A Question Atheists Cannot Answer

If God does not exist, then all that exists is matter and energy, and all things can be explained by the forces of matter and energy. A person who holds such a position can ask a myriad of ‘What?’ questions, as in “What is the condensation point of mercury?’ or ‘What is the speed of light through water?’ or “What is the weight of a golf ball on the moon?’

But an atheist, who is by definition a materialist, cannot ask ‘Why?’ questions, for these questions have no meaning in the atheist system. If all that exists is matter and energy, we cannot ask ‘Why is there something, rather than nothing?’ If there is no intelligence behind an act, we cannot ask ‘Why was a golf ball hit on the moon?’

The atheist cannot ask ‘Why is there a universe?” for why is not meaningful when all we have is what.

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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35 Responses to A Question Atheists Cannot Answer

  1. M. Rodriguez says:

    Actually we can ask the question, but the difference, religion and belief in God stop at the question, where as science starts at the question to empirically investigate, observe if a theory or conclusion can be formed.

    • humblesmith says:

      If we observe a building, we can ask how wide is the door, how many square feet are in the windows, how heavy the foundation is, what is the density of the wood, and other nice facts. But if we deny there is a carpenter, and we cannot ask what purpose the door has facing East, for there is no purpose in the door facing that direction. As Richard Dawkins has said, the universe is made up of cold, blind indifference. But if God exists, now we can ask questions of meaning and purpose.

      • M. Rodriguez says:

        These are philosphical questions, for I have no philosphical answer. Please forgive me, but I really could careless for trival philosophical questions.

        But if you wish to ask a scientifc question, I can go investigate and empiracally research answer.

        • Simon Finley says:

          But the point is that if there was a God, then the person in the scientific class room could never discover this. Not caring for these sort of questions doesn’t mean they have no answer. And if they do have an answer, I’m sure you would no longer call them trivial. True?

          • Aaron says:

            Well if there is a god science will eventually discover him or her but we don’t need to spent valuable time and effort searching for him if he is out there perhaps he will reveal hself to all of humanity and not to just one guy in a cave or thru a burning bush but to all humanity at once if he created us all in his image and loves us all equally then why not treat us all the same. I am besides myself that in this age of enlightenment we have people believing in some 3000 year old fairytale.

          • Caleb says:

            aaron,

            I am besides myself that people like you still believe in the external world, with no good argument for it, certainly no proof akin to logical certainty or the impossibility of being mistaken.

            Merely calling something a “fairytale”, or saying again and again that you promise that we are wrong, is no argument for the claim that it is or that we are. Do you have an argument?

            Also, you think faaaaaar too much of science, as if it alone is sufficient to give us the keys to knowledge on ALL topics. I don’t know why, when this very claim is itself undiscoverable by the methods of science. Further, science only purports to give us answers to empirical questions; and that a given discipline only finds answers to a specific kind of question, is no argument against their being answers to other kinds of questions, or against their being other legitimate methods of answering those questions.

  2. Nate says:

    True, an atheist won’t ask why there is a universe. He has no need to ask that question, since the question itself assumes some greater purpose. But he can ask any other why question (such as why a door faces east), because he knows that other people exist who make decisions about the things they do.

    Are you trying to say that this somehow makes atheists wrong?

    • humblesmith says:

      If God does not exist, then physicalism is the case, and we do not “make decisions” as commonly described, for we do not have free will.
      http://humblesmith.wordpress.com/2011/08/28/can-reason-be-the-product-of-natural-causes/
      If God does not exist, then everything is a complex system of natural causes, and we do not have free will or reason, for the universe is causally closed and all our thoughts are caused by something outside of ourselves. The atheists themselves explain this best …. see http://www.centerfornaturalism.org/

      It seems to me that, like Richard Dawkins, atheists cannot both say the universe has “no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pittliess indifference” yet still have meaning, such as moral good or evil. Such reasoning is confusion. In a blind universe, “why?” becomes meaningless. See http://humblesmith.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/richard-dawkins-god-and-blind-indifference/

      • Nate says:

        I’m aware of the arguments against free will. In a sense, there’s something to that position since every decision we make comes from an accumulation of past experiences, prejudices, and circumstances. Yet in the end, we all recognize that our brains make decisions, and those decisions drive our actions. So yes, I can ask “why” someone did something, even if the ultimate answer includes a series of past experiences, prejudices, and circumstances.

