Atheists cannot live as if their beliefs are true.

Posted on August 28, 2017 By

The real world provides a laboratory to test worldviews. The problem for atheism is that it fails in the laboratory of the real world. For example, atheism insists that we are nothing but mindless robots made of meat. But atheists cannot live as if this were actually true. 

According to atheist biologist Richard Dawkins, 

“We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.” 

But does Dawkins treat his wife and children as if they are blindly programmed robot vehicles? One would hope not. And how could a blindly programmed survival machine determine truth? Making a truth judgement is a voluntary mental process, not a chemical or mechanical process such as digestion or a bodily reflex. Regarding this point, Nancy Pearcey writes in her book Finding Truth:

“Materialism reduces thinking to biochemical processes in the brain, akin to the chemical reactions in digestion. But digestion is not something that can be true or false. It is just a biological fact. If thinking is reduced to brain processes, then our ideas are not true or false either. But in that case, how can the materialist know that materialism is true? The philosophy is self-refuting.”

Pearcey continues:

Just as scientists test a theory by taking it into the lab and mixing chemicals in a test tube to see if the results confirm the theory, so we test a worldview by taking it into the laboratory of ordinary life.
 
Even materialists often admit that, in practice, it is impossible for humans to live any other way. One philosopher jokes that if people deny free will, then when ordering at a restaurant they should say, “Just bring me whatever the laws of nature have determined I will get.”  It seems that we are forced to accept the reality of free will. Humans are so constituted that they cannot function without it. It is one of those stubborn facts that must be accounted for by any worldview.
 
Consider Marvin Minsky of MIT. He is best known for his pithy phrase that the human brain is nothing but “a three-pound computer made of meat.” Obviously, computers do not have the power of choice; the implication is that neither do humans. Surprisingly, however, Minsky then asks, “Does that mean we must embrace the modern scientific view and put aside the ancient myth of voluntary choice? No. We can’t do that.”

Why not? Minsky goes on: “No matter that the physical world provides no room for freedom of will; that concept is essential to our models of the mental realm.” We cannot “ever give it up. We’re virtually forced to maintain that belief, even though we know it’s false.” False, that is, according to Minsky’s materialist worldview. This is an amazing case of Orwellian doublethink. 

 
 

  1. Matt Smith says:

    Atheism is not a set of beliefs. There is no Atheist Bible, it just an answer to the question: do you believe a God exists?

    Everything we’ve learnt so far points to thought processes being biochemical. Chemical and electrical reactions can lead to truths – calculators and computers work correctly sometimes, right? Does that mean we’re mindless meat machines? I think not.

    On the subject of free will, I’m not convinced either way, and suspect that it’s not an either/or situation, we probably have some degree of freedom, but likely much smaller than we’d like to think. A lot of the scientific evidence points to a distinct lack of free will that we are not consciously aware of.

    • Ramsey says:

      Hi Matt,

      Atheism is a set of beliefs, not just an answer to the question: do believe God exists. Think about it I ask you “do you believe God exists?” You say “No”, that’s a belief and whether you like it or not it’s also a worldview. I then ask based on that answer “what is the origin of life” and you would, consistent with your first answer, give an naturalistic non theistic answer, which you do not know and cannot verify empirically therefore it’s another belief and a part of your worldview. I then ask what’s the purpose of life and you would likely give another naturalistic non theistic answer which again would be a belief. You get what I’m driving at. Atheism is a worldview and a set of beliefs. If you say as you do “No, I don’t believe God exists” then you must consider the implications of that belief and also the fact that your belief will have cascading implications on other beliefs making it “a set of beliefs”

      On your next point, “everything we know points to thought processes being biochemical” that’s not exactly true. I mean we have no idea where consciousness comes from, it’s still an open question.

      With regards to a lack of free will I understand you are undecided, however consider for one moment the implications of no free will. We could not logically make moral judgements and no one, not the serial child killer nor the terrorist bomber could be blamed for their actions as they are just marching to their programming.

      Also without free will love cannot exists, love by definition is a choice, if we loved because we had no choice it’s not really love is it? But love does exist.

      As a thought exercise; take a look at your wife children or mother and ask, “are those feelings are just biochemical?”

