The Instigator
ChristusExemplar
Pro (for)
Winning
6 Points
The Contender
Nimbus328
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Atheism is An Untenable Position

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
ChristusExemplar
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/22/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,430 times Debate No: 31420
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (7)
Votes (2)

 

ChristusExemplar

Pro

(A) Understanding What I Mean by the Resolution

While I am not concerned withdefinitionsfor atheism here (see 1.1), I think a passing comment on the clarity of my positionin regards to atheismbeing an"untenable position"are in order. By 'untenable', I merely mean to say that the given position (i.e. atheism) cannot be held consistently given the consideration of existing counter-factuals. These counter-factuals take their form apart from calling the atheist "deluded", or "confused", but rather their position as "un-holdable", so to speak.

I will demonstrate that the atheist has a problem of epistemology.In other words, he cannot substantiate his position with justified reasons for the non-existence of God, and as such mere agnosticism is far more of a humble position then the atheist he claims to have. I am not suggesting however that the BoP do disprove the existence of God is so great that it simply can't be done (e.g. the inability to prove a universal negative); it is clearly tenable that theism is a falsifiable claim (able to considered false - e.g, 'God does exist'). Let us then turn to defining properly how I will understand atheism for the remainder of our debate.


(1.1) Defining Atheism

I will be defining atheism as, "'Atheism' means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God" (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; 2004). According to the Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology (The Origins of American English Words) on the origins of the word 'atheism', it writes: "(n.) 1587, borrowed from Middle French atheisme, from Greek atheos denying the gods (a- without + theos a god + Middle French -isme -ism) - atheist n. 1571, borrowed from Middle French atheiste, from Greek atheos + Middle French -iste -ist. (cp. 1995, p. 44)

On an equally relevant issue, there are different types of atheists. Some atheists make the strong claim that there is no God. Other atheists make the claim that the concept of God is incoherent. Still others take the softer claim that there is no evidence for God and as a result, they do not believe in God. The last position is wrongly casting the burden of proof on the theist and actually modifying the definition of atheism from its historical meaning.

The first form of atheism is significantly overstating what the atheist's information allows him to assert. The middle position is part of a longstanding debate on the coherence of theism; almost any good Systematic Theology addresses this challenge. Though I don't think the matter istotally relevant, I will be defining theism for the sake of my opponent's insight.


(1.2) Defining Theism

To be clear, I am not advocating a view of pantheism (could also be considered 'naturalistic theism'), or panentheism ('All in God'), but rather theism. I will define theism as the following:"Theism believes that one infinite, personal God is the ultimate reality... this God created the universe, disclosed Himself to mankind, and gets involved with this world and us, unprompted by any force outside Himself. He is transcendent over the world and immanent (currently present and active) within it" (R. Cornish, '5 Minute Apologist'; cp. 2005, p. 78)

In this first affirmative, I will be stating that the claim of theism is a far more tenable position than that of atheism, and agnosticism constitutes itself more humblythan the latter as opposed to the former. To summarize my position then, I take this to be a true proposition:

(1.a) God does exist.

In this debate, I will not be arguing for the existence of God since the argument I intend to use does not constitue as a particular "proof" for His existence. However, I do believe a substantial case for my above proposition (1.a) could be made in a passing order.


(1.3) Substantiating Theism in Brief

I take this to be a true proposition:

(1.b) Unless there were an infinite being, there could be no finite beings.

Consider Winfried Corduan when he writes, "In the chain of contingent beings that are mutually dependent on each other, there are only two options. Either there is a cause outside of the chain that actualizes the potential without being actualized by it, or there simply are no contingent beings" (see W. Corduan, Ibid. p. 214).

He later then writes, "If an entity is dependent for its being on another entity, which itself is dependent on another entity, it does not matter how long a chain of mutually dependent entities you create or whether you link all of these things in a circle; unless there is an entity outside the chain, you will never get an actual being. And since we know that contingent beings exist, there must be such a being." (Ibid. p. 214).

For this to be possible (i.e. contingent beings), a being like the one listed in (1.a-5.e) must exist:

(1.a) Not restricted by time or space
2.b) Cannot be changed by anything other than itself
(3.c) Did not have a beginning in time
(4.d) Does not need things other than itself to continue its existence
(5.e) Whose attributes are not influenced by other things (which means that it has essential attributes, not accidental ones).