        The argument you’re trying to put forth is one of semantics — it doesn’t really mean or prove anything. And when CS Lewis used it, it fared no better. It’s an argument that only works with people who already share your position and will never be persuasive to an unbeliever because we (as unbelievers) know it’s bogus. It would be like someone trying to argue that animals can’t run because particles (of which animals are made) can’t run. There are better arguments and evidences for God and Christianity than these kinds of word games.

        • humblesmith says:

          OK, I’ll go along with you, for it’s true that most atheists do not carry this point to the logical conclusion, at least as far as described in the Center For Naturalism’s statements (which are only a summary of what has been published in many other atheist sources). Most would do like Dawkins did, where he would say on one hand that the universe has no purpose, no good or evil, nothing but indifference, but then turn around in the same talk and hold religionists responsible for the purposes they hold to. So I’ll readily admit most atheists would not hold the position described in this post. The conclusion, however, would mean that the universe is not causally closed.

          Your comment would seem to indicate that you believe humans are causal agents, and the universe is not causally closed. Which is a fundamental disagreement with the folks like Daniel Dennet, who is on the advisory board for CFN, and I presume agrees with their cleary stated positions. All this implies a denial of pure materialism, and would then hold to some sort of dualism, meaning humans are more than matter and energy, and more than any emergent properties that would arise from matter and energy.

          • Caleb says:

            Clearly the claim that materialism or atheism implies the meaninglessness of “why” questions (as anyone who has ever been an materialist or an atheist and asked “why” can tell you) is empirically false, as atheist and materialists have been asking it since the dawn of time. And neither, as the original post suggests, is it so that atheism, “by definition,” implies materialism or the absurdity of “why” questions. By definition, atheism just implies the falsity of theism (hence, atheist mathematicians who are platonists with respect to numbers).

            There may be no good answer on atheism for some of the ultimate metaphysical “whys” out there, but that doesn’t mean the question is not meaningful or coherent on atheism.

  3. john says:

    There’s no reasn to think asking the question ‘why?’ even makes sense, letalone the level of importance that seems to be ascribed to it here. Also it is a huge leap to suggest that all forms of atheism necessarily entail physicalism. I could quite easily believe in a duality of substances both physical and spiritual and yet not subscribe to a belief in a higher power.

    • humblesmith says:

      True, but the main thrust of atheism today would deny such spiritual forces. I’ve had atheists ask me “what meter can I use to measure the spirit?” with the assumption that if it cannot be measured as matter or energy, it does not exist. There are, as you point out, other solutions, theism being the best, imho.

      • M. Rodriguez says:

        to john

        Actually I do disagree, the Question “WHY?” does make sense. It is a relevant question, no matter the question. However, if we can not find an answer based on reason and evidence, then I am reluctiant to believe a made up philosphical-theological answer that says we don’t know so it must be God….

        • Simon Finley says:

          But the assumption in your reply is that it is “made up”. Why do you assume that, just because it can’t be proved the way you think it should be? Can science prove that science is the only way to prove things? If not, why do you assume something is only true if proved thru this sort of investigation? I take it that some things about God (if he exists) could never be known thru this sort of investigation. They would need to be revealed for us to know them. Question is, has God revealed anything? Christians believe that Jesus is the key to this, and that he is open to historical investigation. OK granted, we may not come to the same conclusion, but many people are convinced, based on this sort of reason and evidence, that the Christian view is the best conclusion to all the evidence – before they become Christians.

          • M. Rodriguez says:

            Why do you assume that, just because it can’t be proved the way you think it should be? Can science prove that science is the only way to prove things? If not, why do you assume something is only true if proved thru this sort of investigation?

            Personally, it is through investigation and evidence I am able to form a proper conclusion. Through evidence and investigation I can come to a decision on matters. It is through this way I am able to verify if something is true.