      • Matt Smith says:

        Ramsey, when I said atheism is not a set of beliefs I was correct. It’s true that atheists usually do have other beliefs about the Universe, but it’s not true to say they are the same across the board. To be a Christian, there are certain core beliefs (I think) to which you must adhere, otherwise you don’t fit in that category. To be an atheist, the only stipulation is that you do not believe in the existence of a God or Gods. I think it’s okay for you to concede that point to me, since: a) whatever your definition of atheism is, it won’t make theism true, b) I am correct.

        When you say, “I mean we have no idea where consciousness comes from,”, are you totally certain about that? It’s just that we have an entire field of scientific study we call Psychology that begs to differ. We might not know precisely how consciousness works yet, but neither do we know precisely what matter is nor precisely how it works either. That’s part of the reason we have particle accelerators, right? The vast majority of the study of consciousness focuses on the brain, and on neural networks, so to say ‘we have no idea’ is naïve at best.

        On to your moral argument. How many times must I point out to theists that consequences have no bearing on the truth? I already said I’m undecided about free will. I might not like the consequences of having little to none, but that does mean therefore we must have free will? Of course not! The consequences of gravity being a real thing are that I sometimes fall and hurt myself. Does reality care about that?! Not one jot.

        If it’s the case that I am my body and brain, then love is indeed an emotion brought about by said material. Why would I expect such emotions to feel anything but authentic, if my perceptual system is based on the very same material and processes that give rise to them? You could do the following experiment if you’re still unconvinced: go to a neurosurgeon and get him to open your cranium and apply some electricity to certain parts. Come back and tell me if the sensations are ‘authentic’ or not.

  2. Col Adkins says:

    My goodness Matt your ipse dixit assertions never cease to amaze us,
    “‘Atheism is not a set of beliefs. There is no Atheist Bible,”
    Humility prevents me from commenting on your level of intelligence and knowledge of what atheism has been saying for centuries. One only has to google “The atheist Manifesto”, The Atheist Bible” by Joan Konner, “the Evil Bible” by Josh Johnson, “worldviews”, the avalanche of books, videos, fund-raising conventions and membership drives, to realise atheism has become a religion, albeit another godless one according to the Ninian Smart criteria.

    Can I strongly suggest, before you make a bigger fool of yourself, go to your library and get out a few books by some of the most celebrated atheists of the past century like Nietzsche, Russell, Tolstoy, Camus or Sartre who all talk about the implications of a godless worldview : the utter despair and abject poverty of life without meaning, hope or destiny. .
    I see you have trotted out several of the typically inept YT responses to challenge fine-tuning and design arguments, which suggests your not entirely honest in claiming atheism is not based on a set of assumptions and beliefs . Moreover, if your going to maintain “..lot of the scientific evidence points to a distinct lack of free will” then youre no more than a scientific determinist. You probably have no idea of how ridiculous that belief is. Go read Stephen Hawking’s Implausible Defense of Determinism https://www.sociology.org

    It is merely a philosophy that suggests human actions and choices are fully determined by preceding events and states of affairs, and so that freedom of choice is illusory. In his latest book “The Grand Design” Hawking declares ‘science has replaced philosophy in the quest for knowledge”.I guess that means he has recanted his 1992 notion freewill is illusory?

    Can you really live out such an impoverished worldview that essentially says youre just a robotic,valueless slab of selfish genes?
    If so, you should have no trouble agreeing with Bertrand Russell who laments:
    “Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair can the soul’s habitation be safely built.Bertrand Russell (from A Free Man’s Worship, 1903)

    Do you have a soul Matt, or are merely future worm food. If the latter, why are you wasting endless hours here, trying to prove (to yourself) you’re just a slab of chemicals reacting to the laws of nature?

    • sklyjd says:

      Atheism is not a set of beliefs but a set of disbeliefs. Atheism has no ideologies, no rules, manifestos, faith, worshiping or laws, apart of course to the single total atheist existence and the exclusive meaning that atheists have a disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

      Some atheists have changed the atheist position into a type of ideology that may have a set of beliefs, written books and made it a way of life, however this is to be expected and in line with people wanting to exploit their ideals such as what happens with religion and politics.

      • Scott Youngren says:

        Sklyjd,

        Atheism makes plenty of truth claims. For example, the atheist belief that life is the result of unintelligent causes is a positive truth claim, and not just a “disbelief.” And the belief that there is no God is also a truth claim, not just a “non-belief.”

