Intelligent Design Needs a Re-Branding

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents

Intelligent Design Needs a Re-Branding

In this age of consumerism, everyone understands the importance of positive branding; indeed, companies and individuals alike readily comprehend that if your “brand” has negative connotations attached to it, then there are a great many people that will pre-judge you on that basis alone rather than taking the time to survey your ideas in the detail that they deserve. And though such a “pre-judging” may not be fair, it is a reality, and there is no escaping that reality. So, in light of this fact, I thus contend that given the branding difficulties that now surround it, it may be time for the Intelligent Design (ID) movement to consider re-branding itself with a new and improved label. Indeed, perhaps it is time for the ID movement to change its main moniker to something like the ‘Science of Intelligent Agent Detection’ or ‘Agent Detection Science’. And the reasons for why this proposed change would be beneficial to the ID community are as follows:

  1. First, in making this change, there is the obvious benefit that some small part of the negative branding and prejudice associated with ID would be removed, and thus ID could gain some additional supporters merely from making this minor change to its name.
  1. Second, the label ‘Agent Detection Science’ (or the ‘Science of Intelligent Agent Detection’) sounds more professional, academic, and intellectually rigorous than the term ‘Intelligent Design’ does, just as the term ‘Forensic Science’ sounds more professional, academic, and intellectually rigorous than the term ‘Scenes of Crime Investigation’ does. And so, such a labeling change will have a positive persuasive effect at an almost sub-conscious level, which, in turn, should give ID a greater chance at a fair hearing amongst people who would otherwise disregard it without a second thought.
  1. Third, by labeling itself as ‘Agent Detection Science’, the ID movement actually links itself much more closely to other ID-type fields like forensics, archaeology, and SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). Indeed, given that all these other fields are in the business of detecting the hallmarks of agent causation rather than natural causation, and furthermore, since all these fields are, quite literally, agent detection sciences, then by directly labeling itself as an ‘Agent Detection Science’, the ID movement would gain greater credibility through its clear connection to these other already-credible fields; furthermore, such a labeling “connection” would also automatically make it the case that any objections brought against the methodology and “scientific status” of ID would simultaneously be objections against the methodology and “scientific status” of such disciplines as forensics, archaeology, SETI, and so on. And since many individuals would be loath to deny the legitimacy of the methodology and scientific status of these latter fields, then such individuals might at least hesitate in their objections to ID given its similarity to these other fields.
  1. Fourth, the label ‘Agent Detection Science’ is more precise than the ID moniker, for ID, as well as all the other ID-type sciences already mentioned (like archaeology) are in the very business of using certain methodologies to detect the presence and activity of agents rather than of natural causes, and so, by changing the name from ID to something like ‘Agent Detection Science’, the ID movement would, in its very title, be clearly stating what it actually strives to do. And since what ID strives to do is in no way shocking when you consider that SETI, archaeology, forensics, and other fields strive to do the exact same thing, then in providing this clarity in its very label the ID movement would be clear that it is little different than these other sciences are.
  1. Fifth, ‘Agent Detection Science’ has the term science in its very name, which helps to immediately and directly assert that ID is a science, just like forensics and archaeology are considered to be, and so its status as a claimed science is put right into the open for all to see (and please note that if you truly deny that ID is a science, then it would be easy enough to change the name to ‘Agent Detection Methodology’ or ‘Agent Detection Theory’ or even ‘Agent Detection Analysis’).

And so, the long and short of it is this:  there are a number of excellent reasons why the ID movement should consider re-branding itself; doing so would help to take ID to the next level of its development while simultaneously dropping some of the negative baggage that is, at the present time, directly attached to the ID label. And such positive changes would be highly beneficial to the ID movement as a whole.

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Anno Domini 2017 03 07

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

Destroying the Use of Progressive Statistics

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Destroying the Use of Progressive Statistics

While sitting on the toilet one day, I had an epiphany: all the statistics that modern feminists, SJWs, progressives, and other leftists use as rhetorical tools against their opponents are utterly unreliable. Now, I do not mean that they are unreliable in the rather obvious sense that they have been refuted by countless other experts, but rather, I mean that, in a very ironic twist, the reliability of the statistics that progressive leftists love to use are actually undermined by their very own ideas and principles!