            Let’s take for example: If I am car shopping, I am trying to decide which is the most reliable car. I can evaluate the car reports such a consumer digest to find out which is the most reliable car. I can also goto unbiased experts such as a mechanic and ask them, which car do you see more in your shop for breaking down. I can research and investigate til I come to the most probable and true conclusion.

            This truth is not divenly revealed. It is investigated, and it is pratical and applicable.

        • Caleb says:

          A theism that is based on a “God of the gaps” idea is indeed one not worth having. But it would be naive to suppose that it is the only form of theism out there. So called “pop-atheism” has among it’s main pillars reasons I consider to be pretty philosophically naive and falsifiable. But it’s untrue that there are no more philosophically acceptable versions out there.

          More intellectually respectable versions of theism may infer the existence of God as the best explaination, or as a necessity, for certain phenomena. Notice, it’s not saying “we don’t know what caused x, so it must be some entity that can cause anything, ie God”. On the contrary, these arguments are saying, “we know that God, should he exist, could or would cause x. therefore, absent better alternatives for x, we’ll say that God causes x (and until there are better alternatives to God for x, x serves as an evidence for God).” Scientists do this sort of manuever all the time when they postulate (they call it hypothesizing), say, the existence of dinosours as the best explaination for the existence of dinosour bones, or the existence of black holes to explain certain other observable data. So in these arguments, God, black holes, and dinosours are theoretical entities whose postulated existence serves to explain other phenomena. Absent better alternatives for explaining those phenomena (e.g. say, good evidence to suppose a certain dinosour’s bones were a very detailed fake made in the 1950s as a hoax), then those phenomena act as evidence for the theoretical entities postulated to explain them.

          • Caleb says:

            And this is not to say that one must have arguments of this kind (or even arguments at all) to hold an intellectually respectable theism. Most of our most unquestioned beliefs are such that we couldn’t present, nor have most of us even considered, any good argument for. For instance, consider the claims that the external world exists or that there are other minds besides your own. We take these things as granted, just coming to believe them naturally without argument. But nor could one present a really good argument for them (since the best evidence in support of them is equally consistent with the conclusion, say, that we are in the matrix or that solipsism is true). But we are not intellectually worse off for this. We should still believe these things. We are not intellectually negligient. And so, I suspect, with theism.

  4. Nate says:

    Caleb,

    Just wanted to mention that I really appreciate your comments. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  5. humblesmith says:

    It appears that I’ll have to have a follow-up post to clarify….this one appears to be a bit muddy.

    Meanwhile I’ll just say that I think we’re mixing up types of causes….we can indeed ask why questions regarding instrumental causes, but if materialism is true, then there are no efficient causes, for the universe is causally closed. As Dawkins recently said, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” Well, if there is at bottom no purpose, then why questions are a bit irrelevant, for answers to why questions require a purpose. But we can indeed ask why if we are looking for instrumental causes.

    Caleb, as for platonism, it denies materialsim, for it holds that there are non-material entities that exist in some form, and these entities are quite real.

    You are also quite correct with not being able to provide an empirical or philosophical arguemnt for the existence of an outside real world. If we do not start with this assumption, we will not prove the existence of reality through logical argumentation.

    I think possibly this statement by John Lennox makes a similar point to what you are saying: http://humblesmith.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/god-of-the-gaps/

  6. Caleb says:

    mr. smith (or is it mr. humble?),

    i still think on materialism there are efficient causes. I think of an efficient cause as something x which pre-exists something y and which has the power to bring about y. so God would be an efficient causes of the universe (and on this level, you’re right, since materialism proffers no alternative to God as a metaphysically efficient cause of material). but rain might be the efficient cause of a flood, or an underwater earthquake the efficient cause of a tsunami, or you the efficient cause of this blog. note, an efficient cause could exist without it’s effect.

    I’m unsure as to what you mean by instramental cause. do you mean the thing by which something is done (e.g. like a bat that hits a baseball)? Or the material out of which an effect is brought into being (e.g. the wood of the bat)? It seems all three of these kinds of causes, and more, could happily exist on atheism.