        Andy Bannister humorously highlights the absurdity of the idea that atheism is nothing but “disbeliefs” by telling a story about a guy who denies the existence of the nation of Sweden (in his book The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist):

        “You think that my denial of Sweden is an actual claim of some kind, that it’s a belief. But it isn’t. It’s a non-belief. There’s nothing I need to explain – rather, I’m talking about something I lack, namely a belief in Sweden, so I don’t need to give any evidence for it.”

        “Come again?” I said. “Yes,” he continued, warming to his theme, “I don’t have to provide evidence for my non-belief in Atlantis, El Dorado, Shangri-La, or the Customer Support Department at American Airlines, and nor need I for my non-belief in Sweden. I’m not making a claim of any kind – in fact, quite the opposite: I’m claiming nothing. I’m merely rejecting one of your beliefs, your belief in Sweden.”

        The point is that all truth claims (including atheism) need to be logically defended…even the ones that portray themselves as merely “non-belief.” And if atheism is not a truth claim, then it cannot be true. Andy Bannister continues:

        The problem is that only beliefs or claims can be true or false. For example, it makes perfect sense to ask whether a statement such as “It is raining today” or “The Maple Leafs lost at hockey again” are true. Those are claims, they are beliefs, and they have what philosophers call a “truth value”. They are either true or false.

        On the other hand, it is utterly meaningless to ask whether the color blue, a small off-duty Slovakian traffic warden, or Richard Dawkins’s left foot is “true”. That would be a bizarre category error. These things are not claims or beliefs and thus do not possess any kind of truth value. They simply are.

        So what about atheism? Well, as far as I can make out, I think my atheist friends are claiming that their belief is true; that they really, really believe it to be true that there is no God. Well, if that’s the case, then it makes atheism a positive claim and claims must be defended, evidence martialled, and reasons given. Otherwise, if atheism is not a claim, it cannot be true or false. It simply is, and to say “I am an atheist” is up there with saying “Wibble, wibble, wibble”.

        If the statement, “There is no God” is not a truth claim, than it cannot be true. Something which is not a truth claim cannot be true (or false).

    • Matt Smith says:

      Hello Col,

      If you do not accept the proposition that a God or Gods exist you are an atheist. There is nothing else required at all. You might correctly observe that many atheists share the same values or beliefs on other topics, but you are quite wrong by claiming there is some overarching set of beliefs that an atheist must adhere to.

      When I say there is no atheist Bible, I was again correct and you are incorrect, regardless of what certain thinkers have entitled their works in order to sell more copies! To be a Christian you must read or be read the actual Bible. Perhaps not all of it, not regularly, not recently, but at some point you must come into contact in some way with at least some passages of the Bible. There is no such required text for the atheist whatsoever.

      Time and time again, as above, I come into contact with theists who attempt to use consequences as a way to argue for the truth of their world view. If there’s no God, you must despair, have no meaning in your life, be a robot, etc etc. As I pointed out above, if these were indeed the inevitable consequences of a certain fact about reality, would that in some way have any bearing on the truth of said fact? No! If there is no God, I will indeed be worm food when I die. I don’t consider it a waste of time trying to see if there might actually be a God or not though. Unlike the vast majority of theists I come across, I’m open to changing my mind if sufficient evidence can be presented.

      Unfortunately though, such evidence has not been forthcoming, and I’m starting to get the idea that in fact life would have no meaning if there is a God. If there is a heaven or hell that lasts for eternity, this life is totally insignificant and so is the next. For one thing, this life lasts for an infinitesimally tiny proportion of our total existence. For another, in the next, we could count the number of quarks in the Universe an infinite amount of times, and still have an infinity of time to go afterwards. There could be no event of any significance ever, for all eternity. Perhaps this is a waste of my one and only life after all, and I should only come back into the debate when I hear of genuinely new evidence, one way or the other.

  3. Col Adkins says:

    “When I say there is no atheist Bible, I was again correct and you are incorrect” . What!
    My God, please forgive me for thinking i’m trying to hold a meaningful conversation with one of Darwin’s semi-evolved apes. I’d like to think everything I wrote was ignored but now I’d say it just went straight over your head. In spite of all the VERIFIABLE references I gave, youre still in denial. I’m hardly surprised. Atheism is in fact a worldview (we all have one) which has profound implications for what we consider ultimate reality to be and how we live out our lives.