So, what do I mean by this? Well, consider that today, the progressive left tells us that gender is a social construct; as such, a man can thus allegedly become a woman, and a woman can allegedly become a man, all on the basis of how these men and women feel inside. In fact, the left tells us that there are a great number of different “genders”. For example, there are gender “fluids”, where a woman might decide to be a man one day and a woman the next, all depending on how her confused little heart feels once the sun rises.

So what is clear from all this is that the natural and commonsensical delineation between men and women is something which does not exist for the progressive left given their embrace of multiple gender categories. At the same time, it is evident that the left also endorses the idea that people are able to switch their gender categories on a relatively regular basis—if they desire to do so—all depending on how they subjectively feel rather than on any objective criteria. Furthermore, anyone who fails to take into account a person’s self-identity, and anyone who purposely or knowingly misidentifies the self-selected gender identity of a person is considered a bigot by the left.

Now, the interesting aspect of this whole situation arises when it is realized that in addition to all of the above, the progressive left also loves to use questionable statistics as a means of pushing their agenda. I mean, how often do we hear that women make less than men for the same work. And how often do we here that a “rape culture” exists, with men apparently sexually assaulted countless women on college campuses. Indeed, these kinds of statistics are used all the time by progressive feminists and others to bolster their narrative. And while many of these leftist statistics have been debunked using other, more accurate statistics, my point is that no other data or arguments are needed to undermine these leftist stats. Rather, all that is needed is to parrot the left’s talking points back to them. And when this is done, their appeal to statistics and data implodes.

Consider the following: if gender is fluid and changeable on a whim, and if there are dozens upon dozens of genders, and if society must treat these gender self-selections as real, then any statistics about the inequality in pay between men and women, or the sexual assault rates between men and women, or any other such statistics, are, by definition, unreliable. For if men can become women merely by feeling it, and if women can become men in the same way, then how do we actually know, for example, what the so-called pay-gap is between men and women? After all, at the time that the statistics were taken, did anyone ask the people what gender they self-identified with? Were enough gender options provided? Did anyone conduct a further study to see if the respondent’s self-identity has changed since the initial report was done? And the same questions could be asked about the alleged “rape culture” stats. At the time that the sexual assaults occurred, did anyone ask the aggressors what their gender identity was at the exact time of the alleged attack? Perhaps certain male aggressors identified as “womyn” at the time. Or perhaps they identified as gender fluid. In that case, perhaps we have an alleged lesbian “rape culture” on our hands rather than a supposed male one.

Furthermore, even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that the statistics that were previously gathered were accurate at that time, there is nothing to say that they are accurate now. Gender is fluid after all. People may have changed their gender identity since the last time the statistics were taken. Perhaps now we have a “rape culture” were self-identified “women” are regularly assaulting men. Hell, even if the statistics were re-taken today, by tomorrow, we could, on leftist principles, reasonably doubt their accuracy and reliability, for again, if gender is fluid, then we have no idea whether the statistics are still accurate or not.

So, by their very own lights, leftists and progressives provide us with the means to undermine their own narrative. They tell us gender is fluid, and we say “OK, but that means that all the stats that you use to talk about gender discrimination and alleged misogyny are unreliable and uncertain, for how do you know what gender these people were when the stats were taken and how do you know that the stats are still accurate now.” And if the progressive left then screams that we are being unfair, or “unscientific”, then we can just call them bigots. After all, they are using statistics which almost certainly did not let people choose one of the five dozen or so different genders out there at the time that the stats were taken; and that means that those statistics were created in a bigoted “cis-normative” bubble!

So the SJW progressives are stuck in a bit of a dilemma: either they admit that the statistics that they love to use are ultimately unreliable given their own principles and ideas, or else they renege on those principles and ideas by continuing to use the statistics in question, and thus they become the very cis-normative bigots that they allegedly despise. Essentially, the progressive is between a rock and a hard place. However, for those of us who loath SJW ideas, we should exploit this dilemma at every opportunity. Indeed, when an SJW gives you his favorite stat about sexism, just lay into him as a bigot for using such cis-normative statistics, and then tell him that his statistics are unreliable anyway.

Now, will this strategy change the minds of anyone on the progressive left? Of course not! After all, embracing absurdity and double-standards is an essential part of being an SJW, so absorbing one more absurdity will have no effect on them; at the same time, the progressive embrace of these absurd ideas is mainly about gaining more power over their ideological opponents rather than about truth, and so as long as they are gaining power in some way, the progressives do not care that their position is logically absurd. However, what pointing out these absurdities on the left does is move more normal people away from them. And the less that normal people support them, the fewer allies that they have. And that is the goal of pointing out leftist absurdities for all to see.

