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In answering the question asked in the subject of this thread it’s important firstly to define, ‘Atheism’. It’s most common definition seems to be similar to the following:

Atheism – a lack of belief in god(s)

Whilst I’m aware of other (and in my view better definitions of atheism) I want to restrict this thread to atheism as so defined and to give my answer to the question as being in the negative, i.e. it is not a tenable position to hold.

The reasoning behind my answer is as follows:

Whilst ‘a lack of belief in god(s)’ is the commonly given definition of atheism, it’s just as common, if not always the case, that upon being asked the basis of this lack of belief atheists will reply that it is based on the absence of evidence to warrant belief. It is on that basis that I consider atheism to fail for there is no such absence of evidence but many lines of evidence that a god or gods exist. But what are those lines of evidence? I present them as being every rational argument presented that tends to prove a god or gods exist. Such arguments are commonly known, but usually just as commonly dismissed by the very same atheists proclaiming an absence of evidence and are:

1. Cosmological Arguments
2. Teleological Arguments
3. Ontological Arguments
4. Arguments from Objective Morality
5. Arguments from the Bible
6. Arguments from Miracles
7. Arguments from Personal Experience

Now it can be immediately granted that of these arguments some are far from convincing on their own (3, 6 and 7), but as part of a cumulative argument with those following from previously established conclusions they also can be valid (e.g. the argument from the Bible is stronger when based upon the establishment that a god (generic) exists than it would do without such a basis).

Where that leaves us with various presented rational arguments for the existence of god(s), any one of which is true or probably true or, taken together as one cumulative argument were true, would falsify the claim from the atheist of an absence of evidence for god that justifies their lack of belief.

On this it seems to me that the only way an atheist could justifiably hold to this atheism would be to counter each and every argument (line of evidence) that is proposed in those arguments, either individualistically or as a cumulative argument. If that were done then of course the atheist view is justified because lines of evidences presented to them have been countered and shown as false trails to evidence but, in my experience, few atheists have taken on this task, or are prepared to take on this task when the evidence is presented.

On that basis I propose that this atheism is not a tenable position to hold for any atheist presented with those arguments who refuses to consider them or fails to rebut/refute them. 

Comments welcomed


Comments on: "Is Atheism a Tenable Position to Hold?" (29)

  1. Do you address in another post the claim of atheists that science offers positive evidence that the universe is self-generated, and that this is proof that there is no creator (God)? I’m interested in your response. Thank you!

  2. You don’t identify which hypothesis of science you are making reference to here? Such hypothesis as M-hypothesis are without scientific evidence in support of them and other hypothesis such as zero-stage energy universes require an initial amount of energy to start things off which is nowhere explained the origins! Bottom line is that science is offering guesswork and poor guesswork at that and it seems in any attempt at all to avoid the conclusions of rationally persuasive arguments for theism and God as Creator of the Universe.

  3. In my (arrogant?) opinion, anybody should feel free to make any claim they like. However, I have an issue with claims for which no falsifiable evidence is provided. Restricting myself for the moment to points 1, 2, 4 and 5, I have yet to see any falsifiable evidence in those areas. Taking point 5 as an example, we have 3=1 (the triune God). Additionally, with point 1, cosmologists have yet to demonstrate a reasonable mathematical explanation of the Big Bang, let alone whatever might have caused it. Moreover, I have always found points 2 and 4 to be philosophically unsatisfactory (“Where is the falsifiable evidence for the assumptions used in these claims?”).

    Which leaves me in the position of “If you cannot cannot provide falsifiable evidence for your claim, then I must regard your claim as unsubstantiated”. The same could be said of anybody that claims the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe.

  4. You say…
    “there is no such absence of evidence but many lines of evidence that a god or gods exist” …then go on to list seven lines of argument.
    Arguments for a thing do not evidence make.
    No matter how many arguments are proposed they are still only arguments for an unsubstantiated (evidence absent) claim.
    These arguments merely allow holding the belief in god(s) to be rationalised but in and of themselves, singly or collectively, they are not evidence for god(s).

    On your charge that atheists would counter the arguments individually or collectively – http://atheist.diatribes.co.uk

  5. Since all such lines of evidence would be presented in the form or rational arguments they are be definition falsifiable by defeaters to either the form of the argument (invalid) or defeaters to their premises (unsound or inductively weak). This being so, each argument meets your requirement of capable of being falsifiable and your objection fails.