    I cited the most celebrated atheists who lament that we are just a bunch of complex chemicals, that life has no meaning, intrinsic value or worth “all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, …… as to be beyond dispute”. An honest atheist must come to the same conclusion as Albert Camus “The only serious question in life is whether to kill yourself or not.”
    No wonder atheism is such an irrational worldview. For those readers interested in what atheists’ BELIEVE, “The Atheist’s Creed” is a prominent and widely-read book by contemporary philosopher, Dr Michael Palmer, “An invaluable introduction to atheism, combining commentary and analysis with extracts from the writings of key atheist thinkers from classical times onward.” So dont delude yourselves that atheism is merely a non -belief that makes no claims.

    • Matt Smith says:

      Col, you’re still totally and utterly wrong and in denial about it.

      Let’s be clear here:-

      1. Are there a core set of beliefs one MUST have to be considered Christian?
      2. Other than not believing in a God or Gods, are there any core beliefs one MUST hold as an atheist?

      I’m pretty sure the correct answers are 1. Yes, and 2. No. It’s okay to admit when you’re wrong, it won’t make your God vanish in a puff of logic y’know. Indeed, it’s impossible for something that doesn’t exist in the first place to disappear ;)

      • Gerry De naro says:

        Col,
        It is pointless trying to argue with semi-evolved apes who claim “you’re still totally and utterly wrong and in denial about it.” About what, the existence of numerous books detailing the core beliefs of an atheistic worldview? You are either joking, dishonest or completely bereft of any intelligence to deny such easily verified references.
        1) it has been pointed out several times that atheism is as much a worldview as is theism. One only has to read the most celebrated atheists of the 20th century Russell, Sartre, Camus, Tolstoy, Neitzsche, to realise that atheism is a philosophy that makes many positive claims about the origin, meaning and purpose of life, the nature of knowledge, as well as morality, consciousness and culture. These are positive statements, not denials or disbeliefs e.g. “It is easier to BELIEVE that there was nothing before there was something than that there was something before there was nothing.”
        2) There are several best selling books of recent times (already listed in this thread) that CLEARLY detail the many creeds of such a worldview .
        3) not all atheists are naturalists, some claim to hold to some concept of a supernatural realm somewhat of a paradox I would suggest. Perhaps they see how absurd a belief that denies metaphysical truths.
        On the other hand, all naturalists have to be atheists, who essentially BELIEVE the physical world is all there is. For them mindless matter is the only game in town. Just ask any materialist however, to give a defense of such a worldview and they’ll just squirm away in denial, the typical response we see here. “There is no separate supernatural realm: all phenomena are part of one natural process of evolution.” ― Julian Huxley
        4) Thus “scientism and evolutionism (not science and evolution) are the essential tenets of atheism and materialism.

        What follows is a not-so subtle concession of dishonesty “The consequence of evolutionary theory says Jeremy Rifken “we no longer have to justify our behavior….. for we are the power the glory for ever and ever” – So what information are the staunch atheists so afraid to reveal:- huge discrepancies in radioactive dating, living fossils, scientific frauds taught as the icons of evolution, a very creative geological column, petrified trees spanning rocks of vast age differences, crustaceans found on numerous mountain tops, soft tissue inside dinosaur bones, ancient cave drawings detailing a variety of dinosaur species etc etc

  4. JDBJ says:

    You don’t need to believe in God or gods to have a set of belief. Even Buddhism is a religion and doesn’t believe in God. Atheism is like Buddhism because they both don’t believe in God. But both are recognized by the SCOTUS as a religion.
    Atheism is a set of beliefs that requires an extreme amount of blind faith to “fill in the gaps” of their belief system. They want to make asertios that theist use the God of the gaps, the very gaps they claim they cannot fill. Having a bible does not constitute a criteria for being a religion. If that is all it takes for being called a religion to have a book that explains the origins of the universe then atheism would also be a religion with their books.

