Case For Rational Atheism

“Negative atheism in the broad sense is then the absence of belief in any god or Gods, not just the absence of belief in a personal theistic God,” contended Michael Martin in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, “and negative atheism in the narrow sense is the absence of belief in a theistic God.” He went on:

Positive atheism in the broad sense is, in turn, disbelief in all gods, with positive atheism in the narrow sense being the disbelief in a theistic God. For positive atheism in the narrow sense to be successfully defended, two tasks must be accomplished. First, the reasons for believing in a theistic God must be refuted; in other words, negative atheism in the narrow sense must be established. Second, reasons for disbelieving in the theistic God must be given.(Martin 2007: 1)

I found the idea of negative atheism, namely absence of belief in a person theistic God (as I narrow to Christian theism in this article) wanting. In this first part of outlined case for rational atheism, I do not take to account negative atheism since if a person p lacks a belief in x, then this by itself expresse the psychological state of person p which does not necessarily align with outside reality. For example, I lack a belief in the existence of gold in Pluto. My lack of belief shows my psychological state, which does not necessarily aligns with whether it is true or false that there is gold in Pluto.

Outlined Possible Case For Atheism: Evidential Arguments from Evil

The existence of “seemly” gratuitous evil, evil without a justifying reason, is, I believe, the only rock-solid argument for the truthfulness of atheism so far. William Rowe inductively argued:

R1. There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

R2. An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

R3. [Therefore] there does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being. (Rowe 1979: 335)

Notable Case: Jane Mary Trau’s

It seems that unless it can be shown that all cases of apparently gratuitous suffering[any suffering the purpose of which seems to exceed necessity, and any suffering which seems to serve no purpose at all] are in fact not purposeless, it is most reasonable to believe that they are as they appear to be; and since it cannot be show that they are in fact not purposeless, it is reasonable to believe that they are as they appear to be; since there appear to be such cases it is more reasonable to believe that God does not exist.(Trau 1986: 486-8)

A deductive argument can also be formulated as follows:

E1. If God exist, then all evil has a justifying reason

E2. Not all evil has a justifying reason

E3. Therefore, God does not exist.

Possible Christian Theist’s Case Response

Due to the limitation of human knowledge, atheologist is not in a position to claim that an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being lacks good reasons for permitting the suffering in the world. Atheist bears an unbearable burden of proof, namely removing apparently or seemly in front of gratuitous evil by showing that there are evil that has no justifying reason.

Outlined Possible Christian Theist’s Counter Case Response

Theist can counter argue by showing that all evil has a justifying reason without necessarily knowing what that reason is:

E1. If God exist, then all evil has a justifying reason

E2′. God exist

2.1. Kalam Cosmological Argument

P1: Ɐx: BeginsToExist(x) → CausedToExist(x)

P2: BeginsToExist(Universe)

C: CausedToExist(Universe)

Notable Case: Muhammad Al-Ghazali (ca.1058–1111)

“Every being which begins has a cause for its beginning; now the world is a being which begins; therefore, it possesses a cause for its beginning.” (Bulletin de l’Institut Francais d’Archaeologie Orientale 46 1947: 203).

Evidence From Contemporary Cosmologist: Alexander Vilenkin

“All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.”(Vilenkin 2012: Hawkin’s 70th Birthday Conference)

“It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning” (Vilenkin 2006: 176)

Leading Defender: William Lane Craig & James D. Sinclair

2.2. Leibnizian Cosmological Argument

L1: Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

L2: If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is in an external cause.

L3. The universe exists.

C1: The universe has an explanation of its existence.(from L1&L2)

C2: Therefore, the explanation is in an external cause.(from L2 & C1)

Leading Defender: Alexander R. Pruss

2.3. Moral Arguments

2.4. Teleological Arguments

2.5. Ontological Arguments

2.6. Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth

E3′. Therefore, all evil has a justifying reason.

Possible Attempt To Refute Reasons Offered By Theists

1. Who Design The Designer?

2. Euthyphro dilemma

3. Evolution of Morality

4. Universe out of Hawking’s and Krauss’ “nothing”

In the next article I will expand the moral argument, teleological argument, ontological arguments and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as possible reasons theists can offer for the support of the premise (2.) God exist, which would then follow, if succeeded, to the conclusion that, all evil has a justifying reason. I will also offer positive atheists possible rebuttal of six reasons and theists counter rebuttal of atheists’ rebuttal.

Question: What is the most persuasive case for positive atheism?

Bibliography

Trau, Jane Mary (1986) “Fallacies in the Argument from Gratuitous Suffering, “ The New Scholasticism 60.

Martin, Michael (2007), “The Cambridge Companion to Atheism”. Cambridge University Press

Rowe, William L. (1979) “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” in American Philosophical Quarterly 16

Vilenkin, Alexander (2006) Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes. New York: Hill and Wang.

Further Reading on Evidential Arguments from Evil from Atheists

Notable & Challenging Contemporary Atheists & Agnostics

Michael Tooley, Michael Ruse, Michael Martin, Paul Draper, Bradley Monton & Thomas Nagel.

Notable Works

God, Freedom & Evil – Alvin Plantinga

The Cambridge Companion to Atheism – ed. Michael Martin

The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology – ed. William Lane Craig & J. P. Moreland

This post appeared originally on withalliamgod.wordpress.com

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About Prayson Daniel

Prayson delights, enjoys and treasures Christ Jesus above all. He blogs for the love and glory of our Triune God. Reformed theology, apologetics and church history are areas he enjoys reading, pondering and sharing with the motto "when love comes first, disagreement follows at its right and proper place."