Sunday, June 26, 2005

Is the Assumption of the Christian God Axiomatic?

Towards the end of his 7/27/04 discussion with Zachary Moore, Christian apologist Gene Cook asked the following question:
Why is my axiomatic assumption of the Christian god not a good starting point?
Gene's question itself makes a questionable assumption which needs to be probed. He assumes that his “assumption of the Christian god” (I take this to mean at minimum the assumption that the Christian god exists), is axiomatic in nature. Does he explain why his “assumption of the Christian god” is axiomatic? I could not find where he might do this. Instead, it appears that he wants just to slip it in, perhaps with the hope that it will be accepted unquestioningly. From what little he does give, it's unclear what Gene might mean by 'axiomatic' in this context. In fact, it’s unclear how axiomatic concepts could even make sense in the Christian worldview; the term is completely alien to the New Testament, and the idea of axiomatic concepts can only make sense in a worldview in which knowledge is understood in terms of logical hierarchy, and this in itself is foreign to Christianity as well. (Anton Thorn makes this latter point clear in his essay TAG and the Fallacy of the Stolen Concept.)

Contrary to what seems to be a common habit among Christian apologists, great care should be given to what we call axiomatic, for axioms identify the very foundation of our knowledge and worldview. The term is not to be used lightly. At the very least, axioms are not something we must infer from some prior point of departure. Rather, they name in the most general terms what we directly perceive, what we are first aware of.

So if Gene Cook wants to defend the position that his "assumption of the Christian god" is axiomatic, he would first have to identify the means by which he has awareness of what he has named "the Christian god." Did he have direct awareness of this god by looking outward at the world? It’s doubtful that this could be the case, because the Christian god is said to be invisible. When Gene looks out at the world, he sees the world of finite objects, not an invisible magic being. If Gene says that the world is evidence of his god, then he runs into the following problems:

1) he admits that his "assumption of the Christian god" is not axiomatic, for now it must be inferred from some prior point of departure (i.e., he is saying that his god's existence is inferred form what he directly perceives, and what he directly perceives comes first),
2) that which is finite, physical, corruptible and natural cannot serve as evidence of something that is said to be infinite, non-physical, incorruptible and supernatural. A is not evidence of non-A. (See for instance my blog Is Human Experience Evidence of the Christian God?)
Perhaps Gene will say that he has direct awareness of his god by looking inward. In other words, when he consults the inner workings of his mind, he “sees” his god staring back at him. If he says this, then he has the following problems:
1) Extrospection (the act of looking outward) always precedes introspection (the act of looking inward) - thus anything said to be known by means of introspection cannot be axiomatic, for ultimately it must refer to that which is perceived extrospectively; to introspect, there must be content. Where did this content come from? From magic?

2) How did he identify what he "perceives" inwardly as the Christian god as opposed to something else? He would need to have some knowledge already in order to do that, which simply is another point against his assumption that his "assumption of the Christian god" is axiomatic.

3) How does he distinguish what he calls "the supernatural" from what he imagines? This is a big problem for the theist, and I've not seen any theists attempt to answer this question cogently.
4) How does he know that he is not confusing his emotions with a means of knowledge? Proverbs 1:7 (“The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge”) suggests that the believer’s starting point is emotional in nature rather than axiomatic. An emotional response, however, is not a primary; emotions are reactions to things we learn, not self-generated phenomena which causelessly manifest themselves in our conscious experience spontaneously. So the introspective route will only prove problematic for Gene, if he chooses to take it.
If he says that his god spoke to him directly, then the problems compound:
1) how did he identify the voice he heard as that of the Christian god?

2) spoken communication requires words, and words are symbols for concepts. Where did Gene get those concepts? And to what do they refer? To understand the words spoken to him, he would need some prior understanding. Otherwise he's just making up things that simply derail the hierarchical structure of knowledge, and such a course will only invalidate itself.
Again, not axiomatic by a long shot. Besides, what if everyone ran around claiming to have knowledge as a result of hearing voices in his head? Incidentally, it was in consideration of this very question (in reference to how Abraham supposedly knew that the voice he heard commanding him to sacrifice his son Isaac was that of the Judeo-Christian god), that presuppositional apologist John Frame threw up his arms and confessed, “We know without knowing how we know.” (Presuppositional Apologetics: An Introduction (Part I)) So if Gene claims that he heard a voice and said it belonged to the Christian god, one would hope that he could do better than Frame, and indicate how he was able to distinguish the voice he allegedly heard in his head as belonging to the Christian god.

