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Atheism as an Extremist Position

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My video on how atheists need to deny evident truths like everything that begins to exist having a cause or the objectivity of moral values and duties gave rise to a debate between me and an atheist called John Hammond in the YouTube comment section. He confirmed my point in that he as an atheist did deny that everything that begins to exist has a cause and that morality is objective, but he thought that it was evident that these things aren’t true.

What follows is our online discussion, with John’s comments in quotation blocks and my responses in normal bread text:

Its so easy to mock others on YouTube that don’t agree with you isn’t it. We atheists are so stupid according to you aren’t we. I have argued against the Kalam Cosmological Argument so many times that I can’t be bothered to type it all out again. So will this do?

Subjective morality. Lets take two people, Hitler and me, both moral people. Now Hitler’s morality allowed him to initiate the murder of millions of people. My morality does not allow me to hurt anyone. So Hitler and me do not agree on what’s good or bad, whats moral. This is whats called ‘subjective morality’ I think Hitler’s morality was wrong. He would have thought my morality was wrong. Now lets develop this a little more. There are something like seven billion people in the world. That’s seven billion different moralities although most would agree on most points like not eating babies or torturing little kittens. We get our morality [what we personally think is right or wrong, good or bad] because of being a social animal, our upbringing and the society we live in. I personally think murdering millions of people is wrong, Hitler or Jehovah for example think its O.K. to murder millions of people.

No, we atheists do not deny truths as you falsely claim, we just stay within the bounds of reality and what we do know, not what we don’t know. In other words we do not believe in your supernatural God.

I respect you right to your beliefs sir so please respect my beliefs [or non belief] as an atheist.

With respect, John.

Hello John! Thank you for your comment. I must say that you confirm the point I’m making in the video. The article you provide tries to deny premise 1 by saying that everything came from nothing without a cause. That’s both impossible and illogical and contradicts a very evident truth that most people (save some atheists it seems) know – that everything that begins to exist has a cause.

As for the moral argument you just confirm the first premise, that from an atheist worldview there is no objective morality. But I’m sure you yourself don’t live or think according to such a wordview. Eating babies is not just socially unfashionable, it’s outrageously evil. It’s objectively wrong to do that. and again, this is an evident truth which is universally accepted. Some things are objectively wrong and evil despite what individuals claim. Blessings!

’The article you provide tries to deny premise 1 by saying that everything came from nothing without a cause’

A premise is only a statement or proposition from which another is inferred. A premise is NOT evidence for anything. This is were W.L. Craig’s arguments always fall down. But he never modifies his rhetoric so no one outside of the Christian apologists takes him seriously anymore.

’everything that begins to exist has a cause’

Three points here. First, that’s a premise. [again] Secondly we don’t know that because as an intelligent ape our brains are still evolving and there are many things we still do not understand yet and may never understand about life the universe and the cosmos. And thirdly [and arguably the most important too our discussion] why do you assume that the cause is a supernatural one and not natural? [God of the gaps argument?]

’As for the moral argument you just confirm the first premise, that from an atheist worldview there is no objective morality’ Yep, you got that right, except for one important fact, its not a premise. Subjective morality is bleeding obvious. Just take a look around you at the big bad world out there!

Eating babies is not just socially unfashionable, it’s outrageously evil’

That’s just your ‘subjective’ opinion. I had a delicious baby on toast for breakfast this morning. 🙂 But seriously, I have covered that point and you seem to have chosen to ignore it?

’Some things are objectively wrong’

The mistake you are making here is to confuse the fact that as a social animal most of us homo sapiens agree on what’s good or bad for reasons I have already outlined but you just say to yourself ‘wow. look at that! we are all in agreement that eating babies is wrong so it must be objective and therefore it must come from God’ [or other nonsense like morality is written in our hearts by God or something] It always amazes me how religion can warp the minds of otherwise intelligent people to the point were there mind is blocked from seeing past the nonsense that religion teaches. Sorry if that last part sounded a bit rude, I have a warped sense of humor my friend.

P.S. What you are eating looks delicious? Hope there’s no baby meat in there.

Hello again John!

I agree with you that premises are not evidences in themselves but need to be supported by evidence, but again my point is that all four premises in the Kalam and moral argument are almost universally accepted and plain obvious to most , if not all, of us. To claim that some things pop into existence out of nothing without a cause is an extremist position that’s completely illogical and that frankly asserts something that is literally impossible. To say that we are primates who don’t understand much is not to much help – there’s nothing to understand when it comes to something coming into being uncaused by nothing since such an event is impossible.