    • Scott Youngren says:

      JDBJ,

      You are correct. Atheism fits many of the diverse definitions of religion present in religious scholarship. And although atheism does not have a Bible, it does have a set of credos (known as The Humanist Manifestos) which were officially drafted and signed by many high profile atheists such as Richard Dawkins. Bo Jinn comments in Illogical Atheism:

      The Humanist Manifestos were three official sets of atheist credos, drafted and signed separately over the course of exactly seven decades. The first manifesto (HM-I) was drafted and signed by a number of high-profile atheists back in 1933, the second (HM-II) was signed in 1973 and HM-III in 2003. Each manifesto, taken together, enunciate all of the commonly accepted atheistic creeds and dogmas of what had fittingly been designated by the atheist and humanist John J. Dunphy as “a Religion for the New Age”. And I quote Mr. Dunphy on the aim which these atheist manifestos set out to achieve:

      “I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call “divinity” in every human being.

    • Col Adkins says:

      “If that is all it takes for being called a religion to have a book that explains the origins of the universe then atheism would also be a religion with their books.” DB, I guess it depends how you define religion, right?

      Well i take it you have not read or seen books by Hawking “The Grand Design” and Krauss, “A universe from Nothing”. There are quite a number of philosophical assumptions in both that would lead one to think their religion is scientific materialism. The latter essentially says nothing can be known accept thru science. The latter together with Hawking’s claim that “science has replaced philosophy in the quest for knowledge” are both philosophical claims. No wonder Einstein lamented that scientists make poor philosophers”
      We all have to explain the data (even scientists in denial) for creation ex nihilo. For the atheist it is using purely natural laws that says “no matter how much we might think so, we must keep telling ourselves it was not design, not designed”
      As for the closeminded, intellectually challenged Matt, I quoted several references that atheism has a set of credos not least “The Atheist’s Creed” is a prominent and widely-read book by contemporary philosopher, Dr Michael Palmer, “An invaluable introduction to atheism, combining commentary and analysis with extracts from the writings of key atheist thinkers from classical times onward.”
      So Matty, dont keep deluding yourselves that atheism is merely a non -belief that makes no claims.
      As for what makes a religion;
      *a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe
      * a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects with strong views on the the meaning of life, morality and existence of a Supernatural entity
      *the idea that mind has a transcendent dimension enabling it look introspectively at its self
      “A condescending attitude among many, that condemns all other worldviews as being inferior.
      Religion is any cultural system of designated behaviors and practices etc etc

  5. Gerry De naro says:

    Not much has changed since I’ve been away for a week. Ravi Zacherias concludes, “it is not that there isnt sufficient evidence for God, it is the willful neglect of an abundance of evidence.”
    Atheists apparently waste endless hours of their meaningless lives trying to prove to themselves and each other, “we have no burden of proof.”

    sklyjd says:
    “Atheism is not a set of beliefs but a set of disbeliefs. Atheism has no ideologies, no rules, manifestos, faith, worshiping or laws, apart of course to the single total atheist existence and the exclusive meaning that atheists have a disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.”
    Actually sk, we all have a worldview. It’s how we make sense of this world, what we deem ultimate reality to be, which have profound implications for how we live out our lives. As I’ve said, “I usually begin by assuming the sincerity of the evidence request, by asking “have you ever thought about what criteria would you deem acceptable or what objective standards would need to be met to accept a theistic worldview? Can I suggest sk, you must also use the same criteria to judge and validate your own worldview (we all have one), be it secularism, naturalism, scientific materialism, Taoism, Occultism etc etc
    Perhaps Blase Pascal said it best “some people believe whatever they want, not on the basis of evidence but what they find attractive”. I always end by asking if “nothing can be known except through science”, how does a rational person account for the origin and existence of everything we hold important being non quantifiable: wisdom, truth, meaning, love, joy, hope, morality, beauty, art, music etc? (the paradox gets worse for the naturalist, science itself is founded on abstract laws, logic and mathematics, none of which can be isolated in a test tube)
    Now matter how many scientists (both theists and atheists) we quote who recognise and validate fine-tuning and design, (see Scott’s article “if you think science leads to atheism” . No matter how many celebrated atheist philosophers we quote that articulate their manifesto and creeds in print and the media, there will always be the closeminded cynics whose worldview, “cannot permit a divine foot in the door”. Why? I suspect philosopher Jean Paul Sartre says it with great circular logic, “if God exists I am not free, Since I am free therefore God does not exist” But of course as he later laments, “that God does not exist I cannot doubt, that my whole being cries out for God, I cannot resist.” -Such is the abject poverty of a worldview within which its proponents cannot live happily nor consistently.

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