The Instigator
TheJackofHearts
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
Sensorfire
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points

Are There Any Good Proofs for Atheism?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/10/2017 Category: Religion
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 449 times Debate No: 100805
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (0)

 

TheJackofHearts

Con

Are There Any Good Proofs for Atheism?

I argue there is a lack of empirical evidences pointing towards atheism. This is not to say that none such arguments exist, I merely assert that I have seen no reason to be persuaded towards an atheistic belief.

I would like to remain brief as to not commit a Straw Man argument, as the specific beliefs of my opponent are ones that I do not currently know of, and so the beliefs of any specific atheist is undetermined until the proponent states their beliefs.

THIS DEBATE IS NOT:

1) An argument against theism

2) An argument that any specific god or gods do/don't exist (For example, one cannot justify atheism because they disproved Islam)

Before we beginning, let's define what I mean by "atheism"

Atheism is the position that supernatural entities (god, gods, goddesses, spirits) do not exist. This definition comes from an etymological point of view, "a" (not; without; no) and "theist" (he who believes in god)

One thing to keep in mind is that your job (the opponent) is to provide good proofs that atheism is true. Also to not commit the "Shifting the Burden of Proof Fallacy" by proceeding to press me personally for a justification for thesim.

With that being said, let's begin
Sensorfire

Pro

I'd like to thank my opponent for bringing to light this topic. I will, throughout my arguments, attempt to show that:
1) Atheism is a reasonable position with evidence of its truth.
2) Theism is no more provable than atheism

Before we begin, I will be using the following terms. I do not believe they clash with my opponent's established definition of atheism, and therefore am comfortable providing them:

Atheism- Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
Theism- Belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in a personal God as creator and ruler of the world.
Religion- Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
Superstition- A belief, practice, or rite irrationally maintained by ignorance of the laws of nature or by faith in magic or chance.

Once again, if my opponent would like to dispute these definitions, I would be glad to do so, but I don't think they clash with the given definition of atheism.

My first argument would be that atheism is not a system of thought or religious belief, but a lack of one. This is a very important distinction. If one defines one's spiritual beliefs as "atheist", that would be akin to defining one's nationality as "anational". Since atheism is not a religious belief but a lack thereof, there is nothing that must specifically be proved. The only thing that must be shown is reasonable proof that no religious belief can be considered 100% correct, which, at least, proves that atheism is rational.

However, my opponent has clarified that this is not "an argument against theism". Therefore, I will not seek to disprove theism as a whole, but rather show that theism and atheism are, at the very least, equally rational, or that atheism is more rational. Perhaps my opponent would dispute my arguments thus far, but in matters of religion (or a lack thereof), it must be considered that no (or very, very few) absolute proofs exist.

First of all, the sheer quantity of religions must be considered. I was unable to find hard numbers, but estimates seem to put the number of world religions in at least the thousands range. If indigenous, tribal, or animistic beliefs are considered, the numbers can be in the hundreds of thousands. To pick a truth among these would be quite statistically unlikely, even supposing one religion is true. Religioustolerance.org has an essay considering the idea of a "true religion" (1). It explains that there cannot be any determinable "true" religion by any scientific means. Thus, it is reasonable to abandon the search for the true religion and simply be irreligious.

However, as one might point out, not all religious people are religious because they believe theirs is a definite truth. For these people, religion is, perhaps, a source of happiness. However, the data seems to show that religion is not a great source of happiness in one's life. Religious people in more religious places tend to be happier, but irreligious people tend to be happier in less religious countries. People are happy to be in the majority, it seems (2).

Another topic I'd like to introduce is that due to the lack of any superstition or supernatural beliefs, they are more receptive to scientific data. A great many religious people now and throughout history have denied scientific notions based on faith. From Galileo and Copernicus insisting to the church that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way round, to modern people denying evolution due to religious beliefs, it would make sense to abandon a system of thought that pushes disproved and backwards notions.

For these reasons, I believe atheism can be said to be as rational as or more rational than theism. Although these may not be "proofs of atheism", as I said previously, there doesn't seem to be anything to "prove", since atheism is not a belief but a lack thereof. The only way to "prove" atheism would be to completely disprove theism as a whole.

Once again, I'd like to thank my opponent for the opportunity to debate. I will allow them the opportunity to dispute what I have already said and present their own arguments.

*1- http://www.religioustolerance.org...
*2- https://www.psychologytoday.com...
Debate Round No. 1
TheJackofHearts

Con

I would first like to commend Sensorfire for accepting this debate. I would also thank my opponent for being logical and rational in his response. He seems to not take any dogmatic option but rather provides a few arguments for the validity of atheism. But without further ado, allow me to make a response, and may we discover truth together.

Definitions listed by opponent:
Definitions provided by proponent are clear and concise. My only criticism is when Pro defines "theism" he states as thus: "Theism- Belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in a personal God as creator and ruler of the world." If I may remind my opponent, not every theistic believes in a "personal god", an example of this would be a deist. A person who beliefs in an all-powerful god, but believes he is impersonal and does not affiliate with the affairs of humans. But other than one small criticism, my opponent's definition of the terms are reliable.

Rebuttal to Argument 1:
My opponent is correct in asserting,"-atheism is not a system of thought or religious belief, but a lack of one." While atheism is not a "system of thought", atheism is, however, something that can be denied, as it can also be something to be believed. For instance, I have a friend who "believes in atheism" and I deny that claim by declaring "I do not believe in atheism". I argue that atheism is a belief (though not necessarily a belief "system") as it can be something denied, as it can be something to be believed in.

Rebuttal to Argument 2:
My opponent then argues that the sheer number of religions is proof that not of them are true. Numbers I've seen put the number of religions of about 4,200. The argument my opponent issues is called (if remembered correctly) The Argument of Inconsistent Revelations. The argument can be described in a syllogism.
Premise 1: If people claim to have revelations inconsistent from different religions, then any god cannot exist
Premise 2: Many people claim to have revelations from different gods
Conclusion: Therefore, no god can exist
The first premise is incorrect, if "Person A" believes in "Religion A", and "Person B" believes in "Religion B", there's no logical reason why "god A" can exist while "god B" does not, and I argue that based upon the large number of religions, this is no way invalidates theism's reliability.
Lastly, I would like to point out a logical fallacy. When you stated "Thus, it is reasonable to abandon the search for the true religion and simply be irreligious." this is an Argument From Ignorance. Only one religion has to be correct to prove theism.

Rebuttal to Argument 3:
You discussed that "religion is a source of happiness", while I cannot speak for ALL theists, this may be the case for SOME theists. If Pro agrees I am willing to concede Argument 3 and to go no further on the subject.

Rebuttal to Argument 4:
My opponent argues, " A great many religious people now and throughout history have denied scientific notions based on faith." I agree that many theists, predominately Protestant Christians in the U.S. and various Muslims in the Middle East, may be slow in accepting scientific claims based on textual interpretation of religious texts. However, it should be duly noted the Catholic Church (by this I mean the Pope) did accept Evolution by means of Natural Selection at a soon age, along with The Big Bang. My opponent says something profound that is worth commending, he says, "-it would make sense to abandon a system of thought that pushes disproved and backwards notions." I completely agree, this model is a fantastic tool to disprove a specific religion. However, theism still remains an option if even one religion is tested by its claims of science to be either correct, or unfalsifiable.

Conclusion:
I would like to sincerely thank my opponent again for writing some of the most intelligent arguments I've seen by a skeptic. I hope my counter-arguments were easy to understand and I would like to clarify any argument that seem to be weak. In my true and humble opinion, I believe my 4th counter argument could need some work. However, I believe arguments 1-3 are sound. I look forward to Pro's response. If I have misrepresented Pro's reasoning in any fashion I seek then to be corrected accordingly.
Sensorfire

Pro

Before I begin, I must say I am delighted by TheJackOfHearts' positive and respectful responses. While I won't go deeply into personal history, I will say that I have a wonderfully respectful and accepting immediate family, but an extended family with whom I would never be able to have a reasonable discussion about atheism. I am very refreshed by this debate.

First, I accept Con's criticism of my definition of theism, and, as a side note, I did consider myself a deist for some time. I wish to revise my definition to simply the following:
Theism: Belief in the existence of a god or gods

Argument 1:
I stand by my assertion that atheism is not a true religious belief. To once again draw a comparison, saying "I believe in atheism" would be akin to stating one's political position as "uninterested/unaffiliated". That's not a political position, it's a lack of one. In the same way, atheism is defined as disbelief or denial of the existence of God or gods, whereas theism is belief in the existence of a god or gods. Atheism is, simply put, not theism. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson has said, "It's odd that the word 'atheist' even exist. I don't play golf, is there a word for non-golf players?" Since theism is so prevalent in our society, it makes sense to have a word for atheism, being slightly abnormal, but it is never the less not truly a spiritual belief.

Argument 2:
My opponent makes an excellent point here, which I will address shortly. However, I must first clear something up: my intention with this argument was not to say all theistic beliefs must be false, but rather that since so many are contradictory, very few, if any, are likely to be true. If one only wishes to follow a belief that is certain to be true, one cannot logically decide on a particular theistic belief. I do wish to address, as I said before, a very well-made point by my opponent. In the provided example, it is possible for Religion A and Religion B to coexist and even both be correct without contradicting one another. While this makes sense, and many religions do not contradict one another, I would be willing to wager that every single religion on this planet is contradicted by at least one other. Christianity, for example, contradicts almost every other faith with the assertion of a single true God. My conclusion, therefore, is not that no god CAN exist, but that, among the many religions, no ONE religion has proof of definite truth, and that, from a purely neutral standpoint, to attempt to decide which religion is best for oneself or which is true is nearly or totally impossible.

Argument 3:
If my opponent is pleased that this topic is exhausted, then I have nothing more to add.

Argument 4:
My opponent, once again, provides a well-needed perspective on this issue. I am willing to concede the following:
-This argument can only be applied for specific cases of religions and theistic beliefs rather than theism in general.
-The Catholic church has been more receptive in recent times to scientific notions than in the past.
However, I believe there are several points in this argument that cannot be ignored and that my opponent should consider:
-In the past, the religious fervor of the Catholic church and other institutions has caused them to ignore rationality when approaching new scientific discoveries if these contradict their interpretations of their religious beliefs.
-Even if the Catholic church is accepting of evolution by natural selection and the Big Bang now, many theists do not accept these (and other) scientific discoveries because of religious bias.
-If a held belief causes someone to deny rigorously tested scientific principles without a proper, provable reason, it is irrational.
-Generally speaking, atheists are more likely to accept scientific truths based on first principles. This is not to say theists do not also work from first principle, but simply that belief conflicts will arise more often in their cases.

Conclusion:
Atheism, once again, cannot be "proved" but, I think, can be determined to be rational. In the case of theism, there are many conflicting beliefs and beliefs that hold back empirical scientific truth, which is harmful and irrational. While theism can be a comforting institution and a way to feel more connected with oneself, others, and nature (which is by all means a good thing), in many cases it can be harmful, as mentioned above. Because of the sheer quantity of religions in existence, it is nigh impossible to determine which, if any, is true, which will bring happiness, and which will bring harm. Perhaps to some people, theism is a reasonable belief system and lifestyle, but atheism is overall an escape from the problems and irrationality that come with many belief systems.

I would once again like to thank my opponent for many of the same things that they commended me for- rationality and avoidance of dogmatism. I have enjoyed our debate thus far and have been quite interested in your perspective. I look forward to our last round and closing arguments. Best of luck.
Debate Round No. 2
TheJackofHearts

Con

Thank you Sensorfire for continuing in this discussion. First, I shall apologize for a few spelling errors I have committed in Round 2, I did not see the mistakes until after I posted the response. I typed up Round 2 while very exhausted and I'm sorry for my sloppy spelling. I also apologize in Round 1 for restricting the use of criticism in regard to theism. I wanted a debate discussing arguments in favor in atheism, rather than arguments against theism. However, seeing this debate has taken an interesting turn, I recant what I said in Round 1 in "WHAT THIS DEBATE IS NOT:".

Argument 1:
Pro is correct in saying atheism is not a religious belief, for its proponents do not have dogma by which all truth is derived from, the only common thread between atheists is the notion that divine entities do not exist. To proclaim "I believe in atheism" would mean the person attest to the beliefs at hand, that no divine beings exist. This would be the same if someone said "I believe in Islam", this would mean the person would attest to the beliefs at hand, that Allah exist and that Muhammad is a prophet.

Argument 2:
My opponent says, "-but rather that since so many [religions] are contradictory, very few, if any, are likely to be true." You're right, only one religion can be true (that's why I only believe in one of them, and say all other perceptions of theism are wrong) So you are correct in saying that not all of them can be true, but no theist would say any of them (except their own religion) is true. Unless, of course, an omnist like Oprah shows up. Nevertheless, an analogy is needed to explain ideologies contradicting each other.
In the political world, there are thousands of political parties one can choose from. It's very unlikely that any of them are the correct way politics should be done, so since we are at an impasse, none of them should be believed in, one can only adopt an "unaffiliated" political ideology. This perception is false, I argue there is an objectively correct way to run the government despite there being numerous political views. If a person were to have no opinion on abortion (whether is it morally justifiable or not) but remained neutral, they would be wrong from the start.

Argument 3:
(conceded)

Argument 4:
I'm now about to quote my opponent's 4th argument. (from whence we may have a consensus on this matter)
a) "This argument can only be applied for specific cases of religions and theistic beliefs rather than theism in general."
This seems rational to me

b) -"The Catholic church has been more receptive in recent times to scientific notions than in the past.
However, I believe there are several points in this argument that cannot be ignored and that my opponent should consider:"
Correct, while the Catholic Church accepts Evolution/Big Bang now, they have a long history of denying scientific laws that are common sense to us, (For example, Heliocentric Theory)

c) -"In the past, the religious fervor of the Catholic church and other institutions has caused them to ignore rationality when approaching new scientific discoveries if these contradict their interpretations of their religious beliefs."
Correct (see above answer)

d) -"Even if the Catholic church is accepting of evolution by natural selection and the Big Bang now, many theists do not accept these (and other) scientific discoveries because of religious bias."
Correct, sad, but correct nevertheless

e)-"If a held belief causes someone to deny rigorously tested scientific principles without a proper, provable reason, it is irrational."
Rational argument, I see no problems here

f)-"Generally speaking, atheists are more likely to accept scientific truths based on first principles. This is not to say theists do not also work from first principle, but simply that belief conflicts will arise more often in their cases."
I'm going to have to bite the bullet on this one. I say you are mostly correct. Atheist seem to accept naturalistic explanations of the universe in favor of a supernatural one. Even in some cases, without evidence. I say this because often times when I ask atheists to give me an account of where the singularity of the Big Bang came from, and oftentimes they will commit an ad hoc logical fallacy by saying something like "Well maybe there's a scientific law that we just don't know yet that can make matter out of nothing?" This explanation came out of nowhere and there's no observational data surrounding the hypothesis. So while theists may be slow in accepting science that goes against their viewpoint, often times, the atheist will give a purely naturalistic explanation surrounding the universe without evidence backing it up. I will also admit that the theist also does the same, giving supernatural explanations while providing no evidence it's the correct viewpoint.