    You suggest that answers to why questions (even of the efficient cause variety) require purpose and that on atheism, no such purposes exist. It sounds like you’re referring to yet another kind of cause, that of telos, final causes…. that for which something is done. To say that there are no final causes at all, on materialism, is again I say, too strong. Perhaps, on materialism, there is no final cause for the underwater earthquake or tsunami, since there was no intention or foresight behind these events (and on this level, materialism again, like with efficient causes, suggests no alternatives to the final causes available to theism). But I know that I returned to my computer because (final cause now) I wanted to read this blog. I don’t see why this sort of thing should make particular trouble for atheism… that is, anymore than normal mental phenomena and functions make trouble for it (see Plantinga’s “Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism”).

    Yes, platonism denies materialism. hence, atheist’s are not always materialists.

    Also, I think we need to be careful and clear with the use of the word “proof.” Often times, pop-atheists will construe it infallablistically, and then use it selectively, when so construed, on theists, theism, and religion. To require proof of this sort as a criterion for knowledge is of course unrealistic, incoherent, and (usually) unfair. I prefer to steer away from the term altogether myself.

    • Aaron says:

      Well first of all the Y question is a stupid question to begin with. Because the theist does not have a satisfactory answer for it either, and if we go down the proverbial road then we can believe in almost anything, then we can justify Zus, mythra, Rhama, Thor, Allah and so on. Our purpose in this world is to advance the human race and to make the best of it while we are here, I don’t know what’s on the other side and I promis you- you don’t either. So it’s arrogant to say that you know for certain because some 2000 year old book told you so. Certainty is dangerous and destructive, just as the 9/11 perpetrators we certain that they were going to meet Allah and the suicide bomber who is certain he is going to get 72 virgins. There is humility in ” I don’t know” and if you say you do I promise you- you Do Not.
      Creating a God also undermines the wonderful journey that we have undertaken for the past 4billion years it underscores the genious of nature to just claim god did it,we should take pride in the fact that we did it we made the awesome journey and became this intelligent selfaware creatures, we should give credit where credit is due “Nature”.

      • Michael Hatcher says:

        Whether a given claim to know is arrogant is a topic worth thinking about. Some claims to know are arrogant and some are not. (I think we can leave ‘claims to know _for certain_ aside’, because certainty isn’t generally necessary for knowledge.)

        Indulge a brief story. Sam and Jordan (lucky them!) get to go on a helicopter tour of New York city. Neither have seen NYC before, and Sam and Jordan haven’t met, before. (Maybe they won some prize in a cereal box or something.) After the tour is over (it was about 20 minutes), Sam says:

        S: I know a bunch of truths about NY’s skyline; in fact, enough to draw a completely accurate picture of that skyline without looking at it, or a picture of it, again.

        Now, is Sam’s utterance of S arrogant? Wait on this judgment until the story is over. But then Jordan says:

        S*: If there’s one thing I know, it’s that you don’t know _that_! That’s impossible to know!

        Is Jordan’s utterance of S* arrogant? Well, they are both claims to know. One is a claim to know some specific truths, and the other is a claim to know that someone else does _not_ know these truths. Which is arrogant? Well, it depends how we fill in the story. The crucial parts of the story is the experiences and evidences that the relevant parties have, and if we aren’t aware of what these experiences and evidences are, then it is an open question whether it is S or S* that is arrogant (if either is).

        Let me, then, finish the story. Sam is, in fact, a visual savant, and a high-functioning autistic person. When Sam utters S, he’s telling the simple truth, and he isn’t arrogant in saying so. He’s got plenty of experience with knowing truths about visual shapes and such and evidence that S is true. Now, Jordan isn’t familiar with visual savants or that phenomenon, at all. Is Jordan’s utterance of S* arrogant? I’m inclined to think Jordan’s S* is the utterance that is more arrogant.

        So we can see that at least some claims to know that another person does _not_ know can be arrogant. And it’s all a matter of the experiences and evidences out there, which for many is an open empirical question. Until that question is answered, we don’t yet know which kind of knowledge claim, i.e. of the variety of S or S*, is arrogant. I think this story is pretty analogous to the case of knowledge claims about God, and claims to know that these knowledge claims about God are false.