  6. Crispysea: Your response is but a display of your ignorance of the power of rational arguments. In such arguments:

    1. The conclusion of any sound deductive argument is ‘obviously true’.
    2. The conclusion of any inductive argument is probably true.

    When I say ‘true’ and ‘probably true’ I am referring to true in the real world and not true or probably true only conceptually. What I state above is not controversial or disputed by any person familiar with logic text books and logic.

    I can but suggest you read such text books and learn the power that rational arguments can have in the real world.

    • You can suggest what you like, hiding behind the ‘rules’ of what is ‘accepted’ doesn’t change the fact that ‘arguments for’ are only concepts. Further, ‘these’ arguments point to a ‘being’ that must consist of 6 highly improbable (impossibly improbable) properties. That makes the conclusion of these speculations unsound. ( http://bit.ly/IUsoZf )
      They are not actual evidence, actual evidence would substantiate them but without it they remain unsubstantiated claims.

  7. greetings. allow me to be one of those few

    1. cosmological- I study cosmology and astrophysics and allow me to point out that there is no evidence for a god to be found in that field. I could go on into details but i see little point when it is my field of study. One could of course argue that the finely tuned universe of just a few numbers (numbers which if changed would take us out of existance) was tuned in by God, and while i obviously cannot prove otherwise, the point is that this ‘accidental universe’ does not prove a god exists to enter them. Taking Weak Anthropic Principle an atheist would remark we see these numbers at their value becuase to see them otherwise would mean we would not see them at all as we wouldnt exist
    2.The complexity of the universe is not a reason for a god or a design. There is only one answer to this- ignorance of the subject in hand. Ask the general population how quantum physics works and they will give no answer, similarly ask a person how the universe works and the result will be the same- ignorance. This of course is not their fault. It takes years of study to even grasp these, however my counter arguement to this remains- finding intelligent design in things we do not yet fully understand is wrong. I refer you back to the Weak Anthropic Principle
    3.This one from the view of an atheist falls apart on several grounds- just because you can imagine something, it does not mean it exists. Similarly what makes mere humans think that they *could* imagine such a being, if one existed. It would be like asking someone from 1000 years ago to explain how a computer works, or asking a cat to explain ethics.
    4.Again morality is not fixed, and is only part of 1 person’s view. Can a human compute what is right and wrong in every circumstance? Would you and i agree? This again gives no argument to support a god.
    5/6. As you state, these depend on belief on such a thing as miracles and the bible, one of which has no proof, the other of which can be explained merely by the laws of chance and numbers. Think of the sheer number of people who die/suffer each day, now at least one of those has to experience for want of a better word a ‘bounce back’ into health or whatever outcome is favourable at that time. It is the same with a lottery, you could wish/pray to win it, and if you did then would that be a miracle? No- it is pure maths.
    7.Again similar to 5 and 6. The placebo effect is strong within us, an human psychology should not be disregarded here. If i may digress for a second (this has a point), i have suffered from mental illness, alcoholism and other things i wont go into for many years. I could have found god, and i stress could have, and my belief could have strengthened. I did not however, however here i still remain, alive and sober, and more to the point i went through ‘hell’ with only my human instinct for survival.

    A test was carrried out by giving electric shocks to atheists and believers- the believers had an image that was religiously significant to them infront of them. The believers felt less pain.

    Both of these accounts are personal experience, the first my personal experience, and both show that the human mind will grasp what it wants to to get through its troubles- it is a case of evolution and survival. It is not a reason for a god or gods.

    I hope you find these arguments engaging

  8. “But what are those lines of evidence? I present them as being every rational argument presented that tends to prove a god or gods exist.”

    You’ve changed subject mid stride.

    Evidence and arguments are not the same thing.

  9. RichardByers: Whilst I appreciate your response and do find your comments of interest they are unsatisfactory amounting to little more than ‘science knows better’ when it doesn’t. What is required is for it to be shown – not merely asserted – that these arguments fail and indeed that everyone of them fail for it only requires that one be true for theism to be justified and atheism defeated. As I commented in my opening remarks some of the arguments taken by themselves are weak but when part of an overall cumulative argument are much stronger and persuasive. The atheist must respond to the arguments in that cumulative form as well as individually. I would say that at the very least, your atheism has more justification, than what I commonly encounter on Twitter and indeed, I am open to the possibility it is fully justified but that would require much more than what you present above.