(2.1) Atheism as an Untenable Position

My argument can be ranfrom an analogy:Imagine a circle. What is in the circle represents all that is. The atheist is claiming that there is nothing in that circle that is God. To be able to make that claim, the atheist would have to have exhaustive knowledge of everything,- God-like knowledge. Since the atheist does not and can not have that kind of knowledge, he can not reasonably make the claimthat he holds.

This is a direct challenge to the Universal Negative proposition (see 2.2) that is being asserted. The Theist, however, is merely claiming that somewhere in all that is, a being that is recognized and believed to be God exists. This is a much more humble claim. Now this is not a proof of God as stated earlier,but it is a way to challenge the overreaching claim made by the atheist. If the atheist recognizes the validity and weight of this argument, the atheist should move to agnosticism.


(2.2) The Possibility of Proving a Universal Negative

It is an often heard assertion in regards to the existence of God. In other words, no atheist can disprove the existence of God, but that is in the same way you can’t prove a universal negative. However, mathematically such a statement is utterly absurd. In William Dunham’s “A Mathematical Universe” (1997) he writes:"Some of the greatest, most profound mathematical arguments demonstrate that certain numbers, certain shapes,certain geometric constructions do not and cannot exist. And such nonexistence is established using the most incisiveweapon of all: cold, hard logic" (cp. 1997, p. 123).

Inother words according to Dunham, “Mathematicians know better” (Ibid. 123). Even more so, the maxim "You can't prove a universal negative" is self-refuting (the statement is a universal negative). (3.1) Concluding ThoughtsTo conclude this debate, I leave the BoP on my opponent to show that atheism is atenable position, and that knowledge as such can be substantiated by what ever means he wishes to employ. I urge a vote in the affirmation.
Nimbus328

Con

Everyone is born an atheist.
Debate Round No. 1
ChristusExemplar

Pro

I'd like to thank the negative for accepting my challenge for a debate.


(A.1)

My opponent suggests that "everyone is born an theist". He needs to define atheism if he wishes to be clear on this statement, and show as to how this is so.

However, my opponent has made no arguments or responses to my first affirmative. My argument still stands and I urge a vote in the affirmative.
Nimbus328

Con

I take the most difficult position to defend: that of Hard Atheism as defined by Wikipedia. There is not god, absolutely and categorically.

Everyone is born with no concept of gods. A desire for gods, yes, as evidenced by the many tribal religions. This can be attributed to the social nature of man, and the fear-based response desiring a pack leader.

A child has no concept of gods except as taught by his parents. Many believed that the parents lived on to protect the children. Ancestor worship was commonplace, as was worship of the elements.

I use gods in the plural as this has historically been the most popular stance. Monotheism is distinct to the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims.

It has been stated that there are thousands of variations on the idea of gods. I suggest from the mere quantity of religious beliefs, a point becomes obvious. All religious beliefs except the beliefs of the individual are incorrect. There are some exceptions to this of course, as found in Hinduism.

Note that the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims, can all be proven to be incorrect. Where does this leave us. Nothing. Atheist.
Debate Round No. 2
ChristusExemplar

Pro

I'd like to thank the negative for his response.



(A) Response to the Negative

My opponent rightly identifies that "Everyone is born with no concept of gods." While this is most notably the case, my opponent seems to later then go on a red herring issue and address tribal religious matters about the relationship between parents and their children. This is irrelevant to the debate at hand since it does not substantiate atheism anymore validity to be considered "tenable".

My opponent later states: "I use gods in the plural as this has hiistorically been the most popular stance. Monotheism is distinct to the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims." I will not be expected to refute each major/minor religion in order to substantiate another, since, particular religions (Christianity, Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc.) are not relevant to my case or even the resolution. I am saying theism is far more tenable of a position than atheism. Not that one religion is over another.


(B) Appendix; The Inconsistency of Polytheism

Polytheism is inconsistent on the grounds of what we mean by God. If (a) god is to be such, then some crtieria must be met in order for consistency to take place. This God must be:

(1.a) Not restricted by time or space
(2.b) Cannot be changed by anything other than itself
(3.c) Did not have a beginning in time
(4.d) Does not need things other than itself to continue its existence
(5.e) Whose attributes are not influenced by other things (which means that it has essential attributes, not accidental ones).

This was stated in my first affirmative (see 1.3). However, if polytheism is true, then a plurality of gods would have to meet this criteria (and given religious dogma, other personal predicates would also apply). The inconsistency comes in once we understand that this cannot happen. For, if you are going to distinguish between two gods, then one god must lack something that the other one has, and thus would cease to be [a] god. Monotheism does not face this problem.