        • Aaron says:

          Interesting concept only one thing wrong! While Sam making the S statement about NY skyline may sound improbable to Jordan and Jordan making the assumption that statement S incorrect and utters staement S*, Sam can actually drow the picture and explain to Jordan why he made such statement.
          Thus the statement S* would be arrogant without proper investigation on Jordans part. Withat said the theist has a problem where he is unable to prove the existence of god the only thing he has is an old book and his faith most intellectual people don’t subscribe to faith. Now if I made a statement that it’s impossible for you to prove the existence of God and you can prove it and show me then my statement would be arrogant and this I can say with arrogance I promise you CAN NOT.

          • Caleb says:

            Aaron,

            To require “proof” that is equivelent to logical certainty, or that is akin to not being possibly mistaken, for knowledge, is unfair, unrealistic, and incoherent. Unrealistic, because there’s almost nothing that can be proved, so construed, and thus almost nothing that can be known- an absurd claim, as there are clearly many things that we know. Incoherent, because that criterion for knowledge itself is one about which you are possibly mistaken, and one for which there is no logical certainty. Thus, even assuming it’s true, it follows that it is false. For these reasons, it is also unfair and inconsistent to apply this criterion unequally accross the board, e.g. to theists and not to agnostics or atheists, to the religious and not to the secular (to the non-infallibilists with respect to knowledge even, and not to the infalliblists).

            And why should we say that something is “proved” only if it’s been proven to you, or that something is true only if you say it is? I cannot prove to you what color I’m thinking about. Should I conclude, because you don’t know the answer, that there’s really no color I’m thinking about? Perhaps Einstein could not prove to me that his theorems were true (let alone, get me to understand them) Should we think those theorems false, for this reason? I think not.

      • humblesmith says:

        Non-sequitur. First, just because atheists cannot answer why questions about certain causality does not mean theists cannnot either. Second, whether we can believe in “almost anything” is not relevant to the post, and does not follow. Third, as a matter of fact, there are things about God which we can demonstrate from observing creation, so some things such as polytheism, can be eliminated. Fourth, we are not claiming to know merely because some old book said it, as the majority of this blog demonstrates. Fifth, the most dangerous and destructive cultures in history have been the ones which were explicitly atheist, namely communism under Stalin and Mao. By contrast, the culture that is most obviously compassionate is the one that created all the charity hospitals around the western world which are named after Christians.

        As I said, your comment is non-sequitur.

        • Caleb says:

          humble… i concur.

          aaron… also notice that we’ve not even begun to offer arguments for theism, only rebuttals to your arguments against theism. perhaps theism is false, but this wouldn’t affect our conclusion that your theistic defeaters fail to show this.

  7. Caleb says:

    So the claims,

    r: i know that p is t
    -r: i know that p is -t

    are both knowledge claims. it seems, both could be held arrogantly, or humbly. And I don’t see why in particular -r should be the more arrogant, just for it’s denail of t. But of course, this isn’t what you’re suggesting. it’s the modes of denying t (or affirming t for that matter) which count.

    I think it’s unclear what counts as arrogance when assessing epistemology. It seems one could run the epistemological gammit with or without arrogance, e.g. with respect to a justified or an unjustified false belief, or with respect to a justified or unjustified true belief, with or without warrant, etc, arrogance could appear, and is not limitted to, anywhere.

    You say Jordon, with respect to his S*, is the more arrogant. But at first glance, I recoil from this conclusion. Suppose Jordan knows that most people wouldn’t be able to draw a perfectly accurate skyline after a mere flight over it. Then it seems he has some justification for his S*. But looking closer, we’ll see that S* doesn’t merely imply that S is false; it implies that S is impossible, a much stronger claim, and one for which Jordan clearly isn’t justified from his evidence. Jordan’s level of confidence that S is impossible, as indicated by S* (“if there’s one thing I know!”), seems misplaced as well, as it is not really proportioned to his evidence.

    Perhaps Jordan is arrogant because he’s not really giving the evidence a fair hearing (namely, letting Sam explain himself). Or maybe it’s because he’s unjustifiably holding to a false belief (the belief that S is impossible based on the fact that S is improbable). Or maybe it’s because he’s overly confident. All of these, for me, prick at a notion of epistemic arrogance and I think it’s what you’re getting at when you say

    “if we aren’t aware of what these experiences and evidences are, then it is an open question whether it is S or S* that is arrogant (if either is).”

