Dear Atheists: Please Get Better Objections

Joe is an atheist who takes issue with my asking another commenter about supporting evidence for his claims. When I asked the other visitor, “what’s your evidence that only evidence matters?” Joe responded, “Sir, you may not be stupid, but this phrase is nonsense. YOU use evidence to support everything.”

Apparently Joe buys into the idea that only evidence matters, that everyone uses evidence to support everything, and even that every claim must be supported with evidence. But if every claim must be supported by evidence, then the claim, “every claim must be supported with evidence” must also be supported with evidence. However, atheists are typically exceedingly hesitant to provide such evidence or even to tell us what it might look like. Instead, they attempt to change the topic. (See for example this post.)

The most probable cause for the atheist inclination to so blindly accept evidentialism is the relative ease with which one may parrot Bertrand Russell’s quip that there’s “not enough evidence” available in order for a person to rationally believe in God. We can call this the evidentialist objection. But if evidentialism as a whole is problematic – as argued in the paragraph above – then the evidentialist objection loses all of its force. If atheists want to be taken seriously then they need to find a new objection. This one gets old quickly.

My exchange with Joe starts here –

https://choosinghats.org/2012/05/why-christians-are-stupid-and-atheists-are-not/#comment-3999

In this post I will offer a quick response to his last comment:

I beg you to forgive my ignorance in the field of philosophy, as well as my not having enough time to read over your blog entries for the past three years. I’m sorry that you do not like my analogy. I am no Jesus with my parables, so I’ll try to stick with plain language from here on.
Personally, I detest presuppositional apologetics. I won’t use the word “nonsense” for fear of engaging in more semantic hairsplitting. Instead, let me say that the argument from pre-suppositional apologetics is maddeningly circular. Christian thinkers are forced into the uncomfortable situation of asserting that if their god exists, then such-and-such would be proof of his existence. They might as well condense this lemon of a philosophy into “God exists, therefor God exists.” (Tell me if you’ve heard this one).
You seem to enjoy exploiting the problem of infinite regress with other posters, including myself, in asserting that I should have evidence for my evidence. That’s really clever and funny, but can you tell me what Christianity would be without the Bible? What Islam would be without the Koran?
I “suppose” you would look around at the beauty and the intricacy of the world around you and would immediately know that the god, Yaweh, whose son, Jesus, died on the cross for the sins of the world had created all of it?
And the Bible, being your “evidence,” is subject to the exact problem of infinite regress that you tax your atheist posters with. So, yes, I still take issue with your statement. “Anti-theism” only pre-supposes theism in the sense that each concept could not exist without the other. You’ve given no evidence that your first cause, the existence of God, is true, so you cannot further assert that your second cause, there are no atheists in principle, is true.
BTW, like the Sesame Street reference. That takes me back.

“Personally, I detest presuppositional apologetics.”

It does not surprise me one bit to hear that a non-believer detests presuppositional apologetics. Unfortunately, personal detestation does not serve as an argument against presuppositional apologetics.

“Instead, let me say that the argument from pre-suppositional apologetics is maddeningly circular.”

Of course, this “objection” is maddeningly old and faulty, but that does not stop amateur atheist apologists from repeating it ad nauseum. Using the site’s Search feature or just clicking on the FAQ tab might have prevented such an ignorant objection from being touted here yet again, but that’s okay. Epistemological circularity is unavoidable. For anyone. But epistemological circularity is not the same thing as logical circularity. It will not suffice to label a presupposition logically circular, for it is merely a presupposition and not an argument in the strictly logical sense. And even if a presupposition leads in some roundabout way (no pun intended) to epistemological circularity it does not matter, for there is no logical problem with mere epistemological circularity.

“Christian thinkers are forced into the uncomfortable situation of asserting that if their god exists, then such-and-such would be proof of his existence.”

That’s not presuppositional apologetics, nor is it the transcendental argument. The commenter does not cite anything that I have written to this effect, so I suspect I need not give his assertion any more time.

“They might as well condense this lemon of a philosophy into ‘God exists, therefor [sic] God exists.’ (Tell me if you’ve heard this one).”

Well, no, I haven’t, and if I did, then I would say the person making such an assertion is missing a few elements of his or her argument. Again, the author of this comment does not cite me anywhere in making such a silly assertion regarding what the presuppositional apologist “might as well” do, so I will move on.

“You seem to enjoy exploiting the problem of infinite regress with other posters, including myself, in asserting that I should have evidence for my evidence.”

Enjoy? Exploit? Perhaps the commenter is attempting to guilt trip me for pointing out something that his own philosophical position requires of him, but that’s not an argument. That’s just ill-informed moralism. The problem of an infinite regress is a problem for some philosophical positions. So is the problem of logical circularity. So is the problem of arbitrary assertion. So is special pleading. I don’t have any warm place in my heart for pointing out one of these problems any more than another. I find it rather odd that a commenter who makes the outdated evidentialist objection would turn around and falsely accuse me of fallacious circularity while denying that he needs to fix his own difficulty with an infinite regress, circularity, arbitrariness, or special pleading with respect to his evidentialist claims. How convenient!