Also, by simply affirming that their god exists, Christians are in fact borrowing from the Objectivist worldview, for the Objectivist worldview alone affirms the fact of existence as its very starting point. In encounters with Christian apologists, I've asked many to explain where they got the concept "exist," for clearly they assume that it has meaning. But none can answer where they got it. Many are even confused by the vanity and futility of many modern philosophical trends which just confuse the whole problem of abstractions while pretending to be presenting a solution to it. For instance, some thinkers treat existence as merely one of many attributes or properties that make up an entity. On this view a soccer ball is roundness, rubbery-ness, black-and-whiteness, bounciness, resilience, and along with these also existence. This ignores the fact that an entity which exists, is all of its attributes, not just some of its attributes put together with something additional which somehow makes it real.

Others treat an entity that exists as "an INSTANCE of existence," as
one apologist put it, perhaps as an "instantiation" of a "universal" which somehow precedes the entity in some immaterial, “transcendental” realm which allegedly exists, a realm which is itself supposedly not merely an "instance," but a source out of which all instances come. On this view, man's knowledge of the universals is not made possible by a mental process of abstraction based on perceptual input from his environment, but by means of what Platonists called “anamnesis,” which is supposedly a kind of reminiscence of a time when man existed in that allegedly “transcendental” realm. Such ideas linger in modern philosophy like a bad odor. It’s time to open a window and let the cleansing breeze of reason come through and quench the stuffiness that has built up in Academia. In other words, it’s time that thinkers shed the stolen concepts that they’ve accepted unquestioningly for generations, and clarify their starting point once and for all.

Another point which is easy to overlook is that, those who say that belief in a god is axiomatic performatively contradict themselves whenever they attempt to prove that their god exists by means of argument. Proof is a process of logically securing a position on the basis of inferring its truth from some prior point of departure, one which ultimately has its basis in what we directly perceive. So a position which is inferred from some previously accepted position cannot itself be axiomatic. An axiom is a starting point, not a conclusion to some prior argument. If one presents an argument to secure the conclusion that a god exists, then the supposition that his god exists consequently cannot be his starting point. At the very best, one of the premises supporting that conclusion may be his starting point, but this could only be determined on a case by case basis, depending on the content of the argument so presented. So the apologist needs to decide: is his assumption that his god exists axiomatic in nature, or does this assumption rest on proof?

So, to answer Gene's question about whether or not his axiomatic assumption is good or not, we must ask: Is the “assumption of the Christian god” truly axiomatic? It appears not. Indeed, those who want to say that the “assumption of the Christian god” is axiomatic have their homework cut out for them, for I have raised a number of crucial points to the effect that this could not be the case. Besides, as an Objectivist, I already know what the proper axiomatic starting point to knowledge and rationality must be, and the implications of that starting point spell disaster for those who want to believe in invisible magic beings which go around creating universes and assembling a “plan” by which human history supposedly unfolds.

by Dawson Bethrick

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Can Reformed Christians Count?

First they tell us that their one god is actually three in number. Then they say we're wrong when we point out that this belief of theirs amounts to a species of polytheism. So we ask: Do you worship one, or do you worship three? Typically, instead of clear answers, we get bad attitude, as if we were supposed to accept their tangled convolutions on their say so.

But the question of how many gods they worship is not the only issue where Christians show a poor ability for basic math. Another area where simple counting ability seems lacking is in the number of times Jesus has allegedly visited the earth. According to the traditional account, Jesus has so far come only once, but is apparently planning another visit at some unspecified future point in time. "Behold, I come quickly," the author of the Apocalypse puts into his Jesus' mouth (Rev. 3:11). And yet, who would think that 2000 or more years constitutes "quickly"?