(C) Concluding Thoughts

To conclude my rebuttal, my opponent has not only committed a red herring in addressing these eligious issues (something I never discussed in the first affirmative), but has also not offered any arguments to substantiate the resolution as false. To be blatant:
  • No evidence
  • No arguments
  • No rebuttal/response
  • Irrelevant tangents
Given these issues I urge a vote in favor of the coherency of theism and the untenability of atheism by virtue of the negative's lack of arguments to establish his own case.
Nimbus328

Con

If there were gods, they would try to make their presence known.

God(s) have not made their presence known.

There was no agreement until the start of empires, and even the empires cannot agree on the concept of god(s).

The cause of agreement of religions is caused by human intervention.

All religions are false.

The idea of a god is false.

Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 3
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by ishallannoyyo 3 years ago
ishallannoyyo
So God cannot create a rock so heavy he cannot lift it because of the fact that it is greater than infinity, which is a logical impossibility?

Doesn't that defeat the key value that God is omnipotent, or all powerful?
Posted by csjohn 3 years ago
csjohn
I think a truly well mannered, secular opponent for this debate would have to take issues with some of the foundational claims that you make in your opening set of statements. For instance, you definitionally describe the difference between atheism and agnosticism. You then correctly state that the position of an agnostic is the most humble position to take, but you do so without actually mentioning the spirit of the humility. If one claims to be agnostic, they do not admit the equal or even remotely equal probability of all possibilities to be true. That is, if I state that I am an agnostic it doesn't mean that I am any less certain about the non-existence of an intelligent omnipresent creator of the universe than an atheist might be, it simply seems to be linguistic hedging, or in fact, precision. With respect to something like the discussion of a personal God (an unfalsifiable claim), we're simply spinning our tires in philosophical mud when we bother to state that such things "could be true". This is always the case! We have to at least agree in advance that without reason to believe a claim, it doesn't make sense to bother speaking about or debating that claim. If someone states that one should accept the possibility of the idea of an omniscient being without any evidence for such, it is not wrong to simply ignore this person. In the previous case one might find it philosophically interesting to conduct a thought experiment, but there is no reason to let such a claim actually weigh in on ones perception of reality (and when we're talking about God, we're very much speaking about the nature of reality). You can of course find "atheists" (persons) who do not fit within this type of rationale, but for the sake of this comment I'll take the liberty of defining the context of the group to be that of seasoned thinkers on the topic.
Posted by rjacobson 3 years ago
rjacobson
How you would define agnostic, because I believe we are all technically agnostic using the following definition from http://en.wikipedia.org...:

Agnosticism is the view that the existence or non-existence of any deity is unknown and possibly unknowable.

In the same sense I am agnostic about God, I am agnostic about unicorns. If the debate is just to slide someone from atheism to agnosticism, then to me the debate will be stuck on semantics, because that slope is possible to achieve on many topic, with any humble participant.
Posted by ChristusExemplar 3 years ago
ChristusExemplar
"Can god create a rock so heavy he can't lift it? Isn't that proof enough that atheism, how the idea of God can be contradictory?"

This is not proof that atheism is tenable. You confuse two considerations regarding the existence of God by using this reductio: (i) God's infinite nature and (ii) God's binding to logical necessity. In other words, God cannot (i) create a rock greater than infinity, which is virtue by (ii) - God cannot defy what is logically the case (i.e. "There is nothing greater than infinity").

That argument does not hold.
Posted by ishallannoyyo 3 years ago
ishallannoyyo
sorry, isn't that proof that atheism is tenable?
Posted by ishallannoyyo 3 years ago
ishallannoyyo
Can god create a rock so heavy he can't lift it?

Isn't that proof enough that atheism, how the idea of God can be contradictory?
Posted by ishallannoyyo 3 years ago
ishallannoyyo
Can god create a rock so heavy he can't lift it?

Isn't that proof enough that atheism, how the idea of God can be contradictory?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by jh1234l 3 years ago
jh1234l
ChristusExemplarNimbus328Tied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Con has not provided good arguments and instead dropped lots of pro's points.
Vote Placed by philochristos 3 years ago
philochristos
ChristusExemplarNimbus328Tied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: I think it would've been helpful if Pro had made it clear in his opening whether his definition of atheism was a stipulation of the debate or whether it was open to debate. But it didn't matter in this case since Con agreed with the definition. Con ignored Pro's arguments for theism, and he waited until the last round to make an argument for atheism, so arguments go to Pro.