“That’s really clever and funny,”

More hand waving to adorn the earlier attempt at pietistically pointing out my alleged enjoyable exploitation of the “infinite regress problem.” But still no answers from our evidentialist objector. He does not seem to grasp that his primary objection does not hold any water. It would be much better to say that it is dead in the water.

“…but can you tell me what Christianity would be without the Bible? What Islam would be without the Koran?”

How exactly does this non-sequitur fix the difficulty I raised with respect to the evidentialist objection? It doesn’t. Moreover, the commenter is rather sloppily trying to draw parallels between religious texts and naïve evidentialism, but they are disanalogous. He will not or can not answer the fundamental difficulty with his own view so he resorts to tossing out some irrelevancies to distract us.
“I ‘suppose’ you would look around at the beauty and the intricacy of the world around you and would immediately know that the god, Yaweh, whose son, Jesus, died on the cross for the sins of the world had created all of it?”

More distractions. And he can’t even get those right. Where have I talked about aesthetic (“beauty”) or teleological (“intricacy”) arguments? Certainly not in my original post nor in my initial reply to the commenter. Yet he wants to bring them into the discussion. Why? Again, to divert attention away from the fact that he is relying upon a thoroughly broken objection. Moreover, he seems to think that I believe that aesthetic and teleological arguments not only reveal that God exists as Creator, but they reveal that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world! Here’s a hint for atheists: Do your homework. Christians have been talking about this stuff for over 2,000 years. There are these nifty books you can buy that are all about this thing called theology. If you don’t respect me and my beliefs enough to at least try and get them right, then don’t expect much respect back from me.

In any event, here is a quick clarification. General revelation like that found in nature tells us that God exists and what He is like. Natural theology (in terms of arguments like those the commenter mentioned) are predicated upon it and tell Christians only some things about God. Special revelation tells us those things necessary to salvation, such as the death of Christ Jesus on the cross for the sins of the world.
“And the Bible, being your ‘evidence,’ is subject to the exact problem of infinite regress that you tax your atheist posters with.”

Where did I say that the Bible is “evidence”? What is the commenter talking about? Why is he putting words in my mouth? Where is his answer to the difficulty I raised with respect to his evidentialist objection? Hey I know, let’s talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Because that’s relevant to the post.

Again, I am not sure that the commenter really grasps what is going on here. If someone makes a claim (call it claim E) to the effect that, “All claims must be supported by evidence” then that person should be asked what evidence he or she has to support that very claim (E). The problem is that there isn’t any. This is very basic. Now what the Bible has to do with this I do not know, because the Bible is not a statement like E. It does not even contain a claim like E. (I warned the commenter to stay away from analogies!)

“So, yes, I still take issue with your statement.”

What statement? Why?

“‘Anti-theism’ only pre-supposes theism in the sense that each concept could not exist without the other.”

And again, he has not bothered to look at what I have actually said elsewhere about the claim in question. Even after I suggested that he do so. Instead he’s content to make an unsupported, ignorant assertion that completely ignores my comments about concepts and the ontological argument in my initial comment as well as my allusion to the fact that there is much greater context for my claims that can be found on the remainder of the site.

“You’ve given no evidence that your first cause, the existence of God, is true,”

Yeah, throw an allusion to the cosmological argument in there too. Why not? Let’s talk about everything but the glaring inconsistency in this poor guy’s objection. I have not mentioned God as the “first cause.” And I’ve already explained why the evidentialist objection fails. So what does this atheist do? He reasserts it. Sorry, but that’s not how critical thinking works.

“…so you cannot further assert that your second cause, there are no atheists in principle, is true.”

I’m fairly confident that he’s overconfident in what he’s established by ignoring his problems.
“BTW, like the Sesame Street reference. That takes me back.”

I am often tempted to make other such references, but those would not be so well received.


