An athiest logical fallacy?

One popular idea I hear from atheists is that religious belief is nothing more than a result of deep-rooted psychological and social conditioning.

But since religious or supernatural belief has been so pervasive around the world since (as far as we can tell) the dawn of man, how can the atheist declare himself immune or unaffected by such hard-wired human tendencies?

In other words, how can the atheist be confident that he, unlike vast majority of people who ever existed, is thinking clearly unlike us silly religious folk?

There seems like there must be a logical fallacy in there somewhere, but I just can’t pinpoint it by name.

Yes, there is a problem there. How is it that an Athiest can know or not if a non-belief in God isn’t irrational or demonstrative of some psycological defect? The beginning premise is that the Athiest is the rational one, and that’s no more or less likely than the Christian being rational, in strictly anthropological terms.

How can anyone think clearly when emotions get in the way?

But logic itself has its weakness too. Even when thinking clearly on an issue, different people will come to different conclusions even though the body of information is exactly the same.

It’s a very similar situation, in that different people will come to different conclusions on how to be proper Christians. That’s how Christianity splintered from one Church.

While it is true that all persons view “reality” through lens of one sort of another, to be aware of them allows one to account in some measure for these impediments. While it is unlikely that anyone can completely erradicate such influences, one can minimize them. Being aware of their existence is the first step toward doing that. In the end, the question of God’s existence comes down to a belief, one that can be couched in logical form, but then again so can atheism. Since atheism has no burden to prove what is a negative proposition, it becomes incumbent on the believe to substantiate their viewpoint. Of course that cannot be done. If it could be done with impeccable logic there would be no atheists nor agnostics for that matter. I suspect as I have stated often that that is the point after all. It wouldn’t be worth much if it were provable, it’s faith because otherwise our journey would be self-evident and of no value to us.

Couched in logical form? What does that even mean?

If it means that a logical argument can be constructed supporting it, I agree that theism can produce a valid logical argument for the existence of God.

If it means it looks logical, but it’s not…it’s just pretending…well…I completely disagree.

As for atheism, I have yet to see a valid logical argument come from the atheist camp regarding the non-existence of God. Most of their arguments either contain an unsupportable vagueness or have premises that are unwarranted – or are probabilities games and not “logical proofs”, properly speaking.

Since atheism has no burden to prove what is a negative proposition, it becomes incumbent on the believe to substantiate their viewpoint.

To the contrary. If there’s an assertion, there’s a burden to prove it. Agnostics don’t have a burden because they simply don’t know. (Strong) Atheists positively assert that there is no God, and therefore they have a burden to carry – as does the theist who proclaims that there is one.

Of course that cannot be done.

I disagree. Read much Aquinas?

If it could be done with impeccable logic there would be no atheists nor agnostics for that matter.

Never underestimate the human ability to deny the obvious.

I suspect as I have stated often that that is the point after all. It wouldn’t be worth much if it were provable, it’s faith because otherwise our journey would be self-evident and of no value to us.

There’s no journey to believe in a chair. Either it’s there or it’s not. The journey comes when you go to sit in it and trust that it will support your weight.

Same with God.

There’s no “journey” to believe in God. Either He’s there or He’s not. The journey comes when you go to trust Him and trust that He will support the weight of your sins. THAT is what faith is about…not simply “belief” (reread the book of James).

now…

dan,

You’re right that there’s something very wrong with the atheist argument. As Peter Kreeft says, “To be an atheist you have to be a snob.” You have to believe that 95% of all the people who have ever lived have been absolutely and quite foolishly wrong about the thing that matters most to them – and that you know better.

Specifically, the atheist in your situation presents a couple of fallacies. First, the genetic fallacy. It’s irrelevant that we might come up with a religious belief for some other, culturally conditioned or psychological reason. The question is…is it true? It doesn’t matter how I came to believe 2+2=4 (maybe I was taught that a bunny wished it to be and it was). The question is…is it true?

Second, it’s a special pleading. “You ignorant folks are confined by your culture…but I…I am not!” (No reason given as to why…just ipse dixit).