    • Have to take issue with your statement on science. Science does not claim to know better. Science is a methodology for understanding the physical world. It generates hypotheses, tests them and keep or rejects them appropriately. Once a group of these tests are gathered such that an established understanding that is testable, repeatable and predictive is the result we have a theory. If there are alternate theories, they will come to the surface.

  10. NotaScientist: Evidence is those things which tend to prove a thing. Rational arguments come under that umbrella definition as any logician will tell you. In fact the conclusion of any sound deductive argument is more than evidence – it is proof positive – that the conclusion is true!

    • Yeah, no, I completely disagree. With you or ‘any logician’ who thinks he can prove something like a supernatural being without any stitch of actual empirical evidence.

      Nice try, though.

      • When a person has to renounce logic (the science of correct reasoning) in order to maintain a position they are beyond the reach of rational discourse.

      • When someone tries to prove something exists using only logic and no evidence, they are beyond the reach of rational discourse and will believe any silly thing.

      • The only argument mentioned in my list of eight that is based on reason alone is the Ontological arguments. All other arguments contain empirical evidence. This being so, the above remarks have no application.

  11. I don’t dismiss these argument out of hand, I have had a rather thorough look at them:

    The Cosmological Argument has false premises in it (and I got a little obsessed with it on my blog: allalltor.wordpress.com. Feel free to have a search around).

    The Teleological argument commits category errors, which are apparent as soon as one looks into the directions science has opened up.

    The Ontological arguments conclude that any conceptual being also exists in reality. After all, what would be more like my conception of a unicorn than a unicorn that actually exists to the specification of my conception? It’s a word game.

    Arguments from objective morality as presumptive, and commit a number of equivocation errors (for example, “objective” is not the same as “binding”, or absolute. Also, there is not reason, other than preference, to assume “binding morality” exists.)

    Arguments from the Bible are vague enough to be meaningless. Also, arguments from the Koran are as convincing (and the Koran appears to be more historically accurate), but you dismiss them out-of-hand.

    The argument from miracles might as well be named “arguments from stuff I don’t understand”.

    Arguments from person experience support the hypothesis that many people are all, at the same time, Napoleon. After all, that is what they experience.

  12. “The only argument mentioned in my list of eight that is based on reason alone is the Ontological arguments.”

    You’re right…the rest are based on your assumptions and your twisted interpretation of the world based on your already held beliefs.

    Not reason based at all.

  13. philosopher145 said:

    Rather than pointlessly arguing semantics with atheists (“atheism means this”, “no it means this”, etc.), you deal with the most common justification given for their atheism. Very effective approach.

  14. Allat – I’ll certainly take a look at those links. Thanks

  15. So you write an article based on an incomplete claim you believe atheists make? No serious atheist is claiming they don’t believe in god(s) because there is no evidence. You are playing word games. The claim is better stated that there is not “sufficient” evidence. You are reaching there because, yes, you can cast aside insuffiient evidence. We all do so everyday.

    Don’t have time, or a big enough keyboard, to refute your reasoning. But I’m glad to see a few others who have.

    Lastly, I think you are basing your opinions of atheism on the views of those who aren’t serious or haven’t sorted through their own beliefs. If you really want to make your point, you need to aim a little higher. If you haven’t experienced atheists who have or are willing to take on refutation of your lines of reasoning, I think you might need to broaden your horizons. They are out there!

    • it doesn’t impact on the argument made whether ‘no evidence’, or, ‘insufficient evidence’ is the claim of the atheist. The same challenge applies, i.e. having to counter proposed sufficient evidence to the contrary.

      • Well, do remember that the atheist has nothing to prove as they are not making any claim. The burden of proof is on the theist who is making the positive claim.

        So back to your original point…since the atheist basically is holding to the null hypothesis, I cannot think of any more tenable position than that.

  16. CNR – the basis has to demonstrate that what they base their atheism upon – an alleged absence of, or insufficient evidence to warrant belief. Once the theist has dispatched their burden of proof and present evidence it is then the responsibility of the atheist to demonstrate why it is not evidence (the thing they claim doesn’t exist).

    • I think richardbyers makes a good start above… There are loads of refutations to your arguments listed above. I dont really want to retype them here. If you are interested, here is a place to do some research: http://wiki.ironchariots.org

      I dont think we are arguing the points here. Your question was if atheism is a tenable position. I think it is pretty clear that it is.

  17. ‘Atheism’ is an unfortunate word for it hands to theists the assumption that “god’ is an understandable concept to NOT believe in.

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