a murder committed by a notorious serial killer who always and purposefully leaves ample evidence at the scene of the crime to clearly show that he was the culprit. However, upon hearing this hypothesis, the second Detective explicitly asserts that there is absolutely no evidence to show that the fatality was even a homicide. Now, in making this claim, the second Detective is not directly contradicting the first Detective’s hypothesis that the murderer is the notorious serial killer. Nevertheless, the second Detective is indirectly denying that hypothesis through his assertion that the scene shows no evidence of a homicide at all, for since such evidence would have to be there if the murderer was the notorious serial killer in question, then, by claiming that there is no such evidence, the second Detective is necessarily implying that he positively believes that the fatality was not caused by that specific serial killer. At the same time, in making his “no evidence of a homicide” claim, the second Detective is leaving open the possibility that someone else may have killed the deceased person and left no evidence of the act, but he is positively denying, through the unavoidable implication of his claim, that the evidence-leaving serial killer that the first Detective has posited as the culprit is definitely not the murderer. So while the second Detective may lack a belief about other possible murderers, he does not merely lack a belief about whether or not that specific serial killer is the murderer; rather, by saying that there is no evidence of a homicide having been committed, the second Detective is positively implying that no evidence-leaving serial killer could be responsible for the fatality under investigation. And in the same way, the atheist who positively believes that “there is no evidence for God” is simultaneously implying, whether consciously or not, that he also holds the positive belief that no evidence-providing God exists either. And so when it comes to certain deities, such as the God posited by Christian theism, the unbeliever’s other God-related beliefs, such as the belief that there is no evidence for God, unavoidably imply that his atheism is much more than just a lack-of-belief.

And for another example of the aforementioned phenomenon, consider that if an atheist was asked “Who created or caused the universe—meaning all of physical reality—to exist?” and “Who sustains the universe in existence?”, then, most often, the atheist’s answer will be that “No one created or caused the universe to exist, and no one sustains it in existence”; but such an answer is a positive claim which directly contradicts many theistic worldviews, such as Christianity. This is seen in the fact that the atheist is directly asserting that it is false that there is a being who created and sustains the universe, which is something which Christians claim their God has most definitely done and is doing right now. And so this means that if the atheist is explicitly stating that this is not the case, then the atheist is positively implying that orthodox Christian theism is false.

Thus, as such cases demonstrate, the atheist’s subtle but de facto positive rejection of the existence of certain types of gods, as implied by the unavoidable consequences of his other positive statements, appears to strongly undermine his claim to merely lack a belief about the existence of gods in general; indeed, in answering certain God-related questions in a way that unavoidably implies that specific types of theism are false, and thus that the deities posited by those types of theism do not exist, the atheist is tacitly admitting that his atheism, in such cases, is actually a type of positive atheism which thus has a burden of proof that it must bear.

Yet even more so than just the above examples, most atheists also hold to some or all of the following positive beliefs as well: that matter exists, that the universe was not designed, that life ultimately came naturally from non-life without guidance, that the evolutionary process was wholly random and without interference from divine beings, that consciousness ultimately arose from non-consciousness naturalistically, that a soul does not exist, that God-given moral commands and duties do not exist, and so on. But again, all of these are not only positive anti-theistic beliefs which require defending, but they are also beliefs which tacitly imply that certain types of theism are false. Indeed, for consider, as a final example, the issue of evolution. Most atheists would assert that evolution is a genuinely random and undirected process. However, note that since classical theism holds that there are no truly random or undirected processes in the universe, nor could there ever be such processes given God’s providential control and constant sustainment of everything that exists, then if the atheist positively claims that the evolutionary process is genuinely random and not under the control of any being in any way, then the atheist is positively implying that classical theism is false. So the atheist might lack a belief about the existence of some other deity, but his stance on evolution is positively implying that the God of classical theism does not exist. And so, once again, the fact that the atheist, in practice, holds such beliefs as the ones mentioned above implies that the atheist does not merely lack a belief about the truth or falsity of various specific theistic positions, but that he positively, albeit implicitly, holds various types of theism to be false. And thus the atheist who holds these aforementioned positions—as, in my experience, many of them admit to doing when pressed—thereby shows himself to be more of an atheistic-naturalist / philosophical naturalist than a mere lack-of-belief atheist, and yet atheistic-naturalism is a position that most definitely bears a burden of proof.