    But on the other, I’d like to say that Jordan has a strong degree of justification (and reason for much confidence) in the claim that

    S**: while S is not impossible, I’m prreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeettttttttttttttyyyyyyyyyyyy sure it’s false.

    Is he arrogant for holding this claim, when it is legitamately supported by his evidence? A rediculous degree of confidence seems justifiable here given the evidence.

    On the other hand, maybe there is no such thing as epistemic arrogance, and it’s only a matter of the attitude and demeanor in which you hold your belief. notice, this may include attitudes in which you refuse to give evidence a fair turn, you unjustiably hold to beliefs (true or false), and in which you have an overly high degree of confidence.

    Aaron, I think is being overly confident in his claim that theists do not know. It’s certainly no argument against theism (or against certainty) to just say, as Aaron seems to be saying, that “people claiming to be certain have been wrong in the past, therefore you are likely to be wrong now” or “i don’t know, therefore you don’t know” or “if you say you do know, then trust me, you don’t. you say you do know. therefore… trust me, you don’t.” Of course, Aaron, you are also being incoherent when you say, “if you say you do [know], then you don’t,” so long as this is something you think you know, anyway.

  8. Caleb says:

    Michael,

    Upon second thought, it seems like you conclude that Jordan is arrogant for the reason that he isn’t qualified to believe that Sam couldn’t draw the skyline (as you say, he doesn’t know about Sam’s abilities or about savants), and he’s certainly not qualified to say it’s impossible. You seem to have an externalist approach to epistemic arrogance here, e.g. the external qualities of Sam’s being a savant, for instance, affect whether or not Jordan is arrogant, despite whether or not Jordan would be rational to suppose those qualities existed. I myself think these internal qualities are more important for determining if he is arrogant.

    I’d still like to say that Jordan is within his right to think S**, though not within his right to think S*. And so far as arrogance is an attitude involving thinking to much of oneself, and in so far as beliefs are propositional attitudes, I’d say epistemic arrogance has to do with the idea of thinking too much of ones beliefs, that is, thinking of them more than is warranted by them or by the evidence for them. then I’d want to say Jordan’s endorsing S*, is the arrogant position. Though of course, he could be arrogant with respect to S**, but insofar as epistemic arrogance is so contrued, he wouldn’t be epistemically arrogant.

    • Michael Hatcher says:

      Good point about my untoward external individuation of epistemic arrogance implicit in the case of Jordan. I don’t think much should hang, though, on some of the details of my story.

      Mainly I just want a case that illustrates an intuitive principle – viz., that, just as the claim to know p can be arrogant, the claim to know that S does not know p can be arrogant, too. I’m not sure we should focus on epistemic arrogance, though. When people say it’s arrogant to assert something, I don’t think it’s a possibility to them that the asserter of p is also a knower of p – hence, what they’re, at bottom, communicating is that what the asserter says isn’t something he knows. Mainly I want to bring out this: If there is a God, then he could provide powerful reasons of his existence, not only through theoretical reasons accessible to the attentive thinker, but also powerful experiential reasons he may grant to some people but maybe not everyone. That is, if there is a God, it well may be that some people know truths about him. Hence knowledge claims that persons don’t know of God should be based on either (i) knowing, in fact, that God does not exist, or (ii) knowing that these persons lack experiences or evidence that would ground knowledge of God.

      But, as in posts like Aaron’s, he doesn’t seem to be claiming to know that God does not exist, nor do we see an attempt to show that theists lack experiences or evidences that would ground knowledge of God. That’s not to say that there’s no reason behind his post. Large percentages of people claiming knowledge of God must be incorrect, because the claims have been incompatible (just take Islam-claimers and Christianity-claimers, for instance), and/or have led to actions no good God would command (Crusades, terrorism, etc.). One might think this indicates that any claimer is wrong, by some kind of generalization. But of course if there _is_ a God, that is too quick: there could also be sin, and so it may well be that, while some claimers have good reasons and genuine experiences of God behind their claims, other claimers do not and exploit religious claims to build their own power.