But no. We are now told that Jesus has already paid a second visit! That's right, at least according to
Paul Manata, Jesus already came a second time!! This second visit allegedly took place back in 70 AD, at which time Jesus is said to have "fulfilled" the "prophecy" to the effect that the Jerusalem temple would be destroyed. It seems that this visit in 70 AD by Jesus would have constituted his second "comming" [sic], as Mr. Manata puts it, since according to the gospels Jesus came once before during the reign of Pontius Pilate some 35-40 years before the razing of the Jerusalem temple. But Paul vehemently denies this reckoning, for in an exchange with Aaron Kinney of Killing the Afterlife, Manata snarled the following point:

You see, all you're doing is taking a preconceived understanding of Christianity, trying to fit me into that mold, and then acting like a child when I don't fit into it. You keep using the term "second coming." I DENY this term.

I thought this was rather novel, since historically Christians have taught that Jesus paid one visit already (in the first decades of the first century AD), and that they expect yet another "second coming" of Jesus to occur at some unspecified point in the future at which time the "end times" would be initiated (the authors of many of the New Testament writings apparently thought Jesus' next visit was "at hand").
Then I flip over to Craig Sowder's blog, and read his blog Dead in Christ where he writes:

I guess there is one good thing about being the dead in Christ. At Christ's second coming we get to rise first. (1 Thess. 4:16) (Emphasis added)

Now, Sowder is apparently a cut from the same theological cloth as Manata, for in the very same blog Craig writes, "I love the Reformed tradition." Paul makes a similiar confession in his blog profile, where he says of himself, "I am reformed in my theological, philosophical, and apologetical distinctives." But here one affirms the notion of a verbatim "second coming," while the other vehemently protests "I DENY this term."

So which is it? Is the term "second coming" a valid Reformed Christian notion, or not? According to one self-identified Reformed Christian, it apparently is. But according to another one, it isn't.

Obvious questions remain unanswered: How many times has Jesus come to the earth? Has Jesus already paid his second visit to earth, or is Jesus' "second coming" yet to come? Etc.

With internal controversies like this, which would be so easy to resolve by acknowledging that Christianity is just a myth, I dare say they make Christians look as though they cannot do simple arithmetic!

by Dawson Bethrick

Monday, June 06, 2005

Is Human Experience Evidence of the Christian God?

Christian apologists seem eager to take anything as evidence for their god's alleged existence. When asked if he could prove that his god exists on the All-Bahnsen list, for example, Christian apologist Chris Kersey pointed to Greg Bahnsen’s performance in his debate with scientist Dr. Gordon Stein. I have already presented an analysis of Bahnsen’s opening statement in my blog Bahnsen's Poof, which shows that the over-hyped apologist gives no identifiable argument whatsoever for the existence of any god, Christian or otherwise. I have yet to see any response to my analysis which salvages Bahnsen's opening statement to show that an actual argument establishing the conclusion that the Christian god exists can in fact be found in it.

Kersey also pointed generally to a number of unspecified papers by Bahnsen that are available
here. I’ve examined a number of Bahnsen’s papers available at this site, and I have yet to find one which gives good solid reasons to suppose his god exists. If he or other apologists have a particular article in mind, I'd be happy to take a look at it.

Then Kersey made the following statement:

In terms of evidence for God's existence, the answer inevitably is everything in human experience as well as experience itself.

Let’s examine what Kersey is essentially saying here. Basically, he’s saying that human "experience" is "evidence for God’s existence." The term ‘experience’ is probably preferred by apologists who want to rest their position on this case because it tends to be philosophically imprecise and approximate, thus allowing them to invest it with all kinds of questionable notions. Apologetics glossaries such as Frame’s A Van Til Glossary,, Haus-von-Nomos, and the one in Bahnsen’s By This Standard, do not give entries defining this term. And why should they? After all, doesn’t everyone "just know" the definition of ‘experience’? Maybe, but in matters of philosophy where imprecision and approximation do more to obscure our ideas than enlighten them, care should be taken to qualify them with more precise terms. Thus it should raise our suspicions if apologists who want to use this term in key premises of their argument for the existence of the Christian god are reluctant to state their definitions for the record. How much confidence do such thinkers have in their argument? Are not Christians always telling us that there would be no "meaning" if their god did not exist?

