Saturday, July 24, 2010

Two Unrelated Things

Behind drywall and stud reclines the Brahman,
Brown men in knit caps tend the lawn,
Wizened woman in yoga pants guards the lane,
In gleaming black carriage, the scion
discreetly is delivered to the commons.


I saw this on a church sign today:
"God doesn't believe in atheists. Therefore they don't exist.

I imagine the writer thought this a pretty biting riposte to the atheists, but I disagree with it as logic, rhetoric, and theology.


Anonymous said...

Yes, it's hard to tell what the point of the atheist sign is, and it's misguided no matter what. I could imagine it being written by a theist or an atheist.

I would guess it was written by a theist who was thinking along the following lines:

1. Everyone actually believes in God; there are no genuine atheists. [I think that's obviously not true, but I've heard people say it.]

2. Yet some people -- nominally atheists -- are so nihilistic or hostile toward God that they'd like to think they can make God disappear from society by denying his existence. [Again, I wouldn't agree with this account of atheism, but I could imagine someone else thinking it.]

3. Of course, you can't make something cease to exist by disbelieving it. How would atheists like it if someone tried to make them go away by denying they exist?

4. So, let's turn the tables on atheists and try to make them see the error of their ways by suggesting a thought-experiment where things go the other way: instead of them denying God's existence, God denying atheists' existence.

Again, I think that would be a pretty nutty line of reasoning, and I'm sure it wouldn't win over any atheists. I don't know if that's what they meant by the sign, but I could imagine it.

Many people seem to view atheism as an aggressiev affront to a decent, ordered society. If enough people feel this way, then naturally some of them will try to come up with clever thought-experiments as a "biting riposte to atheists," as you put it. The very people who see it this way are, as Richard Dawkins says, "atheists" with respect to most gods (the gods of Greek mythology, for instance). They don't think they're misanthropic, hostile, or degenerate for holding those views. The atheist just adds one more god to the list of "gods I don't believe in."

Anonymous said...