      At bottom I think we should get away from claims about arrogance. Even, to an extent, claims about knowledge. Because if what I’m saying is right, knowledge is clearly possible _if_ God is there and he is not silent. So we should just focus on reasons for and against thinking that God is there and he is not silent. Everything that is not such a reason isn’t really relevant. Though we have to calm our feelings, perhaps, to see that this is so.

      • Aaron says:

        I will grant you that some people may have genuine claims of experiencing God, there are also people that have genuine claims of UFO encounters and there are people with genuine claims of seeing ghosts and other unknown creatures. My wife claims she saw a walking dead when she was a young girl, there are many experiences that on the surface may seem supernatural but there is always a natural explanation for everything, for one our brain is very complex and is also susceptible to being tricked by light and environment, for example thousands of people watched David copperfield make the statue of liberty disappear did he really make that happen or our brains were tricked into thinking that. Ofcourse we know it was the latter.
        While someone may think they had a genuine god experience it could be that they were hallucinating. Like the lady who killed her young children because god told her to.
        I am not claiming weather god exists or not my point of view is one of doubt ” I don’t know” now my friend Caleb cam play with word and semantics all day long but absent some real evidence I will remain a sceptic.

        • Aaron says:

          Forgive the miss spelling it’s my iPhone auto correct and I wasn’t paying attention

        • Caleb says:

          As I said in one of my above posts, “notice that we’ve not even begun to offer arguments for theism, only rebuttals to your arguments against theism. perhaps theism is false, but this wouldn’t affect our conclusion that your theistic defeaters fail to show this.” So there’s been no attempt, in this stream, to offer theistic arguments. Only defeaters to your defeaters. And I won’t present any here, because your notion of “real evidence” is unrealistic, incoherent, and unfair.

  9. Caleb says:

    Agreed that asserting p and denying p both are prone to arrogant attitudes. and that (usually) when people say someone is being arrogant about a claim, they are skeptical of the claim as well. however, one can clearly be arrogant about claims that they do indeed know, as im sure you agree.

    Yes it may well be that people know truths about God (e.g. that he exists, or that he is such and such) for reasons no one else has access too (like my reasons for knowing I am thinking about red).

    regarding claims that one doesn’t know something about God… i agree with your (i) and (ii) but I’d add on to (i) “or that God does not exist x-ly.” essentially, denying knowledge claims about God is the same as denying knowledge claims about anything: showing the claim is false, or showing the claim is unjustified/unwarranted/etc (and in some strange cases maybe, unbelieved).

    Indeed, large percentages of theistic believers must’ve been, and are, incorrect. Perhaps most of them are. In fact, mutual incompatibility between them guaruntees that they are (with respect to whichever proposition on which there is mutual incompatability). The problem of religious pluralism, and more generally, of disagreement, is one that has irked me something foul. But of course, this is no special problem of religion/philosophy of religion. Disagreement is likely to pepper the domain of any difficult subject matter. But that’s the nature of the beast, and we must, therefore, proceed modestly, and carefully, on whatever matter that is. Science, as it is, is based on trail and error. As such, it’s all but gaurunteed that it’s history exhibits a dominating percentage of people being wrong about their scientific knowledge claims. Of course, this is no problem for science. It’s the nature of the best. So with religion/phil of religion (as I don’t think there are distinct epistemic rules between them). That people have been wrong in the past, and that there are currently disagreements which may never be resolved, does nothing to undermine the claims of religion/phil of religion generally (generalities court fallacies after all… though not generally, hehe) anymore than it does for the claims of science. UNLESS (of course), you think that there are distinct epistemic rules for religion. UNLESS you think that were there religious truths there should be no disagreement about them. UNLESS you think that these truths should be equally evident to all, in their fullest bloom, throughout all times. Unless, that is, you assume that the usual rules, standards, and expectations for evaluating rational belief and knowledge claims don’t apply in the realms of religion/phil of religion. But epistemically segrating religion like this, by my lights, is highly untenable as, for starters, no religion teaches or even remotely implies these segregating epistemic rules. Quite the opposite (as you suggest when referring to sin).

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