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Anno Domini 2017 03 04

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.

If you wish, then please support here, because any amount of support counts towards keeping this original content coming: www.patreon.com/reconquistainitiative

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

Atheists are Just Bullshitting Agnostics

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Atheists are Just Bullshitting Agnostics

In the essay “Lack-of-Belief Atheism is Bullshit”, it was argued that, based on the experience of a number of individuals, as well as the testimony of certain atheists, it is reasonable to believe that so-called ‘lack-of-belief atheism’, or negative-atheism, is little more than a shell-game meant to give atheists cover for avoiding the burden of proof for their unbelief. And in that essay, a particular quote from atheist Luke Muehlhauser, the author of the website ‘commonsenseatheism.com’, which was very popular during New Atheism’s heyday, stood out. And that quote, which was in Muehlhauser’s 23rd of February 2009 article “Atheism and the Burden of Proof”, and which was accessed on the 8th of August 2016, was 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]

Now, for this essay, the idea that shall be focused on is Muehlhauser’s interesting and salient point that, as he says, intellectually-inclined, and thus self-aware and self-described atheists do not lack a belief in God (meaning both God and gods) in the same sense that other things, like his dog, do. Indeed, there is an obvious and categorical difference between the alleged lack-of-belief about God which the self-aware and self-described negative-atheist has and the lack-of-belief that a dog has. And since such atheists are also not like molecules, or moss, or mice, or monkeys, all of which also literally lack a belief in God and yet which we would never call ‘atheistic’ in any meaningful sense, then there is a difference here as well. And so, there is obviously something less than straightforward in the type of lack-of-belief that the self-aware and self-described negative-atheist allegedly possesses given that all the aforementioned things—dogs, mice, moss, and so on—clearly and literally lack a belief in God as well, and yet it would be absurd to deem any of these things to be atheistic in any way.

At the same time, it is also interesting to note that self-aware and self-described negative-atheists are not even like infants or toddlers or utterly ignorant adults in their lack of God belief, for infants and toddlers and ignorant adults lack a belief in God’s existence because they have not yet entertained the question and are therefore genuinely and completely ignorant of it. By contrast, self-aware and self-described atheists—by virtue of being self-aware and consciously describing themselves as atheists—have obviously contemplated the question of God’s existence and thus they are not ignorant of the God concept. After all, atheists are atheists, they are not what could best be described as ignorant-theists, or ‘ignotheists’ (which would be a person, like an infant, who is truly and wholly ignorant of the idea of God and thus genuinely and literally lacks any belief about a deity given that that person has never even contemplated the God concept to begin with). And so again, there is a clear difference between the lack-of-belief concerning God that an infant or toddler or mentally handicapped person has, and the lack-of-belief that a self-aware and self-described negative-atheist alleged has.

But also note that there is even a difference between the negative-atheist’s lack of belief in God and the lack of belief in God that other non-ignorant adults in particular situations might have. For example, it would be laughable to think that we would call a sleeping Pope or a dozing clergyman a lack-of-belief atheist even though they actually do happen to literally lack a belief in God at the time of their slumbers. Indeed, for while the Pope truly does lack a belief in God while sleeping, it is absurd to think that the Pope should be labeled a lack-of-belief atheist when he naps but that he then transforms back into a Catholic God-believer upon waking. Furthermore, it is doubly-absurd to think that a fully awake and conscious religious monk, while in a mind-clearing meditation that seeks to put him in a contemplative state-of-mind, should be called a lack-of-belief atheist in that moment simply because he happens to lack a belief about God at the time of his most important religious practice.

And so, given all the above points, it begins to become evident that the alleged lack-of-belief which the negative-atheist claims he has is suspiciously dissimilar from the common-sense and literal understanding of what we normally take a ‘lack’ of something to entail; indeed, we begin to see that if so-called ‘lack-of-belief atheism’ is understood in a straightforward sense—namely, as a literal lack of belief about God’s existence—then the very idea that a self-aware and self-described atheist is simply a person who lacks a belief about God is, to put it charitably, immediately questionable both in its veracity and in its coherence. But then this raises the key question: namely, if the self-described and self-aware negative-atheist does not lack a belief about God in the literal and straight-forward sense of the term, then what kind of lack-of-belief does such an atheist actually have?

