By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERUQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS – October 9, 2015) — “We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can’t disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.”
This quote is by Dr. Richard Dawkins (b. 1941). Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and one of the leading figures of what has been termed, “New Atheism.” (1)
The quote is interesting on two fronts. One, it owns up to the fact that people (the “we” in the quote) cannot disprove God’s existence. And two, the quote seems to equate God to mythical lore and human fabrication (exactly his intention).
Dawkins is correct in his understanding of the first statement—“we cannot…disprove God,” and misinformed on the second: most of the world’s notion of God far transcends a supernatural being similar to the “Flying Spaghetti Monster.”
Dawkins is opposed to the idea that there is a God or a supreme being. Belief systems such as his leads to a position called atheism. According to the Pew Research Center, 2.4% of the population consider themselves atheist. (2). The Pew study also reveals that most atheist tend to be men (67%) and younger (38% are between the ages of 18-29).
The position of atheism is not new. The Sophist (3) in ancient Greece questioned whether the gods were real, as did many in the Roman Empire, including Lucretius (4)(99BC-55BC).
Even Biblical writers recognized that there were atheists. King David writes in Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’.”
The word atheism is derived from two Greek words: ‘a’ meaning, “without;” and theism, meaning, “god.” Without-god (5).
The Merriam-Webster dictionary rightly defines atheism as both disbelief and a doctrine (6) (meaning “code,” “creed,” and “dogma.”). The atheist is one who feels that there are empirical reasons to believe that God does not exist (usually through the sciences). This definition is different from a similar belief, agnosticism (Greek: “no knowledge”), which teaches that God—if there is one—is unknowable and undiscoverable. Theoretically, the agnostic is unsure about God’s existence, whereas the atheist believes that there is no God.
According to Norman Geisler, there are two forms of agnosticism: “the weak form holds that God is unknown…the stronger form…claims that God cannot be known (7).”
Likewise, Geisler points out that there are various forms of atheism: traditional (metaphysical: there never was, is, or will be a God), dialectical (God died—literally or figuratively), semantically (God-talk is dead and meaningless), conceptual (there may be a God, but He is hidden from view), and practical (God may exist, but we should live as if he did not).
When all analysis is complete, agnosticism and atheism fall into self-defeating assertions. As Geisler states concerning agnosticism, “One who knows something about reality cannot affirm in the same breath that all of reality is unknowable.” By making the statement that “there is no god,” atheist or agnostics are making a truth claim. But, if we can’t know (agnosticism) or think we know without a standard (atheism), how do we know if what the person is claiming is true? We don’t. There is no standard by which to judge it. The statement fails; it is a self-defeating. Think of it this way: if a person knows that I can’t know, then how do they know? You get my point; it’s circular, and ultimately futile.
Winfried Corduan puts it this way concerning agnosticism: “Thus agnosticism pivots on a contradiction by having to maintain that at one and the same time it is both possible and impossible to know something about God.”
In short, both atheism and agnosticism are self-refuting; one cannot “meaningfully affirm that something is not and be totally devoid of a knowledge of the something (8).” With worldviews void of absolutes—be it God or truth—a person “assumes knowledge of reality in order to deny all knowledge of reality.”
Geisler summarizes the dilemma as follows, “there is simply no way short of omniscience that one can make such sweeping and categorical statements about reality…Hence total agnosticism is only self-defeating. Only an omniscient mind could be totally agnostic and finite men do not possess omniscience.”
For more information on issues important to the Christian faith, check out Veritas Evangelical Seminary: http://www.ves.edu/
1) Google defines New Atheism as follows: “a social and political movement in favor of atheism and secularism promoted by a collection of modern atheist writers who have advocated the view that ‘religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.’”
5) Part of this article was used in Jesus Loves Atheists.
7) Geisler, Norman. Big Book of Apologetics. Baker Books.
8) Geisler, Norman. Big Book of Apologetics. Baker Books.
Photo captions: 1) Dr. Norman Geisler. 2) Veritas Evangelical Seminary. 3) Brian Nixon with ANS founder, Dan Wooding, during a recent visit that Dan made to Albuquerque.
About the writer: Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA) and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon
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