4 Comments

Joe

Discussions like this don’t have an end, and can quickly become very boring, so I’ll try to make this quick.
1. Nowhere have I stated that “only evidence matters.” In fact, I believe I illustrated an instance where evidence clearly did not matter. It seems central to your thesis to brand me an “evidentialist,” whatever advantage you think this lends to your arguement.
2. You also seem to be laboring under the impression that presuppositional apologetics can walk away from internal contradictions unscathed, while “evidentialism” cannot. That was why I brought up the problem of infinite regress and how it relates to Biblical, teleological, and aesthetic “evidence.” This “poor guy’s” objection is not so glaring as you would have your audience believe.
3. “That’s not presuppositional apologetics, nor is it the transcendental argument.” Boiled down to it’s essence, that’s exactly what PA is. As for TAG, I fail to see the relevance.
4.If you’re going to be condescending, at least be accurate. “If someone makes a claim (call it claim E) to the effect that, ‘All claims must be supported by evidence’.” Once again, never did I make this claim.
5. “Christians have been talking about this stuff for over 2,000 years.” And reason was just born yesterday, was it?
6. “Anti-theism pre-supposes theism.” You haven’t answered what you meant by that, if it isn’t what I presume, and, as I said, I have no desire to go pawing through your site trying to find out. If you can’t respond clearly and concisely, I can only assume you have no idea what you’re talking about.
To be fair, perhaps I should have rifled through your posts. It is, after all, your site and your worldview. And if I’m going to rudely object to it I should at least know where you stand. For that, I apologise.
But you are ignoring and misunderstanding nearly everything I say, so much that it seems more intentional than accidental. So I’ll just bugger off and you can claim victory if you want, right after I say that … this post was brought to you by the letter A, and the number 7.
-J

C.L. Bolt

“Discussions like this don’t have an end, and can quickly become very boring, so I’ll try to make this quick.”
Sure they do. Usually the atheist bows out.
“1. Nowhere have I stated that ‘only evidence matters.’”
I never claimed that you did. In fact that was what another chap said. Then you jumped in to defend him. I asked him, “what’s your evidence that only evidence matters?” You responded, “Sir, you may not be stupid, but this phrase is nonsense. YOU use evidence to support everything.” You’re forgetting what you said.
“In fact, I believe I illustrated an instance where evidence clearly did not matter.”
Except that in that instance, if I recall it correctly, there actually is evidence that may be offered with respect to the conclusion drawn. But that aside, you are just being inconsistent. Why would you claim that asking for evidence that only evidence matters is “nonsense,” before claiming that I “use evidence to support everything,” and using an illustration where evidence “clearly did not matter”? Even if you want to get off of the “only evidence matters” train you have to explain why you jumped in to defend someone who was riding it. You are terribly confused.
“It seems central to your thesis to brand me an ‘evidentialist,’ whatever advantage you think this lends to your arguement.”
Brand? Advantage? It’s not like I’m trying to pull something by using a fairly standard label to describe the position you were defending. You’re just unfamiliar with the category.
“2. You also seem to be laboring under the impression that presuppositional apologetics can walk away from internal contradictions unscathed, while ‘evidentialism’ cannot.”
You seem to be laboring under the impression that I didn’t counter the objections that you raised against presuppositional apologetics, and didn’t offer reasons for rejecting evidentialism. But I understand that atheists don’t much care for those pesky things called arguments.
“That was why I brought up the problem of infinite regress and how it relates to Biblical, teleological, and aesthetic ‘evidence.’”
Except that I showed that it doesn’t. It was a non-sequitur.
“This ‘poor guy’s’ objection is not so glaring as you would have your audience believe.”
I didn’t think the objection was “glaring” either. I also don’t think that’s what you meant to write.
“3. ‘That’s not presuppositional apologetics, nor is it the transcendental argument.’ Boiled down to it’s essence, that’s exactly what PA is.”
No it isn’t. Yes it is. No it isn’t. Yes it is. And you wonder why you make conversations like this boring? Let me remind you that you wrote, “Christian thinkers are forced into the uncomfortable situation of asserting that if their god exists, then such-and-such would be proof of his existence.” You think that this is the essence of presuppositional apologetics. I asked you to cite one example of me using an argument to this effect. You have not done so, and you will not be able to do so. So again, I’m moving on, because your understanding of presuppositional apologetics implies either that you are wrong about what they are, or I have not actually been doing them for about 8 years. In either case, I am in good shape.
“As for TAG, I fail to see the relevance.”
Not surprising.

“4.If you’re going to be condescending, at least be accurate. ‘If someone makes a claim (call it claim E) to the effect that, ‘All claims must be supported by evidence’.’ Once again, never did I make this claim.”
See above.

“5. ‘Christians have been talking about this stuff for over 2,000 years.’ And reason was just born yesterday, was it?”
Your retort only illustrates your insistence upon blinding yourself to what I am attempting to explain to you. You made some errors regarding basic Christian theology. Big errors. I corrected them, and noted that there is a wealth of resources for people like you to explore and learn about Christian theology before attempting to take cheap shots at it. Your reply has nothing to do with my point.