Though what you’re probably thinking of is the old straw, “there are no absolute truths,” which is, of course, an absolute truth and therefore it’s self-refuting. Here, you could reconstruct the saying as, “all religious beliefs are culturally dependent (and therefore false),” which itself is, of course, also a religious belief – likewise self-refuting.

Hope that helps.

God Bless,
RyanL

I think the answer is quite simple really.

The educated naturalist atheist doesn’t use faith to come to conclusions about reality. He uses evidence based on the best scientific knowledge and research to see the world. I think that is right on because science helps us see the world as it is. and not to see everything as it is means to see everything as it is not which is the definition of insanity.

Everything in our world can be explained using natural reasoning. And that is the point of the atheist that everything can be explained without a god hypothesis.

So to his natural mind, Christians say, there is a God, there is a God, there is no evidence, there is no evidence.

What is the evidence for a god???

I think this is exactly right.

Well, what for what kind of evidence are you looking?
You seem fond of science, are you looking for scientific evidence? There may be some evidence of one sort or another, but the real thing you have to keep in mind is that God is a theological concept and not a scientific one. You might as well demand scientific evidence that Humpty Dumpty did indeed have a great fall. You are asking scientific evidence of a non-scientific topic, in that case literature.

Pax

They put a “religious experience” helmet on Richard Dawkins and turned up the ElectroMagnetic field and he said he didn’t see God.

From what I understand the researcher mapped the temporal lobes of religious believers and thought he could help Dawkins experience it.

THe conclusion was religious expereince is more complicated and here to stay.

How sure are you about this apriori conclusion?

God Bless,
RyanL

See The Skeptical Inquirer in the Touchstone. Edward Tingley discusses Pascal’s condemnation of atheists for their lack of skepticism; their willingness to give up the pursuit of truth when it leads beyond their self imposed bounds.

People may think it just an odd coincidence that the author of the * Pensées,* a work of apologetics, also came up with Pascal’s law, on the transmission of pressure in confined liquids, but one mind seeking one thing generated both. Pascal was a lifelong seeker of truth: “I should . . . like to arouse in man the desire to find truth, to be ready, free from passion, to follow it wherever he may find it,” he says in * Pensée* 119. But the scientists who have asked Pascal’s question after him are rarely scientist enough for that.
They do not follow truth wherever they may find it. On the topic they have promised to illuminate, they are the defenders of Ptolemy in the age of Galileo: resisters and avoiders of scientific thought inflexibly wedded to their own commitments; and it is not hard to show this.

Athiest: religious belief is nothing more than a result of deep-rooted social conditioning.

Theist: How did you come about with that belief?

Atheist: Well, it wasn’t the result of deep-rooted social conditioning, but the result of my own rational thinking.

Theist: Did your process of thinking come naturally without any influence?

Atheist: I went to school and read books on my own.

Theist: Where do you suppose the material you read came from? Did it fall out of the sky or come from other people?

Atheist: It came from other people.

Theist: Then your beliefs are also a result of social conditioning. Don’t be a hypocrite. For a person who basis their belief on rational thinking, you certainly are inconsistent.

===================================

Athiest: religious belief is nothing more than a result of deep-rooted psychological conditioning.

Theist: How did you come about with your belief that there is no God?

Atheist: Well, my parents were devout theists, but I had an experience when I was very young which made me think that there is no God, and I have held on to that belief ever since.

Theist: So do you believe our experiences can affect our psyche?

Atheist: Of course.

Theist: Then your belief is also a result of a deep-rooted pscyhological conditioning. Don’t be a hypocrite.

===================================

Athiest: religious belief is nothing more than a result of deep-rooted psychological conditioning.

Theist: How did you come about with your belief that there is no God?

Atheist: Well, my parents never believed in God and thankfully I was never exposed to that thinking.

Theist: So you did not believe because you were never exposed to a belief in God?

Atheist: That is correct…

Theist: Then your belief is also a result of a deep-rooted pscyhological conditioning. Don’t be a hypocrite.

Blessings,
Marduk

You are correct that strong atheists who assert there is no god have a burden of proof, but, theists who assert there is a god also have a burden of proof. Aquinas has been discussed numerous times in many threads. While it looks good on the surface, delving into it shows problems.