FINAL CONCLUSION:
My deep and sincere gratitude goes out to my opponent for taking up this debate and providing great information to consider. One more minor apology is still in order, I'm sorry for not posting my end of Round 3 sooner, I was super busy. Also towards the beginning of my opponent's text I recall Pro giving a little background where he's coming from, and I'm the same way, except the beliefs are switched. He explains how his immediate family is accepting of his beliefs while his extended family is not. The same is true in my life. I converted to Christianly about 3 years ago and my family and I have only grown closer, however, many of my extended family (cousins) are fairly hostile when it comes to religion. With that being said I would like to thank my opponent again for this debate. I wish you the best, take care!
Sensorfire

Pro

I'd like to truly thank TheJackOfHearts for instigating this pleasantly eye-opening debate. It has been a great pleasure to write my arguments and to read my opponent's responses. I open my final response by asking those reading this debate:
"Are there any good proofs for atheism?"
That's up to you to decide. Do my arguments count as proofs of atheism, or the opposite- demonstrations that there cannot be proofs of atheism? Is that important? Has this debate changed from its original intent? Is that a good thing? Ultimately, that's for the voters to decide. For now, I'll finish my end of this and conclude the debate.

Argument 1:
I think my opponent and I have reached an agreement here. I would like to point out, however, that it is theists who make an unproved supposition- the belief in a god or gods. This is important because this means "to believe in atheism", as my opponent puts it, would simply mean to not make this assumption.

Argument 2:
I would argue that my opponent's analogy is incorrect. Spiritual and political beliefs are inherently different. My argument, in this case, is that because there are numerous religions, many of which contradict others, nobody can (or at least should) insist with 100% certainty that one is absolutely correct, or that any is absolutely correct, due to, as I described previously, the fact that any theism is based off of an unproved supposition. My argument is that, therefore, the search for the "true" religion ought to be abandoned and that one should either be atheistic, or follow a religion based on happiness and well-being (argument 3).

My opponent makes a political analogy, saying "I argue there is an objectively correct way to run the government despite there being numerous political views." However, I disagree. An objectively correct way to run the government, would, in my opinion, require at least unanimous consensus on what the job of the government should be (i.e. what role it should play in people's lives). From there, numerous other considerations would have to take place about how to achieve that, et cetera. Thus, I defy my opponent's claim and state that any correct way to run the government would be subjective.

Argument 3:
My opponent has conceded my argument about religion as a source of happiness.

Argument 4:
My fourth argument, about theistic beliefs irrationally holding back scientific progress and atheistic beliefs (or rather, disbeliefs) being more conducive to rationality and scientific advancement, seems to be mostly agreeable to my opponent. I have nothing more to add to this argument, besides to point out my opponent's acceptance of the points I've made here.

Final Conclusion:
I believe that I have done what I set out to do at the start of this debate. Perhaps some would say I have not given "proofs of atheism", but I would say that there is no way or need to prove something that is not an unsupported assumption. At the very least, I have shown, I think, that atheism is equally as rational as or more rational than theism. I have shown that
1) Atheism is not a religious belief, but a lack of one.
2) With the sheer number of religions and no proof that any is absolutely true, it is reasonable to be atheist.
3) Religion can be a source of happiness for some, but the effect seems somewhat negligible, and therefore being atheist does not cause an irrational loss of happiness.
4) Theism has been and can be bad for scientific advancements, and theistic beliefs that slow such scientific advancements are irrational. Atheism is not problematic for scientific advancements and is therefore more rational.

To be honest, I feel that there is much more to explore on this subject and I am a bit disappointed that this is only a 3-round debate. It has been my absolute, earnest pleasure to debate with TheJackOfHearts, who has been nothing but friendly, kind, and reasonable throughout this debate. May we meet to debate again. I tip my hat to you.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Sensorfire 1 year ago
Sensorfire
Rather disappointed there have been no votes so far.
Posted by TheJackofHearts 1 year ago
TheJackofHearts
I least I don't post retarded debates that lead to no conclusion.

http://www.debate.org...
Posted by Smorfy 1 year ago
Smorfy
Disproving theism is a perfectly viable (and arguably, the best) way to prove atheism. Without theism, all that would be left would be atheism. There is no reason the opponent shouldn't be able to try and disprove theism.
Posted by TheJackofHearts 1 year ago
TheJackofHearts
My opening remarks have been changed to define some key terms
Posted by philochristos 1 year ago
philochristos
You should define "atheism" so people know what the debate IS about. You've only said what the debate is NOT about.
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