And note that you do not need to take my word for the fact that for many atheists, atheism is much more than a mere lack of belief. Indeed, to see the difference between the type of atheism used in theistic debates and the atheism that is actually believed by many atheists in their daily lives, consider this letter about atheism, which was written by an atheist to other atheists who he thought were being disingenuous and inconsistent in their unbelief. The letter was provided to a Christian apologist named J. Warner Wallace, who podcasted about the letter and published it at his website ‘coldcasechrisitanity.com’ in a January 14, 2014 article titled “The Inevitable Consequence of an Atheistic Worldview”, which was accessed on the 15th of August 2016. The letter is long, but informative, and so it is well-worth the read. It begins as follows:

[QUOTE] [To] all my Atheist friends. 

Let us stop sugar coating it. I know, it’s hard to come out and be blunt with the friendly Theists who frequent sites like this.  However in your efforts to “play nice” and “be civil” you actually do them a great disservice.                    

We are Atheists.  We believe that the Universe is a great uncaused, random accident. All life in the Universe past and future are the results of random chance acting on itself.  While we acknowledge concepts like morality, politeness, civility seem to exist, we know they do not.  Our highly evolved brains imagine that these things have a cause or a use, and they have in the past, they’ve allowed life to continue on this planet for a short blip of time.  But make no mistake: all our dreams, loves, opinions, and desires are figments of our primordial imagination. They are fleeting electrical signals that fire across our synapses for a moment in time. They served some purpose in the past.  They got us here. That’s it.  All human achievement and plans for the future are the result of some ancient, evolved brain and accompanying chemical reactions that once served a survival purpose.  Ex: I’ll marry and nurture children because my genes demand reproduction, I’ll create because creativity served a survival advantage to my ancient ape ancestors, I’ll build cities and laws because this allowed my ape grandfather time and peace to reproduce and protect his genes. My only directive is to obey my genes. Eat, sleep, reproduce, die.  That is our bible.

We deride the Theists for having created myths and holy books.  We imagine ourselves superior.  But we too imagine there are reasons to obey laws, be polite, protect the weak etc.  Rubbish. We are nurturing a new religion, one where we imagine that such conventions have any basis in reality.  Have they allowed life to exist?  Absolutely.  But who cares?  Outside of my greedy little gene’s need to reproduce, there is nothing in my world that stops me from killing you and reproducing with your wife.  Only the fear that I might be incarcerated and thus be deprived of the opportunity to do the same with the next guy’s wife stops me.  Some of my Atheist friends have fooled themselves into acting like the general population.  They live in suburban homes, drive Toyota Camrys, attend school plays.  But underneath they know the truth.  They are a bag of DNA whose only purpose is to make more of themselves. So be nice if you want. Be involved, have polite conversations, be a model citizen.  Just be aware that while technically an Atheist, you are an inferior one.  You’re just a little bit less evolved, that’s all.  When you are ready to join me, let me know, I’ll be reproducing with your wife.

I know it’s not PC [politically correct] to speak so bluntly about the ramifications of our beliefs, but in our discussions with Theists we sometimes tip toe around what we really know to be factual. Maybe it’s time we Atheists were a little more truthful and let the chips fall where they may.  At least that’s what my genes are telling me to say.” [UNQUOTE, http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/the-inevitable-consequence-of-an-atheistic-worldview/%5D

So here we can see that an atheist quite readily admits that in terms of how he views the world, morality, meaning, and so on, his atheism is much more than a mere lack of belief. Instead, it is a vast mix of positive beliefs, all of which require defending and which need substantiation before being accepted. Therefore, in terms of how atheism makes many unbelievers perceive reality, atheism thus appears to be, for all practical purposes, much more like a comprehensive worldview than just an absence of belief.