You’re right that there’s something very wrong with the atheist argument. As Peter Kreeft says, “To be an atheist you have to be a snob.” You have to believe that 95% of all the people who have ever lived have been absolutely and quite foolishly wrong about the thing that matters most to them – and that you know better.

You do realize that this same stance can be applied to Catholics? The majority of the world is not Catholic. The numbers game does not work, for either side. How many people thought the world was flat? What the majority believe or don’t believe does not affect what is the truth.

But since religious or supernatural belief has been so pervasive around the world since (as far as we can tell) the dawn of man, how can the atheist declare himself immune or unaffected by such hard-wired human tendencies?

The atheist has not declared himself “immune” so to speak, but has rather acknowledged that it is in our nature to make up supernatural explanations to things we cannot explain (religion).

Catholicism itself was the product of Hebrew mysticism and Greek logical thought that has been formulated (revealed) over centuries.

Thus the Catholics of yore had no qualms about roasting Protestants alive while Catholics today abhor this practice and have taken a more moderate stance (although the later still remains infallible doctrine).

The whole theory can be simplified to memes in the grand scheme of religious evolution. Religion evolves like animals, languages, and cultures. Any replicating thing can evolve.

You seem to be arguing or wanting to argue as follows:

1 Atheists argue that there are certain tendencies, the product of nature and society, which make it difficult for religious folk from seeing the truth.

2 But how is it possible for atheists to be immune from these tendencies which if they exist seem to be universal given the great preponderance of religious folk?

Well atheists do not say that they are immune from these tendencies; they say (as may apply in their particular cases), that they have overcome them.

It would be similar to those who successfully resist say sexual temptations. These can say that many succumb to such things because of tendencies that are grounded in nature and society. They successfully resist them (say through determination or some other virtue) but that doesn’t mean that they are immune from them or that they are saying that they are immune from them.

We can ask sociologically what explains this or that belief in society, but philosophically we can see whether this or that belief is true by the use of reason, by the use of our minds which are for whatever reason able to apprehend truth (like say the validity of a logical or mathematical proof) similar to how our eyes in conjuction with our minds are able to perceive light. Philosophical arguments stand and fall on their own merits regardless of this or that sociological tendency. But sociology can explain things. My experience is that atheists only mention this when religious folk use widespread belief as an argument in favor of the belief being true. Let’s suppose America were 99% black and everything else about her were the same. And let’s extrapolate* thus that when OJ Simpson was declared not guilty, most would have said he was innocent. Most of you would say that that widespread belief would have been false.

*at the time of the verdict, most blacks thought Simpson was innocent.

That’s precisely why I said exactly that in my initial response.

Aquinas has been discussed numerous times in many threads. While it looks good on the surface, delving into it shows problems.

Please point me to the best thread on the topic (IYO).

You do realize that this same stance can be applied to Catholics? The majority of the world is not Catholic.

Perhaps, but there are a couple of distinctions which can be made. First, Catholicism makes a number of specific theological and historical claims which are inaccessible to those without exposure to them (hint: it’s called a ‘revealed’ religion for a reason). Atheism makes only one claim which is accessible to everyone with any religious belief. So exposure is a variable for which you’re not accounting. Second, Catholicism hasn’t been on the global scene for very long as compared to general religious belief as a whole (in its many myriad forms) – there’s been far less time for it to accumulate adherents. Given the rate of expansion in 2000 years (from 12 people or so to well over a billion), I’d say it’s only a matter of time until everyone’s Catholic (even including temporary hiccups in demographics). But that’s neither here nor there.

So let’s be sensible when we play numbers games, shall we?

How many people thought the world was flat?

Probably far fewer than you think.

What the majority believe or don’t believe does not affect what is the truth.

True enough – but you still have to be a bit of a snob to believe that everyone else is foolishly wrong about the most important thing in their lives…except you. Because you’re much, much smarter. Or Bright, so to speak.

God Bless,
RyanL

Aprior assumption that religions are ‘made up’, for starters.

Second, do all humans have a ‘nature’? If so, is there a general maxim which can be asserted as true regarding the ‘nature’ of all humans? A…um…Natural Law?