The fact is that only if a person has never thought about the God concept can he maintain a position where he lacks a belief about God’s existence in the genuine sense of literally possessing no belief one way or the other about the matter. After all, before writing this passage, I had never contemplated the issue of whether there was silver on the planet Pluto, and so I genuinely lacked a belief about that issue given that I had absolutely no belief one way or the other about that topic. But now that I have contemplated this question, I no longer literally lack a belief about the matter; rather, I now have the positive belief that I have insufficient evidence to either affirm or deny the existence of silver on the planet Pluto, and I thus hold a position of uncertainty about this question, thereby meaning that I am ultimately an agnostic about this issue. And the same holds true for the God-question, for the minute that we hear of the God-issue, and understand it, and contemplate it, we then unavoidably adopt a position along the spectrum of theistic belief, which ranges from certain-atheism on one end, to certain-theism on the other end, and with pure agnosticism in the neutral middle (and theistic non-cognitivism would be there as well). But at no point do we merely continue to lack a belief in God’s existence in the same literal way that we did before we even contemplated the concept of God. Instead, we hold a position where we either view God’s existence as more probable than not, or less probable than not, or we come to hold the purely agnostic point-of-view. But again, what we do not have is a ‘lack of belief’ in a literal sense.

But now consider that self-aware and self-described negative-atheists are individuals who have indeed already thought about God’s existence and are thus not actually ignorant about this matter. What this means is that the self-aware negative-atheist cannot lack a belief about God’s existence in the literal and straightforward sense, like an infant does, but rather he can only lack a belief in the sense that the agnostic lacks a belief: namely, by being uncertain about the issue of God’s existence and thus neither affirming God’s existence nor denying it (and see the essay ‘Atheism, Agnosticism, and Bullshit’ for support of this definition of agnosticism). Consequently, and as mentioned, the idea that a self-aware unbeliever can lack a belief in God in the literal sense is, at best, a seriously questionable concept, and it is, at worst, outright false. And yet if ‘lack-of-belief atheism’ does not describe an unbeliever who lacks a belief in God’s existence in the literal sense, but rather it merely describes an unbeliever who is uncertain and uncommitted one way or the other about God’s existence, then lack-of-belief atheism appears to be nothing more than agnosticism by another name. So either lack-of-belief atheism is an inappropriate label for most self-aware and self-described negative-atheists given that such atheists do not genuinely nor literally lack a belief in God’s existence like a wholly ignorant person does, or else lack-of-belief atheism is just another label for agnosticism about God. Either way, this whole issue of lack-of-belief atheism is problematic for the unbeliever given its appearance of intellectual dishonesty, and so it is a problem that unbelievers should address.

Now, if a self-aware and self-described atheist does not see this problem, then this points towards ignorance of the issue, which is its own concern. And yet if such an atheist does see this problem, but he continues to promote and use lack-of-belief atheism anyway even though it is an inappropriate label for him and if he simply uses it as a concealed synonym for agnosticism, then, once again, this fact serves as some evidence towards the view that intellectual bullshit is afoot, for it provides some evidence that such an atheist, through his use of the ‘lack-of-belief’ shtick, wants to gain the rhetorical benefits of calling himself an “atheist” while at the same time reaping the burden-avoiding properties of agnosticism. In essence, such an atheist want to gain the perceived prestige that comes with proudly and boldly labelling himself an ‘atheist’ rather than a wishy-washy agnostic, but he also wants to avoid any burden for justifying his unbelief, which is why what such an atheist has done is merely to repackage what most people understand as agnosticism into a new box called ‘lack-of-belief atheism’.

So either the self-described and self-aware atheist is ignorant of the problems that labeling himself as a lack-of-belief atheist poses, or else he is aware of these problems, but he disingenuously continues to label himself as a lack-of-belief atheist anyway. And since atheists are intelligent people, it is reasonable to suspect that the latter is the case, which is precisely why this point again serves as some evidence that lack-of-belief atheism, when used by self-described and self-aware negative-atheists, is indeed just a bullshit maneuver meant to give such atheists a rhetorical upper-hand against theists, even though their so-called negative-atheism is indistinguishable from agnosticism.

And so, the long and short of it is this:  it seems that the old adage that ‘an agnostic is just a cowardly atheist’, while possibly true, is not the only adage that we now need to consider, for it also appears that we can now just as readily say that ‘an atheist is actually little more than just a bullshitting agnostic’.