Since consulting these apologetic sources themselves offered no intelligence on what they might mean by ‘experience’, I turned to
Webster’s online dictionary, a non-biblical source, and found the following:

1 a : direct observation of or participation in events as a basis of knowledge b : the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation
2 a : practical knowledge, skill, or practice derived from direct observation of or participation in events or in a particular activity b : the length of such participation
3 a : the conscious events that make up an individual life b : the events that make up the conscious past of a community or nation or mankind generally
4 : something personally encountered, undergone, or lived through
5 : the act or process of directly perceiving events or reality

The first two definitions both specify "direct observation" by a subject of an object ("events") in the process of acquiring knowledge or in participating in personally attended activity. And the final three similarly include some kind of conscious attendance or process of interaction with one's surroundings. So it should be clear that the essential which is common throughout these definitions is consciousness as such.

Now, it’s been my position all along that religious philosophies ultimately stem from a grotesque misunderstanding of the nature of human consciousness, a perversion which the ancients themselves never identified even though the view opposite to the one they verbally endorsed is inescapable. Central to that misunderstanding is the invalid view that consciousness has the power to create its own objects, which constitutes a complete reversal of the objective orientation of the subject-object relationship. This reversal can be observed throughout a religion’s metaphysical, epistemological, moral and social doctrines when one examines them with an explicit understanding of the proper relationship between consciousness and its objects in mind. Furthermore, the bible, which is the source of Christianity's many doctrines, presents no serious discussion of the fundamental nature of consciousness (I am not the first to question whether any of its authors had ever explicitly formed the concept to begin with; indeed, none of my bibles uses the term), and seemed to associate certain mental states (particularly the emotions or "passions") with the body's abdominal organs, not the brain and the nervous system which it regulates (the inclinations behind such associations no doubt arose due to the fact of mind-body integration, whereas their explicit religious views reduce to a division or dichotomy between mind and body). Also, the overt implications that the bible’s teachings have regarding the nature of consciousness, only show that its authors had uncritically adopted the primacy of consciousness model of metaphysics from their intellectual forebears, and this metaphysical view invalidates itself.

Because of such reversals and misunderstandings, Christians typically view consciousness as if it were somehow mysterious, unnatural, even "otherworldly." But it’s hard to see how one could maintain such a view given certain discoveries about consciousness that have become common knowledge due to a major shift away from the religious conception of the world to the scientific, thanks in large part to the achievements of the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. We know, for instance, that human beings are biological organisms, and that there are definite physical organs in the human body which make consciousness possible, such as the brain, the nervous system, and those associated specifically with the senses, such as the eyes, olfactory nerves, taste buds, ears and skin. We also know that human beings are not the only biological organisms capable of consciousness, that other animals are conscious, and that the consciousness of non-human animals is also the product of similar organs in their bodies. All these facts, which are undeniable on a rational worldview, point incontestably to the view that consciousness is a natural, indeed biological phenomenon.

The Christian god, however, is said to be something other than natural. Christians prefer the dubious term "supernatural," a notion which seems to be invoked only when one has no legitimate explanation for some position he wants to maintain, thus making it an anti-concept which, according to Christian apologist Greg Bahnsen, means "whatever surpasses the limits of nature." (Always Ready, p. 178.) It’s not clear that anything "surpasses the limits of nature," for it’s not clear how one could determine just what the limits of nature may be. Indeed, in rational philosophy, to say that something has a nature basically means that something is itself, that to exist is to be something specific and therefore finite. In rational philosophy, the concept 'natural' is contrasted with 'man-made', that is, something taken from nature and altered in some way by man. But even shoes, watches and jumbo jets have their own specific nature, even though they are not naturally occurring, that is, occurring without the intervention of men.

And yet, believers continue to tell us that there are so-called "supernatural" beings, beings which are invisible and inaccessible to any of man's senses. This poses many obvious (and even not so obvious) epistemological problems for those who want to try to justify such beliefs, but this doesn't stop those who want to believe that their "supernatural" being exists from insisting that they do. The issue that I want to focus on here, however, is the fact that theists characterize that which is allegedly "supernatural" as something that is other than natural, and yet not man-made. So the theist introduces a third category which he calls "the supernatural," something which by definition is not observable in nature (for there is no reason to suppose that what we observe in nature "surpasses the limits of nature"), and, according to the theists' own vehement protestation, also not man-made (for believers would not want to allow that their deity is a human invention). So on the one hand we have that which is natural, and on the other hand that which is allegedly not natural ("supernatural"). In other words, A (natural) and non-A ("supernatural").

Given these points, then, let us return to Kersey's statement, that man's experience somehow qualifies as "evidence" for the existence of the Christian god. As described in their literature, the Christians' god is said to be "supernatural," immaterial, infinite and incorruptible. Man's experience, however, is neither of these; it is natural, material, finite and in fact corruptible (for man can and sometimes does misidentify what he perceives). So the question logically arises:

How does that which is natural, material, finite and corruptible serve as evidence of that which is supernatural, immaterial, infinite and incorruptible? In other words, how does A serve as evidence of non-A?


How does something serve as evidence of that which completely contradicts it?

Questions such as this seem to have slipped by apologists, for they continue to equate man's experience with evidence for the "supernatural" without bothering to attend to such questions. Recall, however, that the definitions of 'experience' given above specify direct observation. But the Christian god is said to be invisible (I Tim. 1:17), and thus at best not directly observable. And since man's experience entails his nature as a biological organism, it is by necessity also natural, just as are other bodily functions, such as respiration, circulation, digestion, etc.

But consider: suppose I perceive an object, such as the apple tree in my backyard. Christians like Kersey are in effect saying that this tree, or at least my consciousness of the tree, is somehow evidence of his god's existence. But what is it that I see? I see a tree, not a supernatural, invisible, magic being. The tree itself is not in any way like the Christian god is supposed to be; the tree that I perceive is a biological organism (and therefore natural) composed of atoms and molecules (and therefore material) which has a specific nature (and therefore finite), and which dies if denied the nutrients it requires (and therefore corruptible).

If I accept the tree as evidence of anything, I must accept it as evidence only of itself, of its own existence. To suppose that it is evidence of something other than itself - indeed, as evidence of something which fundamentally contradicts it (e.g., "supernatural," immaterial, infinite and incorruptible), I would at the very least have to infer this somehow from what I do perceive. But why would I interpret something I directly observe as evidence of something that contradicts what I directly observe? Such a process of inferring could not rest on what I perceive alone; it would in fact require certain assumptions imported expressly to bridge the gap between what I really perceive (i.e., what is real, natural, material, finite and corruptible) and what I can only imagine (since I can only imagine something that "surpasses the limits of nature"). Where would I get such assumptions, and what would their basis be, if not just the arbitrary imaginings that religion supplies?

Here is where the apologist simply blanks out, giving us absolutely nothing to go on, apparently expecting us to accept what they claim about "the supernatural" on their say so, i.e., on faith.

So unless the apologist can shore up his claim and give a plausible explanation as to how man's conscious experience can somehow serve as evidence of that which completely contradicts it on every essential, it is safe to assume that he has no case whatsoever to support his god-belief.

by Dawson Bethrick

Thursday, June 02, 2005

No "might be" About It: I AM an Atheist

Today I thought I’d post something a little more lighthearted, this time a point-for-point reaction to Paul Manata’s amusing You Might Be An Atheist… As I read through some of his points, I couldn’t help but chuckle, so I wanted to partake in the fun.

1. If you think that it's theoretically possible to stub your toe on a law of logic, you might be an atheist.

No, I don’t suppose this is possible, but that’s probably because I’m an atheist. You see, if I were a Christian, I would have to accept this as a real possibility, for Matthew 19:26 says “with God all things are possible” and Mark 9:23 says “all things are possible to him that believeth.” Also, in Luke 18:27 we read Jesus say “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” So if I were a professing believer and yet said it is not possible for one to stub his toe on a law of logic, I would be inconsistent with my stated beliefs. But as an atheist, there is no such inconsistency.

2. If you tell people who think that humans are better than slugs that they're guilty of "speciesism," you might be an atheist.

No, I’ve never told anyone this, but I am an atheist. Indeed, if I were a Christian, I would probably be wrong to think I’m better than a slug, because Christianity teaches that man is depraved and cursed. On my worldview, however, the slug has to look out for himself just as I do.

3. If you think Ayn Rand's novels are far superior to Dostoevsky's, you might be an atheist.

In fact, I do think Rand’s novels are superior to Dostoevsky’s, but that’s not because of my atheism. Rather, it's because I think it's true. I have read Rand’s novels in the original English, and I’ve read several of Dostoevsky’s in the original Russian, and consistently I find that Rand’s novels have characters that are much more admirable than any that I find in any of Dostoevsky’s. And while I did enjoy the epistolary Bednie Liudi for its story line development (in spite of its indulgent sentimentalism), I couldn’t find one character that I admired in that or any other story by Dostoevsky. Who but a Christian would not admire a Howard Roark? Anyway, I wonder if Paul Manata has ever read a novel by either author. I doubt it.

Rand herself greatly admired Dostoevsky’s achievements as a novelist, namely “his superb mastery of plot structure” and his ability to dissect the psychology of his characters, who were typically depraved. Rand hastened to qualify her admiration, however, saying that “his philosophy and sense of life are almost diametrically opposed to mine.” (The Romantic Manifesto, p. 43.) She considered him, along with Victor Hugo, to be one of the “great masters” of integrating important themes with complex plot structure (p. 86) and a “top rank” Romantic novelist (p. 107). As a native Russian who took Dostoevsky as one of her highest models but who wrote her novels in English and according to an explicitly pro-reason, pro-man, pro-value philosophy, Rand is a novelist to be taken seriously by both the literary and the philosophical world.
4. If you're obsessed with telling people that they have the burden of proof, you might be an atheist.
No, I do not have such an obsession, but I am an atheist. However, if someone comes to me and says that logic finds its source in the nature and character of an invisible magic being, I won’t wince at challenging him to present a proof. It’s always entertaining to see the apologists scramble as they try to recover from such challenges.
5. If you think that calling yourself an agnostic is more intellectually respectable than calling yourself an atheist, you might be an atheist.
No, I wouldn’t think that calling myself an agnostic is in any way, shape or form “more intellectually respectable” than calling myself an atheist, since I’m an atheist, not an agnostic. Unlike superstitious believers, I don’t see anything wrong with simply being honest and admitting that I don’t believe in invisible magic beings, regardless of who disapproves.
6. If the first thing you do when you go to the zoo is to run to the ape exhibit so you can see your closest relative, you might be an atheist.
Actually, the first thing I do when I go to the zoo is stand in line waiting for tickets to enter. Then I usually start viewing the exhibits that are closest to the entrance and proceed from there. The last time I visited the zoo, I was amazed by the ostriches and how eloquently their habit of shoving their heads in the ground reminded me of some Christian apologists I know. But, that’s probably because I’m an atheist.
7. If you treat Jane Goodall like a Mother Theresa, you might be an atheist.
Actually, if I ever met Jane Goodall, I wouldn’t insult her by treating her like a Mother Theresa. But that’s not because I’m an atheist per se. Rather, it’s because I do not celebrate those who think self-sacrifice is somehow “noble” or important.
8. If you stay up 'till 3 in the morning to hear NASA's findings of the soil analysis on Mars which could show that life once existed there (as if that would somehow disprove the Bible), you might be an atheist.
No, I’ve never done this, but I am an atheist, and I do think that space exploration - a human achievement made possible by reason - is very exciting. As for disproving the bible, it disproves itself.
9. If you're depressed for a whole week after the findings came back negative, you might be an atheist.
No, I don’t get depressed about anything. But that might have something to do with my being an atheist.
10. If you cheer yourself up by saying: "we'll get 'em next year," you might be an atheist.
Well, I am an atheist, but I’m not concerned with “getting 'em next year.”
11. If you've watched “Contact” and "The Contender" 50 times, you might be an atheist.
I’ve watched “Contact” numerous times, but that’s because I’m a big John Hurt fan, not because of my atheism. I’ve never seen “The Contender,” though. Probably because John Hurt’s not in it.
12. If you think that women can kill their unborn children but Hitler can't kill the species called "Jews," you might be an atheist.
I don’t think Hitler can kill anyone now since he’s dead. But I am an atheist.
13. If your kids are named Lucretius, Bertrand, Kai, and Ayn, you might be an atheist.
No, I don’t have any children by those names. But did I mention that I am an atheist?
14. If you read Bertrand Russell saying this: "Brief and powerless is man's life. On him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls, pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way," and then inconsistently go upstairs and kiss your wife goodnight, you might be an atheist.
For one, reading something is not sufficient to imply agreement with what has been read. Secondly, I don’t have to go upstairs to kiss my wife (we sleep in the same room). And she’s an atheist, just like me.
15. If you think Bill Clinton can get his jollies off by dropping his pants in front of interns but George Bush can't get his jollies off by dropping bombs on Arabs, you might be an atheist.
Well, I’m sure both these individuals can get their jollies doing whatever they please, just as some persons get their jollies by pretending that the world is being guided by an invisible magic being while fueling their hatred for atheists, homosexuals, scientists and other members of the human race. But that doesn’t pose a problem for my atheism.
16. If you think man is nothing but a bag of chemicals but then act as if man has dignity by going to a friend's funeral, you might be an atheist.
I’m curious about statements like this. Does Paul Manata not realize that there are chemical compounds in the human body? If he renounced his professed belief in mysticism and adopted a rational worldview, he might come to see the truth about man’s biology. He won't learn about biology by reading the bible, that much is for sure.
17. If you think "Doubting Thomas" is the Bible Character we should emulate, you might be an atheist.
Actually, I don’t think the bible wants believers to emulate Doubting Thomas at all. On the contrary, I think the bible wants to encourage people to believe things without rational proof. Why else would Jesus say to Doubting Thomas “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29)? It’s obvious that the bible does not teach an epistemology of reason.
18. If you think that variation within a species is proof that species turned into other species, you might be an atheist.
I’m not an expert in the mechanics of evolution, but the very fact that there are sometimes vast variations within a species does indicate something. Besides, there is ample fossil and microbiological evidence for evolution, but many people today have adopted a worldview that is opposed to scientific discovery, so it’s expected that some will want to ridicule such facts.
19. If you think "good" is definitional and then act angry when someone defines "good" as hitting you in the head with a shovel, you might be an atheist.
Actually, I think it would be refreshing to find other thinkers who are willing to give terms like ‘good’ a stable definition. I’ve sought throughout the bible for just such a definition, and even though many have told me that the bible is supposed to be some kind of authority of matters of good and evil, I haven’t found one definition for the term anywhere in its pages. When I point this out to apologists, they usually say something like “The bible’s not a dictionary.” In other words, the bible doesn’t define its own terms. But as an atheist, I already knew this.
20. If you're already making up the signs: "Hillary For President in '08," you might be an atheist.
Good grief, no, I’m certainly not doing that. But I am an atheist.
21. If you spend your free time protesting and calling the ACLU because city signs say: "No Crossing," and the mere mention of a "cross" might get people to think about religion and thus violates separation of Church and State, you might be an atheist.
No, I haven’t done that, either. But I am an atheist.
22. If your car has a bumper sticker on it that reads: "Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty," you might be an atheist.
I actually don’t even have a car (you don't need one when you live in San Francisco), much less a bumper sticker. But I am an atheist.
23. If you get upset at parents who raise their children to be Christian because those parents are "brainwashing" their kids and you say this around your children, as well as making fun of Christians on the T.V., and you also say sarcastic things when your family goes to visit its Christian uncle, like, "Boy, I hope Uncle Tom doesn't pray for 5 minutes before we eat because, you know, he's such a holy roller," you might be an atheist.
While I do think that indoctrinating philosophically defenseless minds with religious lies is a form of child abuse, I realize that parents who do this have themselves been brainwashed by persons they have poorly chosen to trust. But as a rule I do not watch any TV, and if I did I probably wouldn’t want to watch adults who pretend that invisible magic beings exist. Also, I don’t have an uncle named Tom. But I am an atheist.
24. If you think that scientists are neutral, non-committal observers, who are only interested in the facts but you seem to not "get it" when you watch the Discovery Channel and you see evolutionists cheering, crying, and drinking champagne when they find what they think is a transitional fossil, but then you hear nary a word when it turns out that it wasn't, you might be an atheist.
I think scientists are human beings and are thus just as fallible as the next guy. But if they're serious and guide their investigations with reason, they would earn the right to celebrate their achievements so far as I'm concerned. But I don’t watch the Discovery Channel, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen “evolutionists cheering, crying, and drinking champagne when they find what they think is a transitional fossil.” But if some did this, why would someone allow this to bother him?
25. When someone asks you the name of your boat and you say, "The HMS Beagle," you might be an atheist.
I don’t have a boat at all. But I am an atheist.
26. If you drag your family, kicking and screaming, to the Galapagos Islands for your family vacation, you might be an atheist.
I cannot say I’ve ever dragged my family “kicking and screaming” to the Galapagos Islands for our vacation. But I do think it would be a very interesting place to visit.
27. When you continuously confuse the problem of universals with the problem of concept formation, you might be an atheist.
This tells me that Paul Manata has two philosophical problems on his hands, and since he embraces a worldview that has no theory of concepts (for the bible does not teach one), it’s unlikely we’ll ever see him produce a solution to either.
28. If you drive a Geo Metro, because you're trying to do your part to save "Mother Nature," you might be an atheist.
I don’t drive a Geo Metro. But I am an atheist.
29. If you think that a chaotic explosion, known as the Big Bang, eventually turned into the ordered universe we see around us, you might be an atheist.
Personally speaking, I do not hold to the Big Bang model. But I don’t know how one could prove that it didn’t happen.

30. If you think that the non-living turned into the living and then point to Miller and Urey and tell people that they intelligently created life in a lab, you might be an atheist.

If they did "create life in a lab," why would I tell people otherwise? Meanwhile, I wonder how apologists might go about explaining how there is imperfection in the universe when it was supposedly created by a perfect creator.
31. If you think that the first humanoid was lucky enough to find a mate that happened to evolve in the same geographic location, within the period of time the female was fertile, and then knew what to do with his member, while telling me that nature is creative and given random chance anything can happen, when I ask you how that happened, you might be an atheist.
When I read this, my first thought was of Cain, who, after killing his brother, went into the land of Nod and suddenly found a wife (see Gen. 4). Where did she come from? No explanation is given. And yet, we’re told that the entire human race came from Cain’s biological parents, Adam and Eve. So if Paul has a problem with the reason-based model of evolution on this point, why does he swallow the bridge hook, line and sinker when he affirms his faith-based worldview? Is there any consistency to be found in an apologist’s objections?
32. If you believe that all the flora and fauna we see came about by survival of the fittest, but then when asked "how do you know who will survive?" and you say, "the fit will survive" and your also say, in response to the query, "how do you determine which mutation was beneficial so as to make a member of a species 'fit?' that "we know that by seeing if they end up surviving," you might be an atheist.
Actually, I’ve never said these things, but I am an atheist.
33. When your college science teacher tells you that the ultimate goal for a member of a species is to get the most offspring into the next generation and your ethics teacher tells you that rape is morally wrong, and you don't see a problem with this, you might be an atheist.
I don’t believe any of my college science teachers told me that “the ultimate goal for a member of a species is to get the most offspring into the next generation,” and I don’t think I would have accepted it if he did, unless he gave some good reasons for supposing so. An organism’s goal is to live, regardless of what shape its consequent generations end up taking. As for my ethics teacher, I took everything he said with a grain of salt. Good thing, too. He was a Christian, and eventually committed suicide. Perhaps he wanted to be with a loved one who had “departed from the earth.” If so, then he acted consistently with his stated belief in an afterlife.
34. When someone asks you what religion you are, and you say, "I'm a molecular biologist, a denomination within Scientism," you might be an atheist.
I have no religion because I have no god-belief, and I don't have a god-belief because I don't think the universe is anything like a cartoon. Moreover, I’m not a molecular biologist, and I don’t know what one might mean by “Scientism.”
35. When you're an atheist, like Francois Tremblay, and you e-mail me asking me to give you books that have the presuppositionalist arguments in them because you're writing a book refuting presuppositionalism, which shows that you have your mind made up that we're wrong even before you've read any of our arguments, you might be an atheist.
Well, I don’t think of Paul Manata as the best source to consult for reading material. But if he has a particular book in mind that actually presents some serious “presuppositionalist arguments,” I’m open to suggestion. But it should be pointed out, however, that Paul is on the verge of a non sequitur here. For simply asking for Paul to recommend “books that have the presuppositional arguments in them” does not mean that one has not yet “read any of our arguments.” This just doesn’t follow. But if someone wants to be convinced of atheism, I’d suggest reading the presuppositionalist literature. I’ve collected some choice statements here.
36. If you continue to get spanked in debates, but keep coming back for more, you might be an atheist.
That's cute, but it’s pretty hard for an apologist to “spank” an atheist when that apologist is too afraid to engage the atheist’s position and interact with his statements. Indeed, the apologist’s whole worldview is founded, not on reason, but on fear (cf. Prov. 1:7).

by Dawson Bethick