Is atheism irrational?


This mail is from a person who does not consider himself atheist. However, he has a catholic friend who use to talk ill of atheists, and wanted to be able to argue with his friend about atheism being irrational. Here is part of his mail, together with my complete reply

To: [hidden]
From: Fredrik Bendz
Subject: Re: Atheism

At 01.54 1997-03-29 -0300, Eliasito M. Parungao Jr. wrote:
>Dear Fredrik B.,
>

I am not an atheist, I'm more of a spiritualist if you may. I'm writing
>because I have a problem with a catholic friend of mine. He said that
>atheists are irrational; they cannot conceive of themselves that is why
>they cannot conceive god. This was his line of reasoning- his
>philosophy.
[cut]
>My point is, I DO NOT BELIEVE HIM and I
>would like to argue with him. I am hoping you could help me.
>
> Vincent

Hello Vincent,

I think one can be a spiritualist and yet be an atheist. That's exactly what Aldous Huxley was. He did not believe in any gods, but still thought that he could find some kind of objective absolute truth about morality by meditating. He even wrote a book "Perennial Philosophy" where he found that all wise men had something in common in their revelations. Hence he thought that this was the objective truth that meditation revealed.

Anyway, why would an atheist be irrational? The only irrational is to believe in the unproven. I don't understand exactly what your friend's point is, but it looks like the Ad Hominem fallacy. That is to attack your opponent with personal arguments instead of arguing about the real issue. (Ad Hominem is latin for "against the person".)

It may look like a good argument that atheists don't believe in god because we have some kind of personal problem, but it does not the least prove the existence of any gods. The real issue should be whether gods exist or not. If your friend cannot prove the existence of his god, then it is he who is irrational. So far I have not encountered any convincing proof for the existence of gods.

For your friend there exist two alternatives. Either he admits that he cannot demonstrate the existance of his god, and hence that his faith is irrational; or he carries out some kind of experiment that demonstrates the existance of his god.

Additionally I think the christian god is a contradiction in terms. I suppose you know about the TheodicÚ (or Theodicy) problem. If god is allmighty why does he allow evil? There are many responses, but they fail to explain why there is unnecessary evil. They can explain evil up to a certain level, but there is more evil in the world than their arguments would allow. For a very good, well written essay with a lot of references about the theodicy problem, see my friend Niclas' essay "Does The Free Will Constitute a Sound Theodicy argument?" at http://hem.passagen.se/nicb/Theodicy.htm

If there was a god, I think it would be to great for us to concieve. Any description of that god would be antropomorphism. We would give it human descriptions, but this entity would be too great for them to be valid. This god would not (and could not) manifest itself to us as a god. We would only see it in the beauty of the world, but it would appear as if everything is here by a coincidence.

In theory this god would explain the world as I see it, but it is superfluous. This world has exactly the the properties I would expect if there was no god or designer behind it. I have to remove this type of god with Occams Razor ("If one is confronted with a series of phenomena for which there exists more than one viable explanation, one should choose the simplest explanation which fits all the observed facts.") I mean I could just as well explain the world by invisible pink unicorns causing all events, but it would not add anything to my understanding of the world.

To sum up. If your friend wants to argue that atheists are irrational and reject his god because we cannot conceive of ourselves he must first prove the existance of it. If he cannot do that, why would I believe in it? In that case I might just as well believe in any of the other possible gods. When he understands why he cannot conceive of them, he might understand why I cannot conceive of his god.

Sincerely,
/Fredrik


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