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Anno Domini 2017 01 17

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

Atheism, Agnosticism, and Bullshit

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Atheism, Agnosticism, and Bullshit

In the previous essay “Lack-of-Belief Atheism is Bullshit”, it was argued that the testimony of a number of individuals, both atheist and theist alike, as well as the experience of this author, provide the reasonable grounds to believe that the popular assertion made by many modern atheists, which is that atheism is simply a lack-of-belief about the existence of God or gods (hereafter just God) rather than being a positive belief claim, is, in fact, a bullshit move which is employed by atheists not because it is true, but because it helps them avoid the burden of proof for their position. And so, the evidence provided supported the contention that lack-of-belief atheism is, in essence, a shell game used to give atheists a rhetorical advantage over theists concerning the question of who bears the burden of proof.

In this essay, yet another point will be provided which will add a slight amount of further grounds to support the idea that lack-of-belief atheism is indeed more of a rhetorical tactic than a legitimate position. And this point stems from the blending of negative lack-of-belief atheism with agnosticism. Indeed, the conflation and overlap that occurs between lack-of-belief atheism and agnosticism is another point which is sufficiently suspicious that it deserves to be noted.

Now, to understand this overlap between atheism and agnosticism, consider first how atheist Michael Martin, in his “General Introduction” to the 2006 Cambridge Companion to Atheism, defines 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]

But Martin, in the same work, then defines agnosticism as follows:

[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 observe how Martin defines agnosticism as neither believing nor disbelieving in the existence of God, which means that the agnostic lacks a positive belief in either the existence or the non-existence of God, just as the negative-atheist allegedly does. And so, as per Martin’s definition, agnosticism is thus best construed as the middle position between positively believing and positively disbelieving in the existence of God; it is directly between positive-atheism and positive-theism on the spectrum of theistic belief. Thus, agnosticism is indeed a lack of belief concerning God’s existence, just as negative-atheism is claimed to be. And even Martin himself admits that negative-atheism overlaps with agnosticism. And while Martin argues that these two positions are not identical, Martin himself provides the very means to undermine his own claim that these are two separate and distinction positions—although explaining why this is so will be the topic of a separate essay.

Note as well that Martin is not the only one who implicitly admits the overlap between negative-atheism and agnosticism. For example, Matt McCormick, in his online article “Atheism” on the ‘Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy’ website, accessed on the 25th of November 2015, also defines agnosticism as a lack-of-belief when he says:

[QUOTE] Atheism is the view that there is no God … It has come to be widely accepted that to be an atheist is to affirm the non-existence of God.  Anthony Flew (1984) called this positive atheism, whereas to lack a belief that God or gods exist is to be a negative atheist… Agnosticism is traditionally characterized as neither believing that God exists nor believing that God does not exist. [UNQUOTE] (http://www.iep.utm.edu/atheism/, bold emphasis added)

Notice how McCormick, like Martin, does indeed tacitly admit that both the negative-atheist and the agnostic have a lack-of-belief concerning God’s existence, thereby again demonstrating the conflation that occurs between these two terms.

So the point here is that there is a clear overlap between agnosticism and lack-of-belief atheism, and even atheists, such as Martin and McCormick, admit as much. But this fact, in turn, offers the grounds for a reasonable person to suspect that what the unbeliever is trying to do in defining atheism in a manner that overlaps it with agnosticism is to gain the advantage of agnosticism’s burden-free position while at the same time still being able to call himself an atheist; thus the negative-atheist gets the rhetorical benefit of “proudly and boldly” calling himself an atheist rather than labelling himself as a (perceived) wishy-washy agnostic, but at the same time, the atheist receives the agnostic’s debate advantage of not having a burden of proof for his own position. And so, for the unbeliever, branding one’s self as a lack-of-belief atheist is to his rhetorical advantage all around, which is precisely why it is reasonable to suspect that this is the primary reason for why the unbeliever seeks to define atheism as a mere lack-of-belief.