Since nothing has no properties, there are no properties which nothing uses to create something. Since nothing has no mechanisms, there are no mechanisms which nothing uses to create something. Since nothing is causally impotent, there is no way nothing can cause anything to exist. That’s why nothing didn’t cause the universe.

In contrast to you I think the objectivity of morality is bleeding obvious. Remember that objective morality doesn’t mean that everyone agree with one another, it means that some things are intrinsically good or evil despite what individuals or cultures think. If objective morality doesn’t exist then the Internet meme “Hitler did nothing wrong” is absolutely true from an objective standpoint. If there is no objective morality, it is morally irrelevant if your neighbor kills your family or gives you a cake.

This is evidently false. No honest person thinks that good and evil doesn’t exist and that no action is morally preferable than another. I’m sure that includes you as well and that you’re just trying to avoid the truth of the second premise in the moral argument for the sake of debate, but if you’re honest with yourself you’ll admit that you think that some horrendous acts are wrong not just because they go against your subjective opinion, but because they are intrinsically evil. Blessings!

‘all four premises in the Kalam and moral argument are almost universally accepted and plain obvious to most , if not all, of us’

Only to the Christian Apologists. the rest of us have refuted it long ago! Welcome to the real world, not W. L. Craig’s world.

’To claim that some things pop into existence out of nothing without a cause is an extremist position that’s completely illogical and that frankly asserts something that is literally impossible’

Whoever said things just ‘pop into existence’? We don’t know and that’s the point I am trying to make here. And even if there is a cause why must that cause be some intelligent creator and not just the result of as yet not understood natural causes? God of the gaps arguments do not work for me. Its just an easy and lazy cope out.

’To say that we are primates who don’t understand much is not to much help’

Sometimes reality is like that? Sorry. Actually we know a lot. We are a very very clever primate but we do have our limits.

’If there is no objective morality, it is morally irrelevant if your neighbor kills your family or gives you a cake’

Its relevant to me! I give up on this. If there is one thing above all others when it comes to the way religion blinkers the human brain it’s the objective/subjective morality argument. I have covered this point. If you cant understand it then I can’t do any more here.

’No honest person thinks that good and evil doesn’t exist and that no action is morally preferable than another’

What! Whoever said it this? Do you even bother to read my comments? Apparently not!

’you’re just trying to avoid the truth of the second premise in the moral argument for the sake of debate’

That’s unacceptable sir, how dare you! You are in affect accusing me of being dishonest. I do not agree with your beliefs but I would never accuse you of dishonesty. Because of this we are done here. What a pity theists like you can’t resist using insults to try to win the debate.

All the best to you and yours’

Goodbye

John.

Hello again John.

Let me start from the bottom and apologize for my comment being rude or offensive, I had no such intention at all. I can see that you’re an intelligent person with a lot of integrity, and so my point was not to say that you’re a dishonest person, on the contrary I’m sure you are very honest and morally descent. For that very reason I’m sure that your comments above about eating babies are ironic, since such an act isn’t just socially unfashionable according to subjective opinion but objectively evil despite what certain individuals think.

Again, the fact that different individuals and cultures have different moral stances isn’t an argument against objective morality, it’s just an argument against universal morality. I agree with you that different societies and people have different moral views. What is meant with moral objectivity however is that for example torturing babies for fun or stealing from the poor is always wrong despite what people think. If Donald Trump becomes president, makes it legal to steal from the poor and then brainwashes the entire world population into thinking that such a behavior is right, it’s still wrong. If not, morality would be completely arbitrary and Hitler would have been morally perfect if he had won World War Two and killed or brainwashed everyone who thought the holocaust was evil.

You write that you explain above how moral objectivity and subjectivity are equal but I cannot see where you do that. You merely state that different people have different moral opinions and that common moral views are regarded as objective. But again, the fact that people have different moral views isn’t an argument against moral objectivity. Letting Jews live was a minority position in the Nazi death camps, but it was still morally good.

My main point is that almost everyone agrees with me on this. Denying the existence of objective moral values and duties is really an extremist position that only some atheists involved in theistic debates seem to hold. Likewise, it’s an extremist position to claim that some things begin to exist from nothing without a cause. If you walk down the streets and ask people whether they think that’s the case a vast majority will say no. Nothing doesn’t create anything. And so far that has been the only contestant you have provided to God as the cause for the universe.

You say that naming God as the cause of the universe is using “God of the gaps”. But God of the gaps isn’t applicable when no natural explanation is available. There is no time, space and matter before the big bang, no physical existence that precedes the singularity. That’s why a supernatural cause is really the only cause available if the universe had a cause.