“6. ‘Anti-theism pre-supposes theism.’ You haven’t answered what you meant by that, if it isn’t what I presume, and, as I said, I have no desire to go pawing through your site trying to find out.”
That’s great. I have no desire to answer you either. Not only are you foolish, but you’re lazy. Let me remind you that you hopped on my post to assert your uninformed opinion and are taking no delight whatsoever in actually understanding. The claim in question is one of the most basic claims to presuppositional apologetics. If you do not understand it, and believe me you don’t, then you are in no position to tell me, or anyone else for that matter, what the essence of presuppositional apologetics is. This reminds me of something you did in your previous comment. On the one hand, you apologized for your ignorance of philosophy, and on the other hand you called my philosophy a “lemon” only lines later. You lack the credentials to make the complaints that you do. And then you wonder why I won’t take the time to break down what the claim in question means. I already told you what it does not mean, and why, and you refuse to accept it. What is there to make me think you will accept anything else I tell you with respect to the claim? When I state that anti-theism presupposes theism I mean roughly that the existence of the Christian God is the metaphysical precondition for the intelligibility of a hypothetical universe without God.
“If you can’t respond clearly and concisely, I can only assume you have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Can’t is not the same thing as won’t.

“To be fair, perhaps I should have rifled through your posts. It is, after all, your site and your worldview. And if I’m going to rudely object to it I should at least know where you stand. For that, I apologise.”
Is this like Jekyll and Hyde?
“But you are ignoring and misunderstanding nearly everything I say, so much that it seems more intentional than accidental.”
Except that I addressed everything you wrote line by line, and highly doubt that I misunderstood it. Besides, if I have misunderstood you, you have not pointed out where, except the part about evidentialism, and I showed that you were inconsistent there.

Jake

Well, I will explain my objections and you can let me know if they are “better” or not. Before I get into it, I will let you know that I was Christian once. I was southern baptist. My father was a preacher. He attended Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville, KY and spent many of his years preaching at various Baptist churches throughout the area and in Ohio as well. I do not hate Christians. I do not hate them for their beliefs. Like all free human beings, they are granted the right to believe in anything they choose.

Now that is out of the way. I do not rebuke Christianity for a lack of evidence so to speak. It is not the lack of evidence that drove me away. It first started with the attitudes of some Christian churches. Growing up my family was very poor. Some churches actually helped us. I remember one christmas, the only presents I received were found in a large black trash bag on our front porch and it was donated by a Christian community. On the other hand, the first thing I noticed was the looks my family would receive. Mind you I was young but always very observant. I had noticed that when my father went to preach, as a guest preacher, at some churches we would receive the nastiest of looks. They were very unwelcome. We didn’t “look” as if we belonged there and were quite literally shunned. It was quite literally at the point when some of the congregation would not even speak to my family. It was very disheartening.

Then it was the forced baptism. I didn’t even understand what was going on. I just know that in order to be a member of our current church, I had to embarassingly walk up in front of the congregation, admit that I was sinner, and ask that Jesus wash them away. And then an event was held in which I was dunked in a large, water filled glass tank and I was saved. Mind you, it isn’t the act that bothered me, it was the fact that I had to undergo this ritual in order to be a member. Was I not a member just for simply attending? It made it feel like some special club which bothered me.

Then I got older. I actually began to understand the world around me more and more and the Bible less and less. I just can’t agree with some of things it states. For example:

Leviticus 20:13:
“If a man lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination and they shall surely be put to death.”

I am not sure if that even condemns homosexuality, just because of the times and exact interpretation, but it has been commonly referred to by some christians in order to back-up their claims to the evil of homosexuals. I find that to be hateful and down right wrong. Are christians not supposed to love everyone regardless of their supposed “transgressions”? Was it not Jesus that invited sinners to his table?

Noah’s Ark. Just does not seem possible to me. I wonder, if all living animals were contained on a boat, then how could there be such a diverse and large deviation in one single species? Take for example dogs. Are all variations of dogs due to crossbreeding? No. Okay, so did Noah’s Ark contain every distinct and different breed of Dog? Or did Noah’s Ark contain only wolves and evolution took over after the flood creating a wide range of breeds? That is my train of thought.

Let’s look at the ten commandments.
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife”

I didn’t pull that from a website, and I do not claim it to be sexist or outdated. What bothers me is I covet a lot of things and not just my neighbors wife… lol. Do I have to ask forgiveness every time I look at another female and just want to **** *** ** *** *** and say “hey, **** ****’? Lol… I am sorry for the language but I am a man, and though I would never do such a thing, I think about it. Women are beautiful to me. Not all, but some. Once again, I will admit I am probably somewhat shallow. I don’t find that to be a sin. I feel it is natural for me to feel that way. I love women. I love sex. If I see a beautiful woman, I think about having sex with her. I will not apologize for that I do not feel it is a sin. I don’t think I need to suppress my urges. Just control them.

These are just a few examples. I hope they give you an idea of how I think. I am could care less about evidence. I do not claim to be an atheist, or anti-theist, or agnostic. I just do not believe. I think that science will one day tell us why we exist or how we came to be. And if not, then so be it. I will live my life the way I see fit and I expect you and everyone else to do the same.


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