If so, would you say it’s reasonable to assert that, given our nature as religious beings, just like you wouldn’t put water in a car’s gas tank you shouldn’t put atheism in a human’s “god tank”? If not, why not? Why should we not act in accordance with our (seemingly) universal human nature?

Catholicism itself was the product of Hebrew mysticism and Greek logical thought that has been formulated (revealed) over centuries.

Again with the apriori assumptions. I’d assert that, rather than mysticism or Helenistic reasoning, Catholicism was the product of Jesus of Nazareth. Neither Greek Logic nor Hebrew Mysticism can adequately account for a number of the beliefs articulated by some of the ignorant fishermen and other common laborers who wrote the New Testament and surrounding writings.

You should question your assumptions more…

Thus the Catholics of yore had no qualms about roasting Protestants alive while Catholics today abhor this practice and have taken a more moderate stance (although the later still remains infallible doctrine).

It’s infallible Catholic doctrine to burn Protestants at the stake? What’s your basis for saying this, exactly?

The whole theory can be simplified to memes in the grand scheme of religious evolution. Religion evolves like animals, languages, and cultures. Any replicating thing can evolve.

This is only a clever metameme – and I reject its validity as such. :wink:

And again, this is an example of the genetic fallacy – it doesn’t matter how we came to believe a thing; it only matters whether or not it’s true.

God Bless,
RyanL

Read, or listen to:

The Everlasting Man (G.K.Chesterton): audio, text

:slight_smile:

One must be “educated” out of belief in “God-stuff”.

But that is what you say is a GOOD thing!

Most of this “God-stuff” WAS bad, because it was (and is) easily perverted into “idolatry” in one form or another, where “idolatry” is in essence just another word for slavery.

That is why God chose to reveal those things which weren’t true about God-stuff to a small group of people, so as to inject that knowledge into humanity so as to have it spread mouth-to-ear in a gradual way so as not to overwhelm mankind.

Now, the atheist believes it impossible that there IS any revelation qua revelation, which is THE singular (modern) novelty which differentiates the atheist from ALL of the rest of mankind, and due to this belief forces him into his novel idea that “all can be explained by the human mind”, and “that which doesn’t make sense to me can be sidestepped/avoided until it does affect me somehow”.

The atheist is utterly conditioned by his novel conception of non-revelation (which is his working conception but not his real/inherent conception). The non-atheist is utterly conditioned by his inherent conception of revelation.

The atheist confuses BAD religion with ALL religion, and getting agreement from non-atheists that BAD religion is false, takes that as confirmation that ALL religion is false.

The logical fallacy of the atheist is that since some religion is false all religion is false, and only his personal singular individual mind can be trusted.

In other words: The idolatry of the Intellectual-Self (which doesn’t even include the non-intellectual parts of the self as “valuable”).

Second, do all humans have a ‘nature’? If so, is there a general maxim which can be asserted as true regarding the ‘nature’ of all humans? A…um…Natural Law?

What you call “natural law”, I would call product of evolution.

All humans have this desire to explain their presence in the world, but early man had no way of understanding natural processes. Hence the seasons being explained through divine action as opposed to planetary rotation. Hence Jesus ascending into heaven (is he still ascending?). The later doctrine was formulated before our knowledge of space.

Religion is just a way of explaining the world. We all try to explain the world.

You should question your assumptions more…

We dont know the authors of the gospels. As for Paul’s letters, his status as a learned Jew would make him the perfect person to meld Greek thought and Hebrew legends.

Acts 17:28

For 'In him we live and move and have our being, as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

Paul knew Greek thought and was well read.

It’s infallible Catholic doctrine to burn Protestants at the stake? What’s your basis for saying this, exactly?

Just read Exsurge Domine (you could check papalencyclicals.net , it dates from 1521 or 1520)

And again, this is an example of the genetic fallacy – it doesn’t matter how we came to believe a thing; it only matters whether or not it’s true.

Well, I would say they are false.

It is interesting to note, however, that there are thousands of Churches all that claim to be Christ’s true church. It is also interesting to see how all those Churches got there.

Read post #18. :slight_smile:

(( And you can ignore the Buckaroo Bonsai link above, if you like, as it has no bearing on this discussion. ))

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