The objections you refer to regarding Kalam are not very good, WLC addresses several of them in this video. And again, it’s not just he and some other Christians that hold to the truth of premise 1: everything that begins to exist has a cause. This is an evident truth since it is both illogical and impossible for something to originate without a cause. That’s almost universally known, and that’s why theism is rational and reasonable.

All the best and huge blessings!

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3 Comments

  1. I’ll admit I just skimmed some of this since I’m at work and my head kinda hurts staring at a screen today, but I was thinking about this since the previous post.

    In my experience, most atheists refute the cosmological argument by opposing that the universe began to exist. I am with you that logically, if something began to exist, something else that previously existed must have been a cause. That something else doesn’t necessarily have to be God, but at some point something or someone does need to have always existed – material or otherwise. Whether the universe had a beginning is a lot harder to say conclusively, so most atheist arguments I’ve heard on this point have stuck to theories like multiple parallel universes or an oscillating universe that expands and retracts over long periods of time. Those are valid arguments, as valid as concluding it was some eternal creating god, not provable (at least not yet) but also not disprovable.

    On the moral argument, I think better language for an atheist position – at least the atheist position I usually hear – is to speak of morality by consensus rather than “subjective.” Subjective carries the connotation that everybody just makes it up as distinct individuals as we go along, and that would be very hard to argue because we agree on way too much. Consensus, though, is how we typically operate. If something truly objective exists, we don’t always agree on what that looks like, but that neither proves nor disproves whether something objective exists. With your Trump example, if the consensus agrees with his racism and the rest of his platform, is that still wrong? Was slavery wrong even when most agreed with it? I’m inclined to think like you that it is, but it’s probably fair to say that’s not a logical assumption so much as it is an optimistic one about the nature of humanity figuring it out together.

    In other words, I would not be comfortable saying things like “atheists are denying obvious truth.” I think it’s equally unfair when atheists say that Christians are blindly ignoring science or logic. I don’t think either are true. I think most of us are doing the best we can with what we know, and that sometimes ends up with different conclusions. I with these conversations were more “let’s figure this out together” and less “you’re obviously less intelligent than me.”

    • Hi Ryan!

      I have to add that I do believe that there are other arguments for God’s existence which aren’t quite as obvious, the resurrection of Jesus for example have good historical support but is understandably mainly just accepted by Christians. What makes both Kalam and the moral arguments so powerful though is that the vast majority of all people agree with their premises. That’s what I mean when they say that they’re evident.

      It is true that my debate with John merely concerns premise 1 of the Kalam, but I would say that premise 2 is evident as well. The universe cannot be eternal because an actual infinite of past events is impossible. Imagine if someone had been counting from infinity backwards and ended on 0 today. Why today? Why not yesterday, or 10,000 years from now?

      Also, according to the dominant cosmological theories based for example on the general theory of relativity, time itself began with the big bang and so there is nothing “before” the big bang. That makes the universe temporally finite. Furthermore the dominant scientific theory concerning the fate of the universe is that it will end in heat death and not retract into a “big crunch”.

      Furthermore, neither of these hypothesis are objections to premise 2, but rather they seek to bring a naturalistic explanation to the conclusion: the cause of the universe. So when the atheist starts to refer to the multiverse or oscillating universe s/he has already accepted Kalam.

      If objective morality doesn’t exist, then there’s nothing wrong with Trump forbidding people to help the poor or Hitler exterminating Jews whatsoever. People may find it horrifying but that’s just their opinion. And so whether there is consensus concerning morality or if different societies or individuals have different views doesn’t really matter if objective morality doesn’t exist, mother Terese will never be morally better than Pol Pot no matter what people think.

      Likewise, if objective morality doesn’t exist there’s no way to show that my view of Omar Mateen doing something horrifying at Pulse is more correct than his view of him doing something honorable and necessary. There’s no anchor point to ground morality in if it’s not objective. It doesn’t matter if we have consensus, because we cannot show that our consensus opinion is right if we don’t have an objective reference point. Still, most if not all people would agree that some acts are self-evidently evil and wrong, which I would say is due to our God-given conscience and moral sense which we ought to trust just as much as our visionary or auditory senses.

      I hope that clarifies my point. I think that the premises in both of these argument are very evident, which gives the atheist a heavier burden of proof than the theist. It’s not an equal playing field.

      Blessings!

  2. […] Atheism as an Extremist Position […]

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Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

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