ATHEISM AND AGNOSTICISM HAVE MANY FORMS
Everyone, even if he doesn’t believe in God, attempts to make sense of the reality around him. If he doesn’t attribute the world’s existence to God, he forms an alternative naturalistic explanation for the world.
An atheist is one who believes he has positive evidence that there’s no God at all. He explains all of existence in natural, rather than supernatural terms. He sees nothing in the universe except blind and unconscious force.
An agnostic is one who believes there’s insufficient evidence to either prove or disprove the existence of God. There are two types of agnostics. One type says there’s insufficient evidence now but leaves open the possibility of obtaining sufficient evidence later. The other type says its impossible for anyone to ever know with certainty whether or not there’s a God. Therefore, he doesn’t even look for evidence.
The dominant form of atheism and agnosticism today is secular humanism; a philosophy which interprets the being of man solely within the confines of the human sciences and which makes man himself the subject, source and primary object of values. It makes no room for God or religion.
A more subtle form is practical atheism; which means ignoring or neglecting any relationship to God – living as if God doesn’t exist – and orienting life exclusively toward attainment of temporal goals.
COMMON REASONS FOR DISBELIEF IN GOD
Some of most common reasons why people say they’re atheists or agnostics are:
- The existence of evil (wars, injustices, natural disasters, sickness, death) negates the possibility of a good and omnipotent God.
- Denial of God is necessary to guarantee the absolute character of man’s freedom and ability to choose his own happiness.
- It’s wrong to believe anything upon incomplete evidence.
- Religion is emotional, not rational.
- The Bible is full of incredulities and contradictions.
- Christians are often hypocrites.
EVERY POSITION IS A MATTER OF FAITH
Atheists and agnostics usually pose as intellectuals. They say their views come by reason, not by faith. They often scorn the simple faith of those who believe in God.
The fact is, however, that any position – theist, atheist or agnostic – IS BY FAITH. Atheists and agnostics say that no one can ‘prove’ (as in a court of law) that there’s a God. The converse is also true: atheists and agnostics can’t ‘prove’ there is no God. Therefore, even the atheist and agnostic positions come by faith.
ATHEISTS GIVE THEIR ARGUMENTS
Most atheists don’t view themselves as anti-theists but simply as non-theists. They prefer a positive positioning of their view; which they may call humanism, materialism, naturalism or positivism. There are many kinds of atheists – from those who are absolutely convinced that there’s no God to those who think there’s low probability. Some are silent and some are vocal.
Most often, atheists don’t attempt to disprove God but rather they refute the grounds upon which others believe. Here are some classical arguments against God often voiced by atheists:
ARGUMENT – If everything needs a cause, then so does God, in which case he wouldn’t be God. If God doesn’t need a cause, then neither does the world. If the world doesn’t need a cause, then the existence of the world proves that God is either nonexistent or unnecessary.
ARGUMENT – In order for God to cause himself to exist, he would have to exist prior to his existing, which is impossible.
ARGUMENT – An all-powerful God could, and an all-good God would, destroy evil. Since there’s evil in the world, either there’s no God or else he’s weak and/or malevolent and not worthy of worship.
ARGUMENT – If God is absolute, he’s free, and free to do evil. If he’s good, he can’t do evil. God can’t be absolute and good because it’s impossible to be both free and not free to do evil.
ARGUMENT – If God were all-powerful, he could make a stone so heavy that he couldn’t lift it. But if there’s something he can’t lift, then he’s not all-powerful.
THEISTS RESPOND TO THE ARGUMENTS
Theists – those who believe in God – respond to the atheists’ arguments:
CAUSE – If every dependent thing needs a cause (even to the point of infinite regress), it follows that there must be some infinite, necessary and independent cause; something that causes itself. That independent cause IS God. It’s untenable to say that something comes from nothing.
EVIL – Atheists actually assume God in their attempt to disprove him. For example, in attempting to disprove him via evil, they assume an ultimate standard of good and justice beyond the world. The existence of evil does not mean that God is powerless to eliminate evil. Rather, he hasn’t chosen to eliminate it yet.
LIMITATIONS – The fact that God can’t do all things doesn’t disprove his existence. Even though he can’t make a stone heavier than he can lift, he could vaporize it out of existence; thus demonstrating his power over it. Some things God can’t do because they are impossible by definition (like the stone) or because they would violate his character (like sinning). Limitations define his existence, but don’t negate it.
‘Humanism is faith in the supreme value and self-perfectibility of human personality.’