My friend Mikey, over at Shadow To Light, makes some really bad arguments. A recent post, titled New Atheist Logic, demonstrates this clearly. In an attempt to show the absurdity of atheistic thinking, he makes a number of bad assumptions (or outright lies) to present a grossly distorted view of atheistic thinking:
According to New Atheists, religion is evil. In fact, it is one of the greatest evils on the planet. The Gnus love to quote Steven Weinberg , “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.”This is the supposedly superior thinking of a thoroughly blinkered atheist hater. I'd be tempted to just leave it at that, but it is obvious that he and his followers don't see the problem with Mikey's argument, so I guess I need to spell it out for their benefit.
Yet the same atheists also tell us that the existence of evil disproves the existence of God.
So what do we have?
According to New Atheist logic, the existence of religion, which is evil, proves that God does not exist.
Which means, I suppose, that if God did exist, we would all be secular atheists.
Such is the Wisdom of Gnu.
Let's start at the beginning.
According to New Atheists, religion is evil. In fact, it is one of the greatest evils on the planet.This line contains several assumptions. What is a "New Atheist"? Anyone who doesn't believe in God? Or is it anyone who speaks openly about his disbelief? Or is it anyone who agrees with something that Dawkins has said? Or what about Harris? What if you agree with some things they say, but not others? Actually, I think the term "New Atheist" is used by Mikey as nothing but a straw-man conception of a bad person who doesn't agree with him on various issues, especially belief in God. The fact is that there is considerable diversity of beliefs and opinions among those who are labeled by Mikey as "New Atheists" (or Gnus). In lieu of having any identifiable group upon which he wants to unleash his illogical tirade, I'll just call them atheists.
Next is the false assumption that there is agreement among the atheists that religion is evil. Mikey bases this on a single statement made by Dawkins, and then assumes that this is the party line. But I don't think that's true. Dawkins says that religion has evil effects, but he also acknowledges that it has beneficial effects. It is probably true that the tendency for mankind to hold religious beliefs is at least partially due to evolved traits. As such, the mere existence of religious beliefs is natural, and could not be described ad evil.
This raises the question: what is evil? To a naturalist, nature is not good or evil. Those things don't exist at the fundamental level. Evil might best be described as something intentional that has bad consequences, where the actor understands that the consequences are bad. To put it another way, only a moral agent can be considered evil in his intent, and only the acts of a moral agent can be regarded as evil actions. When placed in the context of religion, religion becomes evil when religious leaders or followers use it as a tool or as an excuse to commit vile acts. It is in this sense, I think, that Dawkins called religion evil. It is not the mere existence of religion that is evil, but rather it is what people do with religion that can be, and often is evil.
But is religion one of the greatest evils on the planet? This is something that I have never heard any atheist say. Perhaps some atheists think so, but it is unclear how many of them think of religion as the greatest of evils.
The Gnus love to quote Steven Weinberg , “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.”That quote made its rounds a while back, but it has never been a favorite for me, nor has it been for a great many other atheists. I happen to believe that ideology is what drives people to do many bad things. Religions fall into the category of ideology, but there are other ideologies, as well. A good example is Communism. It is not the lack of belief in god that caused Stalin to murder millions. It was his political ideology combined with a lust for power and control. Likewise, it is not belief in God that caused Christian leaders to murder millions. It was lust for power, money, and political control, and other similar motivating factors, all under the umbrella of Christian ideology. It is neither belief nor lack of belief in God that makes people do bad things - it is ideology.
And then we have this false assertion:
Yet the same atheists also tell us that the existence of evil disproves the existence of God.This is a blatant lie. I do not know of any atheists who claim that God's existence is disproved, let alone disproved on the basis of the existence of evil. The argument from evil provides reason to disbelieve, but it doesn't prove anything.
Which leads Mikey to a plainly false summation:
According to New Atheist logic, the existence of religion, which is evil, proves that God does not exist.As I already explained, people do evil things with religious ideological motivation, but the mere existence of religion is not, in itself, evil. In any case, none of that proves that god does not exist. So this statement by Mikey is utterly false. It only presents his own distorted straw-man view of atheistic thinking - a view that is completely disconnected from reality.
And finally, his ridiculous conclusion:
Which means, I suppose, that if God did exist, we would all be secular atheists.Mikey seems to have a habit of drawing conclusions that don't follow from what has already been argued. This was clearly evident in another of his posts that I already commented on. In this case, however, the conclusion is logically correct, but the logical dependency is invalid. If it could be said that the existence of religion proves that God does not exist (and we have already established that this is a false assertion), what would that tell us logically? The correct logical implication would be that if god does exist, then there would be no religion.
But this argument is asserting a false logical dependency between the existence of religion and the existence of God. We already know that it is entirely possible for religion to exist whether or not God exists, and it is equally possible for God to exist whether or not religion exists. The two are logically independent. So it it not valid to say "the existence of religion proves that God does not exist." We do know that religion exists. What is unknown is whether or not God exists (unless we have some other means of providing epistemic justification). But because the logical relationship, as stated, is invalid, it is also not valid to assert the contrapositive. In other words, it is not valid to say "if God exists, then there is no religion", which is fairly self-evident.
So after building a false statement of what atheists believe, Mikey has used an invalid logical relationship to "demonstrate" that those beliefs are absurd. Well of course they would be absurd if that's what atheists believed. But what's really absurd here is that Mikey thinks he has made an argument against what atheists believe. Instead, he has only demonstrated that his understanding of atheist belief is ridiculously out of touch with reality.
So what we see here is a religious zealot who is so intent on ridiculing those who don't share his blinkered view of reality that he is willing to present a distorted view of atheistic beliefs and then use an invalid logical analysis in a lame attempt to ridicule those beliefs. This is not only extremely muddled thinking, it is intellectually dishonest.
Such is the Wisdom of the blinkered theist.