The Death of Socrates

The Death of Socrates

Friday, 14 January 2011

Dispute with an Atheist

[SCL] Many people are so set against the idea of God’s reality (for ostensibly good reasons and with a vehemence and commitment that comes from a deep psychological need for there to be no God) that they will find a way to deny any syllogism presented to them which tends to establish God’s reality. I have plenty of experience of this, sadly.

That's offensive, Stephen. I don't assert that you believe in God out of some deep-seated insecurity; I assume that you have sincerely held reasons which are generally consistent within the paradigm you have adopted. I would thank you to return the favour.It is not *my* fault that the arguments for God thus far presented to me have not met their burdens of evidence. He who asserts must prove; it is your burden to persuade, not my burden to be credulous.

Dear RAV, how can this be offensive? Note the "many" not even "most". I was certainly not thinking of you when I wrote this! I do know the main example who I was thinking of - a friend whom I have the deepest respect for. He knows that I think that his atheism is psychologically motivated - and I could give a good account as to why I think that it is so. Of course he would dispute and deny my account.

It is definitely true that many (perhaps most - or even all) people who believe in God do so partly for psychological reasons. In which case, how is it offensive to observe that the opposite is also true? Are you claiming that Atheism is dispassionate and entirely rational and has no psychological component, whereas Theism is otherwise? I note that you insinuate that Theists are "credulous". If I wanted to take offence, I guess that would be a suitable pretext - but I see nothing to be gained by being offended. I know very well that most Atheists think that Theists are deluded fools.

I do not claim that my beliefs (whether they are theological, philosophical or political or scientific) are entirely dispassionate and devoid of psychological motivation. Such a claim seems to me to be implausible in the extreme. Do you make such a claim for yourself?

As to the burden of proof. I accept that there is a burden to establish any proposition such as:

a) "God is real, and this can be known (fairly) clearly".
b) "God is imaginary, and this can be known (fairly) clearly".
c) "One cannot know at all clearly whether God is real or imaginary."

None of these propositions has any right to be taken as a default that does not require to be established for itself. To say otherwise is to betray one's (psychological?) prejudice in the matter.

However, one cannot expect a theological proposition to be proved in the way that a mathematical is proved. One does not expect this of scientific propositions. In fact one cannot "prove" any scientific proposition: this is largely what science is about - empiricism. Equally, one cannot expect to do controlled experiments on God: any more than on quasars. One has to look at the influence and effects of God and Quasars on things other than themselves.

Moreover, even a person who believes "c" to be true can still chose (for whatever good or bad reason) to either accept or reject God's reality.

Regards and Respects

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