Furthermore, this whole issue is made all the more suspicious by the fact that there is no need for the existence of the label of negative-atheist (and again, this will be discussed in a separate and longer essay). After all, if the label of agnostic encompasses the idea of a lack-of-belief in God, as it does, and if it can be modified to encompass numerous types of lack-of-belief, as it can be, then there is no need for the overlap and conflation between agnosticism and lack-of-belief atheism, especially given that the latter is unnecessary and could thus be justifiably shaved away via Occam’s Razor.  Consequently, atheism could be left with the more standard definition of being the positive belief that God does not exist whereas agnosticism would be the position where there was a lack-of-belief about God. And yet, atheists, and in particular negative-atheists, tacitly maintain this overlap between negative-atheism and agnosticism in spite of the fact that not only is there no good reason to do so, but there is a good reason not to do so: namely, as mentioned, Occam’s Razor and the appeal to parsimony, which should motivate the atheist—who so often invokes Occam’s Razor in other matters—to cut off the unnecessary limb of negative-atheism from the tree of agnosticism, thereby making matters linguistically simpler by removing the overlap between these two terms. But the fact that atheists are not willing to do this, even though many of them do indeed realize that negative-atheism and agnosticism all too often overlap, is suggestive of the fact that there may be an ulterior motive at play in the desire to maintain the idea of negative-atheism regardless of its overlap with agnosticism.

And so, the long and short of it is this: the existence of overlap between negative-atheism and agnosticism, as well as the atheist’s desire to maintain this overlap even when there good reasons not to do so, and no equally good reasons to maintain the overlap, can thereby lead a reasonable person to suspect that the atheist is indeed maintaining such an overlap for less-than-forthright purposes, such as for the purpose of gaining a rhetorical advantage over the theist when it comes to the burden of proof.  And so, in light of this reasonable suspicion, we once again get a whiff of intellectual bullshit coming from the atheist camp when it comes to their endless drive to ensure that atheism is defined as a mere lack-of-belief concerning the God question.

Additional Note:  Atheism versus Agnosticism

As an important side-note to the question of whether negative-atheism is simply conflated with agnosticism, please be aware that in response to this issue, 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 an overlap necessarily arising between these two terms. Although addressing this particular objection in full is outside the scope of this essay, let two things be said about it. First, the author is aware of this objection and has a number of responses to it which show that the objection will not save negative-atheism from its conflation problem with agnosticism. And second, the fact that numerous sources do not define atheism and agnosticism in the manner that this objection desires—and both Martin and McCormick are a case-in-point of this fact—means that the claim that this objection makes is readily disputable.

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Anno Domini 2017 01 13

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

Lack-of-Belief Atheism is Bullshit

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Lack-of-Belief Atheism is Bullshit

In his famous essay “On Bullshit”, philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt defined the so-called ‘bullshitter’ as a person whose main aim is not to communicate truth, nor even to consciously lie, but rather to make statements that further the bullshitter’s own ends and suit his agenda irrespective of the truth or falsity of those statements. And having followed the ‘New Atheism’ movement since 2007, and having actually been converted back to Christianity by Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion, it needs to be said that numerous years of experience have shown me that in terms of how they initially present their atheism to others, many modern atheists can indeed be reasonably seen as intellectual bullshitters.

Now, the aforementioned assertion is a serious one, but to understand the rationale behind it, we need to reflect on the fact that in recent years, there has been a great push to define atheism in a mainly negative sense, where atheism is understood as simply a lack of belief in the existence of a God or gods (hereafter just God, unless otherwise noted). Indeed, rather than being a positive belief which explicitly asserts that God does not exist, atheism is now primarily perceived as a mere negative lack-of-belief concerning God’s existence. And not a day goes by without some atheist on the internet or in print proclaiming this alleged truism, so this is not a fringe point-of-view. But viewing atheism in this type of negative manner leads to a situation where, in any debate between a theist and an atheist, the burden of proof is almost always placed on the shoulders of the theistic God-believer. And indeed, consider, for example, what Austin Cline, an ‘Agnosticism & Atheism Expert’ at the popular website ‘atheism.about.com’, says in his online article “Who has the Burden of Proof?”, which was accessed on the 8th of August 2016. Cline says that:

[QUOTE] …some burden of proof always lies with the person who is making a claim, not the person who is hearing the claim and who may not initially believe it. In practice, then, this means that the initial burden of proof lies with those on the side of theism, not with those on the side of atheism. (http://atheism.about.com/od/doesgodexist/a/burdenofproof.htm) [UNQUOTE]

And in his online article “Is Defining Atheism as a ‘Lack of Belief in God’ a Cop Out?”, also accessed on the same day and on the same website, Cline, in the context of arguing that it is a myth that atheists seek to avoid the burden of proof by defining atheism negatively, nevertheless admits that atheists can indeed avoid the burden of proof by doing so. He says:

[QUOTE] …if atheism is just the absence of belief in gods, then it’s not making any claims that all atheists must defend, and therefore the only burden of proof lies with religious theists themselves. (http://atheism.about.com/od/definitionofatheism/a/LackBelief God.htm) [UNQUOTE]

Now, with these points in mind, one of the reasons that it can be reasonably believed that a solid number of modern atheists are intellectual bullshitters is precisely because, in contrast to Cline’s claim that it is a myth that atheists use negative-atheism to avoid the burden of proof, many atheists truly do appear to employ the ‘atheism as a lack of belief’ shtick as a means of skirting the burden of proof when in a debate with a theist. And they do so even though they don’t actually lack a belief in God, but rather, they positively believe, at least to some degree, that God does not exist. And please note that you do not have to take my word for this. Consider, instead, the words of atheist Luke Muehlhauser, the author of the website ‘commonsenseatheism.com’, which was very popular during New Atheism’s heyday. In his 23rd of February 2009 article “Atheism and the Burden of Proof”, which was accessed on the 8th of August 2016, 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. (http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=597, bold emphasis added) [UNQUOTE]

Note how Muehlhauser—who did indeed run a very popular atheist blog with numerous commentators and who interviewed dozens of atheists and theists alike—states that 1) most of the intellectually-inclined atheists that he knows do not merely lack a belief in God, and that 2) atheists will admit to other atheists that they know that there is no God, and also that 3) atheists like to avoid the burden of proof in debates. So here we have an atheist with a solid number of connections in the atheist community, tacitly admitting that lack-of-belief atheism is often just a shell-game meant to help atheists avoid the burden of proof.

But Muelhauser is not the only individual to notice these points about atheists. For example, the author of the ‘Shadow to Light’ blog—which is a blog that has been keeping a critical eye on the New Atheist movement since 2012—has offered the following observation in a blog post titled ‘“There is no God!” – A Common Atheist Belief’, which was written on the 4th of January 2017 and accessed on the 11th of January 2017:

[QUOTE] In the previous posting, I showed that atheist activist leaders subscribe to the belief that “there are no gods.”  That is, their atheism is not a lack of god belief.  Their atheism is a belief that God does not exist.  But just how common is this? There is actually quite a bit of evidence to support the contention that atheism as a belief – a belief there is no God – is actually very common.  And I base this is on my own experience interacting with many, many atheists over the years.  If you yourself have similar experience, consider how well this evidence resonates. (https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/there-is-no-god-a-common-atheist-belief/#more-4618, bold emphasis added) [UNQUOTE]

And after providing a number of arguments to support his contention, the author of that blog post concludes with the following:

[QUOTE] Add it all up.  Atheist activists proudly proclaim “there are no gods” and give each other awards for doing this.  Their atheist followers cheer all of this.  Those who follow the atheist activists likewise preach that religion is delusion, score themselves as a 6.9-7 on Dawkins scale, and have trouble articulating what evidence for God would even look like.  The evidence clearly indicates the atheist activist community is a community of believers – people who believe “there is no God.” It’s time for this community to be honest with itself and with others. (https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/there-is-no-god-a-common-atheist-belief/#more-4618, bold emphasis added) [UNQUOTE]

Furthermore, and as mentioned at the start of this essay, I myself have been following the New Atheist movement in earnest for approximately a decade of time, and during this time I have read and/or interacted with dozens if not hundreds of atheists. And what this experience has shown me is that atheism, when defined as a lack-of-belief, all too often is little more than a debate tactic used by atheists to deny that they positively believe anything about the God question, thereby allowing atheists to appear intellectually legitimate when they avoid the burden of proof for their position (however, in fairness, it should be noted that most of my interactions with atheists was through the internet, and so a self-selection effect may have been in play in my particular case).

And so, the long and short of it is this: quotes such as the ones provided above, alongside the experience of numerous individuals who have been immersed in the atheism / theism debate for many years, do indeed provide some evidence that the atheist’s embrace of lack-of-belief atheism is often not a reflection of what the atheist truly believes, but rather, it is just a disingenuous move to help the atheist achieve a rhetorical advantage in his intellectual fight with the theist. And it is precisely such evidence, when combined with further points, which provides us with the grounds to reasonably believe that when it comes to lack-of-belief atheism, many atheists are, quite simply, intellectual bullshitters.

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Anno Domini 2017 01 11

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