And to support the above atheist’s claim that atheists sometimes conceal the true extent and implications of their unbelief from theists, remember as well what atheist Luke Muehlhauser said in his 23rd of February 2009 article “Atheism and the Burden of Proof”, which was accessed on the 8th of August 2016 on his website ‘commonsenseatheism.com’; namely, Muehlhauser states the following:

[QUOTE] But most intellectually-inclined atheists I know do not merely “lack” a belief in God – as, say, my dog lacks a belief in God. Atheists like to avoid the burden of proof during debates, so they say they merely “lack” a belief in God. But this is not what their writings usually suggest. No, most intellectual atheists positively believe that God does not exist. In fact, most of them will say – at least to other atheists – that it’s “obvious” there is no God, or that they “know” – as well as we can “know” anything – that God does not exist. Thus, if the atheist wants to defend what he really believes, then he, too, has a burden of proof. He should give reasons for why he thinks that God almost certainly doesn’t exist. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=597%5D

So here even Muehlhauser admits that certain atheists that he knows will admit to other atheists that it is obvious that there is no God, but such atheists will nevertheless use lack-of-belief atheism as a means to avoid the burden of proof during debates on atheism.

Additionally, note that even in the political arena there is a connection between atheism and certain positive points-of-view. For example, as was reported in Point 3 of the Pew Research Center’s June 1st, 2016 web-article “10 Facts About Atheists”, which was accessed on the 1st of August 2016, only one-in-ten of self-identified US atheists count themselves as conservative while about two-thirds of atheists identify as Democrats or lean in that direction; and a majority of atheists, at 56%, call themselves political liberals (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/06/01/10-facts-about-atheists/). And even atheists themselves, such as Austin Cline in his ‘atheism.about.com’ article “Atheists & Agnostics in America Tend to be Politically Liberal”, accessed on the 1st of August 2016, admit that there is good statistical evidence that atheists and agnostics have strong liberal tendencies (http://atheism.about.com/od/Atheist-Agnostic-Belief-Survey/a/Atheists-Agnostics-America-Politically-Liberal.htm). So even in politics and culture there seems to be a solid correlation between atheism and certain positive beliefs which are generally opposed to traditional orthodox religious morality. And such a finding again suggests that, in practice, the atheism of many atheists is more than a mere lack of belief about the truth or falsity of theism but rather that such an atheism is indeed the positive view that certain types of theism—such as any theism which claims that modern progressive ethics are incorrect—are false (or, possibly, that they are true but need to be opposed regardless of their truth).

Finally, in light of all this, also note the interesting point that since many common and daily interactions between atheists and theists involve theists who are religious followers who usually believe in the types of deities that many atheists implicitly reject through their affirmation of such positive beliefs as those noted above, then it does seem rather disingenuous for the atheist to assert that his atheism is a mere lack of belief concerning such deities; rather, in such cases, the atheist should admit that he has a positive burden-bearing view that the specific deity of the particular religious believer does not exist. And yet, since such cases form a sizable portion of the interactions that atheists deal with, then the non-believer’s atheism should very often be presented as the positive view that it is, not as a mere lack of belief.

And so, the long and short of it is this: although atheists like to hide behind so-called lack-of-belief atheism, more often than not, when you scratch an atheist, what you get is not someone who lacks a belief in God in a literal or straightforward sense, but rather you get an individual with all sorts of positive and burden-bearing beliefs concerning God that he should be defending. In fact, what you most often get is someone who is essentially an atheistic-naturalist of some type or other, but who nevertheless wishes to avoid justifying his atheistic-naturalism, thereby leading him to invoke the ‘lack a belief atheism’ move. But such a move is, in the end, just plain bullshit, and it needs to be called out as such.

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Anno Domini 2017 01 18

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam