Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

How good are the atheistic arguments of Christopher Hitchens?

I thought that I would go over an opening statement from a previous debate featuring Christopher Hitchens to find out what atheists are like in debates. I used his opening speech from his debate with Frank Turek. The audio from that debate is here, at Brian Auten’s Apologetics 315 site.

Now the important thing to remember about a generic debate on whether GOD EXISTS is that there should be no mention of any particular God, such as the Christian God, and no mention of the history of any particular religion. All arguments that assume specific theological or moral doctrines or specific religious history are irrelevant to a debate on generic theism.

The question being debated is: does a God who created and designed the universe, who has all the traditional properties of God, such as omniscience, omnipotence, omni-benevolence, etc. exist? That is the question being debated in a “Does God Exist?” debate.

Frank Turek’s case for theism:

Frank Turek made 4 relevant arguments for theism, each of which alone would support his conclusion, that God exists:

  • the origin of time, space, matter and energy out of nothing
  • the fine-tuning of the physical constants to support the minimum requirements for life of any kind
  • the origin of the biological information in the first self-replicating organism
  • objective, prescriptive moral rules need to be grounded by the designer of the universe

And he also listed 4 features of the universe that are more consistent with theism than atheism (= materialism).

  • non-material minds that allow rationality that would be impossible on materialism/determinism
  • the mathematical structure of the universe and its intelligibility to the scientific method
  • free will, which is required for moral responsibility and moral choices, requires a non-material mind/soul
  • our first person experience of consciousness is best explained by a non-material mind/soul

Hitchens’ case against theism

To counter, Hitchens has to argue against God using arguments in one of two forms:

  1. The concept of God is logically self-contradictory
  2. An objective feature of the world is inconsistent with the attributes of God

The claim that God does not exist is a claim to know something about God, namely, that he does not exist. This claim requires the speaker to bear a burden of proof. In a debate on “Does God Exist?”, Hitchens must deny that God exists. Let me be clear: Hitchens must defeat the arguments for the claim that God exists, and then defend the claim that God does not exist, and support that claim using arguments and evidence.

Hitchens makes 2 basic claims:

  • There are no good reasons to believe that theism is true
  • There are good reasons to believe atheism is true

So far so good. But what are his good reasons for atheism?

  1. I personally don’t like Christianity, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: I personally don’t like Catholicism getting rid of limbo
    – Premise: I personally don’t like Hell
    – Premise: I personally don’t like some episodes in church history
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  2. The plurality of religions means that no religious claims can be correct, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: There are lots of religions
    – Premise: The religions all disagree in their truth claims about the external world
    – Conclusion: No religion’s claims can be correct, therefore God doesn’t exist
  3. I believe in one less God than you, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: You disbelieve in every God I do, except one
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  4. Religious people are stupid and evil, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Religious people are ignorant
    – Premise: Religious people are fearful
    – Premise: Religious people are servile
    – Premise: Religious people are masochistic
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  5. Evolution explains how life progressed from single cell to today’s bio-diversity, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Modern theists like Turek believe in Paley’s argument, and argued it in this debate
    – Premise: Paley’s argument was refuted by evolution
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  6. God wouldn’t have made the universe this way, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: If God exists, then he would have made the universe my way
    – Premise: The heat death of the universe wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The extinction of species wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The size of the universe wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The amount of open space wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The large number of stars wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The age of the universe wasn’t done my way
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  7. Religion makes people do things that I don’t like, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Some religions do suicide bombing
    – Premise: Some religions do child abuse
    – Premise: Some religions do genital mutilation
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  8. If you speak a sentence, I can repeat the same words as you said, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Anything that you say is good, I can say is good too
    – Premise: Anything that you say is bad, I can say is bad too
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  9. Atheists are morally superior to religious people, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: I act in a way that is consistent with my personal, arbitrary moral preferences
    – Premise: You don’t act in a way that is consistent with my personal, arbitrary moral preferences
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  10. If I believe in God, I would have to submit to an authority
    – Premise: If I believe in God, then I can’t do whatever I want
    – Premise: But I want to do whatever I want
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  11. I don’t like certain Christian doctrines, therefore arguments for God from science fail and therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: I don’t like the atonement
    – Premise: I don’t like the virgin birth
    – Premise: I don’t like the incarnation
    – Premise: I don’t like original sin
    – Premise: I don’t like the resurrection
    – Conclusion: Arguments that are built on recent discoveries from the progress of science like the big bang, fine-tuning, origin of life, etc. are incorrect, and therefore God doesn’t exist

General comments about Hitchens’ case:

  • The form of all of these arguments is logically invalid. The conclusions do not follow from the premises using the laws of logic, such as modus ponens and modus tollens.
  • Hitchens cannot complain about morality because he has no foundation for objective moral facts. What he is really expressing is that he personally does not like such-and-such a state of affairs, based on his own arbitrary personal preferences, and the arbitrary social customs that evolved in the place and time that he finds himself in. On atheism, “morality” is just describing what people do – either individually or as groups living in different times and places. There is no objective right and wrong, and no objective way we ought to be. All statements are subjective. They describe what the speaker personally likes and dislikes. Just like taste in foods or taste in dress – which varies by individually, and is influenced by time and place ARBITRARILY.

Specific comments about each argument:

  • Argument 1 tries to disprove God by arguing from Hitchens’ personal preferences about specific Christian doctrines. Christian doctrines are irrelevant to a debate about generic theism. And there is no reason why God should be bound by the personal, subjective preferences of one man. In fact, the concept of God entails that his unchanging nature is the standard of good and evil. So, this argument doesn’t disprove God, it’s just a statement of personal, subjective preference.
  • Argument 2: Just because there are different truth claims made by different groups, doesn’t mean no one is correct. Mormons believe that matter existed eternally, and Jews believe it was created out of nothing. The big bang theory shows that the Mormons are wrong and the Jews are right.
  • Argument 3: First of all, the debate is a about a generic Creator and Designer, not any particular religious conception of God. So the argument is irrelevant. Moreover, Christians reject Zeus, for example, because Zeus is supposed to exist in time and space, and therefore could not be the cause of the beginning of time and space.
  • Argument 4: This is just the ad hominem fallacy. Hitchens is attacking the character of the theist, but that doesn’t show theism is false.
  • Argument 5: This argument can be granted for the sake of argument, even though it’s debatable. The point is that it is irrelevant, since it doesn’t refute any of Turek’s actual scientific arguments like the big bang, the fine-tuning of the physical constants, the origin of information in the simplest living cell.
  • Argument 6: Again, there is no reason to think that God should be bound by Hitchens’ personal opinion of how God should operate.
  • Argument 7: This is the ad hominem fallacy again. The good behavior of religious believers is not a premise in any of Turek’s FOUR arguments for theism. Therefore, Hitchens’ point is irrelevant to the debate.
  • Argument 8: The fact that the atheist can parrot moral claims is not the issue. Being able to speak English words is not what grounds objective, prescriptive morality. The issue is the ontology of moral rules, the requirement of free will in order to have moral responsibility and moral choices, ultimate significance of moral actions, and the rationality of self-sacrificial moral actions.
  • Argument 9: This is just the ad hominem fallacy again.
  • Argument 10: This is not argument so much as it reveals that the real reason Hitchens is an atheist is emotional. One might even say infantile.
  • Argument 11: Again, these specific Christian doctrines are irrelevant to a debate about generic theism. And Hitchen’s subjective, personal preferences about Christian doctrine certainly do not undermine the objective scientific support for the premises in Turek’s 3 scientific arguments.

So, in short, Hitchens lost the debate, and Frank Turek won. That’s because Frank Turek talked about the external world, and Christopher Hitchens thought he was on the couch in psychiatrist’s office.

Christopher Hitchens = Worst. Debater. Ever.

The only reason why unsophisticated lay atheists think Christopher Hitchens is so great is because atheism is not something they adopted on rational grounds, but on emotional grounds – as a kind of tantrum against morality. Lay atheists want to pursue pleasure without moral constraints. And they think that Hitchens’ insulting style is the best way to bully and intimidate people into not calling their hedonism to account. They want to silence Christians so they can do as they please without feeling bad. And bullying is their preferred method of operation.

UPDATE: Commenter Jim writes:

C-SPAN2′s BookTV will broadcast a debate “Does Atheism Poison Everything?” with Christopher Hitchens and David Berlinski this weekend.

To learn more, see here and here.

You may also be interested in my previous post that assessed the arguments of atheist Richard Dawkins.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , ,

49 Responses

  1. Jim says:

    C-SPAN2’s BookTV will broadcast a debate “Does Atheism Poison Everything?” with Christopher Hitchens and David Berlinski this weekend.

    To learn more, see here and

    here.

  2. johnn832 says:

    Very interesting. As Francis Bacon said, “A little philosophy inclineth a man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.”

  3. David Johnson says:

    Excellent post. Thank you.

  4. Mary says:

    Thank you for this. It’s really helpful to see how you’ve broken it down and analysed it.

  5. Stephen Notman says:

    The reviewers of the Hitchens/Berlinksi debate claim that Hitchens wiped the floor with Berlinski. Even if Berlinski’s arguments were good, the sight of a bald-headed, chemo ridden Hitchens bravely championing his atheism to the end, cuts a dramatic and tragically heroic figure. There is no way that Hitchens could lose the audience vote, given those circumstances. I expect Berlinksi went in knowing that he was going to be ‘bad guy’ in this debate and that really this was to be seen as Hitchens’ swansong. I continue to pray for Christopher’s recovery and spiritual healing.

  6. Rich says:

    “Christopher Hitchens = Worst. Debater. Ever.”

    Have you ever watched him debate? Watch Hitchens in the Intelligence Squared debate, watch Hitchens debate against William Lane Craig, watch The Hitch debate against Douglas Wilson…there’s many more, nearly every top University in the US over the last 3 years has invited him to debate against various different world renowned leaders and believers in Faith.

    I have never heard Hitchens say that he can disprove the existence of God. Anyone that can say that is quite simply foolish. He says, in almost every debate he has on this subject, that he has seen ‘no evidence to suggest that a God exists’. Therefore he is putting his ‘faith’ in Science, which, for him, and many others, makes sense, adds up, and provides answers where religion quite simply can’t.

    Frank Turek’s arguments are ridiculous. For a debate to be a…debate, every topic has to be falsifiable.

    Being an atheist isn’t a belief. Atheism is the non-belief in a certain or specific theism. For these debates to succeed the believer in faith has to try and prove the existence in God, whereas the non-believer has to provide evidence of how Human morality is intrinsic in humans, that evolution is fact, that humans don’t need religion, and that science simply adds up and continues to prove religion wrong – Even religion is now EVOLVING to fit in with scientific facts.

    I admit that the fine-tuning argument is a very strong argument from the faith perspective, and very difficult to argue against, but from the atheist perspective that’s what makes our existence the more precious; Our planet is in the small window of it’s long existence in which it can support life – lets live it.

    • James says:

      A rather famous quote from the very likable Hitchens is that, “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

      I would apply that to your statement that, “Frank Turek’s arguments are ridiculous. For a debate to be a…debate, every topic has to be falsifiable.”

      Care to provide some support for that?

      While you’re at it, I’d recommend that you go back and look at Hitchens debates, especially the one with William Lane Craig at Biola.

      Now it’s clear that you’ve got a pony in the race, but try to be objective as you analyze the task of the debate, the way Hitchens addresses it, the soundness of his arguments (does he use logic and evidence? Is what he says falsifiable?), and most importantly, observe his closing comments in the debate.

      If you’re really interested in this topic, then please reply with your thoughts on how Christopher did in that debate, especially in his closing arguments.

      Cheers!

      • Atheist web sites admitted he lost the debate with Craig after the debate. And he REALLY lost it by a landslide. All the atheist web sites (Common Sense Atheism, Debunking Christianity, etc.) all agreed that Hitchens lost. He was “spanked like a foolish child” according to Common Sense Atheism. It was Bambi vs Godzilla.

        http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=1230
        http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2009/04/william-lane-craig-won-by-landslide.html
        http://edthemanicstreetpreacher.wordpress.com/2010/04/04/craig-hitchens-second/

        • Jared says:

          All the atheist web sites (Common Sense Atheism, Debunking Christianity, etc.) all agreed that Hitchens lost. He was “spanked like a foolish child” according to Common Sense Atheism. It was Bambi vs Godzilla.

          You’re absolutely right. I’ve read on Common Sense Atheism that Hitchens isn’t their favorite defender of atheism at all. He’s funny and a wordsmith, but his arguments are all emotional. While he may have been more entertaining in his debate with Bill Craig, his arguments were cut at the knees. Frankly, I think Shelly Kagan is the best speaker for atheism.

          • Keep in mind that Craig was operating crippled in that Yale debate. The organizers asked him NOT to be polemical but to instead explain his side of the argument. He explained it in his newsletter.

      • Rich says:

        Wow, quite a lot of responses, I’ve had fun reading through them! Last week I simply googled Hitchens to see how he was getting on with the whole ‘Cancer thing’, saw the most recent article, which included the statement “Christopher Hitchens = Worst. Debater. Ever”, and had to respond…Ok.

        Yes, very true, Hitchens did say “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” My take on the meaning of this statement is that if an argument from one side, which Turek and Craig use in their debate (or whatever you want to call it), requires, at times, a leap of faith. For example, assuming that if science, even though in the grand scheme of things is very early in its development, cannot provide the answer – then it must have been designed by God. This is being asserted without evidence, therefore, in relation to Hitchens statement, it can be dismissed without evidence. Unfortunately I don’t have the ‘debate bible’ to hand, however the statement for ‘an argument to be successful must have statements which are falsifiable’ is the same as ‘which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence’. If something IS falsifiable, one must have EVIDENCE if they wish to prove it wrong. If something ISN’T falsifiable then it can be dismissed without evidence – because there is know no evidence backing up the original claim.

        Ok, admittedly William Lane Craig did test Hitchens significantly more than nearly every other religious person he debates against. I’m a big fan, even though I don’t share many of his views, they’re often interesting, philosophical, and delivered very well. Lets not forget that this debate was at Biola University, which is an evangelical Christian University. Furthermore, lets not forget that Hitchens’ most notable book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, is more focussed on the argument of the negativity that Religion brings to our world, rather than the more Dawkins esque argument of the non-existence of god (which is what the Biola debate was about). Therefore, he is not as equipped as the top Atheist Scientist’s in proving the non-existence of God, yet his knowledge of Religion, not just Christianity, is intimidating…although he does know a bit about science, and philosophy for that matter, too. He’s one of the best public speakers of our time and had a bucket load of courage to go and argue against Craig on his home turf. Moreover, he doesn’t share this over-respect that many other non-believers have when arguing against religious folk – I really respect him for that. I don’t read these atheist websites, I simply don’t have the time, but I don’t think all atheists share the same view when analysing Hitchens and Craig’s encounter. I actually think Hitchens had a few people in the crowd on his side, which was surprising in an audience of past and present Biola students.

        I quite like his closing statement. Ok, so he doesn’t disprove god -I guess he must have lost the debate then…although it would take someone with a lot of courage or someone highly delusional to say that Craig PROVED the existence of a christian god in that debate! I agree with Hitchens in regards to Religion being man-made – it makes sense and is logical. Human’s are intelligent primates who are always seeking answers…but we want more than that – we always want to know ‘why?’. I believe Religion was created because at the time we didn’t even have the resources to answer the most basic of questions relating to our existence. I also agree with what he says in relation to the faith vs. reason debate becoming more prominent in recent years. Religious extremism, unethical behaviour and, in some cases, illegal behaviour is becoming out of hand, and people need to stand up against it. Furthermore, the increasing amount of pressure that science is piling onto Religion needs to be out there for all to hear. I fear that many religious people are unaware of the advances we’ve had in science in recent years. It’s also interesting to note that how religion has adapted in recent years to try and accommodate the advances in Science. Even in the Hitchens and Craig debate, when Craig is using recent scientific findings to back up his fine-tuning argument, Lane wouldn’t have known this if everyone thought the way he did; we would have no need to take part in this particular scientific research, because the answer is simple – god made it.

        Finally, in regards to your falsifiable argument. I absolutely believe that the main arguments that Hitchens addresses are falsifiable. I also see many examples of him using logic and evidence. Can you enlighten me on which topics he addresses that aren’t falsifiable? The Hitchens vs. Craig debate is over two hours long and I haven’t had the chance to sit down and watch again yet!

        Thanks, this is interesting.

  7. Stephen says:

    Right, and it would do well not to call the Kagan/Craig encounter a ‘debate’ because it did not follow the debate format. Rather, it was presented as an exchange of ideas. Craig did not go on the attack which is his forte. I’ve noticed that because I am used to hearing Craig’s arguments I’ll sometimes find an atheist’s opening statement compelling, simply because I haven’t heard it numerous times before. It’s when Craig starts his rebuttals that you see him shine.

  8. Rob says:

    Rich wrote:

    “Being an atheist isn’t a belief. Atheism is the non-belief in a certain or specific theism.”

    I think this is a very clever rhetorical claim, often heard from the “new atheists”, and one that I have thought a bit about because it seems at face value quite hard to refute.

    But what really is non-belief in God? Vegetables have non-belief in God, so does that make vegetables atheists? Craig refers to this form of argument somewhere on an MP3 where he says that his cat also has non-belief in God, thus his cat would have to be an atheist. (No, Craig’s cat is just dumb. Cats have no capacity to believe in God. I wonder — was Craig having a dig at the intellectual laziness of the new atheists?)

    This clever rhetorical move actually subtlety shifts the burden of proof away from the atheist. Traditionally, atheists have made the positive claim: “God does not exist” and then done the hard work to show how the claim can be demonstrated to be true. But the new atheists, instead of claiming, “I have this belief about God” go for the intellectually lazy, ” I have no belief about God”. Then they write books telling us all why we should believe in non-belief too! :-)

    As far as I can tell, this is not atheism at all, but rather agnosticism. Agnostics say, “I don’t know” and the new atheists say, “I lack God belief”.

    Lastly, which thesis makes more sense:

    1. I do not believe there is a God and these are my evidences in support of my thesis

    or

    2. I lack God belief, and these are the evidences for my lack of belief.

    • Rich says:

      Rob – Are you really using this argument?! Atheism isn’t a belief. Atheism, in simple terms, is the unbelief in something. I take it you’re Christian? If not, I apologise. Lets assume you are – You will, without a doubt, just like me, have atheistic views towards the Islamic faith, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. I just go one god further than you.

      There is no such thing as a ‘new atheist’ they’re just recent. Atheism has been around ever since the birth of religion. Your argument regarding vegetables is borderline childish. They simply can’t think rationally like us humans. A non-belief in god is the idea that one can live a morally sound life without faith and that they find more reason and explanation in science than in any religion.

      Recent atheists may have more adapted arguments in comparison to their predecessors, which is why they occasionally get labelled as ‘New Atheists’, however this is also apparent in arguments from the faith perspective; I very much doubt that the majority of Christians still believe that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old!

      Atheists say: I do not believe in a god – here is my rational/ here are my reasons.
      Agnostics say: I neither believe or don’t believe in a god: Fence sitters.

      • Marc says:

        Rich, you say “You will, without a doubt, just like me, have atheistic views towards the Islamic faith, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. I just go one god further than you.”

        That statement is not entirely true. To be an atheist is to believe in “no” god. To be a theist is to believe in the existence of God. A theist who believes in the Christian God is not an Atheist at all. He simply doesn’t believe in false gods.

        • Paul says:

          1. A properly-labeled atheist would not believe in the intervention of a supernatural entity or entities in human affairs.

          2. To be a theist is to believe in the intervention of a supernatural entity or entities in human affairs.

          3. Please explain how one distinguishes between a “false” and a “true” god.

  9. >> Atheism isn’t a belief

    Rich: with all due respect, that’s a very silly argument, and – often – a dodge.

    Of course atheism is a belief. The only real sort of “non-belief” is utter ignorance…we can neither believe nor disbelieve in something we know nothing about.

    Atheism, however, doesn’t fall into that category. Atheism is a response to someone else’s belief. See:

    1. You’re a little kid, and know nothing about religion.

    2. Someone says “God exists”, and you hear their claims.

    3. As you grow, you weigh the possibility that God exists. You use your existing knowledge and beliefs to examine the claims of believers, and to extrapolate the likelihood that God exists. You don’t KNOW that God doesn’t exist, of course…but you try to think clearly about the question, and DECIDE that the evidence is unconvincing.

    That’s not a lack of belief, by any definition. It’s the belief that something does not exist. It’s the belief that someone’s claims about God’s existence are erroneous. It’s the belief that YOU ARE CORRECT in your assessment of reality.

    Atheism is as much a belief as any religion. =)

  10. Rich says:

    Tony,

    You’ll be surprised to know that I completely disagree.

    I don’t think my argument is silly at all – I actually think your view is. This seems to me that this is a topic that we’ll undoubtedly have to agree to disagree on…however:

    Oxford English Dictionary (OED) definition of Atheism & Disbelieve:

    Atheism: Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a god.

    Disbelieve: 1. trans. Not to believe or credit; to refuse credence to: a. a statement or (alleged) fact: To reject the truth or reality of.

    OED definition of religious:

    Religious: Having or showing belief in and reverence for God or a deity

    As you can see, Atheism is the disbelief (un-belief / non-belief – whatever you want to call it), or denial of, the existence of a god. Whereas being religious is the belief in a god.

    If one wanted to be petty one could say Atheism is a belief in not believing in god – but that’s, quite simply, ridiculous.

    Look. I’m not trying to have ‘a pop’ at religion. People are free, although not it all societies, to believe in any religion they wish. I initially commented on this blog in response to Christopher Hitchens being regarded by the author as the “Worst Debater Ever” – that’s silly. He’s highly regarded throughout the world as an excellent author, stern debater, and a commanding public speaker. Being someone at the forefront of such a huge and emotional subject obviously brings critics – I just think being referred to as the “Worst Debater Ever” is a comment that is petty, defensive and ultimately shows frailty and a deluded view towards his arguments.

    If someone asked me “Are you religious?”, I would respond by saying “No, I’m an atheist, I DO NOT believe in god”. I, just like the vast majority of people that have Atheistic views towards religion, don’t refer to themselves as an atheist. By this I mean I don’t say “Hi, I’m Rich, I’m an atheist.” The only time an atheist is required to refer to themselves as an atheist is when asked whether they are religious, or simply when the topic of conversation is religion.

    Please, let me reiterate: Atheism is NOT the view: ‘God does not exist’. Atheism is NOT BELIEVING in god – Disbelief in religion.

    • Rich, your view is agnosticism – you don’t know whether God exists or not.

      Atheism is the view that denies God’s existence, as the definition you quote says. Atheists think that the proposition “God exists” is false. Belief requires that you think something is true – it’s making a claim about the way the world is. Hitchens claims to be an atheist, but in the debate he presented NO ARGUMENTS for his view. That’s why he lost the debate. He only has his personal preferences “I don’t like…” but NO EVIDENCE for the claim “God does not exist”, which is his burden of proof in a debate on God’s existence. He needs to deny the claim and supply arguments and evidence. I can think of 10 arguments against God’s existence, but he didn’t use any. He actually did not come prepared to sustain an argument.

  11. Rob says:

    Rich, sorry dude, but you are confused:

    “…As you can see, Atheism is the disbelief (un-belief / non-belief – whatever you want to call it),…”

    First you go to the dictionary to grab definitions, then you equate disbelief with unbelief and non-belief.

    These are word games that make atheists look foolish. Be a man and fight using evidence. Declare the God does not exist, then defend your position. Hiding behind a big girly blouse like “non-belief” is hardly a sign of the strength :-)

  12. Rich:

    Thanks for your reply!

    >> [atheism is ] To reject the truth or reality of [God's existence].

    Think about this clearly: on what basis could anyone reject any sort of belief? Why, that’s obvious…one only rejects a belief after EXAMINING it and finding it WANTING. A decision must be made, and that decision is to NOT believe.

    The fact that you choose to not believe in God is evidence that it’s not a nothing, it’s a something. Put another way, your non-belief in God is your belief in non-God, as it were. A full explanation would require you to say something like the following:

    ‘I looked at the evidence for God’s existence, and found it wasn’t compelling. For that reason I reject the notion that God exists. I believe that God does not exist.’

    Atheism is a belief, obviously. You BELIEVE atheism to be true.

  13. Rich says:

    Hi Guys & Gals,

    If you’re definition of agnosticism were to be true then we’d all be agnostics. You don’t ‘know’ god exists. You believe – you have faith.

    Dictionary.com
    be•lief
    –noun
    1.
    something believed; an opinion or conviction: a belief that the earth is flat.
    2.
    confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof: a statement unworthy of belief.
    3.
    confidence; faith; trust: a child’s belief in his parents.
    4.
    a religious tenet or tenets; religious creed or faith: the Christian belief.

    I do not believe in god. ‘Atheism: DISBELIEF IN, OR denial of, the existence of a god’. My view when asked about my stance on religion is an atheistic view. Although some religious practices throughout the world that verge on the immoral, the illegal, and the child abuse grounds, etc etc, do, occasionally, give me an anti-theistic feel – definitely towards some religions and specific branches of religions; I often ask myself the question “Would the world be a better place without religion?”

    Ultimately I’m not going to loose sleep if it comforts you to label me an agnostic – go ahead – no skin off my nose.

    Atheism is not a belief system. I do not have faith in atheism. I do not ‘believe in’ atheism. I am an atheist because there is evidence that completely contradicts some of the ‘beliefs’ or ‘faiths’ that religious people share. Furthermore, there are so many contradictions between religious faiths, and even within specific faiths (no more so than within Christianity), which strengthen the foundation of disbelief I have in religion. Even Richard Dawkins (an atheist), in his book ‘The God Delusion’, refers to himself as a 6 on a scale of 1-7. 1 being there definitely is a god, 7 being there definitely isn’t a god. Society labels me an atheist because I do not believe in religion. Again, I don’t ‘believe in’ Atheism. I guess if we are just going to give each other labels I’m a humanist.

    Rob – how can anyone declare that god, 100%, does not exist?? I think the atheists that declare this are very brave and courageous and their knowledge of science is way beyond ours, however anyone that can say for certain that god exists or doesn’t exist is quite simply relying on a degree of faith – there’s just not enough evidence at this stage in our existence to back either argument up to the point of certainty. Big girly blouse – good one. I suddenly have a lot more respect in your views…

    Tony – I believe (pun not intended) that I have already made my response to your point. Atheism isn’t a belief. You said: “Belief in a non-god” – this is word play. This type of word play reminds me of Craig’s approach in the debate. He said at the beginning that he wanted to approach his arguments from a philosophical angle. Philosophy requires assumptions and belief – not evidence and fact. A debate will never work if people are debating from different angles. How can someone win a debate if their arguments, which have evidence, are dismissed by faith?

  14. Magnus Solberg says:

    Hitchens has never said that his arguments are meant to be viewed as deductively valid arguments, or that atheism *necessarily* follows from them. What on earth made you think Hitchens argues deductively? He has said on many occasions that one can not disprove the existence of god, and it follows that he does not believe there are any deductively valid arguments for atheism. Just as he does not believe there are any deductively valid arguments for theism.
    What you have done is to completely misrepresent Hitchens, and I believe you to be lying for Jesus, as is seen so often these days.

    • Look, in a debate about “Does God Exist?”, the object of the debate is to sustain the claim that God does exist or that God does not exist. No one cares about personal opinions or rhetorical flourishes or sneers. The question is – what is true? If Hitchens cannot bear the burden of proof, then he should not debate. If he wants to talk about his personal preferences, let him do that in private. A public debate is about knowledge – i.e. – the big bang, the cosmic fine-tuning, the ontological foundations of moral values, moral duties, and human rights, the historical record of the resurrection of Jesus. Public. Testable. Knowledge.

      Why is it that all the evidence was on the Christian theist side, and all the emoting and complaining and politicking was on the atheist side?

      • Magnus Solberg says:

        The fact that you completely misrepresented Hitchen’s arguments still stands.

        Also, none of the “new atheists” claim to know that God does not exist. They all say that one can not disprove the existence of god. There can be no proof either way. You say that Hitchens has to bear the burden of proof. Well, that is just rediculous. Neither side can bear the burden of proof. If one is to take your approach to the issue, then any debate would be doomed to futility.

        Proof is quite distinct from evidence, yet you seem to use the terms interchangeably.

        Hitchens has said that he thinks arguments like WLC’s are rediculous, and he tends to ignore them. Any mathematical or deductive argument for the existence of God, for instance, is always nonsense. There is no evidence for the existence of God. There is merely failed deductive arguments, relying on false premises, and arguments from ignorance.

        WLC’s claims about cosmology is, to put it mildly, controversial among the world’s leading cosmologists. One example: Cosmologists don’t talk about ‘nothing’ in the way WLC does. ‘Nothing’ does not exist in a traditional sense, and leading cosmologists think ‘something’ unevitably MUST come from ‘nothing’. It’s unavoidable. I think WLC knows this, yet he understands that most of his followers do not know it. He is probably the most dishonest public speaker I’ve ever come across.

        WLC’s debates this year with Lawrence Krauss and Sam Harris will be interesting.

        • I did not misrepresent Hitchens arguments – HE MADE NO ARGUMENTS. He just expressed his personal preferences about what God should be like, e.g. – he doesn’t like that the universe is so big, or that so many species go extinct. Personal preferences.

          Our side makes arguments for the claim that God exists – we do bear the burden of proof.

          The old atheists who are actually qualified DO bear the burden of proof, e.g. – Anthony Flew, before he became a theist, made arguments for his atheism.

          It is YOUR position that there can be no proof either way. Because you don’t KNOW anything. Because you haven’t STUDIED anything. Theists think we can know, and we do know, and we have tons of reasons and evidences to warrant the conclusion.

          Hitchens has to DISPROVE Craig’s arguments, not express his personal preferences. E.g. – he needs to DISPROVE the measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation that scientists have made, and thereby undermine the scientific basis for the origin of the universe FROM NOTHING. He needs to actually know something, which he doesn’t. He needs to not think that his personal preferences and feelings constitute an argument or evidence.

          You think there is no evidence because you are IGNORANT. You just don’t KNOW anything about science, history, philosophy, etc.

          If you want to make a cosmological claim, I’ll need a quote and a reference. NOT YOUR OPINION. I don’t care what YOU think. I want a piece pf peer-reviewed research.

          Why don’t you go and watch Craig’s other debates with better atheists while you are waiting and learn something?

          • Magnus Solberg says:

            Can you please provide me with one single proof of the existence of God? You say you have it, so please provide it. I’ve watched every one of WLC’s debates, and I most certainly have never seen any proof that God exists. I’ll even lower the bar so feel free to include proof that has not even been peer-reviewed.

            Read Lawrence Krauss, one of the world’s leading physicists. He completely disagrees with WLC’s claims on cosmology. So does Stephen Hawking.

            Cosmic microwave background radiation is evidence for the big bang and a finite universe. It is not in any way evidence of the existence of God. You seem not to understand what CMBR actually tells us about the origins of the universe.

            Again, you do not understand that ‘proof’ and ‘evidence’ are not interchangeable terms.

          • This post has some links to a few of my scientific arguments:
            http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/must-read-follow-up-post-by-michael-egnor-on-the-new-atheism/

            You have no arguments or evidence, and I’ve got about a half-dozen arguments and evidences in that post. You have to defeat all of them, and then come of with arguments based on testable, public evidence for the claim God does not exist.

            Your next comment will very likely not show up. So please don’t write one. UNLESS you intend to make a specific claim to know something about the world, and have a quotation with a finding of fact that is linked to some accepted research. Not opinions, not insults, not people’s names. Like I said, I would not even recommend trying.

            On Stephen Hawking:
            http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/physicist-frank-tipler-weighs-in-on-stephen-hawkings-theory/

        • Mary says:

          @Magnus: Let’s see… So far you’ve made vague, unsubstantiated assertions and in order to make up for the weakness of your argument, you’ve resorted to ad hominem attacks on those with whom you disagree. Instead of resorting to slander, I suggest you find some evidence from peer reviewed journals to counter theistic claims. So far you’re not doing your side any favours.

          • Magnus Solberg says:

            So far I’ve accused WLC of being dishonest. That’s about the extent of my ad hominem attacks.

            In return Wintery Knight has accused me of being ignorant, not having studied anything and also of not having knowledge of anything.

            I do not remember any ad hominem attacks on my part against WK.

            You fail to realise that the burden of evidence is on the person making the positive claim. The default position is atheism. In the same way one does not need to disprove unicorns in order to be justified in not believing in them.

          • Mary says:

            Magnus: Yes, you accuse WLC of being dishonest (with no proof of his motives) and you accused WK of “lying for Jesus” (again without proof of motive). I suggest sticking to the arguments and defending or refuting those instead. Ad hominem is rather nasty and pointless.

            I think WK’s response was because you said we can’t know that there is a God. That is a position of ignorance on the subject of God’s existence. It’s true that you may have studied something, but I’m guessing he assumed you hadn’t because you didn’t present any evidence.

            The default position is not atheism. It is ignorance. Both theism and atheism are positions that need defending. Hitchens, claims that God’s existence is highly unlikely. So he is taking a position on the atheistic side. He needs to support that with evidence.

          • “I’m guessing he assumed you hadn’t because you didn’t present any evidence.”

            Yes, that’s correct.

  15. Micah says:

    There’s a fine line between Agnosticism, which holds no belief either way (i.e. lacks belief) of God, and Atheism, which is a positive assertion that God doesn’t exist.

    I don’t know a darn thing about football and really just have an incredibly basic understanding of the subject. Now, if you were to ask me which teams are competing at the Super Bowl, I would shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t know. I lack the knowledge necessary to make such a positive assertion”.

    Agnosticism++ (my term) is, at least from my understanding, making the positive assertion that God can’t be known.

    Atheism asserts positively that a God entity does not exist. Some atheists may object and say that they simply lack belief, and have found all theistic arguments they’ve come across to be insufficient, but that lands them in Agnosticism. Now, as soon as they mention in a positive manner that “God does NOT exist”, then the burden of proof falls on them to give reasons and arguments for why they think God exists.

    To say that atheism in itself means “lack of belief” and/or defer to the belief that “everyone is an atheist in a way; it’s just that I disbelieve one more God than you do” seems to commit the etymological fallacy.

    Also, this may be an interesting take on such statements:

    http://thomism.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/no-a-theist-is-not-a-kind-of-atheist/

    Now, I don’t know enough about Hitchens (I have to listen to the debates), but given the above, if he did assert that God does NOT exist, then the burden of proof does fall upon him to give arguments and reasons for his position. If he really, truly did lack belief either way, then why would he even be debating in the first place? I won’t debate who’s the best football team since I lack knowledge in this area.

    • So long as a person is making an objective claim to know something, then they bear a burden of proof. The claim not to know if God exists is uninteresting because it is subjective. The claim that God’s existence cannot be known is a claim to knowledge about the external world, and requires argument and evidence. The claim that God does not exist is an objective claim that requires argument and evidence.

      What atheists today seem to want to do is to have people listen to their delusions, i.e. – “I am without belief in God”. Who cares? That statement is only true of the person making it – not true of the world as a whole. I am not interested in the personal preferences of atheists. I only want to know about the objective external world. If they know something that is true objectively for all of us, let them claim that and prove that with arguments and evidence. I am not a psychotherapist who listens to people’s personal beliefs. I want to hear what is true OUT THERE.

      • Magnus Solberg says:

        Agnosticism is about knowledge. Atheism is about belief. I am an agnistic atheist, which means that I do not think we can know for sure either way, however I do not have belief in a God.

        • OK then no one cares what you think. NO ONE CARES about your personal preferences. You don’t KNOW ANYTHING, so no one has to LISTEN TO YOU. The rest of us only care what can be known about the world that we ALL live in. We don’t care whether you like apple or cherry pie. We care whether you know which medicine will cure an illness, or whether you know how to fix a car.

          • >> OK then no one cares what you think. NO ONE CARES about your personal preferences. You don’t KNOW ANYTHING, so no one has to LISTEN TO YOU.

            ……………..

            I care. I don’t have to listen, but I want to. I have two problems with your response, WK:

            1. You seem to be rejecting the impact of personal testimony, and

            2. You seem to be misrepresenting the nature of Christianity.

            TESTIMONY
            In John 9:25 we see a powerful testimony: “I once was blind, but now I see”. This testimony isn’t apologetically sophisticated or theologically complex, but the man’s words echo throughout history. Why? Because personal testimony is powerful. Rejecting Magnus’ testimony as you have is dangerous ground for a Christian because you also imply that your own unprovable testimony isn’t worth hearing. If his testimony isn’t compelling for you, then you remain unconvinced by it…but rejecting testimony as a valid part of the apologetic process flies in the face of both logic and Scripture. Our testimonies should reflect, and be informed by, the facts…but they’re not invalid on the basis that they’re unprovable.

            FAITH
            As Hebrews 11:1 tells us, faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the conviction of things we can’t see. Both parts of this verse contain an element of the unknown. As 11:6 tells us, without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God. There is abundant and compelling evidence that Christianity is true, which is why I’m a disciple of Jesus…but it’s entirely out of the scope of Scripture to suggest that one’s “faith” can be built on KNOWING. When you reject Magnus’ testimony on the basis that it’s not provable, you imply that one can please God WITHOUT faith. We both know that that’s not true.

            Your rejection of Magnus’ testimony makes it less likely that he will listen to yours, and your suggestion that one should only believe what they can prove makes it less likely that he will exercise any faith in God at all. I encourage you to examine this carefully…the danger is that you might win the battle but lose the war.

          • Jesus didn’t give a personal testimony, he gave a resurrection – in public.

            Peter didn’t give a testimony, he appealed to the resurrection.

            Paul didn’t give a testimony, he appealed to the Scriptures and natural theology – e.g. – the origin of the universe.

            I don’t expect Magnus to listen to my personal preferences and find them compelling. I expect him to consider the evidence that the universe came into being out of nothing, fine-tuned for life, and that life itself requires an intelligence. I expect them to consider the “sign of Jonah” that Jesus spoke about – namely, the resurrection.

          • Magnus Solberg says:

            What one believes is not a preference. You are quite mistaken on this point.

        • Micah says:

          “I do not think we can know for sure either way, however I do not have belief in a God.”

          Well of course you wouldn’t believe IN God if you don’t know for sure either way if He exists or not! ;)

          But your position tends to a more Agnosticism++ in which you make the positive claim that we can’t know for sure about God’s existence in general.

          You state that you lack belief in God, so we can’t press the “ordinary” agnostic (for lack of a better term) for arguments against God’s existence if he truly does not have a cesspool of knowledge, claims, facts, evidence, reasons, or arguments that greatly reduce the probability of God’s existence beyond a reasonable doubt since that would be Atheism.

          But the claim I find interesting in this conversation is the one which you bear the burden of proof: That we can’t know either way. Are you saying this inductively–that is, are you just taking in observations or claims as they come and then concluding that we can’t know?

          Or are you meaning to phrase it deductively; that you have good reasons to say that we can’t know if God exists or not (limitation of science argument perhaps?)

  16. >> Jesus didn’t give a personal testimony

    1 Timothy 6:12-14
    Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame …

    I believe Paul when he wrote that Jesus provided some testimony. Your three examples fly in the face of the facts: Jesus didn’t ONLY rise from the dead, Peter didn’t ONLY appeal to the resurrection, and Paul didn’t ONLY appeal to Scripture and natural theology. Consider Philippians 3 as but one example of how narrow your claims are.

    If you think that Christianity is a strictly fact-based belief system, or that personal testimony should be excluded from apologetics, let me suggest that you spend more time considering the nature and the goal of apologetics with regard to the role of the Holy Spirit.

    • OK good luck with your approach.

      • >> OK good luck with your approach.

        This should be beneath you, WK. It’s not about luck, of course. It’s about being faithful with the gospel that’s been handed down. We’re on the same side here, but you act like you don’t believe it.

        I’ve been studying apologetics for a long, long time. I don’t say that to pat myself on the back or to try to gain points, but to say that I’ve seen it all, over the years…and – with that experience – I truly appreciate and respect what you do. I find your work valuable, which is why I read it.

        It should be clear to all that the airtight philosophical argument is only one approach to evangelism. I lean in that direction naturally, and use it constantly. Its value can’t be overstated, in my opinion…but its effectiveness can. It’s not enough to beat people up with unassailable arguments, regardless of how much fun it is. One also needs to display the transformation that the Holy Spirit brings – to be BOTH salt and light – to gain a hearing among those with whom we disagree. In my experience, the personal side of evangelism is as important as – if not more than – the informational.

        “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

        I’m finished for the moment, and want you to know that you’re okay in my book.

      • Micah says:

        Just throwing this out there WK:

        “Thus, although arguments and evidence may be used to support the believer’s faith, they are never properly the basis of that faith. For the believer, God is not the conclusion of a syllogism; he is the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwelling within us. How then does the believer know that Christianity is true? He knows because of the self-authenticating witness of God’s Spirit who lives within him.” (Reasonable Faith 3rd Ed., William Lane Craig, pg. 46)

        And another from one of Craig’s apologetics article:

        “…we need to understand the primacy of love over knowledge in God’s economy. Paul wrote, “Knowledge puffs up; but love builds up. If anyone thinks that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know” (I Cor. 8.1b-3). The simplest child of God who lives in love is wiser in God’s sight than all the Bertrand Russells the world has seen. If we lack love, than all our knowledge makes us just big, inflated intellectual windbags who are actually ignorant of what matters most…

        …Unless we learn to be who God wants us to be, all our vaunted achievements will be as wood, hay, and stubble. Our spiritual formation is therefore as vitally important as our intellectual formation as Christian apologists.”

        http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5341

        Also, I’m going to agree with Tony here, one’s personal testimony can be extremely powerful and effective when evangelizing. The icing on the cake is if a non-believer has intellectual questions which you can then answer, or at least get back to them, showing intellectual humility, openness, and concern for all areas of their life (emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social,…)

        In as much as I rigorously “train” in many objections against Christianity and try to find good, honest, succinct answers to questions (ranging from religious pluralism to the problem of evil to troubling Bible passages), I find that I hardly talk about those things at all with people that I meet. Once I get religious pluralism out of the way, then the “real” issues crop up–the pain, the hurt, the suffering, etc. Personal testimony and lending help in a Christ-like manner is deceptively simple, but shows the heart of God Himself which draws people.

        …and I think that’s enough words already from my end…

  17. Archie says:

    I do agree christopher lost the debate simply because he seemed to be arguing that god is evil as you said. I remember when watching I was getting angry that he didn’t bring up some simple points he should have brought up. Only a couple of reasons I can think of why he didn’t do so. The best one I thought about was he didn’t think he was the right person to argue such points and better people were around to argue such debates. Although it is dumb since he did accept the debate. Although I do not agree with saying he’s a fail debater as he has had many more great debates than he had bad ones. Sorry for any missspellings as i’m not the smartest guy around.

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